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krisek Mdina - A travel report by Krys
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Mdina,  Malta - flag Malta
6003 readers

krisek's travel reports

Mysterious. Fascinating. Lovely.

  8 votes
Page: 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
Mdina once was Malta's capital. It is extremely attractive. It is completely surrounded by a medieval wall and the city is classically perched on a hill. The sandstone structures, narrow alleys and flamboyant mansions take you back a few centuries.


Mdina - one of the gates
Mdina - one of the gates
I made a brave decision to get there by one of the country's iconic yellow buses. I had absolutely no idea what to do, which bus to take and where to pay for my ticket. I was glad to know where to catch a bus – just outside the gates of Valletta, by the Triton Fountain, almost exactly where Valletta becomes Floriana. I was a little helpless in the bus station, but I liked the challenge. I looked through the maps and the bus numbers trying to figure out, which of the vehicles would go in the direction I wanted to travel.

I eventually found the correct bus and I was glad that I had made the decision to use the public transport. A thrilling ride on one of the Malta's yellow buses should be a high point of anyone’s visit to this country. The buses must come from the fifties of the last century, however there are a few newer ones. They allow for meeting the locals and are the cheaper option to explore the island. The drivers like it fast, or have very heavy feet, which actually worked for me. I love a fast ride!

I was not sure where to get off, as the bus was not terminating in Mdina or Rabat. I actually did not know at all. So, when I thought it would be a good idea to get off, I did. Fortunately, I did it in Rabat. I did not know if it was Rabat. I had never been there before, there were no signposts or placards with town names. I had to ask for directions. There was no other way. Then, it turned out that I was to take a half-an-hour stroll towards the medieval town of Mdina. It appeared to me majestically located on the top of a hill surrounded by araucaria and pine trees. I suddenly knew that behind those mighty walls there was something promising to visit.

Favourite spots:
Mdina - one of the streets
Mdina - one of the streets
Mdina is a truly picturesque place. It is entirely walled on a hill and it makes an incredible impression. The sun was frying my neck but it did not stop me visiting absolutely everything. It had to be done by foot, as the narrowness of the streets prevented any traffic. The walls around this town was beginning to grow already one thousand years before Christ, and was strengthened by the Romans. So much history in such a pretty little place was thoroughly overwhelming. Thousands of years of urban art and planning and an intelligent additions over the centuries, oh yes. With the architecture like that and this particular layout of the town, it was not difficult at all to imagine how it was like in the medieval times, when the Maltese aristocracy called the town a Noble City. At that time, the Order of the Knights chose to rule the island from Valletta, as they wanted a sea base, and so Mdina lost its capital status.

What's really great:
Mdina travelogue picture
Just because the Knights wanted a base at the sea and made Valletta their capital, it did not prevent them to build a few palaces in Mdina in the meantime. One of them, Palazzo de Vilhena, was the Grand Master’s summer residence. This is what I did not get. Why would the Grand Master move from the seaside to the very hot centre of the island in the summertime? This is so peculiar. I would do the opposite, and made Mdina my winter residence, so I could spend the longer nights with the aristocracy, discussing the politics and drinking wine. In the summertime, I would enjoy the cool breeze from the sea. Well, I obviously do not think like a knight.

I liked to wander about the town trying different routes along the narrow streets and admired dark secret passages leading through the walls towards the mote.

Sights:
Mdina's street
Mdina's street
In Mdina, every now and again, there were touts on the streets inviting for a Malta adventure, which was typically just a tourists trap. My understanding was that these adventures featured films with pictures imitating the Middle Ages. Sometimes they included also smells, which might have been rather revolting. Luckily, I am immune to 'attractions' like that and I do not often fall in traps like that.

In the town, there were a few interesting buildings to see, which included the cathedral and a few places related to the presence of the Knights of St John. But the entire concept of the town with the narrow lanes, grand mansions, thick circumventing walls and the views of almost the entire island were the sights on their own.

Accommodations:
Malta's Cathedral
Malta's Cathedral
The actual Cathedral of Malta is based here in Mdina. It is the St Paul’s Cathedral and it takes approximately 7% of the entire territory of the town. Its façade is quite plain, but the interior is again quite mind boggling. A definite must to see on the island. Allegedly, the cathedral was built on the site where the Roman governor of Malta, Publius, had his residence. Mdina was then known as Melita, and the same governor shook hands with actual Saint Paul approximately 28 years after his bosses executed Jesus Christ.

