Thursday, 9 June 2011

S'culture, innit?

Well I'm back from Malta, and although I haven't yet cried like my 6 year old missing the buffet restaurant, I've felt like it facing the washing mountain. I don't know which I hate more - packing or post-holiday laundry. The holiday itself was lovely though, and the boys were delighted with their first flight, although Boy2's pleasure at his 'aeroplane wee' turned to terror when he flushed the loo. Poor baby, I forgot how loud they are.

Golden Bay

Our hotel was the Radisson Golden Sands, and while we spent plenty of time splashing about in the pool with the boys, I'm not really much of a 'spend all day at the resort' kind of person and neither is Mr FHCS, so we hired a car and dragged the oiks off for plenty of culture as well. Our first stop was the incredible  St John's Co-Cathedral in Valetta. Whilst the exterior is quite sober and austere, the place is seriously impressive inside, even whilst the current renovations are going on. The interior was redecorated in the new Baroque style at the beginning of the 17th century, and the jaw-dropping  floor is covered in marble tombstones stretching the entire length and breadth of the nave, commemorating the most illustrious knights of the Order of St John (the Baptist).

Added to my 'bathroom inspiration' file

Cathedrals aren't traditionally the most thrilling of places for small boys, but both mine are currently obsessed with 'Ninjago' lego, the baddies of which are  from 'the underworld'. Each of the hand inlaid tombstones is different, but a recurrent motif is that of grinning death, so looking for skulls and skeletons kept them happy.





Whilst the floor is what grabs your attention immediately, look up and the painted ceilings are also absolutely bonkers baroque:

Never knowingly under-decorated

Look at the figures on either side of the window. Their shadows are painted onto the gilding, so they really look as though they are crouching up there. There were examples of this kind of trompe l'oeil all over the vaulted ceiling.
                                                                 
Creepy monks, ready to pounce

St John's also boasts two paintings by Caravaggio, St Jerome Writing, and The Beheading of John the Baptist - the latter is enormous (over 5m long) and gives a satisfying feeling of being in the presence of a true 'old master', although I'm not sure I'd want it in my living room. I didn't know much about Caravaggio previously, but like many of an artistic temperament he seemed to have led an interesting life - killing a man in a brawl, fleeing with a price on his head, being made a knight, painting the odd masterpiece, fighting again, masterminding his own prison break, and finally dying under rather suspicious circumstances.

Caravaggio's signature can be seen in the blood coming from the severed neck - very emo dramatic

Hmm, what else? The beautiful walled city of Mdina, the smell of thyme underfoot at the Dingli cliffs, and the 7,000 year old cliff-top temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra.

House in Mdina - Mummy, why are you always taking pictures of doors?



Dingli Cliffs




Hagar Qim and Mnajdra temples


I'd never heard of these ancient temples on this tiny island (and the even tinier island of Gozo), but when you consider their provenance it's incredible they're not more famous. They are the oldest standing stone structures in the world - older than the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge. [This is where you all comment and berate me for my ignorance]. Unlike Stonehenge and the Pyramids however, for a few Euros you can wander all round them, tread where these ancient people trod, and sit your toddler on a rock hewn by people about whom almost nothing is known. There were just a handful of people the day we visited, and whilst there are now cameras and a slightly bored security guard - inevitably there are a couple of additional carvings of the 'S+B 4 EVA 1982' variety. [Mind you, my Grandad claims to have scaled one of the Great Pyramids and carved his name into it while he was stationed in Cairo during the war. Apologies if this is true, Egyptian people! I'd love to be able to check] 

The temples also seem to function like Stonehenge, as the first rays of sunlight on the solstices apparently align with specific points on the axis of the Mnajdra temple and fall upon what has been described as an altar. Wouldn't it be amazing to get one of the limited number of tickets they sell for this each year? [hippy emoticon]



Blimey, this has turned into a really long post and is making me sound quite middle aged! I promise there was also the odd cocktail and glass or two or wine. And before I paint myself as a cruel parent the boys enjoyed the temples, honest! We saw a snake on the path and boy1 lost a wobbly tooth whilst eating a lolly in the cafe. But if you tuned in for shopping then I apologise - I did buy some glass from the craft village at Ta'Qali, but won't be sharing that until December, posting about Christmas decorations in June just seems wrong.  Normal service will be resumed shortly!

Lakota x

I'm drawing the 5 winners of the Plum and Ivory giveaway tomorrow evening, so if you haven't entered yet you've just got time.








