Monday, 15 October 2007

Malta III

And so to Sunday, when all the shops in Malta are shut and everything always used to close down dead. But progress has reached this small isle, for better or worse, and Malta Heritage is canny enough to realise that a great deal of business can be (mis?)begotten on the Sabbath. Ma was free to join us for at least some of the morning, so we headed straight off to the neolithic temples of Mnaijdra and Hagar Qim, which never fail to impress me, despite the numerous times I've visited.

The days of being able to happily scramble amongst the rocks are - sensibly - gone, and now you must walk soberly between marked walkways, gazing at the ancient rocks and their dimpled decoration. The fat lady, who once used to greet you as you explored amongst the rocks, now stands in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta - which is a shame, but, again, probably sensible.

Mnaijdra stands at the top of the hill - a large, circular jumble of pale yellow stone which seem at first glance to be haphazardly bundled together. But once you pass through the first doorway you're quickly introduced to the complexity of the structure, with its many rooms, doorways, and what seem to be altars or tables. Nobody knows what its purpose was, but that it's a place of spiritual significance for the neolithic people of Malta is surely certain? It stands facing the tiny rock-island of Filfla, with the second temple of Hagar Qim making up the third point of a triangle. It's a stunning location, and the sheer size and weight of some of the stones used to make up the walls proves the levels of commitment undertaken by the builders. This was no small undertaking!

After Mnaijdra we walked down the long path to Hagar Qim at the bottom of the hill. Ma had to leave us there as she had a lunch engagement, but she suggested we looked at the natural cisterns not far from the temples. This we did, walking a few hundred yards uphill over scrubby rocks, past several bird-hunters' lairs, and following a stone wall to its end. There we saw a patch of pale rock with several holes, forming natural wells. It doesn't sound like much, and indeed I can't say I was overwhelmed by the sight, but everyone else was quite intrigued - so it was worth the walk.

It was time for a bite to eat, I thought, and being not far from Ghar Lapsi, I drove us to the Blue Creek restaurant overlooking the pretty, rocky cove with its natural swimming pool and caves. We had a good lunch, then a brief paddle. Fisher was sorely tempted to swim in the surprisingly balmy sea, but refrained as she had no spare clothing (and I refrained from evilly shoving her in - a temptation I should be rewarded for resisting, as it would have been soooo easy!).

I suggested we take a trip up to Mgarr and see if we could go to the World War II bunker beneath a restaurant by the church. This was accepted as a notion (not much is rejected), so off we tootled. The countryside of Malta is such a joy in comparison to the repulsive, built-up areas, and I'm glad I'm alive to enjoy it before the ignorant government build over it all and destroy what remaining charm there is on this island. We drove through a serious shower before arriving at Mgarr, only to find the shelter closed. Undeterred, we went instead to Gnejna - a pretty little beach, almost empty of people at such an unfashionable hour and off season. The sea here was almost flat, so wookie-hole (an undercut rock where the sea makes a very satisfying booming noise and sprays out great gouts of water when it's rough) was almost silent. We sat, looked, enjoyed, and then headed home to a simple supper of bits, The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game, Mandarin, and bed.