In October 2012 Lana and I departed Copenhagen for Malta to meet Lana's son, Georgi (Gosha), and his wife, Zhenya. We planned to spend a week with them in the capitol, Valletta, where we had rented two separate suites in a three star hotel. Malta is a fairly compact island with narrow winding roads carved out of the rocky surface that covers a large area of the island. The history of this place dates to the Phoenician settlements in the Mediterranean pre-dating even the Roman and Greek civilizations. The Wiki link at the bottom of the page fills in the blanks for its history, notable characters and events. There have been many. Given it's strategic location between southern Europe and north Africa, Malta has played a role in many of the migrations, wars and religious movements of western society. It has seen armies come and go, has been part of several powerful empires and one could say provided a stepping stone between Europe and Africa.
Arriving late in the evening to the Valletta airport, we met Gosha and Zhenya who had arrived a couple hours before from Novosibirsk, Russia where they live. After collecting bags and renting a car we headed for the hotel. Having been a former British colony, Maltese drive on the left side so of course the rental car had a right hand side steering wheel. With a standard shift it takes a few tense minutes to adjust to left hand driving especially at night. Fortunately Gosha had his tablet PC with GPS so he talked me through town and eventually we found our hotel. The next morning we spent some time getting oriented and deciding on places we wanted to visit.
Valletta has quite a selection of tourist sights being both the capitol and the main harbor for the island. Much of the history is contained within its walls. During WWII the Italians and Germans bombed Malta extensively over a period of three years. It has been claimed that this island was the most heavily bombed location anywhere in the war. British naval forces used the island as a base for submarines that attacked the Axis sea convoys crossing from Sicily to North Africa. The RAF also operated here trying to defend against the attacking bombers and fighters. Much of Malta was pulverized in the process. But you would never guess that today. Nearly every building has been rebuilt. Only a few are intentionally left as they were when the war ended in 1945. The Maltese lived under ground much of the time. They converted ancient fortresses into bomb shelters using the catacombs beneath the ground as shelter from the rain of bombs. Hospitals, offices, food stores, schools, churches and many other life support functions were carried on in these man made caves and tunnels.
The Maltese and British survived by receiving supplies carried to the island by sea convoy. The convoys would form up near Gibraltar which was held by the British and sail as quickly as they could to Malta under the protection of British warships and land based aircraft. German and Italian submarines operated throughout the war in these waters and took their toll on the convoys. Enemy aircraft from Sicily also harassed the convoys as they approached Malta. But the British and Maltese prevailed as the Axis naval and land forces were slowly evicted from North Africa and then Sicily. Nowhere were people more happy to see the war end than in Malta.
Today Malta is part of the European Union, an independent state. The country has become a tourist destination for Europeans looking for a warm sunny escape from the long damp winters in Northern Europe. It has also become a kind of tax haven for the rich by providing incentives for the wealthy to invest in Maltese banks and live in Malta at very favorable tax rates. Like Monaco and other roosting spots for the wealthy, Malta makes life a lot less expensive for the well endowed.
The second link below provides information that is intended to show tourists what there is to do and see. It's pretty amazing considering the size of this place. Take a look and perhaps your next escape will be to this beautiful and charming place.
Malta - Wikipedia
Return to Home