Alison's 'My Malta Memories' Photoblog
Located in the picturesque north of Malta, Mellieha is a lovely place to stay with interesting attractions within reach on the island.
1.) Malta is an archipelago of islands about halfway between the coasts of Sicily and North Africa. Once home to ancient civilisations and Europe’s most noble families, Malta's history has been at the heart of the Mediterranean's development. Its people, the Maltese, are a friendly, multilingual race. The official languages are Maltese and English, the latter a legacy of the almost 200-year British rule.
2.) I zoomed across Mellieha Bay from our hotel balcony with my Fuji HS10 camera and captured the village and the church, which was built between 1881 and 1898 although the temple foundations were laid in the 16th century.
3.) From the church I took this photo looking towards our hotel in Mellieha Bay and the huge complex can be seen in the far distance which dominates the bay. (the building in the middle of my photo) Mellieha's popular sandy beach, the largest in Malta is 2km north of the town. It attracted Turkish pirates which led to the village of Mellieha which is set on a spur, being deserted in the 16th century.
4.) I zoomed further with my camera (what a zoom the Fuji HS10 has) enabling our hotel to be more prominently highlighted. Our hotel room and balcony was situated in the second block from the left and to the right of the white 'tower looking’ column and on the third floor up from where I also took the photos 2 and 24.
5.) The Church at Mellieha is blessed by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Malta in May 1990. One of the amazing features is the church tower, or rather the five bells placed in the church between 1920 and 1940. Bells are different sizes and dedicated to St. Francis, St. Joseph, St. Anthony, St. Paul and Mary. All the church bells of Mellieha were brought from Milan.
6.) Some attractive historic buildings and old houses adorn the narrow streets of Mellieha village and there were a number of restaurants and sufficient shops which line the sloping street. Walking became slightly difficult for both Geoff and myself with our ongoing health problems and the narrow road in the height of the tourist season would be even more difficult by foot or vehicle. Some of the roads in Malta are currently being improved and new hotel buildings are currently being constructed. Malta’s longest distance from the southeast to the northeast is 27km and the widest point from east to west is 14km.
7.) The town's present shape goes back to the 19th century when the steep main street, where the houses cling to the rock, was laid out. Mellieha has always been a favourite with the Maltese and is becoming popular with visitors.
8.) The church at Mellieha as we very slowly descended down the hill back to our hotel before the rain came down.
9.) Next day we ventured out on an organised day trip to explore the Highlights of Malta and saw another church in the middle of Malta in a town called Mosta. The Mosta Rotunda Church in the busy town centre was built in the mid 19th century and has massive walls 6m deep and these allowed the dome (the third largest unsupported dome in the world ) to be constructed without scaffolding and took 27 years to build. In 1942 a 200Kg bomb pierced the dome but fortunately failed to explode admist the hundreds in the congregation. Two other bombs bounced off the dome without exploding also.
10.) The Church contains two belfries and the iconic columns of the facade fronting such a large dome but this cannot detract from the beautiful interior with the six side chapels and intricate marble floor. Our guide gave us an insight to the history of the Mosta Church and then it was back on to the coach to go to the Mdina.
11.) After such a long time under British rule, Malta feels like a real home from home for many ex-pats that live in Malta and there are so many familiar sights including the shops, street signs and red telephone boxes. St Paul's cathedral is situated in St Paul's Square shows two clocks, one tells the correct time on the right and the left one is there to confuse the devil.
12.) Our walk had begun through the Medina Gate and took us on to the walled city of Medina, the former capital of Malta with its beautiful mix of architectural styles. I took this shot in Sepia to show the Mdina's typical narrow streets.
13.) A Black & White shot of the architecture in the narrow Mdina. The Mdina is commonly known as the 'Silent City' by the natives and tourists or the 'Noble City'. The town is still contained within its walls and has a population of less than three hundred.
