Friday, November 4, 2022

Malta, November 4, 2022

I had a great sleep but was up far too early.  The marina in the morning-

After condoning city bus transportation yesterday, what a shit show today!  I easily caught my first bus about 8:30, heading to the central terminal at Valletta, just in time to catch #74 to Hagar Qim, an ancient temple, but unfortunately it didn’t show up by the posted time so I waited and waited and waited.  Finally I hopped on #72 and talked to the driver about my final destination. Naturally, he didn’t go as far as I wanted to go and said it was too far to walk from his last stop so a few stops down the road, I got off and waited and waited again for #74 which still didn’t show up!  Finally I got on #73 after googling and seeing that it was only a mile walk to the temple, or should I say another pile of rocks!  All of this took 2 hours!

Hagar Qim is a megalithic temple dating from the Ggantija phase (3600-3200 BC).  It’s made from globigerina limestone and because of this, it’s suffered from severe weathering, so I ask - what is original and what is interpretation?

The largest rock measures 6.4 m by 3 m and weighs 20 tonnes.  Special equipment would be required to move this size of rock today. How, with their simple tools and no machines, were these people able to place this rock where it is?

Very few drawings are found on the limestone mainly because it is a soft porous rock and been exposed to the elements for 5000 years but here is a swirl –

Altars and rooms-

A doorway-

The exterior with puzzle like pieces that fill well together-

This hole is in perfect alignment to allow the sun to shine through on the summer equinox. Archeologists do not know why these people would do that but it is thought they might have had a huge interest in astronomy and the seasons.  The hole from the outside-

And from the inside-

There is another temple 500 m away that I was very tempted to avoid but thought I will never be back here and so I may as well go and see it. Same shit different pile. It is called Mnajdra and they know about as much about it and its builders as Hagar Qim-

A doorway-

Paved walkways-

This is interesting.  Archaeologists think these holes were drilled to mark the days-

After this, I walked to the main road to the bus stop. There was a group of French people waiting to go the other direction who said the bus I needed to catch had just passed so I crossed the road and stuck out my thumb. The first vehicle coming picked me up and took me right to the Blue Grotto.  What a bonus!

A watch tower-

There didn’t appear to be any boats touring into the grotto so noticing a bus was leaving, I hopped on and headed back to Rabat to visit the catacombs and the hypogeum in Saint Cathaldus that I missed yesterday-

The tombs date from the late 2nd to 3rd centuries. The loculi or small graves dug in the walls were used for the burial of infants-

There’s an agape table used for sharing meals during/after a funeral and on anniversaries of the death-

Numerous other tombs-

The hypogeum is an underground room-

I caught a bus immediately and headed back to Valletta. Along the way, there is an old aqueduct that must run for at least a mile –

My German roommates suggested I eat at Legligin, a restaurant in Valletta that serves a 7 course Maltese meal.  It was delicious!

Naturally it started with sourdough bread and olive oil but I didn’t want to fill up on bread –

The next course was olives, baked ricotta with fig jam, Caponata salad,  local sausage in tomato sauce and peppers, onions, and zucchini in a tomato sauce-

Next was fish soup-

Then a fish cake, coleslaw and pulpo-

Then mussels-

Pistachio and four cheese lasagna-

Eggplant parmigiana and minced/beef stew meat in biargioia-

The final course was rabbit and mashed potatoes. The white rabbit meat had a finer texture than chicken but the same sort of consistency. The dark meat was similar to beef that is sort of stringy.  It is thought the Phoenicians brought rabbits to Malta. There are still wild ones around but they are very elusive. During the rule of the Knights of Saint John, only the ruling elite was allowed to eat it. Because of this, in the second half of the 18th century, the rabbit population exploded and they destroyed the crops. Soon the eating of rabbit restrictions were eased. Today, Fenkata; rabbit stew, a Maltese favourite, is typically served in a ragu with spaghetti or with potatoes.  Of course it is supposed to be washed down with lots of red wine! 

Everything was delicious and needless to say, I was stuffed. I found it rather curious that dessert was not included but I passed anyway.  There were only four of us in the small room eating a full course meal at 2:30 pm and I sat beside a lawyer who lives in Rabat but works in Valletta. He was quite up-to-date on Canada and our politics but he had a few facts confused but of course he was obstinate and correct. Every time he went out for a cigarette, I googled what he had told me that I had disagreed with and found the truth. He said he works until Friday at noon and has eaten at Legligin every Friday for the past 13 or 14 years. He is their in-house lawyer. Afterwards he was going to meet some friends to have a few beer and wind down from the week. So I asked him how he would be getting home because he lives 30-40 minutes away.  He paused and then said lawyers break the law but we know how to get around it too. With that, he put on his suit jacket over his paunch and suspenders and waddled away.

I caught a bus home and relaxed on the couch. I was only out from 8:30 until 6 but I am completely whipped.  I can’t believe how tired I am and am assuming it is age related. I don’t like it but I have no alternative! Tomorrow I hope to visit the Three Cities which are across the water from Valletta. I am meeting Brenda Cann for lunch in a small fishing village. She and my brother-in-law, Randy Sidebottom, were together for years. I have not seen her for a long time so I am looking forward to catching up.

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