Malta, a gorgeous island a Neolithic treasure trove

The gorgeous turquoise water of the Blue Grotto in Malta. June 9, 2017

The Republic of Malta is both a gorgeous island and a Neolithic treasure trove. The gorgeous island photos are to come but for now, here’s a brief history lesson on an island with findings of a prehistoric civilization. We ventured to the town of Paola, Malta, which is renowned for the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, a Neolithic subterranean structure dating back to 3300 to 3000 BC which was used as a burial site and also as a temple. In addition, Paola is also home to the archaeological complex of the megalithic Tarxien Temples.

The town of Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
The town of Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
The town of Paola, Malta, June 6, 2017
This photo was also taken from a postcard by Heritage Malta. This chamber is inside the prehistoric underground burial place called Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta. It consists of a pit surrounded by a ledge of rock and is where the famous statuette known as the “Sleeping Lady” was found in 1905. The statuette (pictured in this post) can be seen at the Archaeological Museum in Valletta, Malta. This middle level chamber dates back to around 3600 to 2500 BC. June 6, 2017
This photo was also taken from a post card by Heritage Malta. This chamber is popularly known as the “Holy of Holies,” inside the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta. It is carved from the living rock, but designed to look like a built structure, giving the illusion of standing inside a megalithic building like those built above ground. This chamber dates back to around 3600 to 2500 BC. June 6, 2017
This photo was also taken from a postcard by Heritage Malta. The paintings seen in this photo are the best-preserved in the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta, and are found in the room known as the “Oracle Chamber.” They were made using a mineral pigment called red ochre, which was widely used in Neolithic burial rituals. The naturalistic patterns, which date from 3600 to 2500 BC. June 6, 2017
Photos were not allowed so instead I took a photo of a postcard. The postcard photo was taken by Clive Valla for Heritage Malta. This is the Central Chamber of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta, a prehistoric underground burial place. It is carved to look like the interior of a megalithic building, but it is actually underground in the middle level. This Central Chamber dates back to around 3600 to 2500 BC. June 6, 2017
Bonnie, my friend and travel buddy who set us on the Neolithic trail, is standing at the reconstructed doorway into the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. The megalithic stones, discovered in 1914 by local farmer ploughing his field, are said to be dated between 3600 to 3000 BC. June 6, 2017
The Neolithic remains, under a protective ten, of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta, are within walking distance of the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum. The megalithic stones of the temples were found by a local farmer ploughing his field and are said to be dated between 3600 to 3000 BC. are protected under a canopy. June 6, 2017
The Neolithic remains of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. The spirals are recognized as a symbol of eternity, everlasting life, continuity, etc. June 6, 2017
The Colossal statue of Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta, with its carved pleated costume is in a size that perhaps reflects the importance of this prominent figure whether a deity or leader in the community. The original colossal statue can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. June 6, 2017
The Neolithic remains of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
The Neolithic remains of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
A possible flight of steps at the Neolithic remains of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
The Neolithic remains of the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta. June 6, 2017
The exterior of the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta, housed evidence of Malta’s first inhabitants The Neolithic Period in Valletta, Malta. The Baroque styled building was originally built for the Knights of the Order of St. John and dates back to 1571. June 7, 2017
The Neolithic Period section of the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. The museum’s Neolithic artifacts are from a variety of temple sites on Malta. June 7, 2017
She’s called the “Sleeping Lady” or “Sleeping Mother Goddess” and she dates back from 3600 to 2500 BC and can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. This 4.7 inch ceramic figurine was originally found in a pit at the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum in Paola, Malta, and may represent death or the eternal sleep. June 7, 2017
The original colossal statue found at the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta, is located for viewing at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
This figure was found headless in a small pit in the Hal Safliene Hypogeum in Paola, Malta, but can be seen in the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
A large restored clay bowl found at the Tarxien Temple in Paola, Malta, can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The funerary items found at the Tarxien Temples in Paola, Malta, date back to 2400 to 1500 BC and can be seen at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The Grand Hotel Excelsior, where we stayed in Floriana, Malta. June 6, 2017
The view of Malta from our hotel room at the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana, Malta. June 5, 2017
Another night time view of the pool and area around our hotel, the Grand Excelsior Hotel in Floriana, Malta. June 5, 2017

Valletta, the walled in city capital of Malta, was established in the 1500s by the Knights of St. John, a Roman Catholic order. The city is known for its baroque landmarks including Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, but like the rest of Malta, its history is a melting pot of the people and countries like the French, British, Greeks, Turks and Moors, who have laid claim to its diverse history and culture. We may have stayed in Floriana, Malta, but we were just across the street from Malta’s fortified capital of Valletta.

