Thursday, May 26, 2016

MALTA: The Blue Grotto and Dingli Cliffs

Here we go again!  Do you think we'll ever finish our Malta trip???  HA!

Today we're off to the Blue Grotto and the Dingli Cliffs, both on the southern coast of Malta with a totally different shoreline than the beaches of the northern coast.

The distance between the two sites is approx. 10 km.
We took the Hop On- Hop Off (HOHO) bus from Bugibba one day and stopped at the Blue Grotto.
The next day we took a normal bus from Bugibba to the Dingli Cliffs.

This is what we saw from the HOHO bus as we came to the Blue Grotto stop-off point.
If you remember last week's post from the Marsaxlokk fishing village,
we had just passed it on the eastern side of the island before arriving here.

From the bus stop we walked down to the ticket office and boat ramps to the lagoon.

As you know by now, Malta depends on its tourism sites like this.
So the boats were there waiting for us.

Off we go...for a tour of approx. 25 minutes, inside and outside the caves.

Our guide, just behind me, kept tapping my shoulder to make sure I saw everything.
He was so cute, making sure I captured the highlights, especially the color of the water.

To tell you the truth, I loved the outside cliffs as much as the inside caves.
And as you can see, it was a gorgeous day.

As we headed back to the lagoon, we saw all the watchers,
which we, too, would later become.

But first, we went exploring up the stairs to get an overview of the lagoon.
Pay attention to that rock island (center) which you'll see from Dingli as well.

Coming back down a different set of stairs gave a different perspective.
(You can see how far off the rock island is in the distance.)

This is when we became the watchers, enjoying the view and activity.

The cactus, by the way, is all over the island.

When we left to catch the next HOHO bus, I couldn't help but think of America's west.
And all for €8 per person.  Totally worth it.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

The next day, as I said, we took a normal bus from Bugibba, north, to Dingli, south.
In combining these two places in one post you see the similarity of the southern shoreline.

At the bus stop, we first looked inland to get the lay of the land.
Everything was way off in the distance, even though my camera makes it look nearby.

But turning towards the Mediterranean Sea, we realized how high up we were.
The Dingli Cliffs rise 253 meters above the sea, the highest elevation of the Maltese Islands.

Remember that rock island offshore from the Blue Grotto?
Yup.  The same one can be seen from Dingli.

Along the roadway, following the shoreline, is the Dingli Aviation Radar station.
It stands out like a sore thumb in the vicinity of the cliffs.

Finally, when you walk far enough, you come to the St Mary Magdalen Chapel, built in 1646.
It's normally closed except the Sunday during Holy Week and on Mary Magdalene's feast day,
22 July, when a mass is celebrated.

It clearly was a place for respite from the sun.

And it was there where we took our last look out to sea from this side of Malta.

You really go out of your way to find these two tourist spots, away from the opposite northern coast,
bustling with a different kind of tourism, related to the capital city, Valletta, and the beaches.

Because Astrid and I love the out-of-the-way spots,
we were gluttons to see what you, too, have now seen...the other side of Malta.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

MALTA: The Fishing Village of Marsaxlokk

You know how you first try to get the lay of the land whenever you visit a new place?  Well, the day after we arrived in Malta, Saturday, we had a confab with our trip rep who helped us figure out the how and where and when of our 10 days.

That's when we discovered there would be a fishing market the next day, Sunday, in the quaint fishing village of Marsaxlokk...a definite tourist destination, she said.

Starting from our hotel in Bugibba, we took a bus to Valletta and then another bus to Marsaxlokk.
The 'x' in Maltese is the 'sh' sound, so, Marsaxlokk = MARsa- shlock.
It's a population of ca. 3500+ people.

The first thing we saw as we got off the bus and reached the harbor was the dockyard.
Big, clunky boats with years of hard work oozing out of them.

Then, turning the corner, we saw the market, lined up along the village street facing the shoreline.
Everything under the sun...except fish.  Where was the fish???

