Holiday in Malta … a tale of 2 cities (Mdina and Valletta) Part 2 …

After visiting Mdina in the morning, we went to visit Valletta in the late afternoon. So … we basically visited two (capital) cities in one day! Cool!:-)

Unlike Mdina, which is nearer to the centre of the island … Valletta on the other hand is near the sea. But … just like Mdina, Valletta is equally interesting and impressive. In fact, Valletta … ‘‘a city built by gentlemen for the gentlemen‘ … is one of the three places in Malta that are part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. The other two are the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum and the Megalithic Temples of Malta … which I will share more about in a later entry.

Now … besides sharing the prestigious position of being the capital of Malta, the buildings in Valletta also display some similar baroque architecture as in Mdina. And … since the city of Valleta was initially planned and constructed as a fortified city to defend Malta and to provide refuge to injured soldiers and pilgrims during the Crusades in the 16th century, it is therefore surrounded by deep moats and has strong bastions … just like Mdina. In fact, even the layout of the streets in Valletta was planned in a manner that would help in the defence of the city … including stairs in some streets that were built in a way that would help knights in heavy armour climb the streets easily. But Valletta’s role has changed … it is now a major financial and commercial centre … and also serves as the main centre of cultural activities in Malta.

And the name ‘Valletta’? It comes from Jean Parisot de la Valette, the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, who initiated and drew up the plans for this new fortified city on the Sceberras peninsula. Unfortunately, he died before the city was completed.

Okay, enough of  its history … here are pictures of the city of Valletta, instead.

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Approaching Valletta (seen on the left) … by bus.

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The impressive gate ‘Porte des Bombes‘, just outside Valletta at Floriana.

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A square (not far from where we got off the bus and which is just before the City Gate of Valletta) … that used to be Malta’s central bus terminus. The terminus has now moved to an area about 5-7 mins bus ride away.

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A water fountain in the centre of the old bus terminus … known as Triton Fountain.

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You can see why it is called as such. These statues of mermans were designed by a local sculptor called Vincent Apap in 1959 who modelled them after the Classical and Baroque examples.

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A project is currently under way to reconstruct a new city gate, including improvement to the bridge across the ditch to the entrance of the fortified city as well as the bastion walls, and is expected to be completed in 2013. These white/blue containers (the on-site offices of the engineers and workers working on the project) piling up in the ditch here give a rough idea of how big and obtrusive the renovation is — which is why lah we didn’t take any photos of the City Gate!

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Inside the city of Valletta … with some renovation work taking place on the right.

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The main street inside the city.

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One of the alleys or small streets. Shops, shops everywhere. And the beautiful Maltese window are everywhere, too. I loikee!! 🙂

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They really look gorgeous, aren’t they? The windows and the architecture, I mean.

Narrow streets

Different views of street slopes in the city.

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The entrance to the National Museum of Archaeology.

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Besides rabbits (shown in first entry on Malta) … horse meat is another speciality of this particular restaurant in Valletta!

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There are many impressive-looking buildings in Valletta …

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… which were built as far back as the 16th century (during the rule of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, also known as Knights Hospitaller) …

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… such as this one (which includes the two pictures above) …  known as St John’s Co-Cathedral, which was built between 1573 and 1578 … and hosts the grave of the founder of Valletta, Jean Parisot de la Valette. I later read that the inside of this Cathedral is very ornate with beautiful Baroque architecture. Just too bad that we didn’t go in to see it!

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The hard to miss bright red telephones and post boxes of Malta. These two were nicely placed side by side. Different mode of communication … but the same colour and purpose! If you can’t get through to the person by phone … you can just post a letter instead! hehehe … 🙂

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And this building with cafés at its courtyard is none other than … the National Library of Malta or Bibliotheca. I would not have realised it was a library if the hubby had not pointed it out to me! Looks nice, isn’t it? The statue in front of the library is that of Queen Victoria since Malta was once part of the British empire … which is why English is widely spoken here, too (besides the Maltese language).

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The Biblioteka Nazzjonal (as it is called in Maltese) is only a reference and research library. To access the library’s collections, one needs to produce an identification document with photographs. And just like in Switzerland here, it has separate opening hours in summer (it opens shorter hours!) and is closed on Sundays and public holidays. If you wonder why the closed door … it’s because it closes at 5.00pm and it was already past that hour.

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The beautiful archway outside the library entrance ….

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… and how the square known as the Republic Square looked from the library entrance. Impressive!

And while I was busy checking out this library … (I would have tried to go in if not for the fact that it was already closed) … guess what were my two travelling companions busy doing?

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Getting themselves some ‘gelati‘ … that’s what! And only for themselves, too … none for me! Naughty … naughty …

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Father and son … enjoying their ice creams in the cold wet weather …ish, ish, ish …

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As it was getting dark … and had also started raining again, this picture did not turn out as well as I had hoped it would. But it shows one of those narrow streets with stairs that go down towards the harbour in Valletta. Plus … a small but ornate water fountain on the right of the picture (where two persons were admiring it). Will post a picture of one of such streets looking up from below and pictures of Valletta as seen from across the sea … (from a boat lah! 🙂 ) …  in the entry on the Harbour Cruise we took, ok? So … don’t forget to look out for it!

From here, we decided to look for a place to have our dinner before making our way back to our hotel. But not before we bought ourselves a souvenir each in Valletta. Hmmm … want to know what was the souvenir? Nothing fancy really, and it did not even cost much … only €2 a piece. It was … an umbrella!! muahahaha … Well, it was a rainy day (and evening) … and as I had mentioned in the previous entry … we did not have an umbrella with us! Since we still had four more days on the island, we thought it made sense to get an umbrella with the weather being the way it was.

And so, that was the tale of two beautiful cities in Malta … which are hugely popular among tourists to the island … and which we had the time to visit while we were there! The next day, we decided to go to Gozo, the island next to Malta. And … our Maltese holiday adventure continues … 🙂

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