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MALTA    INFO & DIARY  1
24/11-9/12 2018


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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
Malta officially known as the Republic of Malta and in Maltese: Repubblika ta' Malta, consisting of an archipelago with three inhabitant islands; Malta, Gozo and Comino, in the Mediterranean Sea. It covers 316 km2 and it is the home of 475.000 people - quite a lot for a few small islands!
The official languages are English and Maltese; the only Semitic (Arab-like) language in the European Union. People have been living here for at least 7900 years, and it have been ruled by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Knights of St. John, French, and British. It gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. The predominant religion in Malta is Catholicism with 89%, along with 2,6% Muslims and a few other religions.
Malta has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and hot summers, hotter in the inland areas. Rain occurs mainly in autumn and winter, with summer being generally dry. I might not visit at the perfect time, and I have to overcome the average 15-17C and seasonal rain.
Here are not that much unspoiled nature, as most are either cities of farmland. However, there are some limestone habitats unsuited for booths, left in peace.
A few animals are endemic: Maltese Wall Lizard; Podarcis filfolensis, Maltese Ruby Tiger Moth; Phragmatobia fuliginosa ssp. melitensis, Maltese Field Beetle; Pimelia rugulosa ssp. melitana, Maltese  Swallowtail; Papilio machaon ssp. melitensis, Schembri's Spider Fly; Ogcodes schembrii, Maltese Palpigrade; Eukoenia christiani, Maltese Freshwater Crab; Potamon fluviatile ssp. lanfrancoi, Sicilian shrew, Crocidura sicula (also found on Sicily) and Maltese Honeybee; Apis mellifera ssp.ruttneri.
Among the flora, the interesting plants are: Maltese Cliff-orache; Atriplex lanfrancoi, Zerafa's Sea-lavender; Limonium zeraphae, Maltese Everlasting; Helichrysum melitense, Maltese Rock-centaury; Cheirolophus crassifolius, and the Maltese Hyoseris/Gozo Hyoseris; Hyoseris frutescens.
I will not be looking for either of them, although I would be pleased to see them. My plan is just to enjoy the islands and see a few sights, listed here.

DIARY
24/11 2018. I leave home a bit passed noon, and after a short train drive, I have plenty of time to get bored in the airport. 3;15 hours of flight, and I reach Malta in the evening, but can still enjoy 18C. I get my car, but apparently; i have made a mistake and only booked it from the 28. Well, Ä100 later, and I have a far for the missing four days.

I drive straight to the hotel, aware they drive in the left side of the road, it is pitch dark and the car have a stick-shift. It turns out my hotel is in dead centre of the bar area, which is stuffed this Saturday evening. After driving around for half a hour, I bite the bullet and pay Ä10 for a spot in a public parking house, half a kilometre away.

Well, at least I actually have a room at the hotel. It is not posh, but I have a view over the narrow bay, and I hardly hear the parties. I find a delicious wrap around the corner and then unpack - a first for endless years. Home, I make a cup of tea, write the short diary and watch a bit of a recorded movie.

25. With the exception of two drunk fellows, eagerly trying to get into my room around two o'clock, I get a good night's sleep. The thing that worries me with the guys are; I have two spare beds and I'm not that sure I actually have a single room. Well, they eventually give up getting their key to fit.

I have brought tea and breakfast, and save a lot of time that way. As it is Sunday, I head straight for the Sunday fish market in Marsaxlokk. It is down south, and most of the way is through limestone settlements. I see a single horse carriage, but it seems like a hobby. The market is just about to open, when I get there. Besides from a wide variety of fish and crustaceans, here are a lot of souvenirs, shoos, vegetables and small electronics.

The small stands follow the harbour for quite some distance, and the views over the numerous colourful boats and the old buildings, make so many motives. The only challenge is to get the photos in the short glimpses of sunshine. Here are a nice sandy beach and a stony one with limestone. I find a few snails and mussels along with the backbone of a squirt.

St Peter's Pool is quite close, and I follow the coast a bit to the east. It is a fantastic blue natural cove, and the limestone hills are covered in interesting plants. Succulent Asteraceas, odd looking Apiaceaes, large Malvaceaes and much more. Here are quite some flowers, and it does not feel like autumn/winter at all. A single of the lovely Caper Bush; Capparis orientalis are flowering.

