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Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Road Less Traveled- The Malta


The Grand Harbor of Valletta
The aircraft banked and took a semi- circle, as the sun cast a magical red spell in the horizon. The specks that were just small dots over the blue expanse, now took the shape of small boats, ships and a barges that were anchored . I caught the glimpse of the small match box shaped runway lit up to guide the aircraft. The eyes which were tired after a long sleepless journey commencing from Delhi in the wee hours of the morning, were suddenly widened in disbelief to see the lush green fields and the silhouette of the cluster of a few dwellings! We arrived in Valletta the capital of Malta which has perhaps one of the smallest airports and is also among the smallest countries in the European Union. It had been a long wait to see this fascinating country, and after the security check and immigration we soon headed to the apartment. There was virtually no traffic and within 20 minutes we arrived on the narrow St Paul Street. The taxi could barely enter the chicken necked street, as the old building appeared to be inviting. It was love at first sight with the place, people and the warmth all around. The festooned Christmas trees, the sparkling neon lights with crowd of merry makers with chatter of voices from the pubs and eateries overflowing with people added to the Christmas spirit. The view of the city was breathtaking from the roof top with the disc of blue Mediterranean, encircling the island and the sight of ships moored in the harbor.
St Paul's Streeet- Notice the Undulating street

Next morning we explored the beauty of the place where we witnessed a display of Maltese Army band playing a concert in the open air theatre with lilting tunes of the Christmas carols. We went around the Upper Barraaka Garden which was just a few minutes’ walk to get an unhindered view of the grand harbor and the old city. The city is divided in a grid structure and it is said that New York which came into being much later replicates the design. As the settlement on the town is along a sloping gradient, one can see the beautiful curve of the road standing on one end of the hump at either of the city’s major streets namely, Triq Republica, Triq Mercanti, Triq St Paul or Triq Ifran.
The Memorial at Birgu(Old City)

The city has beautiful ornate gardens, churches, museums, old forts and most of the houses built in the town are engraved with lovely sculptures. The smell of freshly baked Pastizzi, Pizzas and local fare engulfs the town, which is very passionate about food. One can see small restaurants, pubs and pizzerias crowded with people at any time and overflowing with people as the night descends. 
Christmas Mass at St Paul Cathedral

With a stroke of good luck after meeting some security personnel at the President’s palace we managed to get the passes to attend the midnight Christmas mass at the St Paul’s Cathedral. What more could I have asked for having come this far on the Christmas Eve! The mass was a grand affair with the President of Malta as a special invitee for the occasion. Past midnight, the sky was lit with fire crackers as the Christmas carols were sung.

Next day was spent in exploring the old cities of Vittoriosa( also called Birgu), Senglea and Cospicua which have huge fortresses that provided shelter to the locals from invaders. These cities which are located across the channel have churches, forts and bastions much older than Valletta and are beautifully preserved.


An Orange Orchard at Gozo

The other islands which constitute Malta are Gozo and Comino though much smaller in size but equally charming. A visit to Gozo is a must, to see the vast stretches of fields, the Azure Window, the harbor of Xlendi, the UNESCO world heritage site of megalithic Ggantija temples which date back to 3600 years BC. Gozo is said to the legendary Calypso isle of Homer’s Odyssey. The rugged landscape and spectacular coastline has one of the finest diving spots. The population of Gozo is just 37000 and is miniscule compared to that of the entire country’s population of 450000! Malta was also the location of last movie ’By the Sea’ produced by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Nov 2015

Besides the several other attractions in Malta, Café Cordina a more than 150 year old restaurant in the heart of Valletta, the weekly fresh produce market by the seaside at Marsaxlokk, the stewed Rabbit recipe are immense draw. The list is endless and it would need reams to express the beauty of the place. The next journey to Italy was equally enchanting and would follow in the next post.
The other islands which constitute Malta are Gozo and Comino though much smaller in size but equally charming. A visit to Gozo is a must, to see the vast stretches of fields, the Azure Window, the harbor of Xlendi, the UNESCO world heritage site of megalithic Ggantija temples which date back to 3600 years BC. Gozo is said to the legendary Calypso isle of Homer’s Odyssey. The rugged landscape and spectacular coastline has one of the finest diving spots. The population of Gozo is just 37000 and is miniscule compared to that of the entire country’s population of 450000! Malta was also the location of last movie ’By the Sea’ produced by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt in Nov 2015


Besides the several other attractions in Malta, Café Cordina a more than 150 year old restaurant in the heart of Valletta, the weekly fresh produce market by the seaside at Marsaxlokk, the stewed Rabbit recipe are an immense draw. The list is endless and it would need reams to express the beauty of the place. The next journey to Italy was equally enchanting and would follow in the next post.

PS: I wish all the readers a very Happy New Year . I thank them for asking me to share more details of the travel prompting me to delve into more detailed post.

19 comments:

  1. Thank you obliging my request and others' requests also and writing up this post :) Enjoyed the virtual trip. Waiting to visit Italy now. My cousin lives there..

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    1. Am honoured to write a post which you can enjoy,Latha! Will follow up and will try to bring you closer to your cousin in Italy:)

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  2. Exhaustive ! What a lovely and lively account of the place/s! So MUCH to see and experience! Almost all the names you have tossed are alien to me except Malta itself which made the post intriguing and so interesting for me :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Kokila for reading and liking the post!

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  3. Must be one of the best Christmas experiences of your life. I will add Malta to my list of small countries to visit. I have a desire of visiting Monaco too.

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    1. Sure it was one of the best Christmas,Saru and was besotted with the beauty of Malta! Monaco too is lovely and You must visit!

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  4. You were lucky to visit the place on Christmas Eve. I feel small cities are prettier than the bigger ones as the beauty is sort of untouched there!
    I will keep Malta in mind if i am ever around.

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    1. I thank god for the opportunity to see this lovely place! Am sure you will love the place if you visit, Alok!

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  5. That sounded like one superb vacation at an amazing place
    ...nice pics as always

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    1. Thanks Jaishree for liking the post! Am happy that I could give a glimpse of this lovely place!

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  6. Malta seems fascinating! Enjoyed your post.

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    1. Thanks Rachna! Malta is lovely indeed!

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  7. Malta seems fascinating! Enjoyed your post.

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  8. Havent heard much about this place earlier, thanks for the details :-)

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    1. It is one of the hidden gems, Ashwini!

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  9. St. Paul's street looks so picturesque. Very inviting, indeed.

    Nice to know that New York owes its planning to Malta. Thank you. :)

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    1. Malta offers so much that it deserves a much longer time to see the beauty of the place and flow with a leisurely paced life there! Despite such ancient buildings the place can match in modernity with any place in the world!

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