Days 18-19: Beautiful Malta

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Europe » Malta
October 12th 2017
Published: October 12th 2017
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Today we took the public bus to Mdina/Rabat. Mdina is a small fortified baroque “city” that is adjacent to Rabat. The bus was an approximately 30 minute trip and it was packed. I bought a card loaded with 12 bus trips even tough I’m unlikely to use all of was cheaper than buying our bus trips separately and I can always leave the card with any unused trips behind for the next guests in the apartment.

Mdina was compact, beautiful and very pleasant to walk around despite the throngs of people. Lots of shade and very breezy (not sure where the wind was coming from because Mdina was surrounded by high walls). We took in an exhibit about the history of the Knights of Malta (a.k.a. Knights Hospitalier; Knights of the Order of St-John) which was kitschy but super interesting. We had an okay lunch in Mdina at a place that redeemed itself with its beautiful view. The only real food hit at lunch was a Maltese sandwich that we all like “Ftira”...a dark roll, some kind of tomato paste, tuna, capers, white beans, green olives and I’m not sure what else...deeeelicious.

Afterwards we walked into Rabat (the Mdina gate is about 500ish metres from Rabat proper) to go see St. Paul’s Catacombs - underground Roman cemeteries that were in use until around the 4th century. Loved it.

Malta is hot and sunny, but there is a constant breeze that makes it comfortable to walk around. Still, we’re much more pooped after a day of sightseeing in the heat and sun than we were in either Hungary or Romania. Also - super hilly here. Pant, gasp, groan. To add insult to injury our apt is on the top floor of our building and is spread over three levels. The second bedroom and terrace #1 are 31 more steps up from our main floor and terrace #2 (the rooftop) is another flight up still. Fortunately, the views are worth it.

Day 19 we focussed on Valetta itself which meant we would be going up and downhill pretty much all day. We started by taking in the “Malta Experience” (a 45 min film about the history of Malta) followed by a guided tour of the Sacra Infermeria (olden times hospital run by the Knights of Malta). It was all great - especially the tour. Our guide, Anna, was
St-John’s Co-Cathedral - VallettaSt-John’s Co-Cathedral - VallettaSt-John’s Co-Cathedral - Valletta

Magnificent - every bit of it
excellent and gave us all the fascinating details about hospitals back in the day (this hospital was established in 1574). Like if you were poor, you didn’t have to pay but they’d put three of you in one bed. She also told us that a knight’s helmet weighed about 7kg which would be like wearing your carry-on luggage on your head.

Afterwards we had lunch on a patio before heading in to tour St. John’s Co-Cathedral. This was also get an audio guide with your admission and learn about all the little details of the church and its history. It took about one hour and every minute of it was well spent. At the end, there is a room with two famous Caravaggio paintings (no photos permitted) - the be-heading of John the Baptist and a painting of St-Jerome - which were breathtaking up close. After that I was going to head back downhill for the National War Museum (I’d also love to see the National Archeology Museum, but, alas, time is limited so I’m trying to find time for at least one) and Ma and T were going to check out the Lower Barracca Gardens but we got distracted by a small train that takes you around the outside walls of Valletta so we hopped on that. Since I was getting tired, I went with the ladies to the LBG, and I’ll see about a museum tomorrow afternoon when I can be more alert to enjoy it fully. It was a slog of a day - partly because of the heat, partly because we’re at the tail end of three weeks of lots and lots (and lots and lots) of walking, and partly the crazy hills. T’s Fitbit tracked just over 10,000 steps today which is not much for a sightseeing day (most strolling/sightseeing days have been over 20k this trip), but in today’s 10k are the equivalent of climbing up 53 flights of stairs. Ouch.

Even with all the hills and steps, I’m glad we stayed in Valletta. It was nice to have so many things to see so close to our apt and we’re very close (a short walk - and, yes, uphill) to the main bus terminal. I’m also happy we went with this type of rental property vs. a hotel. I’ve liked getting our own goodies for breakfast and snacks, the extra
Gates of Mdina Gates of Mdina Gates of Mdina

Very crowded
space is really nice (terrace #1 is hosting many a glass of wine), and the practical aspects like being able to do laundry on site and really spread out have been nice treats at the end of the trip. I think for a stay of 3 nights or more, I’ll look for options like this in the future. For stays of 1-2 nights, or really late (or way-too-early) arrivals, hotels would still be the easier option, but for longer stays - this really has been the way to go.

Additional photos below
Photos: 19, Displayed: 19


View of Fort Ricasoli from VallettaView of Fort Ricasoli from Valletta
View of Fort Ricasoli from Valletta

There are tons of forts...I was near Fort St. Elmo when I tour this picture, and if I panned to the right a bit, Fort Saint Angelo would also be in the shot.
Bed number painted on the wall of the old hospital Bed number painted on the wall of the old hospital
Bed number painted on the wall of the old hospital

This was from the poor folks’ floor (and by folks I mean only men - women weren’t entitled to medical services at this hospital).

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