Welcome to Life Images by Jill

Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........Stepping into the light and bringing together the images and stories of our world.
I am a photographer, writer and multi-media artist. Through my blog I am
seeking to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.



Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Welcome to Malta - merħba f'Malta

As the first streaks of light seeped around the edges of the curtains, and the muffled sound of early morning traffic threaded its way into my consciousness, I threw back the bed covers, grabbed my camera, and on bare feet quietly padded along the cool lino of the passageway to the front window. I swept back the curtains, slid open the glass door, and stepped onto the balcony. The view of the harbour lay before me. The air is crisp and I can smell cooking. The first golden rays of the morning sun filtered through the buildings lighting up the yachts floating peacefully at their moorings, making perfect reflections. A seagull rode the gentle upcurrents, his wings silvery in the light. A couple of joggers paced along the waterfront beneath the palm trees.  

On the opposite shore the creamy-yellow sandstone buildings reminded me of Africa which lies only 290 kilometers (180 miles) away across the Mediterranean. My first morning in Malta was here. 

The cityscape is a mixture of the very old and the very new. and there appears to be a lot of reconstruction building going on as evidenced by the cranes on the skyline. The view from our front balcony (above" seemed to be more modern, whereas the view from our back balcony (below) was more old style. We had rented a small apartment for our stay and yes we had two balconies! Happy me!

We had arrived in Malta the evening before after a flight from Barcelona in Spain. A Maltese born Australian picked us up from the airport. He told us he came here 26 years ago for a 6 week holiday and never left. He still had his Aussie accent and told us a lot about the island on the way to our hotel which was situated in a narrow sidestreet.  After booking in, we followed a "man" with our suitcases in tow, down the street to our apartment which was separate from the hotel, and along the waterfront. I had booked a sea view apartment, so after the narrow lane where we had first been deposited by the driver I was relieved.

We hadn't had anything to eat, except for a snack, since lunch time, (our Ryanair flight from Barcelona didn't provide meals), so even though it was 10pm, we headed down the street to Moos, a Turkish-Pizza bar along The Strand on the waterfront, which I had noticed on the way to the hotel, to buy some dinner. 

Being a crossroads in the Mediterranean and with a rich history which goes back to the Neolithic period and includes Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Arabs, French and English (from who they gained independence in 1964), it is not surprising that Malta enjoys a mix of cuisines. 

The official languages in Malta are Maltese and English, and Italian is also widely spoken, so English speakers won't have any problem with the language. 

 The main reason for our visit was to visit our French friend, Aude, and meet her Maltese husband and little boy. We had not seen our friend for 13 years, so it was great to meet up with her again and she hadn't changed a bit. She owned a cafe-bookshop in Malta for a couple of years, but now teaches English. 

As she was working during the day and we only three full days in Malta between our Spain and Italy tours, we booked a couple of tours so we could see some of Malta while we were there. Aude was horrified when we told her that our taxi driver from the airport told us we could easily explore Malta using local buses. Malta may be a small island (245.7 sq kms, 94.9 sq miles) but for a tourist it is difficult to get around and local buses often require long waits. 

The arrow on this map shows the approximate location of our apartment, part of the Blue Bay Hotel chain. Not five star but clean and comfortable, and a million dollar view as you can see in the photos and video below. We had to walk a couple of doors down from our apartment to the main hotel where we had our breakfasts which was part of our package.

Malta is very densely populated, and a great proportion of Malta can be considered as one metropolitan area, made up of a number of towns. Our apartment was located in the town of Gzira which looks over the water towards the capital Valletta. 

We were very happy with the location of our apartment. Along the waterfront there were many eating places, and you can catch ferries, join tours, and the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus along here. And of course, we had a view!

 Looking across the water to Valletta and St Johns Cathedral.  

There are several tour companies operating in Malta. We opted for a full day tour with Hello Malta which conveniently picked us up from the front of our hotel. Our tour guide was very informative with his information about Malta. After picking up all the guests for the day our first stop was the church of St Mary in Mosta. 

Mosta is an Arab word meaning "centre". The remains of the first people who lived in Mosta goes back to the Copper Age (circa 4100--2500 BC). Work began on the church in 1833 and took 27 years to complete. Built on the site of an existing church, the church was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. Most of the work was done by the Mostins themselves without any remuneration. The central rotunda dome of Mosta's beautiful church is the third largest unsupported dome in the world with an internal diameter of 35.97 metres and an internal height of 54.86 metres.

