We took the bus to Valetta, the capital of Malta today. It was a bouncy 30 minute ride and we were even in traffic congestion for part of the trip. There was one large cruise ship in the harbour but in general the main area was not congested. The architecture is a an interesting combination of very old and quite new. Their opera house was bombed during the war and a decision was made to rebuild it but without the roof and walls. I guess an opera in Malta can be “called due to rain”. I’m assuming the stuff that looks like plywood is in fact sound baffles.
Rebuilt opera house – sans walls and roof
The highlight, of the day, as far as over-the-top goes, was St John’s Co-Cathedral. It was the church of the Knights of St John for 200 years. It was completed in 1577 and has a very plain outside. The inside was also quite plain until the 17th century when the Grand Master Cotoner ordered it to be redecorated. They went wild, it is the most wildly baroque church I’ve seen as you will gather from the pictures. The side chapels were dedicated to the eight chapters of the Knights and their Grand Masters often had huge tombstones in the chapels. I’ve never seen so much gilded decoration in a church. The floor of the whole church is inlaid marble and stone composed of tombstones. I guess that’s why skulls feature prominently in most of them. There is also artwork in the cathedral by Caravaggio, one being a huge painting of the beheading of John the Baptist. It was originally an altar piece but is now in a separate room with a few more of his works.
We then meandered away from the Main Street to find a place for lunch and lucked out. There was a nice outdoor patio near the water and a table in the sun. It took a while for our food to arrive so unfortunately by the time it arrived the sun had moved, as it does – and we had to put jackets back on but it was still warm enough to stay outdoors.
After lunch we followed the street the runs along the waterfront and ran into a small wedding that was being held in a park. Very interesting, the bridesmaids wore traditional dresses but with what looked like fancy army boots. The bride, who was dressed somewhat traditionally, wore similar shoes – go figure.
We had hoped to see a 45 minute film about Malta but when we got to the location it would have been a 50 minute wait so since we plan to spend another day in Valetta, we’ll check out the show times and get there accordingly.
We’re back at our house now and plan to go out for dinner to a local restaurant recommended by our landlady.