Tag Archives: Mosta Malta

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

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!

Fontanella

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

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Malta, Postcards

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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, 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 Malta

According to tradition a church in Malta always has two clock faces and these are set to different times.  Legend says that this is to confuse the Devil about service times!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow Buses of Malta

Malta Old pre privatisation Bus

Malta is only quite small, in fact it is the tenth smallest country in the World, the fifth smallest in Europe and the tiniest in the European Union but it also happens to have the eighth highest population density in the World (in Europe only the Vatican City and Gibraltar are more crowded) so this is not a get away from it all sort of place at all.

Being both small and crowded getting around was quite straight forward because up until 2011 Malta had a wonderful bus service with a fleet of vehicles mostly imported from the UK, privately owned, lovingly maintained and customized and painted in a distinctive yellow livery.

Read the full story…

Postcards from Malta

malta-map

“Valletta equals in its noble architecture, if it does not excel, any capital in Europe. The city is one of the most beautiful, for its architecture and the splendour of its streets that I know: something between Venice and Cadiz.” Benjamin Disraeli

Malta Boats Luzzu

Malta Mdina

Valletta Postcard

Read the full story…

 

Malta – Buses, Boats and Bombs

Malta Mdina

On 5th September 1800 the island of Malta, in preference to being under French Napoleonic administration, invited the British to rule the island as a Dominion of the Empire.  Except for a difficult little period in the 1970s when Malta declared itself independent under the leadership of Dom Mintoff the Maltese have been inviting the British back ever since.

I am glad of that because in the 1990s I visited the historic island two or three times times and I am long overdue a return visit.

In 1997 we spent a week in a hotel in Mellieha Bay in the north of the island, the weather was perfect and our sightseeing trips to the historical sites were punctuated with lazy days at the hotel swimming pool or on the beach.  In fact we liked the Mellieha Bay Hotel with its outdoor and indoor swimming pools, pretty gardens and scorching beach so much that we never choose to stay anywhere else.

Malta is only quite small, in fact it is the tenth smallest country in the World, the fifth smallest in Europe and the tiniest in the European Union but it also happens to have the eighth highest population density in the World (in Europe only the Vatican City and Gibraltar are more crowded) so this is not a get away from it all sort of place at all.

Malta Old pre privatisation Bus

Being both small and crowded getting around was quite straight forward because up until 2011 Malta had a wonderful bus service with a fleet of vehicles mostly imported from the UK, privately owned, lovingly maintained and customized and painted in a distinctive orange livery.

Even in the late 1990s these old buses were, admittedly, beginning to creak with age, and by 2011 the majority didn’t meet EU standards on carbon emissions, but their fate was equivalent to the extinction of the White Rhino and the upgrade could scarcely have been more undignified.

Under the old system each bus was owned by its driver, who would decorate it himself, giving each its own personality and charm. Some buses had been passed down from father to son, or even been hand built by the family that owned them.  The service was crudely privatised which meant that the Maltese Government no longer had to pay expensive subsidies (this is a lot like the sad demise of the old Greek Island Ferry service story) and was taken over by an inefficient, money grabbing private sector company called Aviva whose modern fleet has replaced Malta’s beautiful vintage buses, which have now been variously consigned to the museum or, worse, the scrapheap.

When, eventually, I go back to Malta I am going to miss those old buses.  We used to use them every day to get around the island, up and down the busy coast road to the capital Valetta and sometimes into the middle of the island to the old capital of Mdina which was probably my most favourite place on the island.

Mdina Malta

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 the 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.

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.  St Paul is important to Malta because a shipwreck in 60 AD is recorded in some detail in the Acts of the Apostles, and a Pauline tradition of long standing supported by archaeological excavations prove beyond doubt that his arrival in Malta is a historical fact and that it is also true that during his three-month stay on the Island he introduced the Christian Religion to Malta.

Later in the week we visited the rock reef where his ship allegedly ran aground and later today we stopped off in the neighbouring town of Rabat to visit his grotto next to his church where he is supposed to have spent his time on Malta in hiding from the Roman soldiers that were searching for him – a bit like Saddam Hussein hiding from the American troops two thousand years or so later – also in a cave!

St Paul's Grotto Malta

So after we had visited Cafe Fontanella for chocolate cake and beer and sweltered in the pizza oven temperatures and when we had had enough of the silent city and the tales of St Paul we caught the bus back but made two more stops along the way.  First we dropped off at the Ta’ Quali craft village which was a desperately disappointing place set on an abandoned World war Two airfield where the creaking old buildings had been converted into souvenir workshops which generally speaking I can do without.  I did find one that I liked however, the Bristow Ceramics and given my passion for model boats I couldn’t resist buying a pottery fishing boat which started a collection of three which is still on display in my house today.

Bristow Ceramics Malta Boat

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 theses sort of facts) 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. One version of this event states that, upon opening the bomb, it was found to be filled with sand instead of explosive 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!

Mosta Cathedral 2