Monday, June 4, 2012

Random travel observations (Malta and Sicily)

My tips for long flights are:
Stick to water on the flight;
Have salt;
Get massages. (Had a massage the evening I left and at the Dubai stopover. So worth it.)

Australian cuisine being Mediterrasian means that, when one gets to the Mediterranean, the food is familiar.

There are lots of construction cranes dotting the Maltese skyline. I noticed help wanted ads in cafes. The Eurozone crisis is not in evidence.

It was striking to see preening Mediterranean boys in their original habitat.

The Arabic influence on Maltese is fairly clear, as when the Virgin Mary is entitled Sultana tal Paci (Queen of Peace). Mary is omnipresent; one wonders how much she took over from sea and earth goddesses.

Malta is not pedestrian friendly, even in the service-vehicles-only parts, as Maltese drivers are a touch on the aggressive side.

Monday morning, went to Knights Hospitallier exhibition under the Sacre Infirmia (the famous Hospitaller hospital, now the Mediterranean Conference Centre). The exhibit made a big deal out of two year French occupation (1798-1800); the third major siege of Malta (the other two being the 1565 Turkish siege and the Axis air-sea siege of 1940-3). It took remarkably little time for the forces of Revolutionary Enlightenment Virtue to enrage the Maltese into revolt. The French did not seem to understand that, to the Maltese, the treasures in Churches were their treasures and they objected to these newly arrived foreigners looting them.

The War Museum did a fine job of conveying Malta's experience of two World Wars. (Did you know the Imperial Japanese Navy had a force stationed in Malta in WWI or that Rudolf Hess--future Deputy Fuhrer--was interned in Malta while Karl Donitz--U-boat commander, Kreigsmarine Grand Admiral last Fuhrer of the Reich--was a PoW there?)

The Malta Experience film (with gift shop; the Maltese are keen to sell you things) conveyed the history of Malta quite well--the island has the world's oldest free-standing stone buildings. Malta seems to wear its history lightly. Of course, in all three sieges, the people they identify with won.

Malta does not believe in early breakfast--anything other than something light does not seem to be generally available before 9am.

English is the language of commerce, Maltese the language for official things (except when they are in English).

A very Maltese sound is the sound of church bells, which ring out regularly, day and night. (Apparently, parishes got so competitive a law was passed to limit bell ringing.)

Hardly any Americans in evidence, lots of Brits. Also Germans; English, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Danish, Japanese standard tourist languages.

In Malta, inter-racial couples seem to be no problem. Very much a country of small cars and aggressive drivers. The planners seem to be fond of roundabouts.

During WWII, Malta was the most bombed place on Earth; 35,000 homes were destroyed in a country with not a large population. Malta chose to rebuild as was, not modernist rubbish. Even postwar buildings in the political/commercial area have neoclassical grandeur.

[Read the rest at Skepticlawyer.]

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