Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

Greek Chair SantoriniGreek Chair Serifos

The Chora was just as lethargic as the port, a few inquisitive visitors wandering aimlessly around the picturesque narrow cobbled streets and in between the whitewashed houses with paintwork cracked and splintered by the sun.  In the tight, sinuous streets paving stones have been edged in white and decorated with flowers, hearts, sailboats and slogans: “My Kimolos, my paradise”.  Lovely.

At the top the tall cathedral seemed somehow too big and out of scale with the tiny streets and boxy houses.  The streets were ramshackle and without order or planning as they wound their way to the centre and the sixteenth century Kastro, much of which was dilapidated and in ruins with heaps of rubble from collapsed and abandoned houses.

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Malta, Mosta and the Miracle of the Bomb

Mdina Street

Mdina, Malta…

Leaving the unfortunate Fontanella Tea Rooms we were pleased to see that the weather was back to its spectacular best so we walked around the streets some more and made our way to the biggest building in Mdina, St Paul’s Cathedral standing erect and proud next to a section of the old city ramparts.

It was an interesting if not especially memorable Cathedral and after a short while we returned to the honey coloured streets and resumed our search for an alternative refreshment stop.  This didn’t take long and we found a tea room in a secluded courtyard which was no way near as busy as Fontanella but we soon found out that this was on account of the cakes not being anywhere near as good.

Mdina is quite small and we soon found ourselves going down the same streets as just an hour or so ago so we headed for the main gate exit and returned to the bus stop.  It was ten to three and the bus was scheduled for five past.  Ten past came and went, twenty past, half past, I found an inspector who suggested that it might be stuck in traffic (bus inspector’s first excuse every time I expect) and then when one did turn up it turned its destination light off and replaced it with ‘not in service’.  Malta now has a seriously bad bus service so we broke a golden holiday rule and together with another equally frustrated couple reluctantly agreed to take a taxi.

Mosta Malta

Mosta Church and the Miracle of the Bomb…

The next stop was at Mosta, for no better reason than to visit the Cathedral which was built in the nineteenth century and has a dome that is among the largest in the World – in fact (and you do have to be careful about these sort of facts of course) it is the third largest in Europe and the ninth largest in the World.  You can believe that or believe it not but the most remarkable thing about the Mosta Dome is the miracle of the unexploded bomb.

During the Second-World-War it is claimed that Malta was the most heavily bombed place in the World and on April 9th 1942, during an afternoon air-raid, a Luftwaffe bomb pierced the dome (two others bounced off) and fell among a congregation of more than three hundred people attending early evening mass. It did not explode. Apparently it rolled down the aisle and into the street outside so it was a good job that the doors were open!

I suspect that that part of the story may not be completely accurate and has been embellished and corrupted by the passing of time but this is the way they like to tell it.  I am sceptical if only for the reason that with a bomb crashing through the roof I imagine that there would have been quite a lot of panic and congestion in the aisle as people rushed for the door.  There would have been a mad dash and a tangle of bodies that would make modern day bus stop queues look like a Royal Garden Party and the bomb would be most unlikely to get through.

One version of this event states that when a bomb disposal squad opened the device it was found to be filled with sand instead of explosives and contained a note saying “greetings from Plzeň” from the workers at Škoda Works in the German-occupied Czechoslovakia who had allegedly sabotaged its production.

A nice story but not necessarily true.

Mosta The Miracle of the Bomb

To be frank there is nothing else to see in Mosta so we made our way to the bus stop and prepared for another fight to get onto the bus.  Sure enough there were far more people waiting than there could possibly be available seats but eventually it arrived and somehow the driver managed to squeeze us all on board.

This was a very uncomfortable journey and it was about now that I thought that it might be appropriate to make alternative arrangements for the journey back to the airport the next day.  I might be adventurous but I am not completely reckless and was not prepared to take the risk that the bus wouldn’t turn up or if it did that it would be full and wouldn’t stop or that I might lose my luggage on a chaotic journey.  Back at the hotel I booked a taxi which was expensive at €30 (ten times as expensive as the bus) but was worth it for peace of mind.

It was the last evening so we took a walk to the beach, sat on the balcony and played cards and then just for a change went to our favourite restaurant in Malta.  Later we went to the Limelight Lounge again to snigger at the entertainment and then we returned to the room to pack.

I had enjoyed the stay in Malta.  Kim had enjoyed the stay in Malta.  She said that she loved Malta and would gladly return.  More Malta stories coming up then…

Limelight Lounge Mellieha Bay Hotel

Malta, Mdina Twenty Years Ago

Mdina Cathedral 1

Mdina is called the silent city because it is a quiet pedestrianised medieval walled city of golden coloured stone with twisting narrow streets, dead ends and crooked alleyways all of which lead inevitably to the centre piece of the cathedral of St Paul.

