Is there anything we have missed on Malta? 10/3/21

In an effort to see everything possible there is to see on the island of Malta at least three times, we are signed up for two excursions today. On the first one, Malta’s Capitals, Old and New, we head into Valletta to do the city walk again followed by a trip to Mdina, the old capital. Our transportation is by our favorite bus line, Kop TaCo, obviously also the place where the police hang out in Malta instead of Dunkin’. Or, if you don’t elect me there will be a Kop TaCo bus on every corner. John and I like to amuse ourselves.

Our Kop TaCo bus

Mostly we see the same stuff as we did at the beginning of the first cruise but our guide gives us an interesting explanation of the Maltese language which has evolved through various conquests to contain Arabic, French, English, and Italian. It is a Semitic language basically but written in the Latin alphabet with some extra letters and diacritical marks.

Since Malta has been under siege quite a few times in its long history, our guide points out the silos for grain and cisterns for water that are underneath the pavement. In fact there is a whole system of underground “streets” where the Maltese hid during the bombings of WWII. Malta was the most bombed place in the war because of its strategic location, a great natural harbor, and the fact that the British had their fleet there.

The lumps in the pavement are the lids to the silos underneath. These are no longer in use but were used until 1962.
Map of Valletta. The city is totally surrounded with the exception of one gate with large fortified walls built by the Knights of Malta
John by the harbor overlook
Mary in a similar position telling John to say something funny to make her laugh
Fossils in the limestone paving blocks

Now we head off to the old capital, Mdina. It was mostly destroyed by the earthquake of 1693 and then rebuilt. It is home to only 280 people.

When we finish with this tour we decide to cancel the afternoon tour which would have been a walk around historic Valletta. We feel pretty expert on all things Valletta by now.

Entrance to Mdina
Tourist horse drawn carriage with feather on horses head to ward off the evil eye.
We stop for a drink of Kinnie, the local soft drink. It tastes like coke flavored with bittersweet orange but is actually made from bitter oranges and extract of wormwood.
Attractive square
View out over Malta from the battlements in Mdina
Another view
Nice house with garden. Gardens in front of houses used to be outlawed because it would make the houses harder to defend
Most Maltese were constructed flush to the street with a large open area and external staircase in the middle
Mary in front of museum
John interviewing knight in armor

Here are pictures of our new cabin which is a lot like the old one but roomier and in the front of the ship.

View of the dining area
View of the living room area
The deck where John and I have fallen asleep twice
View of Malta from our deck

Finally we finish the evening with dinner at Manfredi’s where we have an eggplant parmesan first course and a Chilean sea bass entree. We finish the night in the Explorer Lounge for some more upbeat music from the guitarist. Everybody is singing along to the oldies (since most of the people are oldies as well.) We are not permitted to dance due to COVID protocols.

Eggplant parmesan first course
Chilean sea bass with butternut squash purée, asparagus, and a balsamic reduction

An older gentleman wanders into the Lounge and asks us, “Is this the Explorer’s Lounge?” I answer, “Yes, and we are the Explorers.” Sometimes it is just too difficult to pass up these opportunities.




Touring Valletta, Malta. 9/23/21

Since we pretty much want to avoid people, we decide that we are going to have breakfast in our room or out on the balcony most days. The balcony on our cabin is pretty nice with a table and 4 chairs (for all our non-guests) and a chaise lounge big enough for two people.

Mary out on the balcony with Mediterranean Sea in background
Double chaise lounge!
John having breakfast in the living room of our suite

Today we are going on a excursion in Valletta. We view many of the beautiful golden limestone (Globigerina limestone) buildings with their Maltese balconies and various fountains and monuments. The old buildings and the modern ones blend harmoniously due to the use of the limestone which is the only building material available on the five islands that make up Malta.

Christ with a pigeon on his head
Triton fountain constructed in 1955
Walls constructed to withstand the siege of the Ottomans in 1565
Gate to the city and Parliament building with honeycomb front
Pedestrian main street in Valletta. Apartments above the arcade on the left side are government subsidized for about €500 a year. Only caveat is no laundry can be hung out!
Building with fancy Maltese balconies
John on tour!
Statue of Jean de Valette for whom the city is named. He was instrumental in defending Malta against the Turks and was Grand Master of the Knight of Malta.
View from the Upper Barrakka Gardens with the Saluting Battery below and overlooking the harbor. One canon is shot off at noon each day.
Looking out towards the Mediterranean Sea
Our ship docked below the garden and battery area

While we have a restroom stop I busy myself taking a picture of a cat and myself. The Maltese have a comprehensive program for their feral cats neutering them so the city is not overrun with cats. A small cut in a cat’s ear indicates if the cat has been neutered.

Maltese cat
Mary selfie

Now we progress to St. John’s Co-Cathedral which is a high point on the excursion. Along with many other churches based on what sect of the Maltese Knights, the cathedral is plain on the outside and resplendent on the interior. This church contains two famous Caravaggio paintings, The Beheading of St. John and St. Jerome Translating the Hebrew Bible.

Outside of St. John’s Co-Cathedral
Fancy interior. There are side chapels dedicated to each of the eight Knights of Malta jurisdictions. It is why the Maltese cross has eight points.
Walls are covered with gold gilt sculpturing
The main event! Caravaggio’s Beheading of St. John. Note use of chiaroscuro and Caravaggio’s trademark use of red pigment.
In a side room we see Caravaggio’s much smaller St. Jerome Translating the Hebrew Bible. St. jerome’s attributes, the skull and his red hat hanging on the wall are present. We look for his usual lion companion but it is hard to make out what is in the background.

Leaving the church we do some more walking and end up at a building where we will hear a lecture about the Knights of Malta. Our small group is looking a bit bedraggled at this point since we have been on our feet for two hours and temperatures are in the 80s with fairly high humidity. So really the best part of the lecture is that we get to sit down in an air conditioned room. A Knight, Dane Munro, tells us all about what the organization does today which seems to be charitable work with a heavy overlay of Catholicism.

We return to the ship for a late lunch and I try to make some good choices but am thwarted by too many people lined up for salads and fish. We are not allowed to serve ourselves due to pandemic protocols and it really slows things down. I manage to get a salad plate but give up on the fish and opt for a plate of pasta where there is no line.

We return to our room and pass out for the next three hours. (Zzzzzz)

Dinner tonight is at Manfredi’s Italian restaurant. It is mostly very good although the first thing we order, branzino carpaccio, is not available. Apparently too many of the earlier dinners ate it all up.