Saturday, June 23, 2018

Malta, 18: Adieu U Nirringrazzjak, Malta!

We spent the evening reflecting on our excellent choice and our excellent visit to Malta...and packing, and looking out off the balconies...
World speed boat racing...

A confirmation processional at the interesting church over there...

Nightfall on Balutta Bay

They (who?) say you should always leave something for next our case,
apart from several more megalithic sights, that would be Malta's two
Caravaggios...he did some time here, trying to become a Knight, which he
did, until getting into trouble again; and he left his largest painting here, his
Decollation of St. John...signing his own name in the puddle of the Baptist's

Also a St. Jerome; we missed these because we failed to read the cathedral's
hours...who would'a thunk a famous cathedral with major art in a destination
city would have closed on Saturday at noon and remained closed until Monday?!
Oh well, the world probably does not need another comment from me on Mr.
Fruity Butt Pants' framing issues (which are again apparent with the St. John)

As with The Maltese Falcon, I spent considerable time
looking for the local delicacy...and found it finally as we
passed through the duty-free stores at the airport Monday

Enjoying a last few minutes of luxury at the airport lounge, Vicki demonstrates
triclinium dining for our grand-daughter; meanwhile I am enjoying a last few's been a great holiday!

Malta, 17: Mdina

Sunday, our last full day in Malta, we took the bus out to Mdina, in the interior, which was the capital until the Knights arrived in the earlier 1500s. Despite an earthquake or two and a siege or two, Mdina endured and was pretty much frozen in time. Thus it is now a popular day-trip from Valletta (or any place on this small island), appealing to people who like hill-top fortresses, panoramic views, and precious little Medieval lanes and such.
Entrance to the fortress

Helpful map

Once moat, walls, etc.

Some Baroque, some neo-Classical, some Renaissance; did not see much
Art Deco

Today's wedding; note the guy operating the camouflaged bubble machine

Interior of cathedral

Note swinging censer

Cathedral exterior with bride and groom about to depart
All over Malta I looked and despaired of finding any reference
to the famous American mystery/movie

In Mdina there was the Maltese Falcon shoppe, a pretty
standard tourist gift shoppe, with an image of the poster,
but also...

The Maltese Falcon; it even says so

Panoramic view

Toward Valletta

Somewhere in Mdina

Dramatic performance not taken

Nice BGT

Malta,16: Malta At War Museum

Malta's location at the center of the Mediterranean has made it a strategic objective for millennia, and it has been besieged and/or conquered many times. The two most prominent battles for Malta were in 1565, when the Turkish fleet was ascendent (The Great Siege of Malta), and in 1940-1943, when the Italians and the Germans attempted to wrest the islands from British control in WWII. In the former case, the Knights of Malta held out and eventually drove the Turks away. Ottoman sea power was decisively diminished later at the Battle of Lepanto, in 1572 (the "naval," as Cervantes, a participant, would say). Although Hitler and Mussolini had jointly approved a combined sea- and air-born invasion of Malta, for a variety of reasons, it never came to pass. For the Germans, Malta was of surpassing importance in protecting the flow of supplies to Rommel, then on his way, via Egypt, to the oil fields of Arabia. Germany's only other source of petroleum was Romania.

The Siege of Malta in WWII was a strictly air-born siege, focusing on the island, its defenses, and Allied efforts to re-supply and strengthen what Churchill referred to as his "unsinkable aircraft carrier." Between June 11th, 1940, and July 20th, 1943, the Maltese and their defenders suffered 3,340 air raids. Hundreds of planes were lost, scores of naval and merchant ships were sunk, along with thousands of casualties, mostly combatants. Under nearly continuous bombardment, Malta was ravaged, and there would have been more civilian casualties had it not been for the air raid shelters dug into that creamy soft limestone. The Malta War Museum deals with all of Malta's war involvements, but the Malta At War Museum deals only with WWII, my interest. Plus, the latter includes a tour of one of the nearby air raid shelters. A stirring nearly contemporaneous account of it all is the Victory At Sea episode "Mediterranean Mosaic", which incorporated much of the British Malta G. C. war-time "documentary" commanded by George VI himself. FWIW. Plus you get to see a significant bit of television and documentary history and hear some great music.

It's quite a crowded little museum, difficult for photography; when the war
started there were only a handful of Gloucester Gladiator bi-planes available
for Malta's defense; "Blood,"" Sweat," and "Tears" were the names of the last three;
then many Hawker Hurricanes arrived and were mostly butchered by the
faster German 109s; when enough Spitfires finally arrived, the tide began
to turn from Axis to Allied air superority 

German and Italian war craft over Malta

German bombs

About Malta and the George Cross; continuous showing of Malta G. C.; the
only time the award had been given to a whole population

...of the 55 convoy ships bound for Malta, 1940-42, 22 were sunk...11 forced to
turn back...of 31 merchant ships bound singly for Malta, 9 were sunk...the
Royal Navy lost 32 ships escorting the convoys (including a battleship and
an aircraft carrier)

Anti-aircraft battery

More about the George Cross

The US tanker Ohio; Roosevelt had dispatched her at
Churchill's desperate plea; bombed and torpedoed as she
crossed the Mediterranean, she was finally towed into
the Grand Harbor where, after unloading what was left
of her cargo, she broke in half and sank; the American
carrier Wasp was also instrumental in relieving Malta,
delivering several runs of Spifires

In the air raid shelter now, bunks...

Map of the shelter, Coronation Gardens

First aid station

WWII ended less than two years before I was born; not so
remote, to me anyway

Malta, 15: Valletta And The Three Cities

Mostly Valletta, the capital, a gorgeous city, despite the widespread destruction of the air raids of 1941-1943.
As this picture (someone else's) amply shows, the old city is literally an
enormous star fort, perhaps the biggest we have seen

The Triton Fountain, at the main gate to Valletta

Note: a) creamy limestone blocks, and b) enclosed balconies

Parliament building

Not Roman ruins: these are the remains of the national theater, Valletta's architectural
gem, destroyed in the bombings of 1942, never rebuilt; but now re-designed and
re-used for outdoor concerts

Main street view, Saturday morning

Probably the only Amorino's we have ever walked by without
having an ice cream (we were distracted by the closing of the
cathedral...another story)

Historic old government building

With important historical plaques

The light bulb thing, not just a Gozo thing

In all my travels, I have never, ever, seen a double-reed
busker, but here, in Valletta, Malta, is a street oboist (my
instrument); he was good, too, and I tipped generously

Another Knightly abode


Interesting bench

More grand old buildings

Street scene, looking down to the sea

So to get from the city, that is, the wall-girt fortress (to
employ Homer's expression), you can walk, or take this
10-story elevator down to the harbor

Saluting guns

Grand Harbor

Iconic view, across the Grand Harbor to the Three Cities; Birgu dates from
medieval times, but Senglea and Cospicua were originally fortresses built by
the Knights in the 16th and 17th centuries; yes, this will be on the quiz; for
more information on the Knights and Charles V's gift of Malta to them watch
The Maltese Falcon; never mind the Knights are mistakenly referred to as
the "Knights Templar" in the movie's opening; OK, the movie is one of the
greatest ever but really has nothing to do with Malta

Us, there

Top of elevator

View from below

On the ferry, crossing the Grand Harbor

And about to disembark in the Three Cities, to visit the Malta At War museum