Last day in Malta.

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

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Saturday, October 6, 2007

This morning my Maltese family took me to the last two real places I was yet to see on the main island of Malta. The first was a series of limestone caves where literally thousands of remains of animals and remarkably Neanderthal man have been discovered from digs over the last century. There were remains from elephants, hippopotamuses and several foxes and the like, apparently they had migrated to Malta when there was still a land connection from Malta to Sicily and Italy. Then when the ocean levels rose many of the animals were trapped on the island and died out from the island's inability to sustain them without adequate food. Anyway enough of the science lesson! The end result was a fantastic display of archaeological relics and yet another surprising aspect of Malta that I did not know.

Following that we went to a craft village and this place was pretty impressive. There were a series of local craftsmen who had got together to setup workshops and shop fronts where they made and sold their wares. The highlight was the "glass blowers" that made numerous glass ornaments and figurines by moulding and blowing into glass (via a long pipe) when it was still hot and malleable. We were able to watch them work in their workshops and then browse the finished products. I bought 2 things here, a silver ring with a series of Maltese crosses around it and a silver statue of a knight of St John (the Maltese knights). They were the first memento items I had actually bought whilst I was here and I was happy with my purchases.

I was in for a treat today as there was a special day setup for Valletta where all the shops would remain open until late at night, different groups had setup special presentations including bands and art demonstrations as well. We started the evening with a visit to Sister Christine. Josette and Michael joined us and it was the first time I had seen the entire family together at the same time. It was just like when my brothers all meet at mum's house back home, well sort of. It reminded me how hard it must be sometimes for Aunty Julie and Uncle Leo with Christine in the convent, I guess it would be similar to having a daughter or son not living in the same city (being only able to visit her once a month). Aunty Julie was always very happy when we visited Christine.

After the visit we hit the streets of Valletta! There was a real carnival atmosphere and like usual with these sorts of things it seemed that all of Malta had turned out in their finest. It was during this carnival that I had one of my favourite moments so far on this entire trip. The string section of the Maltese National Orchestra had setup in a stone courtyard of a 400 year old building that the Knights of St John utilised as their headquarters. They played for about 30 minutes and it was just amazing. I loved it. We got there early and managed to have seats near the front, by the time the performance had finished the courtyard was packed and the people were so appreciative. I was thinking that perhaps my brother Jeff would get the Maltese National Orchestra to play the pieces for his Opera when it plays in Valletta, now that would be pretty awesome!

Other great things we saw were a presentation of photos taken by a British soldier during his commission to Malta during World War II. The damage sustained by the Maltese cities and the courage of the Maltese people were never more evident to me than through the photos and letters of that soldier. There was also some traditional Maltese music and dancing and a Christian band that had setup in one of the churches that we saw. I had a great time in Valletta and that sort of thing demonstrates the feeling of unity such a small country can get. Literally half the country was there!

I got home, packed my backpack with as little as possible and went to bed looking forward to an early start and a new adventure in Sicily in the morning. This was the first day I had since Olga had returned to Moscow. I am pretty sensible about this sort of thing, meeting people on a holiday trip but I did miss seeing her today. We chatted online in the afternoon so that was good. I was grateful for the day I had and also going to Sicily will be good to change my surroundings and get me into a positive mood for the rest of my trip. For the first time I have been thinking about returning home and seeing everyone again. I don't want it to come any earlier than it is but I think by next Monday I will be ready. For the time being bring on Sicily!
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