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 27 October 2009

The Silent City

If Malta had a crown, then Mdina would be its jewel. Situated on hill, it has seen its fair share of invading armies and battles. Yet its walls have withstood the test of time and today it passes its days silently dreaming of its past.

A Ride on the Train (22)

Mdina was the capital city of Malta until the construction of Valletta in 1566. Its narrow streets are lined with medieval buildings amongst which are interspersed various palaces from the Baroque era.

Mdina 004 Mdina 030

Unearthed remains indicate that Mdina has been inhabited since Punic times and was the chief city of Malta during the Roman era, when it was much larger and incorporated a large part of the neighbouring city of Rabat within its walls. During the Arab conquest of Malta, Mdina was reduced to its current size, but continued to maintain its status as the capital city of the island. It was during this time that the city was fortified with high bastion walls and a dry moat.

End June 051

When Malta was handed over to the Knights of St John in 1530, the nobility residing in Mdina handed the keys of the city to Grand Master L’Isle Adam. Being a sea-faring Order, the Knights preferred to reside in the maritime city of Birgu where they could be close to their ships. After the Great Siege of 1566, Grand Master La Vallette laid the foundation stone of the new capital city, Valletta. Following this, Mdina faced a period of decline which was made worse by an earthquake in 1693 which destroyed many buildings of the old city including the Gothic cathedral. In later years various palaces and buildings were constructed by the Knights who tried to instill new life into the now almost deserted city. However it never quite recaptured the vibe of its heyday. Its inhabitants dwindled from 4000 in the middle ages to around 400 in the present day.

By day, Mdina is thronged with tourists. By night, it belongs to the ghosts of the past.

Mdina by night (4)Mdina by night (13)

It has endured much and has emerged unscathed. In an age when everything is continuously changing, it has remained constant, its beauty undiminished, its mystery unsolved. Perhaps one day it will break the silence and tell us its story. Perhaps one day it will tell us the names of the people that walked its streets hundreds of years ago. But I think that we will have to be content to use our imagination and make up stories about its past. Because, like a proper lady, Mdina knows that its charm lies in revealing almost nothing about itself and so it beckons the intrigued visitor, inviting him to discover her charms. But, like the ladies of old, it remains aloof and discreet, sheltered behind its high walls and smiling secretly in the knowledge that it will endure long after the mortals that walk through the streets are no more.

End June 059

Thursday 8 October 2009

The Story of a Palace

San Anton Palace began its existence as a country villa built by Fra Antoine de Paule, a Knight of the Order of St John. Following his election as Grand Master, the villa was enlarged to accommodate his numerous guests and entourage, which even included a baker who specifically baked black bread for the hunting dogs. The current structure was constructed between 1632 and 1635, when the Grand Master decided to enlarge the villa into palace in favour of building a trireme galley, and was used as his summer residence. The Grand Master named the palace San Anton after his patron saint, Anthony of Padua. Successive Grand Masters continued to use the palace as their summer residence.

During the uprising of the Maltese against the French in 1799, San Anton Palace became the seat of the National Assembly until the capitulation of Valletta by the French in September 1800. Subsequently Captain (later Sir) Alexander Ball resided at the Palace, first as Chief of the Maltese Congress and then as Chief Commissioner. During this period a loggia around the drawing room and a balustrade-walk around the outer courtyards were built.

This door is the entrance to the President's residence.
Yes, that's how close we can get to our head of state!

During the British period the Palace was used as the residence of the Governor and the Governor-General of Malta. Following the end of British rule, the Palace became the official residence of the President of Malta.

San Anton is surrounded by gardens containing a variety of trees and flowers from around the world and also a number of sculptures and ornamental ponds. The gardens have been open to the public since 1882.

The Azure Window: the end of an icon

The Azure Window was a natural limestone arch that rose majestically out of the blue Mediterranean sea to a height of 28 metres (92 fee...