As we explained on this very blog last week, too many of the islands in southern Europe are overrun with tourists. Every year, the haute cuisine, bright sun and warm weather attract hundreds of thousands of people from every part of the continent. And then there’s Malta – an island nation with a rich history and an interesting language, the only member from the Afro-Asiatic family that uses the Latin alphabet. Our own Liam Hetherington took a trip to the island, and he came back with a set of journals that would do any globetrotter proud.
The impossible-to-pronounce Marsaxlokk is often touted as the “archetypal Maltese fishing village.” The fishing boats are painted with the ominous-sounding Eye of Osiris, which Liam tells us is meant to “ward off trouble.” He says the Eye is “another fascinating cross-cultural relic of Malta’s position at the cross-roads of the Mediterranean.” This is another way of saying that the island, thanks in large part to its proximity to ancient cultures, has a fascinating history that intersects with the Roman empire, the various republics of Egypt, the history of World War II and more. Quoth Liam, on the ancient Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni: “What is known is that the complex is very old -- say 5,000 years old -- and were in use for a millennium with some 7,000 bodies being interred there.”
The country also seems to inspire the poetic in our traveler, who writes:
“One of my abiding memories of Malta will be of it as an island of walls.The walls are everywhere, though in slightly different guises. They could be the ancient weathered remains of the megalithic temples that dot the country, the oldest free-standing structures in the world. They could be the mighty bastions of Superbissima Valletta and the Three Cities surrounding the Grand Harbour, towering ramparts and impregnable fortifications hiding the civilised ‘city of palaces’ that the Knights of Malta built for themselves. Or they could just be the web of dry stone walls that cross-hatch the countryside, the white stone standing proud of the dusty fields like the skeleton of some giant creature.”
For a glimpse at a place that’s a little out of the way, you really can’t beat his journals. Check them out, along with the last time Liam was our Traveler of the Week.
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Posted by tdbeckwith (Thomas Beckwith)