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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wildflowers Of Malta: Crown Daisy

Crown Daisy

The Crown Daisy (Glebionis coronaria), or lelluxa  in Maltese, is one of the most prolific wild flowers in Malta. From February to May various areas around the island are carpeted with its golden flowers. The plants will wilt and dry as soon as the temperature starts to rise. This plant does not grow readily in areas where the soil contains a lot of clay as it prefers well-drained soil. But sometimes it seems as if they will grow just anywhere …

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Crown daisies are not poisonous and their flowers have a pungent smell reminiscent of camomile. They are said to have expectorant properties and were used with copious amounts of black pepper to treat gonnorrhoea.

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Crown daisies are frequently used by children in games of ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ when subsequent petals are removed until the last remaining petal will confirm whether he loves you or not.

A variant of this flower exists consisting of a yellow centre and white petals. This flower is much less common than the all-yellow flower. Crown daisies are at their peak right now. In a few weeks they will all disappear leaving us only with the memory of fields paved with gold.

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Photographed at Fawwara

April 2011

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Medieval Mdina Festival

Last weekend the Silent City hosted the annual Medieval Mdina Festival. It is, as the name implies, a celebration of medieval life – with a lot of pomp and pageantry thrown in. For two days re-enactors in period costumes roam the streets while different activities take place around Mdina. This year I particularly enjoyed a breath-taking show by a group of Italian sbandieratori (flag throwers).

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Other events that took place included art exhibitions, human chess games, jousting and a falconry display. The entrance fee to museums and other places of interest was reduced. The Medieval Mdina Festival has become a permanent fixture in our events calendar and draws hundreds of tourists and locals to the old capital.

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Jousting and jostling humanity aside, there is a lot more that is medieval about Mdina than this annual festival but, in the general commotion that such an event creates, it is easy to overlook them. So let me take you on a small ‘guided tour’ of the medieval parts of this little city.

I have already written about the early history of Mdina in They Called Me Maleth, And Then Melite, and They Came, They Conquered And They Called me  Medina. My next installment in Mdina’s story would have touched the medieval era but  I will leave the historical  facts for another time. In reality a great part of the buildings that made up medieval Mdina were destroyed by an earthquake in 1693. Subsequent replacements were built in the Baroque style. So finding traces of the middle ages is not as easy as it might sound but they do exist.

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Palazzo Falson – a two-storey medieval palace with rooms built around an internal courtyard.

 

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The Jewish Silk Market

 

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St Peter’s monastery – (formerly St Peter’s hospital) convent to an order of cloistered Benedictine nuns since 1430.

 

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Casa Inguanez – a medieval palace that  occupies an entire block and is home to Malta’s oldest aristocratic family. In 1432, King Alfonso V of Spain and Sicily stayed here while visiting the island.

 

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Palazzo Santa Sofia – purported to be the oldest existing building in  Mdina, a building in the Siculo-Norman style. The ground floor of this building is said to have been built in 1233.

But apart from the palaces and the churches the true medieval identity of Mdina can be better seen in the houses of the ‘common folk’. The small doors and tiny windows, usually situated on a higher storey, are reminiscent of an age when pirate attacks were common and every household had to defend itself in the best way possible.

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I always find it fascinating that, even with hundreds of visitors thronging its streets, I was still able to find silent streets and quiet nooks. The festival and re-enactments are interesting but, for me, it is the lure of the Silent City itself which never ceases to fascinate me. Because no matter how many times I walk through those narrow, winding streets, I always find something new that draws my eyes upwards or downwards. With each visit I learn a new secret and this tiny, walled city continues to ensnare me in its mesh of spells.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dear Dom

I have written many times about the history of this island and a few times about our culture and traditions. Yet I have failed to talk about the people, historical or otherwise, who have, for better or worse, molded Malta into what it is today. Dominic Mintoff, or Dom Mintoff as he was more popularly known, was one such person. He is a man from our recent history, a former prime minister, a man now in his mid-nineties. Dear Dom is a feature documentary by Pierre Ellul that was released in our cinemas on March 23rd. It highlights the career of a man who both made and destroyed Malta.

That the film has sparked controversy is probably an understatement. The name Dom Mintoff strikes a cord with the majority of the population who is over 35. It is a name that is loved in some quarters (perhaps adulated would be a better word) and loathed in others; a name that sparks heated debates to this very day; a name that will generate a host of emotions except one – indifference. Mintoff is the man who single-handedly created a great political divide in this country. Many of our younger generations say they feel cheated because at school our history books seem to stop at around the time Malta became independent in 1964. They say that all they know about the man  is through hearsay and not founded in historical fact. The truth is that this man left a wound in this island which is still raw, a wound that not many people want to talk about because of all the emotions attached to it. This feature documentary will hopefully give those that want to know more about this man the unbiased information they are looking for. I am one of those that lived through the days when his power was at its most oppressive, when he befriended the likes of Gaddafi and Ceausescu. Hero or villain? Reformer or oppressor?  I have an opinion about the man and I could write more, much more, about his life and times.  But I think that, in this case, it is wiser to let history be the judge.

For those of you that want to learn more about the the making of this feature documentary please go here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Breakwater Bridge

 

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This is the new breakwater bridge. The first one was destroyed during an attack by Italian E-boats in July 1941. The E-boats did not manage to enter the harbour – the guns stationed at  Fort St Elmo and Fort Ricasoli (situated at either end of the harbour) made sure of this. During the attack, the bridge suffered considerable damage and was deemed unsafe. In October 2011 this new bridge, constructed in Spain, replaced the former structure. As yet, it is not accessible to the public.

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The foundations of the breakwater were laid in 1903 but the history of the harbour goes back much further than that.

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On a beautiful morning in mid-March we walked the winding part beneath Fort St Elmo in an attempt to get to the bridge. However we found the last part of the path to be blocked. It did not matter – we made plenty of other interesting discoveries on the way. Beautiful scenery,rusty gun posts,  the blue sea, wild flowers, fossils … it would have been perfect were it not for the crumbling fort above our heads. It makes me sigh, and hope, that one day, Fort St Elmo will be restored to its former glory. Its glorious past deserves nothing less.

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Photographed at

St Elmo Point

Valletta

March 2012

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