Valletta and a Date!

Trip Start Sep 15, 2007
Trip End Oct 17, 2007

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Flag of Malta  ,
Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Well it has been threatening for the last few days but today it certainly hit. I awoke to a raging storm. The wind was howling, the rain was at times falling almost horizontally and the lightning and thunder cracked intermittently. I asked uncle Leo somewhat tongue in cheek whether it ever rains in Malta, and his reply was when it does you will know it. I had plans to go to Valletta today to look around, spend some more time in the capital and also to see Sister Christine in the convent but I put those plans on hold in the hope that things might settle down outside.

After an hour or so of doing some reading and then on the internet chatting to the one and only Michael Abdilla the weather had subsided enough for me to set out for Valletta. There were a few sites in Valletta that I wanted to explore today, the most pressing was the church that was the giant dome that dominated the city's skyline from Sliema, you can see it in the photos I have taken so far from my hotel balcony. Turns out the particular church below that dome is Our Lady of Mt Carmel. As could be expected it was very nice inside, something that appealed to me was that the church was not so sombre as the traditional baroque ones. The walls were plain white and the fittings were more sparse, providing a more welcome atmosphere than some of the others. I also managed to track down the most historic and one of the most important churches in Malta, the Church of St Paul's Shipwreck. This church certainly made up for the previous one in that it was overwhelming. There was not a square inch of the walls or roof that were not covered in either baroque paintings depicting various bible scenes or statues to numerous saints. The church was foreboding and projected a macabre atmosphere. I have never felt this way in a church before but it was a little off putting. This was perhaps Catholicism at its most garish. Some interesting aspects of it were the bone remains of the right wrist of St Paul stored in an alter alcove and the stone pillar on which St Paul was beheaded. That pillar was housed in a glass cabinet and had a metal head in the likeness of St Paul resting on it. Hmmm...

For many years now I have not been a practicing Catholic for a number of reasons that I wont go into here however one thing I will say is that I was never quite comfortable with the reverence that was placed on saints within the Catholic church. In many respects they were treated as gods themselves with altars dedicated to them and people actively praying to a particular saint for their particular needs. I have to say that in Maltese society an even greater emphasis is placed on saints. There are statues of them everywhere, in churches, on street corners, on medallions around people's necks. It is incredible and off putting in a way. Just another observation that I considered worthy of note.

I also managed to take a look at the National Museum of Archaeology and the National Museum of the Arts. Both were very worthwhile, the latter containing many fantastic paintings of Malta from the 17th and 18th centuries along with numerous pieces of wooden furniture from that time. It was really enjoyable and informative and I got a lot out of visiting both places. I also tracked down the only theatre in Valletta where the season was about to begin. I grabbed myself a booklet of shows and there was one or two that I would be interested in seeing that occur before I leave. I was also interested to get some information for my brother Jeff, as I mentioned earlier he is writing a opera on the Great Siege of Malta and I could only imagine how wonderful it would be to come to Valletta to see his opera on opening night. You never know!

The weather had fined up and I was having a great time in Valletta once again. I had a few more hours to kill so was walking past a cinema and found that Bourne Ultimatum was showing, I know it was only a movie and could have been anywhere but the ads before it were in Maltese and there was an intermission! So I have now experienced the movie cinema Maltese style. I got out of the movie at around 4 pm which was the start of visiting time for Sister Christine. I went for a trek down the south part of Valletta and after a little bit of wandering I found her convent. I have to say that I am really getting used to Valletta now and knowing my way around a bit, it is great and I am falling more in love with the city all the time. Seeing Christine again was fantastic, wow not seeing her for 27 years and then twice in 4 days! She seemed so happy to have a visitor and we chatted the next few hours away with ease. I still find it difficult to think Christine has not left the convent for 18 years now but I am not going to harp on it. I was filling her in with what I had done in that 18 years, she just listened and commented here and there and then we discussed the family back home and stuff like that. She always gives me good insights into life in the convent, it intrigues me and I am always eager to hear more.

Christina and I had planned to dress up in nice clothes and go to dinner on the waterfront on the south side of Valletta. This was a new development recently completed that had a series of restaurants along the southern shoreline opposite Vittoriosa. She caught the ferry and bus down from Gozo after work to meet me at Sliema. We had a fantastic meal and shared a bottle of Maltese wine. We always have so much to talk about with her from Holland and me from Australia and also our experiences in Malta. It was great and like I said before I am really happy to be able to share some time here with someone else, and having a fantastic meal along the waterfront is not something I really could have done alone. Another great day in Malta.
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