Monday, 1 June 2015

Malta 25 - 31 May 2015.

Licata To Malta.

       Monday 25th May saw us leaving Licata at dawn. Several other cruisers were doing the same as there was a calm patch between the gusty, windy weather that had kept us all delaying departure. We motored out of the harbour which was to be the order of the day. It was a long motor but great to be on the move again on a calm passage in lovely sunshine dodging shipping, enjoying the company of  a few dolphins and watching the progress of other yachts heading south. After a 12 hour passage we entered the dramatically fortified harbour of Malta and settled into our berth at the reasonably priced Msida Creek Marina which was to be our home for 10 days.  The first thing that impresses you most on entrance are the massive amount of enormous defensive walls around Valletta.  

Dawn Departure From Licata.
Malta Flag And  'Q'  Customs Flags Going Up.
Malta Entrance.
Kisti Two Passing Valletta
Valletta Defences.
Floriana Defences
Exploring Valletta.

      Floriana       The following morning saw us checking in with Customs and the Port Police before lowering the Q flag and then checking into the Marina Office. Soon we were armed with maps and guide books and on our way to explore Floriana and Valletta. We walked along the side of Msida Creek and up through Floriana Lines, the impressive fortifications that protected this area before reaching the city walls of Valletta.  We passed the circular domed Sarria Church and beautifully laid out gardens and monuments and came to the vast Piazza outside St Publius Church. What looked like the bases of numerous columns were capping stones on the vast grain stores that were set up beneath the  piazza by the Knights of Malta to withstand any blockade.  
Piazza St Publius. Grain Stores Under Column Bases.
      Valletta Wanderings Day 1.       The massive fortifications, some of which were visible to us from the Marina berth were much more impressive on close inspection. Passing through the modern gates we entered the city of Valletta with beautifully restored golden municipal buildings, stairways and ramparts. The city has very little traffic with walkways and streets lined with huge buildings all with baroque carved and ornamented facades. From the Upper Barakka Gardens we had our first marvellous views over the Grand Harbour and the Three Cities, the original base of the St Johns Knights. Fort St Angelo, at the end of the city of Vittoriosa, protecting the inner harbour being the most impressive. The Saluting Battery where the Midday Gun is still fired daily is below the beautiful gardens and has a series of chambers below which once held ammunition stores.
Valletta Defencive Walls At Entrance Gate.
The Malta Prime Ministers Office.
The Auberge Of The Knights Of Castille.
View Of Three Cities From Valletta.
Fort St Angelo In The Centre.
Grand Harbour Between Vittoriosa And Senglea.
Gun Saluting Battery Firing Position.
One Of Many Malta Knights Coat Of Arms.
    We watched 'The Malta Experience' video and then enjoyed a tour of the St John's Hospital. The two floors consisted of a long hall of 1500ft, the top for Knights and the second floor for the others.
The Knights Of St John's Hospital.
     We then wandered to 'The Siege Bell' erected in 1992 to Commemorate the anniversary of the award of 'The George Cross' to the Island Of Malta to honour those who died here in WW2.
Looking Out From The Siege Bell.
Lower Barrakka Garden.
Guy With The Siege Bell In The Background
From The Lower Barrakka Gardens.
       The Grand Masters Palace.        We strolled through the streets to the Grand Master's Palace, originally the residence of the Grand Master, then of the British Governor. The Palace has some amazing state rooms, wonderful paintings of the 1565 siege and portraits of various Grand Masters. There was also a collection of some fascinating ornate tapestries and an armoury housing an interesting collection of weapons, armour and swords. It was a Palace worthy of its name and was quite breathtaking to wander around.
Grand Master's Palace Lions.
Inner Courtyard To Grand Master's Palace
Grand Master's Palace Hallway.
Decorated Ceilings.
Roll Of British Governors Of Malta.
Is Your family Name On?
Palace Courtyard From Hallway.
Palace Siege Paintings.
Palace Siege Paintings.
The Elegant Hallway.
One Of Many Grand Paintings
Depicting Senior Knights.
Sea Battle Scenes.
The Intriguing Clock At The Palace Entrance.
La Valette, The Grandmaster Who Saved Malta
At The Great Siege Of 1565 And Constructed Valletta.
Turkish Soldiers In The Palace Museum.
Malta Soldiers In The Armoury.      
Queen Victoria Gets Everywhere!!!!
A Cruise Ship Crowd Storm Valletta.
         After a well earned siesta, we walked along the harbourside to Sliema, the main shopping area enjoying the scenery and fortifications lit up at night.
Sunset Over Valletta.
Valletta At Night.
      Valletta Meanderings Day 2!     We left a happy Kisti Two at the Marina and used the very efficient and cheap bus system to return to Valletta for a second dose of culture. This was to be a day of churches and fortifications, plus the inevitable long pit stop.
Kisti Two In Msida Creek Marina.
Government Buildings.
St John's Co-Cathedral.     Any visitor to Malta must visit the St John's Co-Cathedral. It is one of the most opulent and majestic Cathedrals in the world. Commissioned in 1572 by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere and designed by a Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar, it was completed in 1577. It is an excellent example of early European integration. Regional altars line the sides, the carved stones painted in gold are wonderfully intricate, the painted ceilings stunning, the coloured marble tombstones covering the whole floor a notable tribute to all the knights and the general collection of paintings and mausoleums utterly moving. A priceless treasure which we viewed for a half an hour was a painting by Caravaggio, 'The Beheading Of St John The Baptist' which he completed in 1608. Unfortunately, we could not take a photo of it but trust us, it was a most amazing painting and worth a visit on its own. The audio tour helped us to understand the Co-Cathedral was also very helpful and worth using. The whole visit was very moving and uplifting. These pictures are only a few of the hundred we took!
St John's Co-Cathedral Entry.
Cathedral Ceiling.
Knights Marble Tombstones Cover The Whole Cathedral Floor.
A Knights Mausoleum. 
Malta Regimental Flags.
One Of Many Glorious Paintings.
Flagellation Of Jesus.
A Side Chapel With Carved And Painted Stone Work.
The Co-Cathedral Altar.
St Paul Being Converted.
St Paul Shipwrecked On Malta.
Guys Friend St George Again.

