Sunday, May 23, 2010

Our Day In Malta

The Maltese Archipelago, consisting of the inhabited islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino are located in the Mediterranean Sea, about 52 miles south of Sicily. The history of the Maltese Islands goes back some 7,000 years, to the dawn of civilization. Malta and Gozo are the home to mysterious prehistoric temples that pre-date the pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge in England.

The Roman Empire dominated the islands from about 218 BC. Malta changed hands a number of times after the Roman rule, most notably under the Arabs from 870 AD. Other occupiers included the Byzantines, the Normans, the Swabians and the Arogonese. In 1530, the Knights of the Order of Saint John arrived in Malta. During their rule, the Order fought off the great Ottoman Empire of Turkey in the famous great siege of Malta. The period of leadership under the knights ended in 1798 when Napoleon Bonaparte took the islands, but this occupation was short lived when the Maltese revolted against the French and the islands fell under the protection of the British Empire in 1800. Malta became an independent state within the British Commonwealth in 1964 and became a Republic ten years later. Malta, officially the Republic of Malta, is a small and densely populated island nation comprising an archipelago of seven islands, three of which are inhabited. It has a warm, inviting Mediterranean climate. The main island is 17 miles long and 9 miles wide.

Our tour of Malta started off a bit rocky as we were expecting our private tour provider, Duncan Zammit of UPhotoMalta, to meet us at the cruise ship pier at 8:30 am when the ship docked but he didn’t show up until 9 am. I don’t know if it was my mistake or his but regardless, once the tour started, the hiccup at the beginning was quickly forgotten. Duncan was very knowledgeable about Malta, where he’d been born, raised and still lived. We started off by driving about a few spots in Valletta, including a park across from where the Magic was docked, allowing us to get some great photos. We then headed off to Marsaxlokk, an authentic fishing village. The boats in the harbor were all shapes and sizes, from the smallest one person boat to large boats. Most were brightly painted in blue, yellow, green, red and brown.

From there we headed to Mdina, the old walled part of Malta. However, before entering Mdina, we stopped at a local tea shop/bar for a local pastry filled with peas (pastizzi) and a hot, spicy tea. Both were very good. The Mdina was walled, and where we entered it was about 20 feet thick. The roads were little more than alleyways, limiting traffic to residents and, during certain hours, small trucks for delivery of supplies and goods.

We then drove into what seemed like the interior of the island where there was a distinct focus on agriculture. We saw various types of vegetables being grown. It was interesting that the farmers had to erect greenhouse-like structures, not to accelerate the growing process, but instead to protect the crops from the high winds. From there we visited several overlooks from which we saw beautiful beaches, stunning cliffs and scenery. All the while, we were talking with Duncan, who we found to be very personable and funny. His easy-going nature and willingness to share personal insights about Malta and its people made our half-day tour one we will remember.


Anonymous said...

Hi Spencers's,

We enjoyed your informative "Our Day in Malta" post.

Enjoy each moment of your family adventure. Stay safe!

Lee & Iraida

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'm enjoying it all... just have some catching up to do...
it looks and sounds beautiful..
Things are fine here... new record of 94 yesterday...91+ today... enjoy the climate while you have it. Ollie wants to go next time.


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