Today is our last day in the country of Malta, with each morning bringing a new discovery. Adrian and John have been a little suspicious that each day of sightseeing seems to end at 3pm, but I told them that if they left the itinerary to me then I was going to ensure that there was regularly scheduled nap and relaxation time.
The weather has been spotty, but we have been lucky to have sun breaks most days that were warm enough to sit outside and enjoy a few drinks looking out at the sea. One of the highlights of the trip was a private morning tour by uPhotoMalta, where Duncan drove us around to his favourite spots on the island, letting us look out across the bay to Gozo and Comino, as well as some of the more isolated parts of the country. Near the tail end of Malta we stopped off to see Popeye’s Village of Sweet Haven, originally built in 1980 for the movie, and now operating as a theme park and private beach.
It is amazing that we can drive around the whole island in a single day. Even the pizza place near our door proudly proclaims that they deliver to all of Malta. Our uPhoto tour included a stop off in Rabat to try the delicious mush-pea filled Pastizzi pastries in an old hold-in-the-wall, with old men proudly showing off their trapped finches. We then walked across a bridge across an orange-grove filled moat to find ourselves in Mdina, the original capital city that is now a silent walled fortress containing the first cathedral of St John.
We stopped of for lunch at Marsaxlokk fishing village, the two-story buildings a stark contrast to the high rise apartments near our hotel at St Julian’s. All the boats were symbolically coloured with big eyes on their sides to ward off danger.
John even managed to hunt down to Canberrans living in Malta for us. Sam and Adam are taking a break from Oz to work in the Mediterranean for a year or so. We reminisced about Belconnen Bus Interchange and the Pancake Parlour over a few drinks, and then they were even so kind as to take a day off to show us a few more spots around the island. Thanks to their efforts, we were able to walk through the Mnajdra megalithic ‘temple’. This structure, along with the Tarxien, Hagar Qin, Ta’Hagrat and Skorba complexes, are the oldest free-standing stone monuments in the world, with some dated at over 5000 years old.
Nearby the Tarxien complex is the underground Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. To protect the stones from a build-up of carbon dioxide, only 60 visitors are permitted each day. We bought our tickets back in December to guarantee entry, and caught a taxi rather than the more jovial orange bus to ensure that we would arrive on time. It was an astonishing journey back in time, to see these huge underground caverns that had been carved without metal tools, with red ochre patterns still visible on the ceilings.