Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Malta

We had a fabulous day on a boat trip to the Maltese islands of Gozo and Comino during our recent visit.


Fort Chambray and the neo-gothic chapel of our Lady of Lourdes greeted us as we approached Gozo’s Mgarr harbour. We disembarked and piled into a packed minibus that took us on a rapid trip to Dwejra on the other side of the island. This is the site of the famous Azure Window often seen on postcards and calendars of Malta and featured in a number of movies and TV shows such as The Game of Thrones. Just two weeks earlier this important landmark fell into the sea. An example of how nothing lasts forever.

The Azure Window as it was. Photo from Wikipedia

The site of the Azure Window now.

We enjoyed the stunning view from the rocky shore nevertheless.

The impatient bus driver herded us back on the bus, reminiscent of the movie Vacation. “Now you’ve seen this let’s keep moving!”

Ta’ Pinu Sanctuary

We stopped at the Ta´Pinu Sanctuary where every year pilgrimages are made to Our Lady of Ta´Pinu who is believed to have healing powers.

Inside the sanctuary

A wall in the church displays crutches, plaster casts and pictures as offerings by those who have been healed.

Not wanting to annoy our surly bus driver, I quickly took some pictures but was still the second last one back on the bus. I received a grim look as I boarded.

A knight guarding the pharmacy

A lovely rose balcony in Victoria.

A sandwich on delicious Maltese bread near the Citadel in the ancient capital city of Victoria ended our visit to Gozo as our efficient bus driver was waiting to take us back to the boat. We would have liked more time to explore.

On the return trip, we docked at the uninhabited island of Comino which is a nature reserve. Hubby stayed on the boat but I walked up steep stairs, past a shrine set in the rocks, and found a great view of the crystal blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. I don´t think I have ever seen such clear water.

The clear waters of The Blue Lagoon

Some visitors went for a swim and others sunned on the rocks. Trucks serving snacks were available for those who got hungry or thirsty. I had to laugh as people juggled huge pineapples hollowed out and filled with drinks while they manoeuvred the steep steps back to the boat. I know I wouldn’t have been able to manage that!

A couple enjoying their drink in a pineapple on the way back.

We enjoyed the spectacular views as we headed back to the island of Malta, happy that we had seen all three of the islands that make up the country of Malta.

This is the last of my posts on Malta. I hope you have enjoyed them and perhaps one day you may visit this amazing place. 

Sometimes it is the little, unexpected things we find when we travel that make the trip memorable. In Valetta, the capital of Malta, we found a Cat Cafe.

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Shelter and food for homeless cats in Malta

They seem to look after their cats well in Malta. We saw stray cats wandering around but they all looked healthy and well fed.

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This little fellow got caught in the rain

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While wandering the streets of the cities and towns of Malta, we were intrigued by the unique door knockers on the colourful doors.

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We discovered this amusing car on a side street.

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And a decorated garage door.

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We found a tribute to Albert Einstein

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A typical menu in Malta. I was not tempted to try rabbit ravioli!

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We always take time to stop for a coffee and a local dessert.

 

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Ricotta turnover, so yummy!

 

 

It’s good to get off the beaten track and check out the side streets, you never know what you’ll find. 

Do you remember Popeye the Sailorman? As a prairie kid growing up without a TV, I loved the Popeye comics. I waited eagerly for the funny papers, as we called them, to arrive in the weekly newspaper. Then in 1980, a movie was made with Robin Williams and Shelly Duval. I loved it too.

A pleasant surprise during our visit to Malta was discovering the film set of the movie. Unfortunately, Robin Williams is no longer with us but the set to the movie still is. The village of Sweethaven rests on the edge of a peaceful cove in Anchor Bay and is now a popular tourist attraction. When we heard about it, we decided to take a bus to Popeye Village. I’m so glad we did. The delightful visit made me feel like a kid again.

The village of Sweethaven built for the 1980 Popeye movie.