Mdina Malta 1997Malta Mdina 1996Mdina pre restoration.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Broken

IMX Tours Alktinkum Turkey

Hagi wasn’t in the AA roadside breakdown service or whatever the equivalent is in Turkey so there now followed a long winded debate as each of the passengers looked inside the engine compartment in turn as though they knew what they were talking about and offered alternative diagnoses and possible solutions.

There was a lot of head scratching, nodding and general agreement but the truth was however that there was no more engine technical knowledge between them than you could expect to find in an average reception class at a primary school and one by one the suggestions all inevitably failed.

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Malta, Cathedrals and Churches

Xewkija Gozo Parish Church

Every village in Malta and Gozo has a church the size of a cathedral and all have a story of how it was paid for and built by the residents of the village.  These are always grand structures standing in the most prominent place in the village with glorious views in all directions.

Victoria Gozo MaltaMosta MaltaMellieha Malta Parish Church

Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped

Tangled Tree Roots in Moss

Tangled Tree Roots in Moss

Malta, The Silent City of Mdina

Malta Mdina

We slept well until about five o’clock next morning when there was an explosive thunderstorm that shook the room as though there were an earthquake with lightning flashes dramatically illuminating the sky and rain falling in bucket loads.  The wind rolled moaning down the corridor outside the room which made it sound much worse than it really was and fortunately by breakfast time it had cleared away and the sky looked more promising.

This was our last day in Malta and our plan was to visit the town of Mdina, the old capital of the country and situated in the centre of the island.

Mdina is called the silent city…

because it is a quiet pedestrianised medieval walled town with twisting narrow streets, dead ends and crooked alleyways all of which lead inevitably to the centre piece of the cathedral of St Paul.

St Paul is important to Malta because a shipwreck in 60 AD is recorded in some detail in the Acts of the Apostles and is supported by archaeological excavations that prove beyond doubt that his arrival in Malta is a historical fact.  He was only there for three months but in that time he managed to introduce the Christian Religion to Malta and if you have been paying attention you will know that Malta is the most religious country in Europe.

Napoleon Bonaparte in Malta…

Except for the modern bus service things get done quickly on Malta it seems.  During a six day stay on the island in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte carried out an exhausting and rapid programme of modernisation.  He reformed national administration with the creation of a Government Commission, twelve municipalities, a public finance administration, the abolition of all feudal rights and privileges, the abolition of slavery and the granting of freedom to all Turkish slaves. On the judicial level, a family code was framed and twelve judges were nominated. Public education was organised along principles laid down by Bonaparte himself, providing for primary and secondary education. After this whirlwind visit he then sailed for Egypt and the Maltese people probably gave a collective sigh of relief.

Mdina Malta

Public Transport issues in Malta…

“Unfortunately, the new designed routes take you half way around Malta in order to save money on buses – that is the problem when an accountant comes in with an Excel sheet and dictates with no real knowledge of what the people need, want or require.” – Malta Tourism Authority (2013)

I am fairly certain that in 1997 there was a direct bus service from Mellieha to Mdina but this is not so today so we had to compete for space on a bus to Buggiba and then wait for a transfer to our destination.  As we waited at the bus stop the skies clouded over, white at first and then grey and then very dark grey indeed and finally ominously black.  The temperature sank like a stone and soon there was another fearsome thunderstorm which made us consider going straight back to the hotel and a day in the indoor swimming pool and spa.

We dodged the downpour in a roadside café and eventually the connecting bus arrived and we went ahead with our original plan.  The bus was empty but at the next stop about three hundred people tried to get on but only two hundred and ninety-eight made it.  This was a very uncomfortable thirty minutes but as we drove towards Mdina the clouds broke and were blown away and by the time we arrived there was glorious blue sky again.

Mdina, restored and modernised…

The bus dropped us off at the main gate where there was a flotilla of horse drawn carriages called Karrozzins with pushy drivers waiting to ambush people as they stepped into the terminus and I am not sure how this happened but almost immediately we were sitting in the carriage and taking an unnecessary tour of the city and my wallet was a few Euro lighter.  Unnecessary because it is only a small place and it is much nicer to investigate it on foot anyway which is what we did as soon as the trip was over.

The first thing that struck me was that in twenty years there has been a lot of restoration in Mdina.  The once crumbling walls have been repaired and the untidy concrete streets have all been repaved.  I preferred it the old way because it seems to me that the Maltese have managed to transform this wonderful place into a sort of Disney World EPCOT interpretation of what it used to be like.

Mdina Malta 2015Malta Mdina 1996

Most of the guide books recommend a visit to Fontanella Tea Rooms for a cake and a coffee stop so we found it and made our way to the first floor terrace.  This had also had a very extensive makeover.

I’d like to be able to tell you how good it was but we sat at a table for twenty minutes or so without being served whilst all around us everyone was giving their orders and getting prompt service.  I asked two times to be served but I think I must have been wearing my invisible clothes that day and the waiter continued to ignore us so finally our patience ran out and we left, stopping only very briefly on the way out to lodge a complaint about poor service.  He said that he would serve us immediately but I told him it was too late, he had missed his chance!

Mdina MaltaMalta_Map (1)