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MORE MALTA. . .

April 18th, 2012 No comments

There is much more to Malta than its religious celebrations for Easter,  and we spent several days exploring other aspects of the island.

Good Friday, which would end with the solemn procession,  dawned with bright sunshine and blue sky—perfect for touring the island.

First we set out in the dinghy to see the fortifications that make Valletta and its surroundings famous.  There is an impressive breakwater that shelters the entrance to Grand Harbor, one of the most well protected natural harbors in the Mediterranean.

We started our tour at Grand Harbor Marina. . .where Destiny was moored.

Grand Harbor Marina is on one of the so-called “Three Cities”—Birgu was also known a Vittoriosa after the Great Siege in 1565.  At the head of the peninsula created by Dockyard Creek and Kalkara Greek is Fort St. Angelo from which the Knights defended the island against the Sultan’s forces.

We left the "high rent" district in Grand Harbor Marina. . .

and took the dinghy to the other side of Valletta where we saw the spire of St. Paul's Co-Cathedral.

Fort St. Elmo and the fortifications a Valletta

On the Marsamxett Harbor side of Valletta are other marinas and boatyards, as well as a small gas station where we got fuel for the outboard.

We passed the fortification on Manoel Island. . .on the way to get gas. . .

and meandered through all the local boats on moorings.

The town of Sliema faces east to Valletta and is lined with high rise hotels and apartments catering to mostly Brits on holiday.  The street running along the waterfront is filled with tour buses and cafes–much more “touristy” than Vittoriosa.

Sliema is lined with hotels & condos. . .

has a wonderful view of Valletta.

After returning to the marina, we set out for Valletta by dghajsas, a small wood boat of ancient Maltese design that now serves as a water taxi.  A small outboard, mounted on the side makes the oars mostly ornamental.

One of the colorful, decorated traditional boats serving as a water taxis. . .

took us to Valletta--just 10 min. away across Grand Harbor. . .

which is a busy commercial port. . .

dominated by freighters and cruise ships that reach the height of the walls.

For 5 euros each we traveled the short distance from the marina to the commercial dock at Valletta, only to find that we were dropped off on a dock that was locked up tight because Good Friday, is a Maltese holiday.  We went from gate to gate trying to find a way out with no luck. 

I barely squeezed through a gate that opened about 10 inches on its chain, but when Kent tried to follow—no way!  So now he is on one side of the fence and I am on the other. Eventually, he found a place where he could climb over.

This was no easy fence to climb over.

Notice the spikes on the top of the fence that Kent climbed over. . .yikes!

Once outside we headed uphill to the town of Valletta.  Valletta was a planned city built after the Great Siege and heavily fortified.  The streets run parallel in grid-like fashion with Republic and Merchant Streets being the main thoroughfares.  There is little vehicle traffic permitted in the city.

Horse & buggy is another. . .

"Malta Experience" in Valletta.

On Good Friday, many of the historic buildings were closed for the holiday, but the streets and cafes were filled with people.

Queen Victoria's statue and ever present pidgeons, are focal points of one of Valletta's Squares.

The churches were preparing for the processions that would take place later in the day, but we had wonderful views of the marina at Birgu.

From highup in Valletta we caught a unique view of Fort St. Angelo and Grand Harbor Marina.

On Saturday, another perfect day for sightseeing, we took one of the red double-deck Malta Sightseeing buses from the marina. 

The double decker sightseeing bus was a great way to see the sights.

Hop-on, hop-off tours are a great way to see a lot in a short time, and at 15 euros per person are a good value too.

We hoped off at the village of Zejtun to visit the parish church. . .

where men stored the props from the Good Friday procession (in this case the golden ark). . .

and women cleaned the church in preparation for Easter.

Next we headed to the south shore of Malta, to a traditional fishing vilalge.

Marsaxlokk is a typical fishing village. . .that is post card perfect. . .

where outdoor dining in the shadow of the parish church. . .

and along the quay seemed more popular than fishing. . .the fleet was in.

Driving past rolling countryside, covered with yellow daisies as far as the eye can see we toured the south coast of Malta.

After miles of yellow daisies along the southern side of the island, . .

past St.Lucian's Tower. . .

to the rocky south shore of Malta near their own Blue Grotto. . .

but we decided to stay on board. . .it was getting to be lunch time.

Then we were back to Sliema with its highrises and cafes.

Sliema skyline. . .

is a backdrop for the tour buses. . .

and cafes surrounded by flowers.

Amid all the hustle and bustle of the Easter holiday, life in Malta, like life everywhere has an “everyday” aspect.

Flags remain at half staff, with laundry hanging underneath, until Easter Sunday. . .

making everyday laundry day in Malta!

One of the most surprising things about Malta was the language.  Given its long history as an English territory before becoming an independent country we expected English to be the predominant language.  The Maltese speak their own language, although most all speak English as a second language.  So as you stroll through the villages you rarely hear spoken English unless you initiate a conversation.

But some language is Universal. . .like little girls in pink.