Friday, 30 November 2012

What I Saw At The Blue Grotto


I really wanted to explore some caves and go on a boat, so I went down to Wied iz-Zurrieq on the opposite side of Malta to go on The Blue Grotto boat ride, which combines both these things.  I followed the signs all the way down the hill to The Sea, past dramatic scenery,

Island of Filfla

A Cat
to the ticket office, which was closed with no sign explaining why.  After standing about like lemon for a while and watching other tourists wander past, look confused and then vanish, eventually we found out from the local tourist shop that the tours were closed today because The Sea was too rough.  While this is a fair enough reason and I have no desire to be dashed to pieces against some rocks, would it have been so difficult to put up a SIGN explaining this?  Clearly yes.  This made me angry.

Since Mnajdra and Hagar Qim temples were nearby, briefly considered seeing them, but Tarxien was so dull, decided to just get The Bus back to Valletta to continue scouring the shops for signs of lions (fruitlessly).

Thursday, 29 November 2012

What I Saw In Mdina And Rabat

I went into Mdina through The Main Gate, where I came across another pair of lions, these ones holding some kind of shield, like ones I had seen near Sliema from The Bus.  This was now the fifth set of lions I had come across in Malta, they are obviously a thing (possibly connected to Grand Master Manoel de Vilhena?), and yet I never found a trace of them in any tourist shop, not matter how obsessively I searched.

I wandered Mdina:

It did look cool from a distance, but I wasn’t able to get a picture of this.  The view from inside out was less exciting though panoramic:

Both Mdina and Rabat were populated by some hilarious tiny stretchy birds
but they always flew away when I tried to get a photo.

I left Mdina through The Greek Gate which is of some historical interest or something.
This led into Rabat.

NB some of these photos are atrocious quality due to lack of flash, but I decided to include them anyway realism.

I visited The Roman Domus (€6.00).  The museum is built over what was once a Roman house, though only the foundations remain.  This was cool, with an astonishingly well-preserved mosaic being the centrepiece. 

It's 3D!

as well as remains of other mosaics:

this one was repaired with cheaper-non-matching tiles, showing that The Roman Family must have gone through financial difficulties
and here you can make out part of a freaky face.
I read every single piece of information in this museum so it must have captured The Interest. 

There were cabinets of various things they’ve dug up, nearly all interesting (apart from the bits of pot) because The Romans were incredibly talented craftsmen,
with freaky masks, beautiful perfume bottles, funny animal spouts and a huge glass vase that has survived in tact:
There were also several statues of Claudius and family: 

Outside there are more foundations, but not much to see, in a Tarxien Temple kind of way:

This is an orange tree:
This is some bush that was lucky to Romans and something to do with love:
I walked past St Paul’s Church:
Then I went to St Paul’s Catacombs (€5.00).  Here you get an audio guide free, so long as you give them a document as ransom.  Without The Audio Guide, the place is meaningless so I marvelled at doltish tourists who skipped it and then kept saying ‘I don’t know what I’m looking at’.  The above ground bit is dull and The Audio Guide goes on too long, but then you go into a tomb,

blocking stone engraved with surgical tools

which was freaky as hell. 

Then you go down into the main catacombs. 

children’s loculi (tombs cut into the wall)
The Audio Guide said to not be afraid of The Catacombs.  I ignored his advice.  This place was terrifying. 

‘agape’ table (for funeral meal)

large hall later used as an underground chapel
Once again I found myself in underground corridors carved from the rock with intermittent lighting (see here), but this wasn’t carved to save lives, this was carved to store death.  I was walking around graves.  I’ve seen enough films to know this is a BAD idea.

baldacchio tomb with vaulted lid carved out of the rock

baldacchio tombs without lid

And just as I had got as deep in as I could go,

gaping hole that suddenly appeared at head height showing further tombs inside; pretty sure this was the start of a horror film

the whole place went silent. 

No footsteps, no chattering, the other tourists had finished.  I was alone down here.
Most terrifying moment of The Life. 
The Audio Guide kept encouraging me to leave the main (tiny winding) path (filled with dark gaping holes full of monsters, zombies, mummies, demons, ghosts, evil, death, aargh) to explore, to which I respectfully said SCREW THAT and got the hell outta there.
After this I had intended to visit St Agatha’s religious complex, but I had had enough scary dark underground tunnels of doom for one holiday so went back to The Hotel. 

I did see this weird tree though:

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What I Saw In Kalkara

Fort Rinella (€10.00), by far the most overpriced place I visited, value for money wise. 

Now The Understanding was that at 2.30 pm every day (except Mondays when The Fort is closed) there is the ‘main’ or ‘extended’ tour, which costs an extra €5.00, but has historical re-enactments and demonstrations of Morse code, firing of live artillery and period weaponry.  This was The Only Reason for going to The Fort.  So when I arrived at 2pm and asked for a ticket for The 2.30 Tour, I was a bit surprised when the lady at the ticket office stared at me blankly.  After repeating my request a few times, to increased ‘I don’t understand English’ reactions, and then describing the tour I wanted, she finally admitted she knew what I was talking about, and that usually they do have this daily tour, in fact, they have it daily, surprisingly enough, but not today, as instead there was some weekend horse show.  Since I was already there, I stayed.

This was the ‘Equus Display – The War Horse Through History’.  Unfortunately, since the show started at 2, everyone who knew about it was already there and there were no seats left.  I had to stand at the edge, so The View was slightly obscured and this did not help The Backache that I’d contracted the day before, but the show was awesome, so that made up for it quite a bit. 

The narrator was an English guy in World War I uniform, on a horse,
and the show consisted of various soldiers (Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman,
Medieval and Renaissance,
Napoleonic and Victorian)

coming back from The Dead and trying to get a reaction from The Somewhat Rubbish Audience.  Then in groups of three they would show off how they rode their horses in battle. 

There was great emphasis on and admiration for how these horses had been carefully trained to do these things they had never done before and how amazing they were for not being disturbed by the ‘scary clanky men’. 

The uniforms and saddles (or lack of saddles) were all carefully authentic (apparently).  The riders variously shot arrows

and threw spears at targets, rammed lances into that wooden spinny thing that blocked nearly all The Photos (so hard that one rider broke his fingers),

stabbed cabbages (heads) with swords,

speared tent pegs from the ground

and knocked hoops from poles with swords while riding very fast. 

And a woman showed how to ride fast on sidesaddle.
The end of the show was a bit weird, as Death (plus minions) turned up to reclaim the dead soldiers and they all had a big fight because they didn’t want to go back to being dead.

Too fast for me... (see right) He's upside down.

All The Riders were English (which was another one of those lovely ‘piece of home’ moments hearing an English accent that wasn’t coming out of a moronic tourist)
and several were quite fanciable, while they clearly had great respect for their Maltese horses, and the stunts were the stuff you only see in films, so it was a very worthwhile watch. 
After this, there was the basic fort tour, which involved a rather boring film, unfortunately overcrowded, and then two tours, one in Malti and one in English, where we got to see the 100-ton pink gun. 

Bit where they shoot people attacking The Fort in the moat:
View of some boats from The Fort:
There’s no way this tour is worth the €10 it costs.  While detailed, it is very short, and all you see of The Fort is the gun, and then a room under the gun.  Without the ‘extended’ bit they weren’t doing, I can’t see the appeal.  Thank goodness for The Horse Show Of Awesome.