Theirs to know and ours to find out!
In the meantime, we started walking up and down the main street.

We knew there would be boats, of course, but these boats?
Colorful boats with their seeing eyes to protect them from mishaps at sea?!

You couldn't miss them if you tried.  They dotted the entire harbor.

And as you'd guess, fishermen came with them, sorting out their nets.

They're just doing their work while we tourists gawked.
A women's quilting bee came to mind.  HA!

Can you picture yourself spending a day at sea on one of these make-shift homes?

Can you imagine the sense of community such a place fosters?

About the time we passed the village square the second time, we decided to stop.
The church is the Parish Church of Our Lady of Pompei, from 1890.

It was the perfect place for a bathroom break, some koffie...and a bit of sun for Astrid!
"Our napkins have been cleaning happy faces since 1971." --Costa (UK)

Truth be told, immediately after koffie, we found a place to eat lunch.
Almost every restaurant/café was full/reserved, so we grabbed the first spot we found...on the street.
Prawns and sea bass...with the Maltese Cisk beer (pronounced CHisk).  Yummy.

And THEN we found the fish!

O M G.  Seafood I didn't need to see, really, but I did.
It was all there.

Right where the fishermen had done their thing for eons.

With women cleaning up after them, of course.
It's a way of life, isn't it.  Can you imagine it being your life?

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Then, guess what?  The next day, Monday, we rode the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus around the island...

...and passed Marsaxlook while sitting on top of the bus.

Even though it was from a different vantage point, it was definitely recognizable!
THIS is why the fishing village of Marsaxlokk is a tourist destination for Malta.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

MALTA: The Addolorata Cemetery

To be specific, the Santa Maria Addolorata Chapel and Cemetery, built between 1862 and 1869 on Tal-Horr hill, a burial site from prehistoric times...

which we had seen on the way from the airport to our hotel our first day 
and immediately said to each other, "I want to go there!"

Astrid and I have always believed we can learn a lot about a people and culture
from visiting their cemeteries.

So, we went 6 days later, taking the bus from Bugibba to Valletta, the capital, and then to Paola.

The bus stopped outside the cemetery entrance.

Immediately, upon entering the gates, we faced the central cross,
with the spire of the chapel behind it.

Arches surrounded the inside courtyard, leading to the cemetery.

From that point on, we realized we really were on a hill, 
with level after level of stairs climbing ever onward and upward.

The goal eventually was to get to the chapel at the top of the hill.
Even though it wasn't open while we were there, it was totally worth seeing on the outside.

And then, all along the way...where do I even start!  We were short of eyes.
There were the very big and obvious mausoleums of the rich and famous, I assume.

We even saw the one for the Dingli family (bottom-right), 
important to us since we had visited the Dingli Cliffs two days previously.
We paid attention!

There were crosses of every which kind...Celtic, included...
but especially the Maltese Cross (top and center right).
Remember that the Maltese Islands were once ruled by the British for 150 years,
and that this is a Roman Catholic country.

At the very top, we could see far off into the distance, of course,
with gravestones extending out far beyond our sight.

It really did feel like we were on top of the world with those who had gone before us.

But what impressed me the most was how the tombstones were "mobile" and clumped together.
It appears that whole, extended families "occupied" the same spot...with room for more to be added.

Family.  Families.
And look how their photos are important to them!
Often the birth date was NOT given...just the date and the age at death.
You had to do the math in your head.

Do you find this as touching as we did?

And yes, English is spoken/written as well as Maltese.  The British influence.

One particular grave site fascinated us both.
Wouldn't you love to know this story!

And this story...and that one.

There are 250 Commonwealth burials from WWI and 18 from WWII.
Requiescat in pace.

Impressions.  Always the impressions.

We saw a lot but also missed a lot, as you can tell from this YouTube.

 But as we left, we had seen enough and were thankful for what we had learned...
perhaps more from the living than from the dead?