Mdina was very clean and its yellow stone buildings reflected the sunrays blindingly, although the narrow streets provided plenty of shade. Even though I would not recommend going to see Mdina without sun glasses, because without them one would get very tired extra quickly and would not appreciate the magnificence of this place. Mdina is one of the places that I think UNESCO should include on their World Heritage List. There are not many places like that around.

Nightlife:
Inside of Malta's Cathedral in Mdina
Inside of Malta's Cathedral in Mdina
I did not experience nightlife in Mdina but in Sliema, just 5kms away. I to invited myself for a light meal at one of the nice hotels at the end of the peninsula. I sat outside, by the pool and watched the colours on the Valletta’s city walls change from light yellow to deep orange. I was waiting for the sun to disappear so I could take the picture of the Valletta’s panorama by night. Despite not having a tripod, I managed to take a few interesting shots.

What was good to see that the island actually lived a little. As it was getting late, hordes of people started cruising the streets looking for a park-and-drink place, a nightclub for a boogie or a similar form of entertainment. I mean mainly on foot, but I cannot exclude those driving as well. This was so in contrary with Valletta, which was falling asleep at about 7pm and during the night nothing was happening there.

Hangouts:
A view from Mdina's hill
A view from Mdina's hill
It was really hot, and every 200 yards my internal system was reminding me of the necessity to refuel. As Mdina is located on a hill, from which there is a nice view towards Valletta, Sliema, Three Cities, and a few other towns around the island, my quick decision was to find a bar with a view and cold beer. That should then keep me going for the rest of the day.

I found two potential open-air bars with a view, and then I realised where all those tourists were hiding. It was like the entire population of the tourists for that day visiting Mdina decided to rush for a beer and a snack (sometimes lunch) right on the walls of the town to those two establishments. I was very lucky to find a table right at the top of the city wall with a reasonable view and be served within seconds. The table could seat four or five people, so all the shy tourists were burning in jealously melting in the sun rather than asking me if they could sit at my table like all the normal tourists would do... hehe.

Restaurants:
Mdina's side street
Mdina's side street
The nice walk from Rabat to Mdina and the excitement of the very first steps in this former capital made my stomach forget the previous night’s lovely pasta feast in Valletta. The time came to fill it up a little. Well, it was far from intentions to fill it up with the exact same thing, but the mistake in the restaurant made it happen. I was not complaining about this dejavu, because the pasta was again delicious.

I was very glad to have arrived to Malta before the real tourist season usually starts. Mdina is a very small place and having to plough trough the hordes of tourists is an activity that I do not suffer gladly at all. The lunch place I went into had only six small tables inside and there was no room to put any outside, as the street was too narrow. The vicinity of the cathedral was another contributing factor to disallow outside dining. I cannot imagine what would have happened should there be more tourists around at that time.

Other recommendations:
Malta's monoliths
Malta's monoliths
After Mdina I went to the Blue Grotto. I needed to take a boat. It arrived promptly and it was very small and wobbly. It was actually smaller than the waves around it. I loved it! However that was the only thing that I loved about the Blue Grotto escapade. It was actually a kind of tourist trap. It was very small and uninspiring. The water was truly blue, but not extraordinarily blue. I would have not been such a big trap if the trip was longer and if it was possible to swim there.

The next stop in the plan was the Hagar Qim and Mnajdara monoliths, which make Malta stand out in the history of all European civilisations. These monoliths have in fact been declared to be the oldest free-standing man-made structures on this planet. Fairly enough, but I was wondering what would they say about the Sphinx in Egypt. Recent calculations have been disputing that the magnificent lion could be as old as 10,000 years, 3,000 older than those Maltese monoliths. Yet, the age of monoliths was accurate.

Published on Saturday January 17th, 2009


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Sun, Jan 18 2009 - 10:22 AM rating by orlen

Amazing, Beautiful, Masterful, Informative, Lively, Interesting, Great, Superb. I'm running out of adjectives

Sat, Jan 17 2009 - 09:51 PM rating by jacko1

I found this report fascinating, you are obviously a younger person with a very open mind. The maltese language is apparently based on an old Semite base and most of the older generation still speak it amongst themselves, try to get them to teach you a few words!. The majority of the old buses are of British origin, mainly Bedfords,where do they get the spare parts?. By the way Mdina is also known known as the Silent City.

Sat, Jan 17 2009 - 05:33 PM rating by pesu

As so often (not to say always): entertaining informative text, beautiful pics.

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