Friday, January 5, 2018

Mesmerizing Malta delights, intrigues: Come visit an ancient land

Malta's famed Blue Grotto is an enchanting series of caves accessed by small boats to the delight of worldwide tourists.
Mesmerize: to entrance, dazzle, bewitch, charm, captivate, enchant, fascinate, transfix, grip, bedazzle or hypnotize.....

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

Come have a bite, perhaps the
catch of the day, with vino.

MALTA'S MYRIAD CHARMS 
have an addictive quality.  In five visits, I've found myself wishing we'd stayed longer, eagerly planning the next visit.
This small but interesting Mediterranean country is less than 100 kilometers from Sicily and has many Italian traits, including a love of churches. 
Rabbits abound on Malta, so enjoy a rabbit stew. 
 Nearly everyone speaks Italian, but Maltese is the major language, a pleasing blend of several tongues, including Arabic, because of the proximity to Africa. Other languages are French and English. The country's closeness to two continents inspires Malta's art, music, architecture,  food and eclectic feel.

Valletta at night  offers a beautiful sail-out. Maltese society, striking
architecture and 300-plus churches reflect centuries of foreign rule by the
 Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Swabians,
 Aragonese, Hospitallers, French, and British. 
THE FOOD is gloriously rustic -- a tasty blend of southern Italian meats and seasonal vegetables, with hints of north Africa's fabled spices. We tried the fish pie, lampuki, the rabbit stew, delicious bragiolie -- beef olives -- succulent soups and sheep's and goat's cheeses. The kapunata, a Maltese take on ratatouille, is not to be missed.
The artwork is colorful and beautifully hand-crafted, reflecting the country's ancient, multi-cultural history and influence of both African and the European peoples.
Maltese shopkeepers are genial and welcoming, as these
two in Valletta prove. (We bought kids' t-shirts and a dress.)
MALTESE history goes back to the dwindling years of the last Ice Age. The ancestors of  today's Maltese  came after Malta "broke apart."  It was once a high mountainous land  connected to Italy.  But when the Ice Age ended around 10,000 years ago, the sea level rose and Malta became a group of islands. A few dozen centuries later, about 5,200 BC, Stone Age farmers from the neighboring island of Sicily spied an island across the horizon.  They arrived in Malta in search of greener pastures and began to farm the land.
FOR MANY centuries, the culture flourished -- with astounding temples and a peaceful, diverse citizenry.   
 The lovely walled city of Valletta was established in the 1500s on a peninsula by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. Its magnificent fortress grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply and with grandeur from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour.
In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte took  Malta away from the Knights on his way to Egypt. The French presence on the islands was short lived.  The English, who were requested by the Maltese to help them against the French, blockaded the islands in 1800. British rule lasted until 1964 when Malta became independent  --to the cheers of its population, estimated now to   
be an industrious, multi-lingual 437,000 people. 
With a land area of 316 square kilometres,Valletta -- Il-Belt -- is the tiny capital of this intriguing Mediterranean island nation.
                                                            
Malta's  appeal includes ancient sculpture, colorful crafts, several hundred
churches and a pleasing culinary menu. The citizenry is friendly and educated.
 MUSEUMS, palaces, cafes and grand churches dot the landscape and elders recall the Siege of  Malta -- a military campaign from 1940 to 1942. The battle played a strategic role in World War II as Malta, then a British colony, pitted the air forces and navies of Italy and Germany against the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy for a decisive Allied Victory. 
Baroque landmarks include St. John’s Co-Cathedral, whose opulent interior is home to one of the world's most famous paintings, Caravaggio's masterpiece, "The Beheading of Saint John." 



Delos rises from the sand of centuries ago, a magnificently preserved relic.
UP NEXT: Delights of Delos.
The Greek island's stunning ruins include Doric temples, markets, an amphitheater, houses with mosaics and the iconic Terrace of the Lions statues. We took a boat trip from nearby Mykonos to spend a day among the ruins. The island's Archaeological Museum displays statues excavated from the site.
It's worth a day trip to view the wonders and imagine life in a sophisticated village, deserted for a reason no one knows.  Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday.








2 comments:

  1. French ConnectionsJanuary 7, 2018 at 7:13 AM

    Fun piece on an extraordinary place.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Always wanted to go there....My dad was there right after WWII; loved the architecture, history, people. Thanks for bringing the place to life.

    ReplyDelete