Traveling Tuesdays for the Letter ‘M’ is visiting Malta a small independent nation state located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.
Malta consists of three islands: main island Malta, Gozo and Comino.
The capital city is Valletta, which is located on the island’s North coast and it has island’s largest harbour.
I had the opportunity to visit Malta during a winter break while teaching in Kuwait. I spent Christmas with my Dad in Nova Scotia and on the way back to Kuwait met up with a fellow teacher and we spent a week at a timeshare in St. Paul’s Bay. From the time share we were able to catch a local bus and travel to the capital city and explore Valletta.
Valletta is one of the smallest and youngest capital cities in Europe. Built in 1566 by the Knights of Malta, Valletta was built as a fortress. The Order of Knights of St John (also known as the Knights of Malta) ruled the islands from 1530 until 1798. Malta was part of the British empire for around 160 years (gaining independence in 1964). The country has two official languages, with a large number of the population speaking both Maltese and English. The leading religion in Malta is Roman Catholicism, followed by the vast majority of the population.
St. Paul’s Bay is a village located in the North of Malta along it Northern Coastline. Traditionally, St. Paul’s Bay was known as a fisherman’s village. The village’s name refers to Saint Paul’s shipwreck. According to the Bible, he was shipwrecked on an island while travelling from Caesarea to Rome and it is believed that this island was Malta. Saint Paul is believed to have introduced Christianity to the Maltese.
In 1798 Napoleon’s army conquered the island, easily removing the Knights of St John from power. The British Throne took over Malta after Napoleon’s demise and ruled the islands for the next 160 years. Malta was bombed persistently by German forces during World War II in an attempt to take over the Malta, which was known as a location of high strategic importance for both trade and conflict. Malta was bombed more heavily in 1942 than the whole blitz of London. The British and Maltese joined forces in their battle for survival and the Germans failed to conquer neither Malta, nor the Maltese.
The determination and strong spirit shown by the population of Malta led King George VI to award Malta the George Cross. His official message, which was engraved in a marble plaque on the façade of the Presidential Palace in Valletta, reads: “To honour her brave people I award the George Cross to the Island Fortress of Malta, to bear witness to a heroism and a devotion that will long be famous in history.” This award is still part of the national flag of Malta and is seen as a symbol of a proud nation.
The Maltese gained their independence from the British in 1964 and the country would continue as a sovereign state and republic. Since May 2003, Malta is a member of the European Union and in 2008 the Euro was adopted as its currency.
Some of the street planning in Valletta is truly unique. Some of its streets fall steeply as you get closer towards the back of the city, making it difficult for enemy troops to manoeuvre. These streets have stairs that were built in such a way that knights in heavy armour would be able to climb the steps.
Not too far from St. Paul’s Bay is Rabat.
Near the St. Paul’s Church in Rabat, one can visit the catacombs of Rabat.
Here is an inscription of a boat found on the walls of the catacombs.
The main island of Malta is the largest and most developed island.
The only way to get to the island of Gozo is by ferry.
The island of Gozo is idyllic and peaceful and mostly rural.
Comino is the smallest island of the three and is inhabited by only a few people. The island and is the location for one of Malta’s most beautiful bays: the Blue Lagoon.
With lots to see and plenty of history, Malta is one place I would love to visit again.
Be sure and join me next week as we visit a country starting with the Letter ‘N’.