I follow the coast a bit west, and here are a lot of strange limestone formations and areas. Some of the flat areas are filled with square ponds, which might have been made years ago for harvesting salt? The sun is nice and warm, but the wind a bit harsh on these coastal slopes.

Next stop is a bit further south at Birzebbuga. An ancient limestone cave have gathered loads of bones. The lover layers are from hippos and elephants, which were tiny around here. Then many other bones from fox, deer, otter and many more. On top some thousand years old domesticated animals remains are found. 

A little museum have an impressing collection, and behind it, the cave can be visited. A few areas have been left untouched, and it is truly amassing how close the bones are found! The sealing and some areas of the floor of the cave have some nice stalactites/stalamites.

I find my way out and see the coastal city of Birzebbuga. A bit down the hill, another attraction is found - I'm told: Borg in-Nadur. It is a small area with some megaliths, carved into shape thousands of years ago. Here, I finally get a blurry photo of the illusive Moorish Gecko; Tarentola mauritanica. I have slightly more success with the St John's Bread Tree; Ceratonia siliqua.

Back through the village and out of a narrow gravel road along the coast - which is restricted to locals. Again, most of the tiny fields are surrounded by walls of limestone. Many with square blocks. It look a bit odd the soil is dark red in contrast to the pale yellow limestone.

I reach Zurrieq with its old windmill; Mitħna tax-Xarolla from 1724. I do a bit walking around in this remote village, but fail to find anything interesting - not even lunch. The most special thing here is the giant flags. Some real detailed, one looking like the Danish flag.

I head on to the area with the famous Blue Grotto; a limestone arch in the sea. Besides from the arch, here are some interesting plants like heather; Erica multiflora. A falconer have some birds, among them an Ibis. The sun is not really playing along, and I might return one morning to get the perfect photo.

A bit further west, Hagar Qim & Mnajdra Megalithic temples are found. They are around 5000-5600 years old, and have been excavated. They are now under some huge tents to preserve them. I see a short, blurry 3D show which even have rain!

At the actual spot, the temples have been worshiping the fat lady, and several figures have been found here. Some of the huge boulders are truly impressing. The biggest one is nicely square and 6,4 times 3 metres. The estimated weight is 20 tons. I also spot one of the amassing Hummingbird Hawk-moth; Macroglossum stellatarum.

Besides from the huge boulders, some decorations are found on the inner walls and solitary alters. Here are a few tourists which I can use for scale. A path leads 600 metres further down to the sea and the quite similar Mnajdra Temple. It is estimated the walls was sixteen meters high, and it is impressive - although it lack some.

The huge south facing slope is a nature area, and a narrow trail leads around it. I see a lot of interesting plants like the dense Euphorbia bushes; Euphorbia dendroides along with some yellow Ranunkulus. Here are several bulbs, succulents thistles and herbs. I see a single silk-plant; Cuscuta - Convolvulaceae. The area is dominated by Oxalis, and I find a few flowering Oxalis corniculata.

I reach a high plateau with some deep ponds in. It seems like the ancient have made them, perhaps for fresh water? An impressive limestone wall encloses the area and I follow it back. I pass what might be some stone quarries, unless it is storage for water?

I reach the car half pass one, and I have more or less seen the southern third of the island. I am a bit peckish, and a restaurant behind the museum offers a vegetarian pizza. Well, I have to remove four anchovy. That leave me with a ton of cheese, semidry tomatoes and a lot of garlic. Well, I'm hungry enough to enjoy it.

I head a bit further up the western coast, and find some steep hills. I do a long walk right up the slope, but don't find that many interesting plants. An old staircase leads all the way up to the top. It is carved into the bedrock of limestone, but not maintained. The upper area is lush and green, while the coast is a bit dryer. 

At three, I call it a day. Not that I don't have energy for more: It is just about saving a bit for a sunny day. I head home across the find an almost free parking - way up the island hills. On my way to the room, I pass my toothbrush, shampoo and alike in the hallway. At least my clothing and computer is still in the draws.