    And The Rest!     We spent the rest of the day wandering around Valletta looking at churches, stunning buildings and immense fortifications taking in the magnificence of it all. 
Independence Square With Dome Of The Carmelite Church
And St Paul's Pro-Anglican Cathedral Behind The Jacaranda.
Valletta Waterfront.
The Narrow Streets Of Valletta
With The Carmelite Church.
Looking Over To Manoel Island.
Looking Up Msida Creek, Our Marina.
The Thick Fortifications.
Exploring The Three Cities Day 3.

     Vittoriosa, with the majestic Fort St Angelo has been described as the cradle of Maltese history. The town flourished under the Knights of St John with the erection of splendid palaces, public buildings, churches and fortifications. It suffered much damage in 1565 during the Great Siege and also during WW2. A large scale rehabilitation programme is doing an excellent job of restoring the Three Cities and Fort St Angelo. The area was the Knights main centre until the construction of Valletta after the Great Siege. You can still find historical gems, beautiful architecture and the development of Grand Harbour Marina now run by Camper & Nicholson which is now a picturesque port of call for super yachts. Too expensive for Joe average like us but a delight to visit and soak up the atmosphere. We visited the 'Malta At War Museum' which is at one of the 3 original gates in to the city. Very interesting and the air raid shelter a must!
Modern Entrance To Vittoriosa, The Central Of The Three Cities.
Grand Harbour Marina.
Ginny In Air Raid Shelter!
Gate Entrance To Vittoriosa And Museum.
Grand Harbour Camper & Nicholson Marina.
Senglea City Opposite.
Kemp Sail Packaway On Display In Grand Harbour.
Top Of Grand Harbour.
Vittoriosa From Senglea Waterfront.
Fort St Angelo And Grand Harbour Entrance.
Ginny With Valletta In The Distance.
Steep Narrow Streets In Senglea.
Traditional Boat Eye.
     St Lawrence Church.     The St Lawrence Church has the distinction of being the oldest in Malta. It served the Knights of St John until the Co-Cathedral was built in Valletta as was used by the Grand Master de Valette during the Great Siege. The powerful altar painting by Mattia Preti is of the Martyrdom of St Lawrence and the ceiling views are most remarkable.
St Lawrence Church, The Knights Original Church.

