Malta was another surprise for us as we thought it would just be a fuel stop on the way to Greece however it turned out to be a fascinating place as well. Tracy wasn't feeling well on this leg so she elected to rest back at the hotel while I took the city tour. While we thought the city of Marrakech was ancient, Malta makes them look like a young kid. The history here dates back at least 5,000 years before Christ. It's a country that has been dominated by just about every civilization on the planet from the Phoenicians to the Romans to the Knights Templar to the British and now by the cruise ships. The shame of it truly is that, with each domination, a lot of the history and archeology of the previous occupants was destroyed so a lot of the precious artifacts are lost forever. The latest tragedy was WWII when the Italy and Germany relentlessly bombed this tiny island to keep the British from using it as a navel and air force base. In fact, this tiny island was bombed more that any other location during WWII. They gained independence in 1964 and became the Republic of Malta.
The streets now are lined with shops for tourists selling all sorts of trinkets but the craftsman of Malta are known for their gold and silver filigree work (which was beautiful but very delicate) as well as their lace (at one time revered all over Europe as the finest available). Ancient churches and buildings dating back to the 15th century are interspersed among the shops as a reminder of times past. We took a tour of a private home that has been in the same family for generations and saw wonderful examples of original paintings as well as lace and silver work. The tour was given by a son of the current owner (his mother who still lives upstairs at age 90). It was very interesting to hear about this home by someone who lived here and knew all sorts of stories from the centuries of his family's ownership. There was a bomb shelter carved out of the solid limestone underneath the home that could hold 150 people. It was used during WWI to protect the family and neighbors during the air raids.
our brief stopover turned out to be yet another unexpected surprise
During the centuries Malta has been a strategic location for all sorts of reasons. For us, it was to be merely an overnight fuel stop on the way to more familiar places however our brief stopover turned out to be yet another unexpected surprise and will certainly be worth another visit someday to explore Gozo, the second island that makes up the Republic of Malta as it was not bombed during the war and has a lot of pristine historical sites to explore.
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