The busy Grand Harbour, also known as the Port of Valletta, has been used as a harbour since supposedly Phoenician times and that’s around 750 BC when they settled in Malta. June 7, 2017
The Grand Harbour, also known as the Port of Valletta in Malta. June 7, 2017
The Victoria Gate city gate in Valletta, Malta, was built by the British in 1885 and named after Queen Victoria. The gate was once the busiest part of the city and its main entrance from the Grand Harbour area. June 7, 2017
A view of a street in Valletta, Malta, looking down into the Grand Harbour. June 7, 2017
The red balconies and shutters add color to the limestone look of of Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The colorful wooden Maltese balconies in Valletta, Malta. June 6, 2017
St. John Square, one of several busy squares in Valletta, Malta. This square is across the way from Saint John’s Co-Cathedral. June 7, 2017
The National Library of Malta in Valletta’s Republic Square is another one of Valletta’s main relaxation spots with restaurants on each side of the square. The library, built in 1796, is the last building to be erected by the Knights in Malta. June 7, 2017
A close-up of the white marble statue of Queen Victoria in the center of the Republic Square in front of the National Library of Malta in Valletta, is a reminder of the British Empire at its heyday in Malta. June 7, 2017
A red vintage British postbox on top of a steep street in Valenti, Malta. June 6, 2017
The hilly and steep stress of Valletta, Malta. June 6, 2017
Just my way of throwing in my favorite color, a red door, in Valletta, Malta. June 6, 2017
A red British vintage style phone booth next to a red British vintage style mailbox in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The beautiful and colorful wooden Maltese balconies of Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
A quick and easy way to get around the walled in city of Valletta, Malta,are these small white electric cabs parked at various places. These cute little electric cabs were parked by the Saint John’s Co-Cathedral. June 7, 2017
This is actually an outdoor theatre on Republic Street, a main street in Valletta, Malta, called Pjazza Teatru Rjal, which is the ruins of the former Opera House. June 6, 2017
The capital city of Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in short time of 15 years, but De Velette died from a stroke on Aug. 21, 1568 at the age of 74 and never saw the completion of his city. June 6, 2017
Saint John’s Co-Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. It is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and was built by the Order of St. John between 1572 and 1577. June 7, 2017
The courtyard entrance to Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The Baroque interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The beautiful altar of The Baptism of Christ by John at the St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. June 7, 2017
The floors of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. The entire floor of the cathedral is covered with a collection of inlaid marble tombstones. There are about 400 tombstones that commemorate some of the most illustrious knights of the Order that rank from grand pairs to admirals. Crowns and coronets indicate the most noble of the nights. In date, they vary from the late 17th century to the late years of the 18th century. June 7, 2017
The pulpit at the St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, is an intricately carved work of art with gilt details attributed to the Italians woodcarver Antonio Lazi. June 7, 2017
The interior of St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta, is covered with golden gilded wall sculptures like this. June 7, 2017

Mdina, Malta, has many nicknames from “The Silent City” to “The Noble City” but for me, it’s a locked-in time limestone gem with a medieval aura. The city is a mixture of Baroque and medieval architecture and was the Capital city of Malta until the arrival of the Knights of Malta in 1530. It is easily and comfortably walkable with photo moments around every corner. Come take a walk with me through beautiful Mdina by both day and night.

Bonnie wanted to be as close as possible to this ancient city so we checked out of the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana to check into the Point de Vue Guesthouse in Mdina, a stone’s throw away from the walled in ancient section of Mdina.

