WELCOME

This blog is dedicated to Malta - my island home. My aim is not to bore you with history but to share my thoughts and a few facts together with a photo or two. For a more in -depth background of the island please go here. The purpose of this blog is not to point out the short-comings of the island. There are plenty that do that already. My wish is to show you the beauty of an island at the cross roads of the Mediterranean, a melting pot of history; a place where fact and fiction are sometimes fused to create unique myths and legends; a country that has been conquered so many times that our culture is a mish mesh of the lands that surround us and of lands far away. I confess that my greatest desire is to make you fall in love with this tiny enchanting island.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

St Agatha’s Tower

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St Agatha’s Tower, or as it is more commonly called, the Red Tower is situated on a high ridge that gives anybody in it unobstructed views of the surrounding countryside and, more importantly, the sea.

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The tower was built in 1647-1648 during the reign of Grand Master Lascaris as part of the coastal defences of the island and was dedicated to St Agatha – one of the patron saints on Malta. Inside the tower there is a small chapel dedicated to the saint.

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Originally, the tower was probably accessed by a drawbridge. The interior of the tower consists of two vaulted rooms with four corner towers. If the need arose, it was able to house a garrison of about 50 men who had at their disposal five cannons positioned on the roof. The tower was manned by British soldiers during both of the world wars. At the base, the walls of the tower are about four metres thick. It is not known when or why the tower was painted red.

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In recent years the tower has been restored by Din l-Art Helwa (Malta’s Heritage Trust) with the aid of three private companies.

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The Red Tower, Triq tad-Dahar, Mellieha

Opening hours: daily 10.00 – 13.00 hrs; Tuesdays 10.00 – 16.00 hrs

Entrance fee: 2EUR

 

Map picture

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snapshots of … Traditional Shop-fronts of Valletta

It’s been a long time. But I think it’s finally time to come back here and share more of Malta with you. I’m starting off with something very close to my heart: the traditional shop-fronts of Valletta. They are hard to find these days and some of them are in a less than pristine condition. But that’s what  makes them all the more beautiful and mysterious. They make me wonder just what types of wares used to be sold behind those crumbling wooden shutters.More Valletta 011More Valletta 042Valletta (21)Valletta (78)Valletta (2)

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So tell me, which are your favourites?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Count Roger of Normandy and the Legend of Migra Ferha

Migra l-Ferha (5)

According to a local legend, Count Roger the Norman landed here in 1091 with an army of men and freed the island from the hated Moors.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (24)

This is supposedly the exact spot where the hoof of the Count’s horse touched the ground as soon as he disembarked from his ship. Legends – you just have to love them.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (28)

Of course, no commander worth his salt would anchor his ships beneath such inhospitable cliffs and then lead an army of men and horses up the steep slopes. So although we know that Count Roger did come to Malta in 1091 he must have landed in a much safer place. The story goes that the locals greeted him with the shouts of Kyrie Eleison, that he freed all the Christian slaves from the clutches of the Moors and sent them (the Moors) packing and that everyone was so grateful to him that they adopted the colours of his coat-of-arms as our national flag.

Migra l-Ferha (19)

The truth is that the Moors stayed here until 1123 and paid Count Roger a yearly tribute and our national flag came into being much later (although no one knows precisely when).

You will find a brief history of this period here.

Migra l-Ferha (23)

This should give you a better perspective of how far down the ‘hoof mark’ is and - yes, those men are fishing.

Is-Sancir & Migra Ferha (23)

(These photos were taken on two different days in March – one that was rather stormy and the other on a sunny day).

Location: Migra Ferha, March 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ta’ Qali Farmer’s Market

By the looks of it, I have neglected this blog for quite some time. The thing is, what I write here is usually factual and I seem to prefer a more narrative, personal approach. Maybe one day I will find the right balance.

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For today, I just wanted to share some photos of local produce at the  main Farmer’s Market that is held in Ta’ Qali. It is the best place to buy fruit and vegetables – which is what the majority of stalls sell. Interspersed amongst them are a few flower and meat sellers.

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I would love to see some more variety – maybe a few stalls selling home-baked goods or jams and there is definitely a need for a couple of booths selling bread. But all in all, it is a pleasant shopping experience and it is nice to be able to walk around and then go back to purchase the freshest and best-looking wares.

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Nature’s palette is so vibrant, isn’t it?

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Ta’ Qali Farmer’s Market

Opening hours: Tuesdays 16.00 – 19.00 and Saturdays 09.00 – 17.00

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Yellow House, Birgu

The Inquisitor's Palace (12)

I still remember the time when the exterior of most town-houses would be painted in all sorts of different colours. Nowadays, the trend is to peel off the paint and expose the limestone blocks out of which our houses are built. Since I am not a student of architecture, I won’t go into the merits, or otherwise, of this practice. But let’s just say that in the blazing heat  of the mid-day summer sun, the pastel and rainbow hues were easier on the eyes than stark-white. I am glad to see that the practice of painting the facades of houses has not completely died out. This lemony, hue reminiscent of sorbet, brightens up the whole street.

