Saturday, 12 March 2011

Armaments and Art

Yesterday we got up early, had a light breakfast and set off for Fort Rinella.  This journey entails a change of bus at Valletta and we are back in at the bus station.  Apparently the temporary bus station was only because of Carnival, but the road up from Floriana is a building site.  It is awful, but at least one knows where to find the bus again. We caught the number 4 which goes out through Marsa and Paola, skirts the Three Cities and ends up out at the wilds of Fort Rinella.  A chap got on carrying a bird cage with a tiny little singing bird inside, he got off outside the women's prison at Paola - I wonder if he was taking the bird visiting?

At Fort Rinella a guided tour had just begun so we tagged on along at the back of it.  The tour guide was dressed as a Victorian soldier and extremely easy on the eye.  Probably in his mid twenties, he was extremely knowledgeable about the subject and had an enchanting accent and smile.  I may be a grandmother but always had a penchant for men in uniform - after all, I did marry one.  There is not an awful lot to see at the fort, a massive Armstrong gun held Onslow's attention for a while, and we wandered around the museum area where there was a very good exhibition of Victorian military paraphenalia.  The officer's bunk had a gruesome stuffed cat on the bed and the common soldier's barracked bed brought back memories of my own Army service. 

The really interesting things - to me anyway - were the demonstations.  My young soldier, now known as Manoel and my new best friend, firstly showed how information was communicated via mirrors, lamps and semaphore.  There was a tiny Asian gentleman who really had a problem understanding the mirrors and Morse - this chap could only have been about four feet high and he was weighed down with cameras, two of which had telephoto lenses which must been over a foot long.  If you had put them all together I am pretty sure they would have been taller than he was.  Manoel explained that the signallers were very highly skilled and protected from the worst of battle, the infantry and cavalry were much more expendable.  Since my army service had me trained and attached to the Royal Signals I decided that I was obviously the Creme de la Creme and Onslow might stop calling me Monica (my obsessive list making as per Monica in Friends) and start calling me Miss Brodie any minute now.  The second demonstration was of rifles, Manoel showed how they developed from flintlock all the way to breech loading over about four hundred years.  He fired a few and big bangs reverberated in the fort, I could imagine that defence of a fortification like that would be extremely noisy.

We did not stay for the drill demonstations and instead headed back to Valletta to go to the Museum of Archeology to see the famous Sleeping Lady since our Heritage pass covered us for this.  The chap on the desk gave us a couple of leaflets and told us to start at the top floor so we caught the lift up and there before us was the most enormous treat - an Art Nouveau exhibition featuring the work of Alphonse Mucha.  I was not familiar with the name but recognised some of the work, the famous "Seasons" series of beautiful women lounging around in their nighties with symbols of the different seasons was one section.  Some of the graphics from poster designs were also familiar, the Ruinart champagne advertisement in particular.  There were also all the posters advertising Sarah Bernhardt's theatrical triumphs - I had never seen the "Hamlet" before.  It was truly a magnificent exhibition and I could easily have missed it.

And then we went for an ice cream and caught our final ferry from Valletta back to Sliema.  Today, our last day, we have nothing planned but the weather looks a bit wild and windy so I don't think we will get up to much.

1 comment:

  1. I've so loved reading about the trip... felt so nice to be sharing it with you!