The Maltese Islands are a group of small, barren rocks, jutting out of the blue Mediterranean Sea – Islands filled with beauty, ancient history and mysteries.
Between around 5500 and 4500 years ago the Maltese Islands were inhabited by an extraordinary society, one both intelligent and resourceful. The Islands witnessed a unique, megalithic, building phenomenon, impressive number of elaborate structures which are still standing today.
Earlier in 2014 we decided to travel to this beautiful Island to see some of the stuff Malta has to offer with our own eyes, and a weekend in June we did so…
We arrived at Malta International airport late in the evening, 7th of June. We got straight to the rental car desk to pick up the car we had booked, and we got lucky; they had made a free upgrade for us (Thank you Avis!).
We got outside, found the car and plotted in the hotel’s address on the GPS. Only 20 min away! (It’s a small Island, and wherever you’re going you’ll never have to drive more than 30minutes (At least, it felt like that ;). But it became a challenge as the GPS didn’t found the right place, and there were lots of one way streets and no signs that could lead us to the hotel. But finally we found one, or at least we thought so… No sign on the hotel ether, so I went inside to ask. It was the right one; Dolmen Resort Hotel (later we saw that there was a tiny gold sign right outside the door, not easy to see).
The next morning we drove to Rabat where we found a little market we could wander around to use the time we had before the St. Paul Catacomb opened for the day (9am).
The main complex of St. Paul, covering an area of more than 2000 square meters, is so far the largest catacomb ever to be found on the island. And this Catacomb represents the earliest and largest archaeological evidence of Christianity in Malta.
We bought tickets and got down the stairs. Down there we saw two circular tables that are hewn out of the living rock. These Agape tables were probably used to host commemorative meals during the annual festival of the dead.
We walked through the narrow dark halls, and we felt immediately like we found ourselves in a labyrinth. We turned on the IPhone flashlight and wherever we looked we could see spiders and other creepy crawlies. So not a place for those who are afraid of the dark and with arachnophobia! But it’s so interesting and fascinating. How did they dig out these great systems of passages and tombs so long ago?
The next “big thing” we wanted to see on Malta was the mysterious cart ruts. And the area with the most impressive and complex network of tracks gouged in the rock can be found south of Buskett Gardens, an area known as Clapham Junction (they can also be found in a number of sites on Malta and on Gozo).
It’s no sign that tell you where exactly they can be found, but you’ll see a stone wall with a gate. We found that gate and parked right outside and start to walk with our eyes open for tracks, and suddenly we got glimpses of them.
No one knows why they were made and how, and it has been assumed that these tracks were developed around 2000 BC, but now Maltese researchers have more recently dated their “roads” to approximately 4,000 – 5,000 BC. And that’s before the wheel were invented!
So why did they make it? How did they do it? Oh, all these mysteries!
After seeing the cart ruts we drove further toThe temple of Hagar Qim ( ĦAĠAR QIM), dated back to c. 3600 – 3200 BC. The temple stands on a hilltop with a good view over the ocean and the islet of Filfla.
Then we stopped by The Blue Grotto, or, we actually didn’t go out by boat to see, but took a lunch at a restaurant located in Wied iz-Zurrieq.
The Hypogeum (Ħalsaf lieni Hypogeum) date back to about 4000BC was something we really wanted to visit, but unfortunately a couple of days before departure to Malta we saw that they advise that you book ahead as tours are often full up to weeks in advance (when we checked the next opportunity were 5th of July). Too bad, since this one’s such an impressive Megalithic Temples.
We went back to the hotel after a short visit in Valletta, where we didn’t found what we were looking for. And it was time for some relaxation after hours of driving and walking around in the heat.
We ended the day with an hour on deck chair by the hotel pool before we took a few drinks before dinner at Batubulan Sunset Grill, a good restaurant by the sea, where we got a great view over the beautiful sunset.
Check out our next post from Malta: Beautiful Malta