February 29, 2019 – Balzan, Malta

A fairly relaxing day today. We did the two harbours tour this morning, it was sunny but cool on the open upper deck. Our tour boat was one of the smaller ones that could go deeper into the creeks. These are very much working harbours with a very large dry dock that can accommodate tankers needing repairs. There were also many creeks with pleasure boat marinas, lots of money tied up in those harbours. I took a picture of a very nice looking Greek boat which I’m assuming was a ferry, I must remember to google it. There sure were a lot of fortifications from the mid 16th century.

Valletta side
Our tour boat came under that bridge
Dry dock, love the sense of humour painting the crane like a giraffe

The Greek boat

We parted company with Bob after the boat trip. Bob went to Fort St Elmo to do the tour, Caroline and I went back to the house and had lunch at a local cafe – it was fair to middlin’.

Fort St Elmo was built in the 1400s and expanded when the Knights of St John took over Malta in 1530 after being defeated at their headquarters on Rhodes by the Ottomans. The fort saw major action in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded killing everyone in this fort. However, there are many other forts around this harbour, the largest in the Mediterranean. Eventually the Turks had to retire as the other forts held. This fort and in fact all of its peninsula was expanded by the Knights and the new city behind St Elmo, Valletta, became the capital. St Elmo was central in the defence of Malta during WWII and was bombed repeatedly by the Italians and then the Germans up until 1942. After that it became the staging centre for the invasion of Sicily.

Fort St Elmo commands the entrance Grand Harbour
Still guarding the old gate
The last of the Knights fought to their deaths defending the St Anne Chapel altar.
For the WWII guns it took of lot of concrete to renforce the ramparts due to the guns being so much heavier. Many lookout towers were also built.

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