Location: Birgu, June 2013

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Churchill’s Cigar and Eisenhower’s Walking Stick

These are just two of the many artifacts that may be seen at the National War Museum in Valletta. Through its collection of personal memorabilia, original footage, digital displays and numerous photographic panels, the museum aims at highlighting the role that Malta played during the two World Wars with special focus on the second world war. Perhaps the most poignant items on display are the fuselage of the Gloster Gladiator “Faith” and remnants from the ships that formed part of Operation Pedestal – the convoy that saved Malta in 1942. The museum honours the fallen, salutes the heroes and provides a glimpse at what daily life in Malta was like during World War 2.

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The National War Museum, Old Drill Hall, Lower Fort St Elmo, Spur Street, Valletta VLT 1741
Tel: +356 21 222 430

Opening hours: 

Monday to Sunday: 09.00 - 17.00hrs
Last admission at 16.30hrs
Closed on 24, 25 & 31 December, 1 January & Good Friday

 

Notwithstanding the high level of the exhibits, it is difficult to understand the complexity of this particular period in the island’s history just be visiting the museum. For those interested in learning more, here are a few recommendations:

More Places To Visit

- Lascaris War Rooms: an underground complex of tunnels and chambers that housed the War Headquarters and from where the defence of Malta was conducted during WW2.

- Malta at War  Museum: apart from the exhibits and the screening of an original wartime documentary ‘Malta G.C’, a visit to a war-time air-raid shelter is included.

Documentaries

On Discovery Channel: Heroes of Hell Island – The Men Who Saved Malta

A  National Geographic Production: World War 2: Battle for Malta

 

 

Books

                  

 

                     

Fiction

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas

I am realising that, the more time passes, the harder it is becoming to find the time to write both here and at Stories and Scribbles. I would like to maintain both blogs, but this one may have to be on the back-burner for a while and I may have to post here even less often than I am already. I will try to work things out. In the meantime, I would like to wish my regular readers and all my occasional visitors a very Merry Christmas.

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Mdina Glass Christmas Tree at Auberge de Castille, December 2012

I will leave you with a traditional Christmas carol from Malta. It’s called ‘Ninni La Tibkix Izjed’ which roughly translates to ‘hush, don’t cry and go to sleep’. It was written in 1846 and is one of the best-loved Maltese carols. More about its origins here.

Keep warm, keep safe and enjoy this beautiful time.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Bingemma Gap and The Victoria Lines

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Situated on the edge of the Great Fault that runs across the entire breadth of the island, the Church of Our Lady of Itrea is surrounded by some of the most picturesque scenery that Malta has to offer. It almost looks as if one gust of wind will send this little chapel crashing down into the valley. But is has withstood the test of time.

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Its unique location ensures that it takes my breath away every time I pass by. Although this area is rich in archeological discoveries, perhaps it is most well-known for the line of defenses that was built by the British in the late 19th century.

Picnic at Dwejra (118)

On this island that possesses few natural barriers, man-made fortifications abound. The eastern coastline, where the main harbour is situated, has been heavily protected with castles, forts and high bastion walls for hundreds of years. In other areas, impenetrable walls of upper coralline limestone rise majestically from the blue sea. But the sandy beaches of the northern part of the island provided an easy landing place for any marauding pirates or corsairs; and where pirates could land, so could an army. In 1870 the British decided to make the most of a natural fault, running from Madliena in the east to Bingemma in the west, and built the Victoria Lines. The Victoria Lines, which stretch for 12km, are further strengthened by 4 forts and a number of gun batteries. Originally called the North West Front, the wall was re-named the Victoria Lines to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

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Bingemma, Gnejna & Dwejra (13)

Nowadays, the Victoria Lines are very  popular with hikers. The route is quite easy as you simply follow the Great Fault Line. Walk guides for the different sections of the route may be found here.

Location: Bingemma

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Merchants’ Street On An Autumn Afternoon

Valletta on a Sunday (103)

An all but deserted Merchant’s Street on a Sunday afternoon. To the left of the picture, Palazzo Parisio (where Napoleon resided for seven tumultuous days in 1798), now the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Auberge de Castille (the office of the Prime Minister). To the right, Auberge d’Italie which currently houses the Malta Tourism Authority. In the foreground, St James Cavalier, Centre for Creativity. I just love how the camera caught the rays of the sun and turned them into orbs of light, giving a different dimension to the photo. A typical autumn day in Malta – blue skies with just a hint of clouds.

Location: Merchants Street, Valletta

November 2012

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