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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Malta - Day 16: Exploring the Three Cities

Our first breakfast at the Grand Harbour Hotel in Valletta turned out to be great. A variety of bread, croissants, sausages, beans, cake and freshly baked pancakes with banana and honey. We could really enjoy it, as it was our last day in Malta and we weren´t in a hurry. Our plan was to visit the Three Cities opposite Valletta. They are just a boat ride away and we just had to walk down the street ("Liesse") from the hotel to get to the boats. We had seen the sign for the ferry services already before in passing. 


There are actually two ways of crossing the water. The first is a ferry from Valletta to Cospicua, which leaves every thirty minutes. When we were checking their schedule at the pier, we saw the second option just a few steps away from the ferry: little boats, that take you wherever you want. We wanted to start our sightseeing tour of the Three Cities in Senglea, so we took a little boat, which cost 2 Euro per Person. It is just a short trip, but it was exciting to cruise past the gigantic cruise ships. 


Senglea is easy to navigate and so we walked from the harbour in the south of the peninsula towards the seaward bastions, which host the Gardjola Gardens. You have a great view up there towards Valletta. 


We then walked southwards through the (very) small city, which is more of a residential area and different to the glitzy, tourist filled Valletta. We passed St. Philipp's Church and St. Julian's Church, the latter the first building on Senglea. Finally, we came to the Senglea Basilica, which was open to visitors. We seemed to be the only tourists in Senglea, however. At first, when we peeked inside, we heard something and thought there was a service. But it was just a tape.



Originally, we had planned to walk further southwards into Cospicua before walking further to Vittoriosa. In Cospicua we had planned to walk a tour we found online, which leads to attractions like the Bir Mula Heritage Museum, the St. Margerita's Monastery and St. Margerita's Windmill. But we were a bit exhausted and it was hot. When we saw a bridge leading to Vittoriosa's  peninsula, we decided to take this shortcut and only visit two of the Three Cities. Nearby the other end of the bridge, we came along the departure point for the ferry back to Valletta (officially it is still Cospicua, but it's just steps away from Vittoriosa).


We dragged ourselves to the nearby Malta Maritime Museum, which was included in our wonderful Malta Heritage Pass. The first floor was more for those, who are interested in machines. But the second floor had some interesting small ships on display, canons, some information on Malta´s maritime history and the largest known roman anchor in the world. 



When we were finished, we sat down nearby the ocean to eat something at one of the many restaurants at the marina. We had plenty of time to relax there as I was waiting a lifetime for my food. However - the marina in Vittoriosa is quite spectacular, with views of Senglea, Valletta and many huge yachts.



Next, we wanted to see the huge and historic Fort St. Angelo, where once the Knights of Malta, the Order of Saint John resided. Unfortunately, it was closed, but at least we could see some of it from outside.


From the fort, we walked back, but saw steps up to the city, which we followed. Like Senglea, Vittoriosa is very small and therefore easy to navigate. After passing by an Egyptian curiosity, we quickly reached the St. Lawrence´s Church, the Oratory of the Holy Cross and the Oratory of St. Joseph. Upwards from there, we reached the Auberge de France in one of the lovely, narrow alleys. 


It was just a very short walk to the next attraction, the Inquisitor´s Palace, which is included in the Malta Heritage Pass. It was very interesting, as you can walk through the whole building with different floors. On the way, you see how the Catholic Church´s inquisitors lived, where the accused were imprisoned and where the trials and the torture of the inquisition´s victims took place.

They also display a lot of information, like the reasons people got denounced and accused ("witchcraft", "love magic" or owning a forbidden book for example) and the variety of sentences from fasting on bread and water to death penalty. You really get insight into the Roman Inquisition and this dark period of time there.


We walked back to the ferry terminal nearby the bridge and enjoyed the views of Valletta in front of us and the Three Cities behind us. 


While we had visited the Upper Barraka Gardens in Valletta before, we hadn´t been there, when the Saluting Battery was fired. This time, we could make it to the gun salutes at 4 p.m. and walked from the ferry to the nearby lift, which brings you from the harbour to the upper city in no time. There was some time left, before the firing would begin, so, we walked some steps into the city to buy cold drinks and find a mailbox for postcards. 


The ceremony of the Saluting Battery was joined on that day by a wedding - quite a location for a wedding. 



After the shots were fired, I still wanted to take some photos and walked to the nearby Lower Barraka Gardens.  



We had our dinner again at the Valletta Waterfront, where we could sit outside at the water.



It was a nice ending for our Malta vacation, as we would take an early flight the next morning. All said, Malta proved to be an interesting travel destination with many cultural and historic attractions, including several unique World Heritage Sites. The tourism infrastructure in Malta is excellent. It offers a great access for independent travel, due to a network of frequent and inexpensive buses, all with (tourist friendly) announcements in English. Valletta and the island of Gozo were my personal highlights. But I also especially loved places like Mdina and Siggiewi.