Saturday, December 31, 2011


Malta is the largest of the five islands that make up the Republic of Malta. Much the same way the big island of Hawaii is the largest of the Hawaiian Islands. The islands are small but there is quite a lot to see. It's not like there is a bit to see over here and something else over there. There's really a bunch to see over here and then a bunch more to see over there.

Valletta is the capital city and it is filled with Baroque architecture, historical palaces, churches, museums, gardens, and lots of cafes.

Valletta was the first planned city in Europe. It was planned by the Knights of St. John as a refuge for the care of injured soldiers during the 16th century Crusades. The city is only 900 meters long and 630 meters wide but there is a whole lot to see. The entire capital city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Upper Barrakka Gardens are over Valletta's bastions. They were built in 1661 for the knights' private use. After 1824, the gardens became public. It's a great place to view the Grand Harbor.

St. John's Co-Cathedral is Malta's most impressive church. It is one of Valletta's oldest churches and was built between 1573 and 1578.

Sliema is the main tourist resort and where we're staying. The coastline promenade runs for several kilometers and there is a great view of Valletta. It's really nice and probably where we'll spend New Year's Eve.

Golden Bay
is on the northwest coast and is probably Malta's best beach.

is a very nice little fishing village with a population of 3,000 people. There is a daily market on the waterfront selling various souvenirs and people working on their boats.

Ħaġar Qim
is the best preserved of Malta's prehistoric sites. These are among the best preserved of Malta's temples which are the world's oldest freestanding stone structures.

Since 2007, the temples have been covered with a temporary tent structure to prevent erosion.

It is right across from Filfla, the smallest of the Maltese islands. Some prehistoric pottery has been found there. In the 20th century the Royal Navy used the islet for target practice. Today it is protected for ecological value.

Mdina is the former capital city. It is small with a population of 385 people. It is also known as the Silent City. It is a medieval walled city and no cars are allowed inside the city walls.

is a town south of Mdina. It has a population around 11,500. The city is home to the St. Agatha Catacombs. The catacombs were used to bury the dead during Roman times because it was unclean to bury the dead in the city. There is also St. Paul's Church in the area where, in 60 A.D., St. Paul was shipwrecked on Malta and stayed for three months.

Dingli Cliffs
are nice but not quite what I expected. However, it was well worth the drive to the west side of the island to enjoy the view.

Mosta is in the center of the island and is best known for the Mosta Dome which is the Parish Church of Santa Maria. The church was built from 1833 to 1860 and it has the 3rd largest unsupported church dome in Europe. The interior of blue, white and gold is lovely. During WWII, three axis bombs hit the church while around 300 parishioners waited to hear mass. Two of the bombs bounced off and landed in the courtyard without exploding. The third bomb did fall through the dome.Miraculously this bomb also failed to detonate and no one was injured. Inside the church is a replica of the bomb.

The Blue Grotto is made up of a few sea caverns on the south coast. The view is amazing! Well worth the drive.

Popeye Village
is at Anchor Bay on the northwest part of the island. The film set was built for use as Sweethaven Village in the 1980 film Popeye. I bet more people come to see the village then actually saw the movie.

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