Breathtaking And Powerful Altar In St Lawrence Church.
Exploring The Hinterland Day 4!

        Mosta Parish Church.     The Mosta Parish Church became too small for its audience so in 1832 construction began on a new circular church modelled on the Pantheon Of Rome. It was built round and over the existing church which was dismantled on completion. The dome is the third largest unsupported dome in Europe and was built by the locals of Mosta. More remarkable is the fact that on 9 Apr 1942, four German bombs hit the church. Three bombs did not explode including one that went through the dome and landed in the church. No one in the church suffered any injury. Remarkable or what! The interior of the dome and Church are really stunning.
Mosta Parish Church!
Mosta Church.
Mosta Church Walls And Dome.
The Enormous Mosta Church Dome.
The Third Largest In Europe.
Simply Stunning!
    We travelled further north by bus and then came across these two Churches of Mellieha  with wonderful views over to Gozo. One of the churches claims to have a fresco painted by St Luke in 60 AD which is still available to see and a Madonna with healing powers.
Mellieha Church.
Ginny Framed At Mellieha Church.
Local Malta Beer With All Seeing Eye.
       The day concluded with a visit to the original capital of Malta, Mdina. We entered the old walled city of Mdina with its splendid buildings, fortifications and small squares. We wandered peacefully around narrow streets marvelling at the stunning architecture from different ages and all over Europe.  We entered the marvellous Cathedral of St Paul, the partner to the Co-Cathedral of Valletta and found ourselves gatecrashing a wedding! The Mdina old town is well worth a visit and include a pit stop at the Fontanella Tea Gardens with views over Malta from the ramparts. 

Beaulieu Villa In Mdina Walled City.
Mdina Cathedral Of St Paul.
The Original Cathedral Of Malta.
Cathedral Museum And Distractions.....
Cathedral Altar And Wedding Performers.
The Bride And Groom In Mdina Cathedral.
Guys Hire Car!! A Bentley.
Just Love The Phone Box And No Entry Sign.
The British Influence Gets Everywhere!
Carmelite Church Dome.

Carmelite Church Altar.

Norman Presence In Mdina.
They Got Everywhere, By George!
Mdina Villas.
Mdina narrow Streets.
The Knights Dinner Table!
Fort St Elmo Re-enactment Day 5.

    We took the opportunity to watch a 16th Century re-enactment of the 'Inspection Of The Guards of St Elmo by the Knights of St John and the Grand Master'. This colourful display was great fun, relaxed and entertaining with musket, canon fire and sword duels in side the Fort Of St Elmo whose restoration is nearly complete.
The Guard Inspection Re-enactment.
The Grand Master Inspecting The Guard.
Musket Fire.
The Different European Country Knights.
Guy And Ginny Joining The St John Knights.
Its A Hard Life!

         Day 6 was the destruction of all guide books and tourist information! We decided to shop for all things British not found in Sicily - Mustard, marmite, spices, clothes in M&S, Debenhams and BHS!! We have also found the best patisserie shop since leaving UK at 'Busy Bee' on the Marina front, an outstanding Indian/Gurkha Restaurant and enjoyed some lovely local beer. Today is admin and restock day.
Pit Stop - Its Been A Hard Week.
Who Has Spent Too Much Time In 'Busy Bee' Then?
A Most Brilliant Curry Restaurant.
So Nepalese.
The Best Cake Shop Since Leaving UK.
'Busy Bee.' 
Kisti Two's Berth With Valletta In Background.

    Malta is proving to be a most wonderful experience with so much to do and visit. We have booked in to the Marina for a couple more days then plan to head off around the islands of Malta & Gozo for about a week before departing for Greece. We strongly recommend that Malta is put on your bucket list of places to visit. The people are charming, the food excellent, the atmosphere superb and the history fascinating. The excellent weather helps as well. 

1 June 2015