This New Year found me in Sicily, where my parents currently live. I’ll write about that next time, because our first adventure was to meet my parents in Malta a few days before the New Year.
Malta is a gorgeous place in the winter. Like many parts of the Mediterranean, the summer months are sun scorched and barren, while in the winter the moderate climate allows plants to grow. But I wasn’t there for the flora – I wanted to see history.
There are three major eras for which Malta remains a mecca for amateur historians. It contains some of the best preserved neolithic ruins in the world, including temples much older than Stonehenge. The early Renaissance Knights of St. John refortified the island with structures that still frame many of the coastal cities. And Malta played a significant role in Allied effort in the European theater of WWII. I was particularly interested in those first two.
And History did I see.
This is the front of the southern Tarxien Temple, one of a cluster of neolithic temples constructed between 3300 BC and 3000BC, and probably used at least into the Bronze Age. Sadly, the pillars you see are reconstructions, but all the other megaliths at the site are authentic (though some were short-sightedly covered with cement in the 60’s to preserve them. Fortunately, the cement is already coming off on its own. I have no words.)
Valletta, the capital, simply oozes Medievalality and Renaissanceness all over the place. This is the fountain at the bus station, which consists of a few concentric lanes filled with yellow-striped buses dating back (in many cases) to the 50s (which does harsh the mood a touch).
Then there’s the Co-Cathedral of St. John. This place is simply slathered in ostentatious ornamentation. Any one piece could be unpacked into an hour’s study, and each section – say, this Chapel, one of eight – could stand up to any degree of scrutiny you’d like. I just snapped a pic or two.
The city itself is steeped in its military history. It’s a walled city, basically made out of a fort.