Wandering ancient Valletta

Malta

After day 1 in Valletta we knew that more time was needed to absorb the history of the capital.

Day 2 was a slightly slower start after the late night with the Mangions the night before. We have now settled on our morning coffee spot with excellent espressos and cappuccinos for €1.40 (i.e. the price good coffee is supposed to be – not $4.50 alla Auckland). Then on the bus to Valletta.

First stop was the National War Museum which was unfortunately closed due to a power cut. With that plan out the window more aimless wandering ensued. However if there is anywhere to wander aimlessly it would have to be Valletta where every street oozes history (of course the whole capital is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Aimless wandering produced one of those great moments for inexperienced travellers – getting a bit lost and finding a narrow lane with a small cafe serving fresh local seafood with hardly a tourist in sight (several blocks over the main street was packed with them). Fresh bread and homemade tomato paste, cold beer, and the most tender and tasty baby calamari either of us have ever tried. €11 all up.

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D’Office calamari

One more day in Valletta

We needed yet more time to go back and cover some of the sites in Valletta so we made another trip today (about 20 minutes on the bus from St Julian’s – we have an unlimited bus pass).

This time the National War Museum (at Fort St Elmo) is open. We brush up on our knowledge of both World Wars with the overlay of Malta’s (very significant) involvement.

Conscription was enacted in Malta in 1941 and all males aged 18 to 41 were required for service in the armed forces. The young men were grouped by age and told to report to Birkirkara, Marsa and Sliema Government schools. Grandfather was 20 at that time and would soon be in North Africa.

Can anyone confirm whether Grandfather manned one of these anti-aircraft guns? It’s a Bofors 40mm used in North Africa by the British 1940 – 1943.

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The Bofors 40mm on display

There was also the George Cross awarded to the entire people of Malta “to bear witness to a heroism and devotion that will long be famous in history”.

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The George Cross

The highlight of the day (apart from our pastizzi lunch for €1.60) was undoubtedly the Palace State Rooms of the Grand Masters Palace built by the Knights of St John in the late 16th century before the Knights were kicked out by Napoleon in 1798. The detail throughout the Palace really is breathtaking. The ceiling, the elaborate portraits of each of the Grand Masters and even several tributes to Sir Anthony Mamo (his portrait sits next to the enormous portrait of Queen Elizabeth in the State Dining Hall). The pictures don’t do the Palace justice but here are a few.

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The Halls decorated to show the main episodes of the Order of the Knights between the 13th and 16th centuries

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The State Dining Hall

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Adjacent to the Palace State Rooms is the Palace Armoury which houses one of the finest collections of Medieval and Renaissance weapons in all of Europe. Some very interesting pieces in there.

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Armour worn by a Grand Master

There is still more to see in Valletta. In particular we haven’t yet been to St John’s Co-Cathedral which houses the only Caravaggio signed by the artist (which makes it very special says Lorraine!)

Seeing Grandfather’s sisters tomorrow (aka “The Aunties”).

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