Quite a Storm over Malta
We learned yesterday that the wind and rain turned into a force 9 storm overnight but our Maltese guide shrugged it off and said that it was bad but they’ve seen worse. Apart from the salty spray over the car and a bit of sandy surface water on the roads, there doesn’t seem to be much damage.
In contrast the weather today was wonderful and the blue skies were back, which is just as well as we planned a day of exploring Mdina in the middle of the island.
Consider Where you Choose to Base Yourself in Malta!
When we chose our apartment we never considered the Maltese traffic. We assumed that as the island is small driving around would be easy but we always end up having to drive around Valletta and the airport; volume of traffic, crazy Maltese drivers and major roadworks makes this a bit of a pain. With hindsight we would have booked somewhere in the north of the island; it would make driving to visit the sights more simple. But we took the slow roads to avoid the worst of the traffic, using Google maps to try and stay away from the airport. It might be slower but we get to see more of rural Malta!
Mdina has been populated since the bronze age, although little of their settlement is visible today. Instead you’ll find a fortified medieval town enclosed behind enormous protective walls, built on one of the few high points of Malta. Behind the walls you find a network of narrow streets, with such a variety of architectural styles its easy to imagine you could be anywhere.
Mdina. Malta’s Ancient Capital
After the Bronze age, and by 700 BC Mdina was home to the Phoenicians but it was also to become home to Carthaginians, Byzantines and the Romans. St. Paul is said to have been shipwrecked on the island and stayed and made his home here for many years. The Aragones, the Moors, the Knights of St John, the Italians, the Normans, the French and the British have all left their mark in Mdina and it’s clear to see why the city is today protected. Indeed Mdina was the Capital of Malta until the Knights of St John decided that Valletta should take it’s place.
Very few people today live in Mdina today and the population is less than 300. Because of the dwindling population it has gained the nick-name of the Silent City as the hustle and bustle that was once a part of life has slowly disappeared. We were lucky as this is a quiet tourist season so we enjoyed the uncrowded streets and we could meander at leisure. We found a parking space outside the city walls and walked up to the modern entrance. Our guide in Valletta had told us that this gate has been made famous in recent years by Game of Thrones, and also locations within Mdina and Rabat. I’m one of the few people on the planet who’s never watched but apparently many folks visit Malta because of the show.
Walking Tour of Mdina
We had arranged a walking tour but it didn’t start until 3.00pm. At first we thought this would be a problem, but in the end it was great to be able to spend a few hours wandering before meeting the guide and before the sunset! I’m sure you know by now that I’m a big fan of Walking Tours! Our guide was a real history buff and he taught us about the city’s history, walked us around important buildings and showed us places that we’d not found. He talked about legends and the people who had lived here, he taught us about life in the city during the second World War and also during the sieges of the Ottomans and Napoleon. I love these walking tours as you can learn so much in just a few hours.
He also told us that in summer the city is full of thousands of tourists and the authorities are considering limiting numbers as its too busy, he also talked about Maltese traffic, he said unbelievably that there are 1.5 vehicles for every driver in Malta and traffic is becoming a major problem; he also agreed that the Maltese are crazy drivers.
We had a great day. We watched the sun set from the city walls and decided that it was time to head home and sadly face the crazy Valletta traffic.