On 9 April 1942 in World War 2 a German bomb dropped through the dome but did not explode (one of 4 bombs that hit the church). The church was crowded with worshipers when the bomb dropped but no one was injured so this event is considered by the people to be a miracle. A replica of the bomb can be seen in a small side room.  Our guide pointed out where the bomb came through the dome.  In the right hand image you can see one of the tiles that is slightly worn looking, this is one of the original tiles where the bomb hit.
  After a stop at filigree and glass blowing workshops, we visited the town of Mdina, in the centre of the island. Once the capital of Malta, Mdina, sometimes known as the 'silent city', has had many different names and titles depending on its rulers and its role. The Phoenicians, named it Maleth 'away from the sea', the Romans Melite meaning 'honey,' and the Arabs Merdina - 'city of fortifications'.  

Mdina's history is linked to the 'Knights of St Johns" who came here in the 1530s. Across the Maltese Islands you'll find more evidence of their stay in military engineering, architectural, art and medicine.

In the courtyard of the Mdina Natural History Museum you can see the Maltese Cross which was adopted by the Order of the Knights Hospitallers of St John in 1126. The cross has eight points denoting the eight obligations of the knights, namely "to live in truth, have faith, repent one's sins, give proof of humility, love justice, be merciful, be sincere and whole-hearted, and to endure persecution". 

The eight points also came to represent the eight languages of the Knights of St Johns - German, Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Catalonian, Bavarian and English. 

Although I just found this, so don't quote me: Malta Uncovered.com With time, the eight points also came to represent the eight “langues” (literally “tongues”, but in effect national groupings) of the noblemen who were admitted to the famed order, namely those of Auvergne, Provence (France), Aragon, Castille and Portugal, Italy, Baviere (Germany), and England (with Scotland and Ireland).

Home to many noble families, Mdina is one of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city and a mix of medieval and baroque architecture. The houses are actually palaces. Royalty stay here when they visit Malta. It is a UNESCO World Heritage listed city. Despite the rain when we visited we enjoyed our walk around part of Mdina.  I loved capturing the detail and would have liked to have had our own time here exploring the beautiful city. 
 Don't you just love this balcony? The pink was such a contrast from the sandstone.

Our next stop was Valletta over the water from where we were staying in Gzira.  Valletta is the capital city of Malta and the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Valetta contains buildings from the 16th Century built during the rule of the Order of the Knights of St Johns. 

Unfortunately because of the weather, and that the tour was running late because we had been held up by a traffic accident, and the fact that we had to purchase our late lunch in Valletta, we really didn't get much time to explore the city.  At the Barracca Gardens we had views over the harbour and city.

We were guided through the St John's Co-Cathedral, designed by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, who designed several of the more prominent buildings in Valletta. In the 17th century, its interior was redecorated in the Baroque style by Mattia Preti and other artists. The interior of the church is considered to be one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.
The Cathedral was a shrine to the Knights, and many sons of Europe's noble families from the 16th to 18th centuries lie buried here. Their intricate, marble-inlaid tombstones form magnificently crafted pavimento floor tiles.
On our last day we spent the morning exploring some of the back streets in Gzira. This is what I enjoyed the most, exploring in our own time with my camera. Lots of balconies to add to my collection!

And in the afternoon we joined a two hour harbour boat cruise with commentary with Supreme Cruises.
 Disappointingly a lot of the old buildings in Malta are being pulled down to make way for new apartments and hotels. I hope they preserve their historical heritage and don't tear everything down in the name of progress. This notice you see below here announces that an application has be made to demolish the site and built a nine-storey complex including 16 residential units and shops. This sort of redevelopment is heart-breaking to many Maltese.

On our last night we went to Ta' Kris restaurant which was located a short walk from our hotel. Look for the sign on Bisazza street, up from the waterfront in Sliema, then head up the stairs. Housed in an old bakery, with a friendly warm ambiance, the food is fresh and authentic home-style Maltese cuisine. We shared a tasting plate to start (our friend had snails) and then I had the Braggioli, a thick home made beef stew, delicious.
Our trip to Malta was over too soon, as we bade a sad farewell to our friends. We could easily have stayed in Malta for at least a week and still not seen everything. Until next time...."suhha Malta".

