Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Destination Life: Malta -- at the crossroads of history



Michelle Styles visits Malta
For a tiny island in the Mediterranean, Malta packs an enormous amount of history. From prehistoric caves and Roman remains to epic sea battles between the Christian forces of the Knights of Malta and the Ottoman Empire to the heroics during WW2, Malta has a certain something.
It is also blessed with a wonderful Mediterranean culture and unique food and boasts of a thriving movie industry. Over the years movies such as Troy, Alexander, Gladiator and the Count of Monte Cristo were filmed there. It is also where the backbone of PHS reviewing lives -- Julie Bonello. But it had never been on my must go places to visit which was wrong. It should have been. Malta is an experience not to be missed.
I ended up in Malta because a friend offered us his flat for the week and it was a great chance to explore a country that  I knew very little about. The Maltese are fiercely proud and independent people. Overwhelmingly Catholic and one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, their language is written in an Arabic script. Surprisingly there are very few restaurants devoted just to Maltese food but it is almost impossible to get a bad meal. Restaurants cater for all sorts of tastes from the very high end restaurants like the Blue Elephant to those serving seafood.
The ancient Leyland buses date from the 1970s and provide effective transport or you can drive...
Started during the Crusades, the Knights of Malta or more properly the Knights of St John Hospitaliers once ruled Malta but were kicked out by Napoleon. he melted down the famous silver plate that had been used for the sick at the Sacred Infirmary to finance  various campaigns. They now occupy one of the smallest countries in the world in Rome. But it is in Valletta that they made their stand and defeated the Turks. The Knights of Malta also had a long history of caring for the sick and injured. This is something that continues today in various global hot spots. The Knights of Malta do once again have an outpost on  Malta but it is the remains of the old order that people go to visit. What precisely did the Knights save? What was in their library?
Malta then became a British colony and was part of the Commonwealth until the 1970s. The Queen is reported to have spent some of her most carefree days on Malta when she was a young bride and  Prince Philip was stationed there.
The entire island was awarded the St George  medal for bravery in the face of fierce bombardment during WW2.
The island has some excellent beaches and some very good diving areas. There were plenty of luxury yachts and enough big houses to make Portomosto look like a set for a Presents.
It is certainly a place I would enjoy visiting again and would wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who wants to get the entire Mediteranrean experience in one place.
And being there made me aware of how little history I actually knew and how important one little island can be in changing the course of world history. Sometimes it is good to take up a friend's offer and visit!

Michelle Styles writes historical romances for Harlequin Historical. Her next US release will be A Question of Impropriety in Dec 2010. There will be a free online serial His Stand In Bride starting 15 Nov exclusively on eharlequin. To learn more about her books visit her website

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