14.) Horse drawn carriages give tourists a ride round the narrow streets. The ancient streets of the Mdina were not built for cars so only a limited number of residents, emergency vehicles, wedding cars and hearses are allowed within the Mdina.
15.) The courtyards and houses in the Mdina were beautiful with their windows, verandahs and the sun was shining and the sky cloudy blue. We were fortunate there were not too many tourists around, so I was able to shoot a few photos in the little time we had and was able to savour the experience and ambience of such a place.
16.) The Mdina is one of Europe's finest examples of an ancient walled city and extraordinary in its mix of medieval and Baroque architecture. Some of Malta's noble families of which some are descendants of the Norman, Sicilian and Spanish overlords made Mdina their home from the 12th century. This shot of the window reminds me of my little photographers from my 'Smile Say Cheese' Photoblog taken on a Malta fridge magnet I purchased last time I visited Malta in October 2005. (My thanks to Viv for her kind input to merge my two images together as I'm a novice and struggled to do it) Malta might be small but the Island is big on things to see.
17.) Our guided walk continued immediately to the outside of the walled Mdina and into the village of Rabat where I took this lovely charming quaint house next to our restaurant where we had a quick lunch. The name Rabat derived from the Arabic word for 'suburb' as it was the suburb of the old capital Mdina.
18.) Within an hour of lunch on this 'Highlight of Malta' trip, we were at the location in the traditional Maltese town of Siggiewi where we visited the award winning tourist attraction of the Limestone Heritage Park and Gardens. We listened to the multilingual walkthrough as we discovered about Malta's unique stone heritage.
19.) In the workshop we watched the craftsman carving ornaments and tea light candle holders. A shaft of sunlight was beaming through the open window. Two types of limestone rocks are quarried in Malta and they are open cast quarries.
20.) Malta's major resources are limestone. On the island of Malta a variety of limestone called Globigerina limestone was for a long time the only building material available and is still very frequently used on all types of buildings and sculptures. Limestone is readily available and relatively easy to cut into blocks or more elaborate carving. It is also long-lasting and stands up well to exposure.
21.) In the Limestone Heritage site I came across this Male wild Turkey (eastern subspecies) The males called toms or gobblers have large featherless, reddish head, red throat and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles. When males are excited a fleshy flap on the bill expands, and this, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck become engorged with blood almost concealing the eyes and the bill. The long fleshy object over a male's beak is called a Snood. When a male is excited its head turns blue and when ready to fight it turns red apparently. (It took me 25 shots to get this capture) The Turkey was behind small wire mesh standing on a hutch and I had to zoom through the tiny mesh wire space and wait until he had strutted a pace into the sun as he was standing in the shade. As I abided my time, the Turkey changed colour from a blue face to vibrant red. The sun emphasing it more. This is straight out of the camera with no colour changes etc... He's quite ugly in a pretty sort of way.
22.) From our whistle stop tour of the Limestone Park and Gardens the coach took us to Valletta. The magnificent fortified impressive Capital city of Valletta protected Malta following the Great Sieges of 1565 and in 1942. There was just enough time to go to absorb 'The Malta Experience' where there was a splendid vision and gripping commentary bringing 7000 years of Island history to life in a purpose-built giant screen auditorium. Then I just had ten minutes for some quick photography over the walls looking at the boats sailing past.
23.) On our journey back to Mellieha Bay I took my little Fuji F70EXR pocket camera and shot this image through the moving travelling coach glass window of Spinola Bay in St Julian’s resort. Much of St Julian's is in three layers and has other photogenic bays nearby. By the time we got back to our hotel we were exhausted as it had been a busy day especially with an early start.
24.) Next day on Friday 10th February it was a Bank Holiday. Every year in Valletta, the Feast of St Paul's Shipwreck (60 AD) remembers the saint's miracles after he took refuge on the island. We decided to have a relaxing day around the hotel complex and gardens enjoying a few hours of the sun shining in between the rain showers and taking photos. This was the view from our balcony across Mellieha Bay looking towards the town. The church can be seen which was photographed in pictures 2, 5, 8 and 24.