I make some tea and start working. At eight, I head out in-between some showers and grab a humus wrap. I make several slideshows, the better photos are in Day 1.

26. Just like the sun, I get a bit of a late start on the day. Finally, I find a supermarket, and stock tea and breakfast for the rest of my stay. Then I pick-up the scenic trail where I left it yesterday, and with the glimpses of sun, the western coastline still look awesome. Here are so many walls, and sometimes, the road is one-lane, real narrow. I stop at a hilltop near a quarry to look at some natural formations.

I stop where an ancient road leads towards the sea, over the cliffs. Here are a lot of wild plants and a hard wind from the sea. I spend quite some time finding plants and waiting for glimpses of the sun. A set of staircases have been chopped into the bedrock, and one might think this is part of an ancient fortification?

The first planned sight of the day is the mysterious tracks at Clapham Junction. They are thought to be made in prehistoric time be sledges with huge limestone blocks. Some are real easy to see, others are visible only due to the vegetation. Again, I find some interesting plants, one is a flowering bulb; Autumn Crocus; Crocus longiflorus. 

Close bye is the only forest on the island; Buskett Gardens. Here are some citrus plantations and on the steeper parts some pines, oak and olives on the slopes. The impressive Verdala Palace oversees it from its little hill. I do a long walk in the area, but fail to find something interesting.

A bit further up the coast, the 220 meter high Dingli Cliffs are found. The road turn into a real narrow string of potholes, but the views are great. The trail runs on the upper edge of a gorge, and only tiny patches are farmed. I think I reach the cliffs, but I till have 2500 meters down a private gravel road. I save it for a less windy day...

It is getting close to noon, and I head for the big city of Rabat. The narrow road through the small but walled fields leads right into town, and I park in the middle. Here are some real narrow old streets, lined with nice old houses, each with a colourful balcony. I find a traditional dade-roll and fig-roll, both real tasty.

In the middle of the town, a large area hold St Paulís Catacombs. Here are 25 holes in the ground, each chiselled out by hand for tombs. Some are Christian, some Jewish some mend for livestock. A little museum hold some of the things found in the catacombs, even some skeletons. One can be seen in a hole on its original placement.

A bit odd have the rest of the tombs been cleared and are now on show for an entrance fee. I doubt the ancient had that in mid when the paid for a place to rest for eternity? The first catacomb I see is huge; a maze underground in several layers. Some are strange, some extravagant and some small. I see several of the other holes in the ground, but they tend to look alike.

Next to is the private owned St Agatha's Crypt & Catacombs, but I have seen enough for one day. I make some loops around the old part of town, with its real narrow streets. Then it start to rain, and I seek refugees in a little cafe. Then I find the car and head over to the Medieval fortified hilltop town of Mdina.

It have an impressive city wall with rampant and all the huge buildings within are impressive. The streets are sealed with limestone, and here are no errors at all. I pass St Paul's Cathedral, but don't feel like paying Ä5 to see the inside. A relatively new catacomb is open, and it is something else. I see most of the city, and try to capture some of the buildings.

The National Museum of Natural History is said to be old-school, and I give it a try. I look like '70-'80-ties, and I like it that way: Here are loads of animals, fossils and minerals, all with proper nametags. No huge posters with endless explanations, no interaction crap the fails to work, no lectures about environment. To me, a good museum is to see things, not to read about them!

Out on the streets again, I see the pretty Carmelite Priory's church. It is real impressive, matching the surounding city and with a impressive oval dome. I do a few more loops around this Medieval town with its magnificent houses and narrow streets.

Then I head home, but as I passes Ta'Qali Crafts Village, I give it a try. It is significantly complicated by the area is being given a complete overhaul and upgrade. All roads are dug up, and all huts and houses are being restored. I find a single open shop in the middle of it all, but it is a bit too neat for me anyway.

I am back at the hotel at four, and it is getting chill by now. I can't figure how the room is heated - probably because it isn't. I work to eight before I set out for some dinner. Then it is back to finish and make a slideshow for the better pictures of the day.

For some browsers to work, I have to change into diary 2 by now.

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