I don't know what it is about going holiday, but I always seem to end up getting out of bed even earlier then if I was still at work. That's why I found myself up at 7am this morning grabbing a quick breakfast before being picked up for a tour of southern malta, and the the medieval capital city of Mdina.
We started off by heading to a public garden that was founded by one of the grand masters of the knights. I'll admit that gardens aren't exactly my thing but the rest of the group absolutely lapped it up. I was a very pretty place, and marked the first time that I had seen citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit growing on the trees. We the. Made our way to a craft village where we watched demonstrations of glass blowing and filigree jewellery being made. This was obviously the 'support local business' portion of today's tour (somethiing mercifully absent when I visited Goza). but despite the beauty of the items produced, I escaped having only bought my customary fridge magnet. I mean where could I keep a three foot blown glass dolphin, even if I could get it home!
Finally we began to get to the meat of the tour with a visit to the catacombs where St. Peter spent three months after becoming shipwrecked. We were then shown that the catacombs prior to his stay was formally used as a prison. Holes were been carved into the ceiling and were used to suspend prisoners from the ceiling. Apart from the obvious pain from such an act, the holes were placed so close together that any prisoners would literally be hanging shoulder to shoulder. I've seen abattoirs with greater spacing. it's quite scary to think that a practice as barbaric as that most likely still goes on even to this day out of the publics eye.
We then had lunch at the familiar sounding (to Guernsey people) Antique Aroma, where I had a conversation with some lovely Irish people regarding stereotypes. We laughed about 'Irish' pubs that we had been to in various parts of the world. Unfortunately, all the hard work dispelling the stereotype was then quickly undone as they launched into a passionate 10 minute seminar on how Guinness should best be served. Afterwards we drove up to the superbly named Dingly Cliffs and finally onto Mdina itself.
Mdina is a beautiful old city and to visit it really does feel like stepping back into the past. High houses and narrow streets create a very enclosed atmosphere. Knights stroll the street ready at a moments notice to pose with anyone who wants to snap a photo. The knights have a wicked sense of humour as well, posing and then suddenly drawing their swords just as the photographer is about to snap; therefore ensuring the subject looks caught in a mixture of surprise and laughter. Horse drawn buggies also do a rip-roaring trade as they shuttle families of tourists though the tight streets. When you make your way to the top of the fortifications, you are treated to a magnificent panoramic view of Malta. All the main cites are visible at this point, and they stand out as large bright patches of land as the sun reflects off of the white stone that is the predominant building material in Malta.
To someone that comes from a small island such as myself, the land appears to stretch out for miles. But we were the reminded that Malta is the smallest of the EU states with around 400,000 people. Small by EU standards, bloody huge to a Guernseyman.
Finally we visited the church with the third largest dome in Europe. it has an amazing story as during WWII, a bomb crashed through the ceiling coming down on three hundred people sheltering from the air raid. Amazingly the bomb failed to explode, and there were no significant casualties. A replica of the bomb is now on display in an antechamber of the main church. That was my last stop before heading back to my hotel. I then headed out to a nearby restaurant called Mr. Wongs, where I proceeded to fill myself with some great food at a ridiculously cheap price. I head back home early tomorrow, and I'll be home in time for a night in town if my friends are out.
I've really enjoyed myself here in Malta. I'd really like to come back with some of my friends and I think it is somewhere that they'd really like. The island seems to have the blend of sun, sea, culture and entertainment that my circle of friends thrives on for a getaway. So that's this adventure nearly over. I've a couple more to come with the annual camping trip and then the big trip to Hong-Kong which is what I'll be looking forward to until September rolls around.