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.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Garigue in Spring

Garigue: shrubby vegetation of dry Mediterranean regions, consisting of spiny or aromatic dwarf shrubs interspersed with colourful ephemeral species (Collins English Dictionary)

Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (57)

At first glance it appears to be a barren stretch of land interspersed with rocks and a few shrubs, bent and stunted by fierce winds. But if you look closer and focus on the little things, you will come to realise that the idea that the garigue is barren is just a misconception. On the contrary, it is teeming with life. You just have to  know where to look for it. In Malta the garigue is most common on cliff-tops close to the shore, especially in areas like Dingli Cliffs, Ghar Lapsi, Migra Ferha, l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha and the stretch of land between the Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples and Wied iz-Zurrieq.

Azure Stonecrop

The small pockets of red-brown soil in between the jagged rocks  are shallow and the only plants that will thrive have short roots and are able to withstand long periods without water under a blazing Mediterranean sun. So the plants that do grow are quite tiny and the best way to appreciate them is to get down on your knees and take a close peek. It is well worth the effort, especially in spring,  when the majority of plants will be in flower.

Maltese Pyramidal Orchid

Ironically, although at first glance the garigue appears to be so barren, plants thrive and flower there year round. The most prevalent shrub of the Maltese garigue is the wonderfully-scented wild thyme but it is also common to find asphodel, fennel and spurges. Less frequently, sea chamomile, different species of tiny orchids and irises are encountered. Some of these plants are endemic to the Maltese islands.

Migra l-Ferha (9)-001Migra l-Ferha (10)

In the past, large stretches of garigue were destroyed by urban development and the mistaken mentality that these tracts of land are incapable of supporting any useful vegetation. Nowadays most garigue areas are protected and, thankfully, they continue to be a source of delight to all lovers of nature.

Sun Rose

More information about Malta’s garigue may be found on the blogs Maltese Nature and The Malta Photo Blog.

Congreve Memorial and Wied iz-Zurrieq (73)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

St Agatha’s Tower

Red Tower 077

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.

Red Tower 098

Red Tower 099

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.

Red Tower 090

Red Tower 078Red Tower 093Red Tower 095Red Tower 112

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.

Red Tower 082

Red Tower 084

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

Red Tower 116

The Red Tower, Triq tad-Dahar, Mellieha

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

Entrance fee: 2EUR

 

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