Saturday, April 25, 2015

Vicarious Tourism: Malta

Another year in Ireland, another 4-day Easter weekend. (Yes, I'm a little late posting. Deal with it.) This year I spent my long weekend in Malta. I had never really thought about Malta as a tourism destination (or at all really) until last year when suddenly everyone I knew was going there and having a great time. So I went and had a great time.

Easter weekend was a great time to go: the country is very Catholic, so there's a Good Friday parade with guys dressed up like Roman centurions, but it's also highly dependent on tourism, so the bars and restaurants stay open. The food was great, the wine was cheap, and the sun was shining. Perfect.

It was a bit chilly for swimming still but the ocean views were fabulous. The water was just such a lovely blue, and the porous limestone has allowed for the creation of some cool caves you can see by boat tour and the incredibly dramatic Azure Window, below. It would have been nice to have some more time to get some hiking in and really explore, but I'm still glad to have seen it.


There's also a lot of history there, which I like because I'm a nerd. The highlights for me were the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra ruins, the remains of Neolithic burial/temple sites. They were built around the same time as Newgrange, a similar monument here in Ireland, and like Newgrange are also aligned to the rising sun on the solstices and equinoxes. The swirling decorations reminded me of Newgrange too, but more ornate. (To be fair, the Neolithic Maltese were working in limestone while their Celtic counterparts had to hack through granite.) I also enjoyed St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, a Baroque explosion of a church built by the Knights of Malta. The Knights have a fascinating story, which I only learned because I decided to go to Malta.


In short, it was a delightful weekend, marred only by the accidental acquisition of an awkward sunburn. Time well spent.

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