To construct this authentic wooden village in Malta, tree trunk logs arrived from Holland, and wood shingles, used in the construction of the rooftops, were imported all the way from Canada. A 165 international construction crew consumed eight tons of nails and two thousand gallons of paint to finish off this incredible set ready for film production in January 1980.

A precarious outhouse.

There are plenty of activities on the site including a boat ride around the bay. Information about filming the movie, movie clips, music from the film and various props are everywhere. The film, directed by Robert Altman, featured his grandson playing the part of Swee’pea. Characters from the story are happy to pose for pictures, answer questions and entertain the guests.

I even got to meet Popeye and Olive Oyle! I didn’t see Swee’pea though.

A Popeye comic museum on site.

The Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon character was introduced by Elzie Segar in 1929. The comic museum displays various Popeye comic strips over the years and brought back great memories.

Great memories of Popeye Village, Malta

This was an added surprise for us! I was humming Popeye the Sailorman for the rest of the day.

Have you ever been anywhere where you have encountered a pleasant surprise?

We took the bus to Mosta, a market town in the middle of Malta. In the centre of Mosta sits a fabulous domed cathedral built in the mid-1800s. It is an amazing piece of architecture inside and out, featuring the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe. Dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady, it replaced a much smaller church that had been on the site since 1619. The Mosta Rotunda is also the site of a miracle.

The Mosta Rotunda

Inside the church

The dome

During WWII, on April 9, 1942, while over 400 parishioners worshipped inside, a 200 kg German bomb hit the church, pierced the dome and landed in the aisle. It did not hit a single person and it did not explode! It rolled to the base of the pulpit and stopped. The military bomb disposal team removed it, defused it and threw it into the sea. A miracle indeed. A replica of the bomb can be viewed in the sacristy.

It gave me goosebumps to see this. My husband pointed out where the bomb entered the dome as the coloration where it was repaired is slightly different.

Ornate vestments from the past.

Statue of Our Lady

The statue of the Assumption of Our Lady, 1868

The church contains a lot of artwork and important icons. The Feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary is celebrated in August where some of the statues are taken out and paraded around town.

The font containing holy water.

Visiting this church proved to be a moving experience for me, providing proof that miracles do happen. Hubby later treated me to lunch overlooking the magnificent Mosta Rotunda. It was definitely worth a visit, one I won’t forget.

I love visiting museums and learning the history of a place, especially one as old as Malta. The only rainy day we encountered during our visit found me mesmerized by the Museum of Archeology in the capital city, Valletta. The museum is located in the Auberge de Provence, a baroque building built in 1571, which was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France. It is a beautiful place to view these amazing ancient treasures.

 

The Museum exhibits artefacts dating back to Malta’s Neolithic period (5000 BC) up to the Phoenician Period (400 BC). On display are the earliest tools used by the prehistoric people giving an insight into their daily lives. Many interesting pottery pieces are also on display.

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This is one huge coffee mug. Perfect for a Venti Latte!

The highlight for me was the 5000-year old ‘Sleeping Lady’ from the Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum. It is a small ceramic figurine about 12cm in length and was found in a burial pit at a prehistoric underground burial place. It is an amazing example of craftsmanship from prehistoric times. Seems creativity has been around a long time.

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The Sleeping Lady

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I found the anthropomorphic sarcophagus from the Phoenician Period also fascinating.

 

Parts of prehistoric temples with photographs of the original site they were found in.  Swirls were a popular design those days.

Animals were often depicted

as were fish

Many of the goddess figurines were found headless, the heads found in another location. No one knows why.

Ancient writing unearthed in a neolithic temple.

A  rare Phoenician carving of a human

I like how the museum featured cartoons throughout the displays making them more interesting and understandable for young people.

Do you like visiting museums? I would love to know about your favourite museum?

