Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Island of Malta  November 3, 2022

I had the best day, and that got me wondering why now because my first day here wasn’t that great. I was very tired but also not really liking what I was seeing and wondering why and how I was going to spend the next six days on Malta. However, today I was reminded that I have difficulty with change.  I think I was OK on the Camino because it was 37 long days basically doing the same thing over and over but coming here was an absolute change and it took until today for me to really enjoy myself.  I’m glad that I am here.

With all the travelling I have done and the different cultures, climates, foods, sleeping arrangements and people etc., I would think I would relish change and I think I do except when it happens, it takes me a while to get used to my new surroundings and rather than immediately see them in a fun and exciting way, I tend to be concerned that maybe it wasn’t a good or right decision - sounds like first impressions- I thought I was working on that too?

Another thing I was reminded of was that I don’t like tours. Yes they’re convenient and easy - pay a lot and see a lot buy yesterday was hard. There were about 50 of us getting on and off the bus at five different venues. The guide was often on the mic and maybe if she hadn’t also been speaking Russian (because She kept reminding me “what are Russians even doing here?”), and there were people, I think they were Brazilian, speaking Portuguese, that didn’t shut up for most of the trip. So there were some inconvenient and annoying things happening. Also in a group you’re on a strict time line and today was anything but and I did exactly what I would’ve done if I had paid €25 for a hop on hop off bus.

So my intention for the next few days is to embrace change as a positive and exciting possibility, to remember that new things are fun and everything will be OK if I just give it time.

So, even though I’d been up at 5, I didn’t leave the condo until 10 which was great because I felt ready to go. I was waiting at the wrong place for my first bus so I ended up going to the main transportation hub in Valletta and catching a bus from there to Dingli Cliffs which are on the south shore.  There’s a great view from up on top-




The limestone is full of holes from weather beating-


I caught another bus and went to Mdina which was the capital until the Knights of Malta arrived in 1530.  The region has been inhabited since 533 BC.  When I first got to the town and saw the walls, I was ready to pass it by because I figured it was a castle/fort and I had just been in one yesterday in Victoria.  I thought I may as well check it out and as long as I didn’t have to pay, I’d go in.  Well much to my surprise this so-called looking “castle” is actually the village of Mdina and it’s gorgeous!

The Mdina Gate or Vilhena Gate, named after Grand Master Vilhena is in Baroque style and built in 1724 –


The walls-



Once inside, the streets are narrow-



The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Paul is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Paul the apostle. It was founded in the 12th century but damaged in the 1693 Sicily earthquake so it was dismantled and rebuilt in Baroque style between 1696 and 1705 –


The National Museum of Natural History is housed in Palazzo Vilhena, a French Baroque palace rebuilt in 1726 –


There is a lot of beautiful architecture and many statues -




I went to Fontanella Tea Garden for lunch.  The views are wonderful-



They are known for their cakes so I had their “best selling” one which is chocolate. I kept thinking about Treenie’s chocolate cake and wondering how I would ever tell her that I had had a piece of cake better than hers but I do not have to do that. They should get her recipe! This was dry and even though the piece was huge, (I of course ate it all) I was very disappointed-


After lunch I went to a 3D video presentation and museum about the Knights of Malta.  It was kind of corny but I enjoyed it all the same.  In 1023, Blessed Gerard Thom was ordered to provide care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims in the Holy Land.  After the first crusade in 1099 in Jerusalem, the organization became a military order as well as a religious one and they later operated in Rhodes, Greece and then here in Malta.  For being religious, they were certainly violent.  At one time the leader didn’t like the idea of men and women hanging out so he made it illegal-


Sailors arrived with treasure to sell-


Violence-


Armour-


More violence-






What their real mandate was: helping the sick-


From here I went to the Carmelite Priory.  The Carmelite Friars arrived in Malta in 1418 but didn’t move to this location until 1659.  The church is in Baroque style and very beautiful.

Side altars-



The ceiling-


The front altar-

The walls are marble slabs-



The floor-


Carrying on….Beautiful foliage-



Maltese treats-




Leaving Mdina, I went to Rabat which is the town outside the walls, to visit Saint Paul’s Catacombs which are an underground cemetery from the eighth century. They prove that Christianity existed on the island as Roman law forbid burials in the city. The museum was very good explaining many things such as some catacombs were marked with Christian symbols and some with Jewish and others had images of what their profession was carved into the tomb.  Status of a person also determined where they were buried. Those closest to the entrance were more socially esteemed.

This inscription stated that a husband and wife erected this tomb for the deserving “Valeria”-


Tombs were also found filled with pottery, jewellery and other personal items- 


Such as trinkets.  They also think these might’ve been toys buried with children –


Romans were not expected to live very long. On average two out of every five babies died in their first year. Only one in four people lived into their late 40s and only six out of 100 lived to 60 years or more. The average life expectancy was 25.  

This skeleton belongs to a 60 year old man living between the fourth and fifth century BC. He had no teeth, had arthritis and had a spur on one rib.  The baby skeleton belonged to someone between 38 weeks before birth and 1.5 months after birth-



Mourning lasted 9 days.  The family was said to be contaminated for those nine days  but would be cleansed through rituals and with a special meal on the ninth day.

I had seen catacombs in Rome years ago and was looking forward to seeing some bones but there were none.  It was a huge underground maze that went on and on and on. I wonder what they did with all the bones-



The round  platform with a raised rim is an agape table used for Christian funerary rituals.  It have been a gathering spot for meals after the burial and once a year on the anniversary of the burial, relatives would gather again for a celebratory meal to commemorate the dead – 


Small side wall graves-








After these catacombs I stopped in to Saint Cathaldus Church where there are free catacombs in the basement as well a a hypogeum which is an underground village.  I don’t know if I was tired or if the stairway was blocked off but as far as I was concerned there was nothing to see. When I came back upstairs the woman who was watching over the church was surprised that I had not spent much time underground. I should’ve read the brochure better while there and then I would’ve known what there was to see. I am sorry I missed it.

After Rabat/Mdina I went to Mosta to see the Rotunda or The Sanctuary Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady, or the Mosta Dome.  It is a Roman Catholic parish dedicated to the Assumption of Mary-


It was built between 1833 and the 1860s in a neoclassical design based on the Pantheon in Rome.  It has the third largest unsupported dome in the world and is Malta's largest and most famous church-






It was almost destroyed on April 9, 1942 when a German bomb fell through the dome and into the church during Mass, but luckily failed to explode. This event was interpreted by the Maltese as a miracle-


Inside you can go upstairs to the balcony for a great view-







A pipe organ-

Views from the floor-





Connected to the church is a bomb shelter from World War II –



I really enjoyed my day and am looking forward to more exploring tomorrow.


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