25.) Malta's climate is strongly influenced by the sea and is typical of the Mediterranean. The Islands have a very sunny climate with a daily average of five to six hours of sunshine in mid-winter to around 12 hours in summer. Winters are mild, with the occasional short chilly period brought about by the north and north-easterly winds from central Europe. However, we found the weather to be cool, rainy, thunderstorms, hailstones and mixed with warmer sunshine when we were on the Island. Apparently, Malta was experiencing their worst February weather in over 60 years when we visited.
26.) Walking through the lush green gardens of the hotel nestled next to the sea was beautiful and when the sun shone in its spells it was a photographic opportunity to capture the perspective of the little tree lined path and we relaxed soaking in the rays overlooking the views of the bay.
27.) We had pleasure feeding the friendly birds of which these are The Spanish Sparrow or Willow Sparrow (Latin name 'Passer hispaniolensis'.) and is a passerine bird of the sparrow family Passeridae. It is found in the Mediterranean region and south west and central Asia and is similar to the House Sparrow.
28.) Another opportunity to try my hand at photographing the birds at close hand in the hotel gardens.
29.) The outdoor swimming pool might look lovely, warm and inviting but believe me it was cold to touch even in the mid afternoon sunshine. The sunbeds were all empty and not a towel in sight. Our hotel was All Inclusive so we certainly made the most of all the free beverages namely the Hot drinking Chocolates for me and a warm brandy or two for hubby.
30.) The next day being Saturday, we had arranged to go on an organised trip to the beautiful sister island of Gozo which was reached through the nearby ferry terminal. It was a grey overcast morning and the rain was drizzling again. So this was photo was taken with the pocket camera as we approached Gozo ferry port. Gozo is an island 14km long and 7km at its widest.
31.) First stop was to The Azure Window which was a 66ft high arch carved out of the rocks by the pounding sea waves. This natural phenomenon of inland sea is a land locked sea water pool but with a natural tunnel in the rock that allows sea water in. A boat trip can be taken through the tunnel which gazes at the Mediterranean. To Gozitans it has always been known as Tieqa Zerqa - The Azure Window. It has featured in films like Clash of the Titans, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Odyssey. Nearby off Dwejra Point, the rocky outcrop in the sea is known as the Fungus Rock.
32.) I had visited this location a few years ago, so we headed straight to this place a few minutes walk around the corner from The Azure Window. We had very limited time to take a few photos of this little hidden cove. The boats were not sailing through the rocky tunnel of which I got soaked when the waves lashed over the little boat side on my last trip in 2005.
33.) I had previously planned a few shots I had in mind for this particular location and so I had packed a little wooden photo frame (without the glass ) to 'frame' the cove from a different perspective. Geoff held the frame while I lined up the shot and clicked the shutter.
34.) It just made a change for me to try something different in the shot for a change. These boat huts I presume, made a colourful composition. Then the next stop was to be the Ta’ Pinu Church. For such a small island, Gozo has a high concentration of churches (22 in all).
35.) The imposing basilica of Ta' Pinu was built between 1920 and 1931 in the countryside. The Roman Catholic parish church has a reputation for miracles and inside the church there was a display of photos of individual miracles that in reality had happened, which was very touching.
36.) Then it was back on to the coach again for a quick visit to the local handicraft shops in the capital Victoria to sample their wine tasting and savour the flavour of the local cheeses and have a look at their lace and silver products. We were first back on the coach for a quick rest as Malta was not totally easy walking for me at times or for those less mobile in my opinion. I grabbed this perspective shot within the coach before the others boarded.
37.) Next stop on the 'Discover Gozo' tour was lunch in a restaurant in Xlendi and afterwards we had ten minutes to grab some photo opportunities. I spotted this fabulous Valkyrie motorcycle parked outside a restaurant and thought it looked classic.