 

 

To continue celebrating our 40th anniversary year and my recent birthday, we spent a week in the magical country of Malta. We had been there once before for a half day stop on a Mediterranean cruise and loved it. I wrote about it here. It was decided that we needed to see more of this unique island country.

The Republic of Malta consists of three islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino. The country boasts a rich and diverse history that dates back 7000 years. Over the years, it has been inhabited by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British who have all left their mark. With over 300 churches, quaint fishing villages, fortified walls, watch towers, museums, megalithic temples, pristine beaches and delightful bays, there is so much to see. Here are a few pictures of what we saw.

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St. Julian´s Bay. A typical bay with a mix of the old and modern world.

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The colourful Maltese fishing boats are called luzzus. The Eye of Osiris is painted on each side to protect the boat from danger.

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You don´t have to look far to find a Maltese Cross.

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Ta´Pinu Sanctuary where every year many pilgrims come to be healed.

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St. Lucian Tower, one of many watchtowers dotting the coast

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The charming fishing village of Marsaxlokk

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On the way to Gozo Island

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Where the Azure Window used to be before it fell into the sea a week before we arrived.

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Many shrines can be found all over the island. This one is on the cliffs overlooking the Blue Lagoon on Comino Island.

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The Blue Lagoon, Comino Island

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In AD60, St.Paul was shipwrecked on this small island now called, St. Paul´s Island. During his stay on the Maltese Islands, he converted the inhabitants to the Christian faith

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Napoleon stayed in this house during his stay in Valetta.

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The famous balconies of Malta

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Mosta Rotunda, the third largest unsupported church dome in Europe.

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Having a relaxing coffee in Mosta, Malta.

There is so much more to share with you, like a visit to Popeye Village and the Museum of Archeology, and more about the Mosta Rotunda but I´ll leave it for future posts.

 

I can’t believe it has been a year since we went on our wonderful Mediterranean cruise. I wrote about it here, here, here and here. I realize I had not written a post on our favourite stop, the historic country of Malta. We only spent a morning at this amazing place but we loved it.

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It was early morning as we entered the Grande Harbour where a mix of Middle Eastern and European architecture greeted us. Malta’s location has historically given it great strategic importance as a naval base, and a succession of powers, including the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French and British, have ruled the islands and left their mark. I had read so much about this place and was eager to explore Valletta, the capital city. A short walk from the boat and up an elevator took us into the heart of the fortified city.

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The fortified city of Valletta

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A sample of the many sculptures found throughout the city

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Wouldn’t you love to have a coffee by this unicorn fountain?

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Queen Victoria graces the entrance to the impressive library

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A fabulous fountain

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The 8 point Maltese cross, the symbol of the Knights of St. John,  is everywhere

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Romantic windows grace many homes and apartments

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Malta is well known for its unique door knockers

I visited St. John’s Co-Cathedral and was gobsmacked, as the British would say. The plain facade looked more like a fortress and gave no indication of the marvels inside. This was the church of the Order of the Knights of St. John and was completed in 1577. The interior was originally very simple but over the years the Grand Masters and Knights donated gifts of artworks and financial contributions to enrich it. One gift was the original painting of the beheading of John the Baptist by Caravaggio which hangs in the Oratory. I couldn’t believe I was standing in front of this amazing work of art. Of course, photographs were not allowed so you will have to take my word for it. I was, however, allowed to take pictures in the opulent Sanctuary.

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The cathedral houses a museum with elaborate vestments and incredible Flemish tapestries. The urge to snap a couple of photographs was strong but I resisted. I also resisted touching those centuries old tapestries representing hours and hours of work. I was in awe.

The Grande Harbour is a busy place with a variety of boats.

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A typical Maltese fishing boat

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A yacht for the rich and famous

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Me in Malta

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We found a number of cute signs including this one. In case you are wondering, yes we had coffee and cake at one of the many charming outdoor cafes. I can’t remember the question.

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As we left Malta, we promised we would be back.

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