Me and Bonnie standing by the main gate of Mdina, Malta. The Mdina main gate replaced a previous drawbridge gate and was completed in 1724. June 8, 2017
A close-up of the main gate of Mdina, Malta. The front of the gate includes a Latin inscription with the date and the coat of arms. June 8, 2017
The fortifications of Mdina, Malta, are a series of defensive walls surrounding the medieval city. June 8, 2017
Inside the main gate and square of Mdina, Malta. This side of the main gate is adorned with statues of three Maltese saints…St. Paul, St. Publius and St. Agatha. The statues carry palm leaves symbolizing their martyrdom. June 8, 2017
The beautiful and narrow streets of Mdina, Malta, includes this main street of Villegaignon. June 8, 2017
Love the huge red doors and ornaments that can be seen in Mdina and throughout Malta. June 8, 2017
The courtyard entrance of Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta. The 13th century medieval palazzo, now a museum, is the former home of Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher who was a scholar, artist and philanthropist. The palazzo was originally built as a family residence by the Maltese nobility, but received its name from its former owners, the Falson family. June 8, 2017
The former owner of the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta, Captain Olof Frederick Gollcher was a scholar, artist and philanthropist. This is the captain’s studio, located off the courtyard entrance. June 8, 2017
The colorful collection of shields displayed at the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
The kitchen of the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
A gathering or social room of the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
The dining room, with its extensive silverware collection at the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
The library of the Palazzo Falson in Mdina, Malta, contains more than 4,500 books, and some highly valuable manuscripts. June 8, 2017
Typical narrow medieval alleyway in Mdina, Malta, with its weathered limestone, stunning red doors and red window shutters. June 8, 2017
The typical narrow winding streets of Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
Me standing by the front iron gate (and of course the gorgeous red door) of the Casa Del Tesoriere in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
There are three gates that lead into the fortified medieval city of Mdina, Malta, including this one. This gate, known as the Greek’s Gate, was named after the small Greek community who lived in Mdina and leads to a square named after St. Nicholas who is the patron saint of Greece. June 8, 2017
St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta, was completed and consecrated in October 1702. June 10, 2017
The interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta. According to tradition, the Cathedral was built on the area where St. Paul converted Publius, the Roman governor, to Christianity. It seems there used to be a small church from the 4th century that was destroyed during an earthquake in 1693. June 10, 2017
The dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta, with frescoes in its interior. June 10, 2017
The marble floors inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta, are tombstones that depict the emblems of the Mdina bishops as well as other members of the clergy. June 10, 2017
Stained glass and fresco inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta. June 10, 2017
The 15th-century baptismal inside St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta. June 10, 2017
A stained glass and stylized version of the Maltese cross, a symbol commonly associated with the Knights of Malta (also known as the Knights Hospitallers of St. John), who ruled the Maltese islands between 1530 and 1798. June 8, 2017
This plaque in Mdina, Malta, reiterates what the city is known as, which is why Bonnie and I decided to take a night walk through the city to see just how silent it really is…or isn’t. June 8, 2017
Mdina, Malta, takes on another beautiful personality at night. This is part of the exterior fortified wall. The silence of Mdina at night is an impossibility and not because of the people, its because of the historical energy that palpitates the narrow and winding streets…especially at night. June 8, 2017
The other side of the Mdina, Malta, exterior fortified wall. June 8, 2017
Mdina, Malta, main gate, glows at night. June 8, 2017
A close-up of Mdina’s main gate. June 8, 2017
The other side wise the main gate that opens into this square in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
A close-up of the square side of the main gate in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
The brightly lit main street of Villegaignon in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
The brightly lit main street of Villegaignon in Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
A narrow and colorfully lit winding medieval street of Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
A night view of he typical narrow winding streets of Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017
One of the gates of Mdina, Malta. June 8, 2017

Malta has surprised me with its diverse everything…the people, the language, the architect and its melting pot history. I say good-bye with a better understanding and appreciation for this country and its people. Although we’ve seen and done quite a bit, there is still so much that we were unable to fit into our schedule…but that will have to be another chapter. For now, we’re checking out the Blue Grotto caves and another megalithic temple while still spending one more night in Mdina.