38.) Turning around and walking on to the little pebbled beach I took this shot of the jetty and lamp post. The lighting was getting poor in the afternoon sunshine as it was directed in my line of view but I managed this shot before the coach continued on its way to the Cittadelle.
39.) Once again, in the limited time we had after our Gozo 360 cinema experience of the island, we had less than an hour to explore the Cittadelle. The origins of this fortified enclave go back to Gozo's early history under Roman and Arab occupation. Many of the buildings inside the Medieval walled Cittadelle were destroyed in the seige of 1551 and an earthquake in 1693 but have been sympathetically restored and a walk around the ramparts offers terrific views while evoking a sense of Gozo’s ancient past.
40.) Back on board for the four o'clock ferry sailing we sailed from Gozo back to Malta. Then we both had a few drinks in our hotel to revive us after a very tiring day.
41.) Next day we went on the organised half day trip to Marsaxlokk, the largest fishing village on Malta. Both the Turks in 1565 and Napoleon in 1798 landed their troops there and today there is an invasion of tourists that descend every Sunday morning for the open-air quayside market. The beautiful village provided picturesque photograph opportunities of the bay filled with colourful fishing boats in the midday Malta sunshine.
42.) The boats in Marsaxlokk Harbour. Every brightly coloured luzzu or fishing boat has the ever-watchful Egyptian Eye of Osiris painted on its high prow to ward off evil spirits and to protect the boat from danger. There may be a Catholic shrine on board as well symbolising the combining of cultures on Malta.
43.) The village name of Marsaxlokk comes from marsa meaning port and xlokk which is the local name for the south east. Located a few yards from the Harbour is the attractive parish church dedicated to Our Lady of Pompeii and built in 1892 in the traditional form of a Holy Cross. Between the twin towers there is a statue of Mary standing in a boat (a traditional luzzo) pointing out to sea.
44.) After the morning trip to Marsaxlokk we had a quick bite to eat in our hotel and walked across the road to the nearby Ghadria Nature Reserve in Mellieha, next to Malta’s most sandy beach. It is of ecological importance because it encloses two types of habitat which are very rare in Malta: wetland and salt marsh. I managed to capture this Common Chiffchaff.
45.) The area remains a haven for birds and although we were limited to time, it was an interesting place to visit for an hour, even if the birds were few to view from the bird hide. The protection the reserve enjoys ensures that as the seasons change, Ghadira hosts a variety of animal and plant life. As we were leaving I spotted the rabbits running wild in the Nature reserve.
46.) The Nature Reserve was only open at weekends from 10am until 4pm from November to May and so we just managed a flying visit to see the birds then strolled back across the road to walk on the beach in the fresh air returning to our hotel. For this shot I set my Fuji F70EXR pocket camera on to my lightweight folding tripod with a ten second timer delay and took this photo of Geoff and myself with the Hotel in the background in Mellieha Bay.
47.) On our last full day in Malta on Monday 13th February 2012 Geoff and myself visited the popular tourist attraction of Anchor Bay about a mile or so from our hotel. Hollywood came to Malta in 1979 and made Popeye the movie. When shooting finished in 1980 the set was turned into a tourist attraction.
48.) This rocky cove incorporates 'Popeye’s Village', the actual location film set of 'Popeye' starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. Popeye and Olive Oyl posed for me in the Sweethaven village.
49.) The rain just stayed at bay while I did some outdoor photography. We had a few hours to leisurely wander around the film set which was very quiet with few tourists and we watched Popeye film reels and explored the different interesting buildings. Then we had a well deserved rest in the Seafarers restaurant and ate a delicious large pizza washed down with a cider before returning to the hotel to pack our suitcases.
50.) The sad news reached me in Malta later that day of the very sad passing of Fuji friend David Twitty. Dave loved my travel photoblogs and so this photo taken from our hotel balcony overlooking Mellieha Bay and 'My Malta Memories' Photoblog I would like to dedicate in his memory.
'Somewhere between sunrise and sunset. I will always remember you.' Fond Farewell David.
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