An April 2000 trip
to Malta by Barb B
Quote: Her strategic location and majestic harbor, establish Malta as an outrageously desirable treasure. Like the "Maltese Falcon" of Hollywood fame which bears her name, she has long been an Island of ever changing roles and politics. Yet her incredible beauty and historic fascination is a beacon to visitors the world over.
It seemed fitting to begin our tour of this intriguing island at The City Gate of the capital, Valletta. It provided a perfect introduction to the history and fascination of this Aegean paradise. From incredible prehistoric sites (older than Stonehedge) to the picturesque fishing village of Marsaxlokk, Malta's history unraveled before us. We finished our tour with a stroll of the ramparts that surround the city of Medina, the former capital of Malta.
NOTE: Malta's Lira is NOT the same as Italian Lira--totally different conversion methods and rates apply.
Hotel | "Best Western - Les Lapins"
Naturally, a comfortable, clean and dependable hotel was our first priority. With just two days, we wanted accommodations close to the major sightseeing attractions. Since we had no tours or itinerary planned, we also wanted a hotel which offered tours or local guides. Knowing we would be exhausted after a long day seeing the sights, an on-site restaurant also seemed important. Being Americans, of course, we wanted the amenities to which we have become so accustomed! Some friends who had visited Malta previously, suggested their favorite hotel, but when they mentioned the bathroom down the hall--I vetoed that one!
We selected the Best Western-Les Lapins and found that it met and exceed all of our needs for this trip. Easily accessible by cab, the hotel is located about mid-way between Valletta and Sliema, and overlooks the gorgeous Marina at Ta'Xbiex. Our room on the 4th floor, afforded a marvelous view of the Marina, and after dinner that night, the lights on the tiny boats along the marina provided a delightfully romantic walk.
Our room was a small suite with king - sized bed, sattellite TV, direct dial phone and full sized bath with hair dryer. Two pools, tennis courts and a nearby golf-course were available, but on such a short stay, we did not take advantage of those offerrings.
We enjoyed our dinner in the Vapurrett Restaurant at the hotel and found its ambiance both opulent and relaxing. The food was innovative and quite excellent and the service was attentive without being invasive.
The Best Western Las Lapins was a perfect choice for this trip. At about $150 (US dollars) per night it was an excellent bargain. The price included an comprehensive 'American style' breakfast, featuring an excellent choice of fruits, homemade breads, meats, cheeses and various beverages. We were able to arrange with the hotel to join a city walking tour and found a guide for afternoon trips to more distant attractions. The hotel also offers Senior and Business discounted prices if you are eligible.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 15, 2000
Attraction | "The Tarxien Temples"
Constructed during the 'Copper Age' historic phase, (4100 BC to 2500 BC) well before the great pyramids of Egypt, the temples inspire awe by the sheer grandeur of their size. Some of the remaining temple walls exhibit bas-relief artwork, friezes of animals and spiral patterns and I found my mind wandering as I tried to imagine the symbolic meaning of the decorative motifs.
I laughed when I spied the remains of a limestone statue of an obese female figure and wondered if, perhaps, I was a goddess in a former life. This symbol of fertility is actually is a reflection of Mother Earth and is, in fact, the earliest known monumental statue in stone anywhere.
Our guide pointed out the evolution of building techniques in the construction of the temples; as huge stone or masonry alters and vessels, gave way to carefully hewn blocks of more manageable proportions. A strong and enduring faith was clearly needed to enable this ancient Maltese community to construct these temples of such monumental proportions with only primitive tools and rudimentary technical knowledge.
Before returning to our hotel, we made a quick stop at the ancient town of Mdina. Steeped in history, it was the former capital of Malta before the Knights of the Order of St John built the new capital at Valletta. With only the last vestiges of daylight remaining, we walked the ramparts of the city. Now known as the 'old city,' once proud Mdina now has a population of less than 500 people.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 17, 2000
Megalithic Temples of Malta
2km Southwest Of Qrendi
Attraction | "Malta's Capital-Valletta"
Founded in 1566, the impressions of Valletta's severe massiveness still remain. The Upper Barracca Gardens offer splendid views of the Grand Harbor below, once the historic hub of Malta and the theatre of epic events.
Religious statues sculpted into the cornerstones of numerous buildings along the narrow streets create small shrines providing graphic reminders of Malta's religious struggles and its vital link to Catholicism. Since we are visiting the week before Easter, we found street vendors hawking huge chocolate eggs at every turn. Elaborately wrapped in colorful foils, each of these elegantly prepared eggs holds tiny prizes ready to delight toddlers on Easter morning. We recognized the name of the world-famous Chocolatier, Perguia, and could not resist buying one of the decadent indulgences
Continuing on, we viewed the Cathedral of St John with its austere exterior, which belies the lavish, and riches displayed within. The Knights Armory, located in the Grand Masters Palace, affords one of the world's largest and most comprehensive displays of finely etched suits of armor.
Fort St Elmo and the War Museum offered spectacular historic recollections of the numerous the military conquests, battles and seiges of this strategic isle. Not unlike Hollywood's precious black bird, the Maltese Falcon, Malta's existence has repeatedly been at the center of conflict and often its ownership has proven deadly.
We ended our walking tour, amid the crowds of tourists visiting shops along Republic Street. It was here that we purchased an extraordinary hand-blown vase of Maltese glass. It's delicate shape and vibrant blue-green colors reminiscent of the lovely glass of Murano, near Venice. This and our wonderful chocolate egg served as our souvenirs of Valletta. Unfortunately, the egg never made it home. Since my husband and I are both devout chocoholics, our resistance was low!
We strolled along the quiet harbor and watched as fishermen repaired their nets and set them to dry over the quay. The miniature boats, called Luzza, are gaily decorated in bright, primary colors. Each boat has a pair of eyes painted on the front of the hull; fable has it that it is through these eyes that the fisherman views the beauty of the sea.
Until 1920, agriculture was the basis of Malta's economy. Today, fishing remains only seasonally significant, with tuna, lampuki fish and swordfish being the most plentiful. The majority of Marsaxlokk's catch is sent to Valletta; however, the role of the fisheries becomes stronger with increased ventures with neighboring Mediterranean countries. Malta's principal industries today include dry-docking, shipbuilding and marine manufacturing. Since 1960, tourism has provided employment for a sizable section of the Maltese population.
Several shops are sprinkled around the village center and on this warm day, gellato sales were brisk. We stood in front of the colorful boats and exchanged cameras with a couple of tourists from Ohio; they took our picture, and we took theirs---something to show the folks back home! The village's church, police station and medical assistance office are all clustered in the one block area facing the harbor. We sat on the seawall for a short time, enjoying the warmth of the Mediterranean sun, before deciding it was time to move on and enjoy more of Malta's dramatic sightseeing adventures.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 16, 2000
Napa, CA and Hereford, AZ , Arizona