Friday, 19 October 2007

Malta IV

My memory is starting to fail me, which serves me right for not being more dilligent with my blogging, but my parents' computer is so clapped out and aged it takes about 45 minutes to actually connect with t'internet, so I did what I could tolerate.

I believe, on Monday, we went to Birgu - one of the ancient 3 Cities. It was renamed Vittoriosa by the Knights after the famous siege - a pointless exercise the Maltese have never embraced. They've ignored the renaming since 1565, and I can't see it catching on now. In fact, the same is true for each of the 3 Cities. Senglea was named Citta Invicta, and Bormia became Cospicua - but again, nobody actually calls them by anything but their original, Maltese names.

Birgu, Bormia and Senglea merge together across the harbour from Valletta, making a beautiful network of ancient streets through which to wander in peace. We parked in Birgu and found ourselves a nice little café restaurant on the waterfront called the Tate café, which served huge salads and - in Arrow's case - a vast pile of fried things: onion rings the size of the average head, potato wedges, mozzarella sticks and chips. I eyed my plate of Maltese water crackers, Gozitan cheese, sun dried tomatoes, begilla (a paste of lima beans, garlic and ... er ... other stuff) and Maltese bread with reproach. However, the begilla was delicious and I was well pleased.

After lunch we enjoyed a wander through the streets we'd previously enjoyed in the flicker of candle light, and made our way to the Inquisitor's Palace, which was built in the sixteenth century as law courts and then overtaken at the end of that century by the first Inquisitor. It's been developed over the centuries into a palace, and now consists of several fascinating rooms around the traditionaly courtyard. It's well worth a visit, if only to experience a portrayal of the Inquisition that is really rather unique. As Arrow succinctly put it:

"The Inquisition! It's like your favourite uncle!"

Apparantly, they're much maligned over issues such as torture. According to Malta Heritage, they only ever tortured people for half an hour at a time, and there was always a doctor present - so that's all right then!

We had a jolly good nosey around, taking in the cells, the Inquisitor's rooms and more. Especially fun is the Inquisitor's receiving room, with its two doors - one of ordinary size for the man himself, and one half its height, so anyone entering had to bend almost double in supplication. Couple that with the infuriating blurb beneath a picture of Mary, which talks of how she is the epitome of womanhood because she's humble, pure in virginity, and speaks only 3 times in the bible, and I wasn't left with any desire to convert.

After Birgu, I found myself wilting with tiredness and everyone was happy enough to wander up to Fort St Angelo for a look at the mighty defences, and then head home. We'd planned a trip to Bobbyland, which is an old RAF outpost converted into a restaurant on Dingli Cliffs, where you can eat good rabbit. However, as it was pitch dark and very windy I recommended we leave it til another day, when we had time to watch the sunset - which is really all Bobbyland is good for. Everyone agreed, so after letting Fisher freeze her non-nadgers off with a swim, we went out to St Julian's and enjoyed an excellent meal at the San Giulliano - which is Sister's favourite restaurant. It does have a fantastic view across St Julian's Bay, being set out on a covered verandah so you have all the benefits of dining outside with none of the weather problems! And there would have been many problems, because the wind had really picked up. Waves dashed impressively against the coast walls, and all the boats in the harbour bobbed like corks. It was a fantastic backdrop and a lovely meal. Arrow and Lu gave me a copy of The Dastardly Book for Dogs, which I then spent too long giggling over and had to be scolded by Fisher into actually paying attention to our companions.

After supper we had a wander round the corner and up some steps to look over the wild bay and aid digestion, before heading home.

Oh yes - it happened to be my birthday (hence the Dastardly Book for Dogs), so I received texts from Blarney, Spartan, F*Wit, Meeper and TA Girl. Koios and Pro actually sent a card, which didn't arrive on time (thanks to the crappy postal strike) and Phid texted me the next day - so I felt very chuffed and fond of my friends. I was especially moved because Blarney actually "sang" Happy Birthday down the phone to me, but was cut off by my answerphone running out of space. She then sent an indignant text asking whether it had been me cutting her off, which I was happy to deny. Although that would have been bloody funny.