Boats lining up to take people to the Blue Grotto in Malta. The grottos are sea caverns that show brilliant phosphorescent colours in the water. I’m not much of a water person, but Bonnie is and this was at the top of her list. I went along and I’m so glad I did. June 9, 2017
Our Blue Grotto selfie on the Mediterranean Sea in Malta. June 9, 2017
Under a cave to see the fluorescent water in Malta’s Blue Grotto. June 9, 2017
The deep blue water and and algae under a cave in Malta’s Blue Grotto. June 9, 2017
The gorgeous turquoise water of the Blue Grotto in Malta. June 9, 2017
The beautiful turquoise water of the Blue Grotto in Malta. June 9, 2017
The village of Qrendi, Malta, where the Blue Grotto caves are located. June 9, 2017
Bonnie and I enjoying a relaxing lunch in the village ofis in the village of Qrendi, Malta, after our Blue Grotto boat ride experience. June 9, 2017
After the Blue Grotto boat ride and lunch, our next stop was another one of Malta’s megalithic temples. This one, Hagar Qim, dates from 3600 to 3200 BC, and means “standing/worshipping stones.” The protective tent safeguards the temple’s limestone construction. June 9, 2017
Me standing by the entryway of the Hagar Qim megalithic temple in Malta. June 9, 2017
The entryway of the Hagar Qim megalithic temple in Malta. June 9, 2017
The megalithic temple of Hagar Qim in Malta. June 9, 2017
The megalithic temple of Hagar Qim in Malta. June 9, 2017
The megalithic temple of Hagar Qim in Malta. June 9, 2017
My foot selfie on the megalithic temple grounds of Hagar Qim in Malta. June 9, 2017

After checking out of our hotel in Mdina, the Point de Vue Guesthouse, where we stayed for two nights…to be closer to the walled in city, we got in a walk through the narrow streets of Rabat before heading back to the Grand Hotel Excelsior in Floriana for two more nights. It’s been nice staying in Mdina, but I loved staying at the Grand Hotel Excelsior and I was happy to go back there. After getting checked back into the Grand Excelsior, then it was time to head to the sandy beaches of Golden Bay and take a speed boat to the Blue Lagoon beach so Bonnie could have a swim. The Golden Bay/Blue Lagoon trek also included a glimpse of Popeye Village from the 1980 movie.

Howard Gardens divides Mdina from Rabat in Malta. Truth is you can cross a street and be in either city. Mdina is the ancient fortified city while Rabat is this old, sleepy neighborhood with narrow streets and an abundance of charm. The name of the town is derived from the Arabic word for ‘suburb’ and Rabat has an eclectic feel and look. June 10, 2017
The Santu Wistin St. Augustine church at the end of this gorgeous Vjal Santi Wistin street in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
A row of two story limestone-esque homes along a busy street in Rabat, Malta, shows the more contemporary side of this town. June 10, 2017
I had to showcase this two-story limestone beauty with its red gate, shutters and gorgeous door along a busy street in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
A narrow neighborhood street with narrow sidewalks in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
St. Paul’s Church in Rabat, Malta, was completed in 1683. Mdina was the Roman capital of Malta in the Apostle Paul’s day but present-day Rabat is where Paul is said to have taken refuge after his shipwreck on Malta. June 10, 2017
The decorated light post in front of St. Paul’s Church doorway in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
Love these decorative light posts outside St. Paul’s Church in Rabat, Malta, and pretty much on various streets. June 10, 2017
A beautiful little park and walkway in Rabat, Malta. The statue in the center of the walkway contains a Bible verse quote, in a variety of languages, from St. Paul’s time in Malta. June 10, 2017
A close-up of this stone, with the Bible verse of St. Paul in Malta, can be seen in a park in Rabat, Malta. The verse, in a variety of languages reads: “After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness….(for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.)” June 10, 2017
Archway in Rabat, Malta, leading to a park and walkway. June 10, 2017
A neighborhood street in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
A neighborhood street in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
The Madonna and child plaques, similar to this one, are by neighborhood doorways in Rabat, Malta. June 10, 2017
The afternoon turned out to be a nice hot day, one that’s definitely worth spending time at the beach. This is Golden Bay, the sandy beach area of Malta. June 10, 2017
Hanging out at Golden Bay beach in Malta and taking in a late lunch before jumping on a speed boat for the Blue Lagoon. June 10, 2017
Bonnie, my friend and travel buddy, waiting at the pier for Charlie and his speedboat to whisk us away from Golden Bay beach to the Blue Lagoon beach. June 10, 2017
On our way to the Blue Lagoon, our speedboat Captain…Charlie…showed us a group of rustic and ramshackle wooden buildings at Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village, located at Anchor Bay in Malta. Built as a film set for the 1980 musical feature film “Popeye”, starring the late Robin Williams, it is now open to the public as an open-air museum and family entertainment complex. June 10, 2017
Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village at Anchor Bay in Malta. There was even a woman dressed as Olive Oyl and a man dressed as Popeye…with muscles. June 10, 2017
Popeye Village, also known as Sweethaven Village at Anchor Bay in Malta. June 10, 2017
The gorgeous waters of the Blue Lagoon in Malta. June 10, 2017
The Blue Lagoon in Malta. June 10, 2017
The Blue Lagoon in Malta. June 10, 2017
Bonnie enjoying her swim in the gorgeous waters of the Blue Lagoon in Malta. And, as for me, I’m comfortably sitting under a big umbrella chilling out. June 10, 2017