We would have loved to have visited the nearby island of Gozo where you can visit the Ġgantija Temple complex. The two temples here are amongst the oldest free-standing stone buildings in the world, dating back to 3600BC and have UNESCO World Heritage status.

Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you have enjoyed visiting Malta with me. Have you been to Malta? Perhaps you would like to tell us about it in your comments. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return. Have a wonderful week.  

For more information on Malta, visit here - Visit Malta
and for more balconies - Hola Spain! 

I am linking up to the link-ups below. Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!
Life in Reflection

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  1. I'm glad you saw Mosta church. My husband's family worshipped there until emigrating to Australia in the 1920's.

  2. Malta is lovely! Your shots are gorgeous.

    1. yes it was, and I hope sometime in the future we will be able to visit again. Unfortunately so far from Australia!

  3. Malta wasn't on my radar until a few years ago but now I would absolutely love to visit there. Lovely photos! Looks like a wonderful place to visit.

  4. Malta is on my bucket list but somewhere in the middle.

  5. Enjoyable read and loved the photos.

  6. You had me at 'two balconies' ... especially when the view from each was of such a different part of the City. What a beautiful place to explore.... you're an excellent tour guide and that is a lot to see in such a short time. As always of course, your photos are amazing.

    1. Thanks Sallie. Yes I must say I was thrilled with the two balconies and both with great views. Certainly a step up from some of the views we had on our trip.

  7. I didn't realise that Malta was so close to Africa which was really interesting. It looks so beautiful and you've made me want to go visit. When we were showjumping as children, one of my friends had a pony called Valetta - never knew then it was the capital of Malta! Your photos are astonishingly beautiful. Maybe you should have a room at home completely wallpapered with your photographs :)

    1. I recommend you visit Malta if you ever get the chance Jo. I don't have many of my photos on my walls at home. And I think I need to upgrade the ones I do have.

  8. My brother has vacationed at Malta several times with his family, and they had all kinds of stories, so they really enjoyed it.
    Like you I love arches, balconies, pillars, structured ceilings - and thanks for sharing the details in your post for All Seasons! You went to a lot of places for a bus tour!
    Have a great week,

  9. I have never been to Malta, but now I feel I have - through you! Fabulous architecture, history - and that view from your apartment - STUNNING! It also saddens me that they are pulling down the old buildings - surely they can re-develop the interior without changing the exterior???

    1. Yes Malta was so much more than I imagined.

  10. Oh, we were in Malta once - a one day cruise stop and since then have always said we needed to return for a land-based trip. Your post has me thinking that the time is coming for us to do just that!

    1. you should! Only a shortish hop from Greece! Happy travels.

  11. It was fantastic to catch up. Too short but well worth it. Your blog on Malta is very interesting. ;-) and those photos bring the best of this island out!

  12. Oh, wow, that is some wonderful view to wake up to!
    Ages ago my Mum visited Malta and she was so fond of the flora there.
    Interesting fact about the Mosta and very beautiful, too.
    Mdina's history is a very good one. I had to grin though, that German and Bavarian were considered two languages :-)
    (But to be honest in "deep" Bavaria or even South Germany I´m lost, too.)
    Beautiful balcony indeed - reminds me a bit of Cuba.
    Oh, no, so sad when such buildings are teared down!
    And when holidays end!
    Thanks for the journey!

    1. Hmm... I am wondering now if I have the languages wrong, so I've gone back and checked and made a little amendment note on my post. Thanks!

  13. What a great reportage - thank you for sharing! Malta would be an interesting place to visit.

  14. Hello Jill,
    I get emotional when we talk about Malta, I and my husband have so lovely memories! We have been there 4 times during the 1990's. It is a unique place, full of contradictions bur very picturesque. Some places are panoramic and relaxing, some so hectic. It was nice to see your report.

    1. Thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed my post and it brought back memories for you. I would really love to be able to do a longer visit.

  15. Such a pretty balcony. Malta looks like a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing.
    visiting via OurWorldTuesday and WATW

  16. Jill, Thanks for the visit to Malta. Amazing place and the blue water! The buildings are so close together and the streets so narrow. Loved the visit. Have a great week. Sylvia D.

    1. Thanks Sylvia. The narrow back streets are great for exploring.

  17. Thank you for share this informative post.
    maltapark malta


I hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog. Thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to comment. I read and very much appreciate every comment and love hearing from you. I will try to visit your blogs in return.