24 comments:

  1. Sounds totally fabulous! Never been to Malta, and you've made me consider it for the future now!
    xxx

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  2. Absolutely lovely post, thank you so much for a travel around Malta♥

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  4. It’s a few years since we visited. thanks for the reminder of some of its attractions. That cathedral was something else wasn’t it? Bit different to the one in my post this week.

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  5. It’s a few years since we visited. thanks for the reminder of some of its attractions. That cathedral was something else wasn’t it? Bit different to the one in my post this week.

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  6. the pic of the tombstones covering the cathederal floor took my breathe away. Wow!
    And I love the Caravaggio, quite like how he signed his name...
    Thanks for a bit of culture to start my morning and I'm glad you had such a great holiday x

    ps holiday washing up pile sucks!

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  7. Ooh, I so want to go there, looks incredible!

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  8. Great post! Love the pictures and history lesson. I knew nothing about those ruins. Nice to know. :-)

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  9. I never realised that Malta had so much history, though thinking of it that was where the Knights of St John started? Great pics. I have been mute for a few weeks, not being able to comment on Blogger, but I fixed the problem today. I had put my name down for the swap, but haven't been contacted. It is OK if I miss out...but if you have another person who would like to be included, can you think of moi?

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  10. the cathedral is amazing, definitely worth a visit! Thank you very much for that informative post

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  11. Wow! What a great holiday. Looks like you had a great time. Airplane toilets are rather scary. That sucking into a hole thing could give anyone nightmares.

    Madison xxx

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  12. Apologies for deleted post, I forget that I can't handle wine any more! Your holiday sounds like it was perfect to me, I'm not one for lying around by the pool either.I hope to go abroad in a couple of years, after reading this, Malta is now a definite possibility.

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  13. I've never been to Malta, but it looks wonderful! Much nicer than many other Med resorts - is there a naff bit that you just steered clear of? The cathedral looks just amazing and those tromp de whatnot monks would certainly keep you on the straight and narrow! (Love the lego too!).

    I'd cry about the buffet restaurant too - in fact the weather here is making me cry now. You picked a good week to be away! xxx

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  14. Glad you had a good hol, love the tombstones, alas I dont know where you would buy some for the bathroom floor, will have to check out the new wickes catalogue ;o) Scarlett x

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  15. My Mum's family originally came from Malta and looking at your photos has made me realise that I really should visit Malta not only for the family connection, but also because it looks such a beautiful place.

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  16. Thanks Lakota, I missed that completely. I had better get cracking! So exciting. Thanks again, you have done so much work. xxNick

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  17. The cathedral looks amazing! Glad you had a good holiday.
    Liz

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  18. Wow, great photos, looks like you had a wonderful holiday! love the skeletons, especially the lego ones lol

    Bee happy x
    Have a delicious day!

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  19. I love Malta and your photos really do it justice, a fabulous island with so much history and the loveliest folk ever! xxx

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  20. Hi my dear-your photos are so beautiful and capture Maltas stunning scenery, sounds like a wonderful time away xx

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  21. Thanks for this post. I don't know anything about Malta - everything you shared was so interesting. That cathedral floor was unbelievable. WOW!

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  22. sod all that - did you buy anything? ha ha

    Looks gorgeous - my dad was stationed out in Malta for a couple of years and always tells me how beautiful it is.

    I've always wanted to see those temples and I agree - they should be more well known!

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  23. i must say the cathedral is indeed amazing and beautiful, the floor covered with marble tombstone is jaw dropping indeed! loveeee the grinning death skulls and skeletons, the lego are soo cuteeee! i have difficulti of trying to pronounce the words hehehe even worst my history knowledge is not that good, nice to know there is a temple older than pyramid and stonehenge! awww for boy1 lost tooth! but i'm glad that everyone had a marvelous time in malta (cant say that im happy seeing a snake tho) :) xx Susan

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  24. i must say the cathedral is indeed amazing and beautiful, the floor covered with marble tombstone is jaw dropping indeed! loveeee the grinning death skulls and skeletons, the lego are soo cuteeee! i have difficulti of trying to pronounce the words hehehe even worst my history knowledge is not that good, nice to know there is a temple older than pyramid and stonehenge! awww for boy1 lost tooth! but i'm glad that everyone had a marvelous time in malta (cant say that im happy seeing a snake tho) :) xx Susan

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