We landed in Valletta, Malta on Thursday, 5 April. The sail-in was just before sunrise so we did not get the benefit of the red tint of the sun rising against the orange walls of the city. But, as the sun rose I could see how it could have been quite beautiful from a different angle.
Malta is interesting in that from the ship all you see is walls. Far side of the port, a city wall. Next to our docking spot, a city wall. Why walls? Simple. As Malta is in a very strategic position in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea it was under constant attack by just about every sea-going civilization in the area. A strong defensive posture was needed throughout time.
The tour I took was an all-day walking tour of three cities on the island. We started with Valletta. A bus took us to a square by a garden overlooking the port and we walked from there, through the city, eventually to the main city gate where we met the bus again. The first think most of us noted was that Valletta was having some sort of art display. The art was really odd though. See the first photo of fish for but one example. Another had cows standing on cows and several others were even stranger.
After some time in the garden we made our way to the center of the city. There you find Saint John’s Cathedral. The outside of this cathedral is unassuming. See the second photo. After visiting the outside and getting the history we were set free for 45 minutes to meet at the cathedral for the next part of the tour. Some went shopping, myself and a few others paid the 7.50 Euros to take a look inside. You could have walked over my chin when I got inside. Every inside surface was covered in art or some sort of decoration (see third photo below). The ceiling is painted, paintings hung on the walls and in the various niches to the side, even the floor is decorated with tombstones of people associated with the cathedral (they are not buried there; just have decorated tombstones on the floor).
The Knights of Saint John made Malta a refuge during the Crusades and transformed the city into much of what you see today; including the cathedral. Each of the eight areas that the Knights came from is represented in the cathedral by a niche and altar — all equally lavishly decorated. Forty five minutes was not enough to fully appreciate the whole of this building. That gives me pause for Rome as I doubt we’ll get that long to see each of the sights there.
We left Valletta by the main gate, found the bus, and drove to Rabat, a city built on the top of an ancient Roman city. Saint Paul is supposed to be buried here. Again, we walked the city and stopped at a small cafe for a planned lunch (soup, chicken, potatoes, carrots, ice cream and wine). We then made our way to the city wall and crossed over a small bridge and entered the city of Mdina. Before Valletta was built Mdina was the capital of Malta.
More walking through streets too small for any vehicle (see the last photo). We finally left the city through another gate and met the bus for a ride back to the port and ship.
A full day. Most certainly made 10,000 steps (I don’t have a pedometer but some others on the tour did and reported around 12,000). The temperatures are starting to rise some but we still have a cool wind; particularly when it whistles through one of the narrow streets.
The next day we are scheduled for Sicily.