We spent a nice, relaxing Sunday taking the local bus to the town of vacation town of Mellieha, Malta, for its grotto, sanctuary and cathedral related to Our Lady and the Apostles Paul and Luke. Mellieha turned out to be a small, but quaint town with a lot of soul, heart and history. And, with Mellieha, we’re calling it a wrap on Malta.

Our week in Malta has come to a fast close. Tomorrow, we head back to Italy to spend a night in Florence before going back to Rome for a night and then home to Texas. But for now, here’s more of Malta!

Entrance gate to the arched courtyard of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta. Mellieha may be a touristy resort town but it too is packed with history that includes this courtyard to the sanctuary, a grotto to Our Lady and a stunning church. June 11, 2017
The courtyard of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta. May 11, 2017
The former entrance to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta. June 11, 2017
Inside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta. According to ancient tradition, in the year 60 AD, the Apostles Paul and Luke came to this sanctuary…which at the time was a cave…and Luke painted a figure of the Madonna on a rock face. That Madonna is at the altar of the sanctuary. June 11, 2017
The Madonna and child painting, at the altar of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta, was said to have been painted by the Apostle Luke around 60 AD on a limestone rock in a cave. Between 1844 and 1847, extensive work was carried out to enlarge the cave into a church. June 11, 2017
This frescoe at the altar of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta shows the bishops visiting the shrine of the Madonna since the early 400s AD. In 1960, Pope John XXIII declared the sanctuary as one of the most famous in the world and in May 1990, Pope John Paul II visited the Madonna icon and prayed in front of her. June 11, 2017
The various stations of the cross in wood inside the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha in Malta. June 11, 2017
Another part of this Holy Trinity of worship is Our Lady of the Grotto Shrine in Mellieha. This gate, which is across the street from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mellieha, leads to the grotto. June 11, 2017
A view of the date to Our Lady of the Grotto Shrine in Mellieha and the stairway down to the grotto area. June 11, 2017
Inside Our Lady of the Grotto Shrine in Mellieha, Malta. June 11, 2017
The prayer candles at Our Lady of the Grotto Shrine in Mellieha, Malta. June 11, 2017
The stairs leading from the grotto to the exit…or entrance…of Our Lady of the Grotto Shrine in Mellieha, Malta, with the letters, photos and other tokens from individuals whose prayers have been answered by Our Lady. June 11, 2017
The Parish Church of Mellieha in Malta is dedicated to the Birth of Our Lady, and was built between 1881 and 1898. All the stone was cut from a nearby quarry at l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha and transported up to Mellieha by the local peasants. June 11, 2017
A close up of the exterior of the Parish Church of Mellieha in Malta. June 11, 2017
The interior of the Parish Church of Mellieha in Malta. June 11, 2017
This is the inside of the huge and gorgeously wood carved front door into the Parish Church of Mellieha in Malta. June 11, 2017