My Holidays in Malta, Chocolate Cake and Carriages in Mdina

Mdina 1997 & 2017

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.

In 1997 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 Maltese Pounds 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.

Twenty years later in 2017 after a couple of tedious waits and changes and a long and circuitous route we eventually arrived and 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 of hasty post war repairs 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.

Mdina pre restoration.Mdina Malta

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.  We did this twenty years ago but now we were not surprised to find that this place had also had a very extensive makeover.

I am never very keen on wasting money on things like horse and trap rides but Molly caught me in a weak moment and having convinced myself that a 10% reduction on an advertised rate was a bargain I was persuaded to agree to reprise a ride in a Karrozzin and we had an enjoyable twenty minute clip-clop ride through the ancient city.


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 took an expensive taxi ride to Mosta.  Don’t ask me how much it was because I will surely start to weep!


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!

Mosta The Miracle of the Bomb

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.

Anyway, not much has changed except that the statue outside used to be sandstone and is now graphite and the statue’s halo used to be graphite and now it is sandstone.

Mostar church

42 responses to “My Holidays in Malta, Chocolate Cake and Carriages in Mdina

  1. I too am skeptical of the bomb story. It’s actually not the first time I’ve heard it (not for Malta, but for other places).

    The thing is, Germans were quality control conscious and prisoners/local labor were supervised in everything they did (especially, I imagine) when handling dangerous explosives. Plus, the workers would have to smuggle in sand (not light) and then dispose of the extra explosive material (not easy).

    All in all a clever story (and, you know, it’s nice to imagine people sticking it to the Nazis) but highly unlikely.


  2. Really interesting to see the before and after photos of Mdina, when we visited I didn’t realise how much it had been cleaned up. Either way, it’s a beautiful walled city.


  3. I quite liked Mdina though it is very small and I didn’t find much to interest me inside any shops or buildings. A too-talkative Guide was a real pain in the backside and led to us just wandering off. One of the funniest sights was a carriage driver holding a receptacle of some sort under his horses backside to collect the droppings, but I’ve no idea how he knew it was coming. Regarding German bombs and efficiency, I once attended a lecture as a student and was told that the Germans would eventually lose the war because they placed a bomb under Hitlers table and missed him by a mile!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You lured me in with chocolate cake! 🙂 🙂 I don’t mind a bit of a clip clop now and then but Mick will never ‘shell’ out for them either. I think I’m going off the idea of Malta. But I would like to see Gozo.


  5. What a lovely trip. Malta is one of the places I’ve never visited but your reports on the place make me feel I should go there sooner rather than later.


  6. Apparently, it was interesting to compare two state of Mdina. I have been there once, in Aprile, and I recognised every street on your photographs. And that cafe.
    Fortunately, I knew that the town is small and I need not a guide and a horse.


  7. We loved Mosta. The story as told to us by the church staff was that the UXB rolled to the altar. Everyone was so in shock they didn’t move at first, then moved quickly to the door. I guess over time many stories emerge. We didn’t hear about the sand and the note. I do think that was fabricated. But it makes a great story. We didn’t visit Mdina but certainly will next time.


  8. Much enjoyed Andrew. I have not been to Mdina myself but it is on my bucketlist for sure. Lovely photos too!


  9. I find the transformed statue the most bizarre thing!


  10. The change was quite dramatic, Andrew. Then I got hung up on the bomb and the horse. Maybe the horse was trained to poop on the scoop after it finished its loop. –Curt


  11. Oh, you’re such a skeptic! 😉


  12. I think the mess we made of Dresden might take the dubious first prize of the most heavily….. Coventry got pretty well leveled too.
    Still I cannot begrudge the Maltese from making their claim;


    • The statistic is that Malta endured the longest sustained bombing campaign and not the most destructive

      The city of Hull close to me makes a claim as well. Apparently they took a lot of bombs because it was easy to spot on the Humber even with a black-out and because it is said many German bomber crews lost their nerve when approaching England, claimed to have an aircraft fault, dropped their bombs and went home pronto

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wonder why they lost their nerve 😈
        I lived in Dagenham just a few miles, if that from Hornchurch,where the RAF had a station for the Spitfires &/or Hurricanes. Would you believe that they never got bombed?
        The Jerries gave it a wide birth, and bombed us instead 😛


      • A suppose a wall of anti aircraft fire might unsettle the stomach a little.

        Liked by 1 person

      • and the wall of fire was mounted with my dad, he had the keenest eye I’ve ever come across, he was the gunlayer and was credited one night with two kills, we learnt about that AFTER the war from his CO, He told us that on two occasions my d.o.d. had been recommended for the MM, being a private; (officers as you know got the MC), anyway d.o.d told them to shove their medals in the same spot I once told a foreman to shove his job.
        Sort of rubbed off on me a bit. Cockneys to the core.


      • You sound like my Uncle Brian, he lived in London and allegedly told a lot of people to shove their jobs before he shoved off himself to Australia and lived out his life in Adelaide!


      • Smart man. But with a name like that what else would you expect?
        Do you know I’ve never thought of myself as an uncle; we never use those titles always just first names, my children call me by my name, unless they want something. And yet I’ve just done a count and I have 9 nieces and nephews, so that makes me an Uncle Brian too 😀
        How strange, makes me feel kind of old.


  13. Just dawned upon me what about those 2 cities obliterated in Japan, heavy contenders????


  14. I’m amazed by your good memories of places you visited 40 years ago and how you compare them to places you’ve recently visited, Andrew. You must have a stack of photos from the first time you visited these places. I’ve no idea where my photo albums are. Then again, have you transferred all the old photos onto your computer?
    Looks as if the Grandchildren know what your weakness are when it comes to taxis, tours and cake?


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