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.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wildflowers Of Malta – Hoary Stocks

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This wildflower (known in Maltese as Gizi) is not endemic to the Maltese islands. It was introduced in the last 500 years and may be found sporadically around the island. Its Latin name is Matthiola incana and it is of the  mustard cress family. Hoary stocks flower between March and May.

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I found this particular plant in a most unusual place – underneath the forbidding walls of Fort St Elmo in Valletta. It was all but hidden in the rest of the vegetation but I did not miss its small, vibrant purple flowers peeping out from amongst the rest of the foliage along the path.

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Hoary Stocks

Photographed in Valletta

March 2012

I am indebted for all information regarding wild flowers and plants of Malta to the excellent and informative website Malta Wild Plants.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Staircase At Verdala Palace

Verdala Palace is the official summer and holiday residence of the President of Malta. It is not normally open to the public but every couple of years or so an open weekend is held. Naturally, thousands of people flock to this historic place. It has been a while since we had the opportunity to visit so these photos are from my archives. I had written a post about the palace and about the Blue Lady that is said to haunt it here. Today I am going to focus on one of the palace’s most unique and beautiful features: its main staircase.

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The staircase is elliptical and was designed by Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who was also responsible for a number of other magnificent buildings. It is said, that to give it its unique design, no two stones are the exact same size. This staircase is a prime example of Baroque architecture  - a style that was purposefully designed to be both grandiose and awe-inspiring. I am sure that this staircase does not disappoint in either respect.

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For a view of the castle in 360 go here.

Verdala Palace

Buskett

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

X Miles To Nowhere (or Defaced Milestones)

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Many visitors to these islands are intrigued when they see these defaced milestones. Some may wonder why these milestones have been defaced. It was not due to a thoughtless act of vandalism. These milestones were defaced during the last World War. During the worst of the war it was thought that an Axis invasion was imminent, so all existing milestones were defaced in the hope that any potential invaders would be confused as to their whereabouts. In some cases, even the name of the town was removed from the stone. Needless to say, in this day and age, such a precaution would be futile. These milestones still stand, serving as a reminder of a very different way of life.

Photographed at Fawwara

April 2011

Thursday, March 1, 2012

They Came, They Conquered And They Called Me Medina

As the years passed the empire weakened and was split in two. For a while this island fell under the Eastern Roman Emperor at Byzantium. But trouble was brewing in the east. The Arabs were thirsty for land and conquest. Fuelled by their new faith, they spread across the Mediterranean like a swarm of locusts in a field of wheat. There were not many places that put up a fight. By 870AD Malta had a new overlord and, as for me, I became who I am today.  The Arabs decreased my size, dug a moat around me and built high walls for protection.

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And they renamed me Medina. The narrow, winding streets that you see today have not changed much from that day to this but life changed drastically during those years. The Arabs brought with them a new culture, a new religion. Slowly, but surely, the native people took up these new traditions. Some did it of their own free will, others under duress. From my perch on these lofty bastions I surveyed the land below me and all the surrounding sea but, as yet, there was no power strong enough in the Mediterranean to overthrow the Hakem, the ruler of the island.

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But something in my bones told me that the status quo would not last forever. If I had learnt one thing from my almost 2000 year existence it was that this sea is always in turmoil. As one power waned, another would rise up in its shadow. I knew that the winds of change would soon start to blow again and my story would unfold whichever way the fates dictated. All I could do was wait.

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