Sunday, 9 August 2015

Malta Day 1

After a travel day getting the bus to Heathrow from Glastonbury, seeing those last glimpses of the Tor from the bus window, made my heart sink, wondering will I see this beauty filled land again.

I spent a quiet day in Heathrow at the Hotel processing all the happenings of the conference, the messages, the friendships, the pure joy, and the gratitude I have to be able to do this and be blessed with the ways and means to explore the world.

Then another early morning to catch our flight to Malta where the most ancient free standing temples of the world are found, older than the Egyptian periods, Stonehenge etc such experiences to be had on this island Malta – the Island of the Triple Moon.

Maree and I checked into our upgraded penthouse apartment, such a beautiful gift for Maree as this is her birthday. We settled in brought groceries etc and sat on our balcony having drinks with cheese and biscuits before we walked to the waterfront of Sliema and had a lovely dinner looking out over the water to the city of Valetta with the ancient buildings lit up in the night sky.

Waterfront of Sliema

Beachfront Swimming Pools are available as there is no beach on the waterfront

Views of the ocean from our unit

Views from the bedroom balcony

Dinner views across to Valetta

I hope the memories of this birthday stay with Maree for a long time

Then it was our first day of discovery we caught the ferry to Valetta and went to the Archaeological Museum where most of the Goddess Statues are found.

Views of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church dome from the ferry

Views of the Sliema waterfront before we leave the shore

The amazing streets in Valetta

The National Museum of Archaeology is housed in a building, an example of fine Baroque architecture, was built in 1571 and followed a plan by local architect Ġilormu Cassar. The Auberge de Provence was house to the Knights of the Order of St John originating from Provence, France and displays beautiful architectural features. Of particular note is the Grand Salon, with its richly painted walls and wooden beamed ceiling.

In the downstairs galleries the exhibits include delicate stone tools dating from 5200 BC, and there's an amazing temple model from Ta' Haġrat – a prehistoric architectural maquette.

The altar of Hagar Qim

More impressive still are the well-preserved voluptuous figurines, or 'fat ladies', found at Ħaġar Qim, with massive rounded thighs and arms, but tiny, doll-like hands and feet, wearing pleated skirts and sitting with legs tucked neatly to one side. The so-called Venus de Malta, also from Ħaġar Qim, is about 10cm tall and displays remarkably realistic modelling – it resembles a prehistoric Lucien Freud. Best of all is the Sleeping Lady, found at the Hypogeum, which is around 5000 years old. It shows a woman lying on her side with her head propped on one arm, apparently deep in slumber. There are also beautiful stone friezes from the Tarxien temples.

Here I was able to stand in front of this delicate and so beauty filled ‘The Sleeping Lady’ c 3,000 BC.

Here the lesser known figure lying face down again on a similar platform

After seeing the amazing collection at the museum we walked through the town and saw the Parliament building of Malta

Next door the Opera House open air in the ruins

Here are the Valetta City Gates

The Triton Fountain

We then went to see the Grand Masters Palace like St John's Co-Cathedral, the stern exterior of the 16th-century Grand Master's Palace conceals a sumptuous interior. This was once the residence of the Grand Masters of the Knights of St John. Since Malta's independence in 1964 the building served as the seat of Malta's parliament, until they moved into their new Renzo Piano-designed building close to the City Gate. The Grand Masters' Palace remains the official residence of the Maltese president.

There are two entrances on Pjazza San Ġorġ. The right-hand arch leads to Prince Alfred's Courtyard , where two stone lions guard a doorway leading to the Great Hall and a clock tower built in 1745 marks the hours with bronze figures of Moorish slaves striking gongs. The left-hand arch leads into Neptune's Courtyard , named for the 17th-century bronze statue of the sea-god that stands there.

In the State Apartments, the long Armoury Corridor, decorated with trompe l'oeil painting, scenes of naval battles, blue colours and the portraits and escutcheons of various Grand Masters, leads to the Council Chamber on the left. It is hung with 17th-century Gobelins tapestries gifted to the Order in 1710 by Grand Master Ramon de Perellos. They feature scenes of Africa, India, the Caribbean and Brazil, including an elephant beneath a cashew-nut tree; an ostrich, cassowary and flamingo; a rhino and a zebra being attacked by a leopard; and a tableau with palm trees, a tapir, a jaguar and an iguana. Beyond lie the State Dining Room and the Supreme Council Hall, where the Supreme Council of Order met. It is decorated with a frieze depicting events from the Great Siege of 1565, while the minstrels' gallery bears paintings showing scenes from the Book of Genesis. At the far end of the hall a door gives access to the Hall of the Ambassadors , or Red State Room, where the Grand Master would receive important visitors, and where the Maltese president still receives foreign envoys. It contains portraits of the French kings Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great and several Grand Masters. The neighbouring Pages' Room , or Yellow State Room (despite the abundance of greenish tones), was used by the Grand Master's 16 attendants.

We then had some lunch in a traditional cafe with decorative walls with paintings, so elegant and we were really enjoying the air conditioning it has been about 33o but the humidity must be close to 100% and it is just so hard to gain energy and walk around and see all the beauty.

After lunch we went to see a historical film called the Malta Experience showing all the struggles and hardships that the people of Malta have had to endure to become the peaceful island of beauty it is today.

Our ticket then allowed us a tour of the Knights Hospitallers with the upstairs long ward for the upper class and the below more beautifully decorated lower class men. Unfortunately women were not offered medical care except for complications in child birth by the nuns.

The upstairs ward with separate bed and toilet for each patient.

The downstairs ward where patients were up to 5 in a bed sharing toilets for two beds.

On our walk back to the ferry we went to see the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel with its huge domed roof.

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