Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Neolithic and Earlier Malta

Well, the sun has got his hat on, we had tickets for the Hypogeum anyway at 2pm and decided to make a day of it and went off to see the Tarxien temples first.  It is a jolly good job that we have a well developed sense of the ridiculous because the transport system is in total chaos.  We had no idea that Valletta bus station closed yesterday and will not re-open until Arriva takes over on 3rd July.  So instead of the buses sticking to timetables and routes they are all over the place.  There is a temporary bus station down by the docks and our 62 went through Floriana and round by the Knights' Dome instead of on our usual route.  We then had to find the second bus without there being allocated stands for different numbers - but we managed.  It all took rather longer than anticipated though so I was very glad we had plenty of extra time built in.  The Hypogeum only admits limited numbers, the tickets are booked up loads of time in advance and if you miss your slot you simply miss it and there is no refund.

We got to Paolo which is a working class district, most of the residents up until the British left were employed at the dockyard and it is a bit seedy but entrancing architecurally.  The balconies abound and I saw some new variations on the theme there.  My guide book had warned me there was nowhere to eat in Paolo so I had a decent breakfast before we left.  Whilst wandering around looking at balconies I came across one of the mobile greengrocery vans and his produce looked superb.  I bought some grapes which were fabulous, about the size of figs and that purply green colour which figs have.  They were juicy and delicious and had pips in them so I had a lovely time having a spitting contest with myself in a secluded public garden near Tarxien.  I suspect people were watching from windows - but I am past the age of worrying about what people think of my behaviour and I hope the seeds sprout into lots of vines and grow up the trunk of the tree I was aiming at.  Tarxien itself was OK and it was quite pleasant wandering around the stones looking at the plantings in the surrounding area.  Nasturtiums and snapdragons are in full flower here, as are lilies and even a few dog roses.

Now - the big one - Hypogeum.  Very difficult to describe.  Try and imagine a simple non-comformist chapel with several rooms for different purposes on three levels.  Built underground, hewn out of rock with nothing more than antler horns and flints as tools.  About five thousand years ago.  Some of these rooms were quite large and every bit of stone had been dug away leaving the space.  The ceilings looked like they were made up of several pieces of stone - getting smaller in diameter as they reached the top - but were actually just a massive lump of rock eaten away from the inside.  The whole thing is a sort of burial chamber but apparently people were not put there until most of the flesh had decomposed - a bone chamber.    It was awesome.  The tour takes about fifty minutes and was an hour very well spent.  It is insisted that you turn up fifteen minutes before the tour time and whilst we were waiting a local chap (obviously well known to the security staff) came and entertained us.  I think "Care in the Community" might give you an idea of his behaviour.  He was harmless and just wanted to chat to the ten people waiting and offer them a bite of his mortadella butty - no-one took him up on it.

The bus trip back was fairly uneventful and it will be an early night tonight.  The weather has turned and it is glorious sunshine everywhere so tomorrow we will do the South island tour.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Carol I hope I have more success with this comment than I did with yesterdays. The lord alone knows where I posted it to. My comment was on the Kinnie which I love and drink gallons of when I am in Malta. A bottle always finds its way into my suitcase on the return journey. Must be a sign of old age, a few years ago it would have been Bacardi!!! I also asked if you had tried a pastizzi yet?

    Thanks for the warning about Valletta bus station and the disruption to the timetables. I can just imagine hoards of Maltese people waving their arms about and shouting to each other without having a clue as to what is going on. They get very excited at times don't they?

    I will look forward to reading about your South of the Island tour.