Monday, 24 October 2016

Malta Diaries 2016: The Capital, Valletta

Valletta, the capital of Malta was built in 1566 by the Knights of the Order of St John and named after it's grand master. It took 15 yrs to build and taking into consideration that there was no mechanical tools to help with the build it was no mean feat.
Valletta is a walled city and a fort containing magnificent churches and buildings. 
It is very busy as it is a a place where many people live and work and also has many, many visitors daily. Designer shops mix with shops selling souvenir tat and there's even a Marks and Spencer. It is now a world heritage city.
I loved this place so much we visited three times during our holiday.

You can't take your car through the city gates and all the cars here are owned by the people who live in the city. Of course shops and cafes have to have deliveries so there are many vans driving about too. 
To enjoy Valletta you have to put your blinkers on and ignore the crowds and parked cars and look up at the buildings and the architecture and think yourself back into another age. I would love to have been here in the evening when it is dark. It seems it's lovely,quiet and low key. You will find me repeating myself when I tell you in another post about the ancient capital of Malta know as The Silent City.

On our first visit we stopped for a drink at seats outside a cafe in a large square. We met the boldest pigeons we have ever seen landing on tables trying to steal food from plates. I'm so glad we were only having a drink. Another visit and we sat outside a cafe in a little side street. It was quiet and peaceful and I spotted a door up high with a cute little balcony. I wasn't the only one who photographed it.

On our first visit we watched a film about the history of Malta and went for a tour of the war museum which dated back to the 1500's. I won't bore you with it all but it's amazing how many different countries have occupied Malta at some time in history. Our guide told us that if The Knights Of St John hadn't defeated the Turkish she would be talking to us as a Muslin woman. It could easily gave gone either way.

What fascinated me the most was the tour of the Knights hospital. The Knights Hospitallers were primary a nursing order (only men) . They began in Jerusalem in 1080 in a hospital ran by monks. They treated everyone no matter of creed or colour. During the many wars they travelled from country to country sometimes having to fight for the survival of that country. They moved to Malta in 1565 and signs that they were there can be seen all over the island. The eight point Malteese cross came from the cross wore on the knight's uniform and is also the sign we see on St John's Ambulances. 

The top photo was the longest hospital ward in Europe during the 16 th/17th century it held 297 beds.
Each bed had a canopy hanging from above it. Different coloured canopies depicted what illness the occupant was suffering from. Between each bed was a little alcove containing a toilet these were covered by ornate tapestries for privacy. There were drains under the toilets and even a ventilation system with went out into the gardens which were planted with orange and lemon trees to mask the smell.
People using this ward were usually rich and had to pay. The poorer patients were housed two floors down and entered through a tunnel probably so they didn't come in contact with the rich. The ward for them was similar but with three patients to each bed and three to each toilet. This is slightly better then the hospitals I have stayed in where four patients shared each toilet, but at least we had a bed to ourselves.
Salt,honey,and turpentine were used to disinfect wounds and because of the wars most wounds were amputations performed by saw or guillotine.
The long ward in the first photo was being renovated and beams were being replaced. It is now used as a conference centre and for weddings.The second photo is of a smaller ward where you can see the tapestries covering the alcoves where the toilets were. No women were allowed.

Views from the city.

And the streets

I love this photo of the washing on the line. Life goes on visitors or no visitors! 

 I saw this plaque on the wall of a building.

The poet lived here for two years although it only says one on the plaque. He worked as secretary to the governor but was really here to get his health back and withdraw from opium.

And last but not least.
If you can enlarge this last photo it's a letter from King George V1 awarding the George Cross to Malta after the Second World War. The cross is there also. 

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