We got up *very* early in Budapest and headed to the airport. I’m a little fuzzy on how we got to the airport. I think a bus was involved. Maybe the Metro. Oh, yes! A bus. And it was crammed full of people.
We flew into Malta at a semi-reasonable hour and rented a car. The guide book warns that driving in Malta isn’t for the faint of heart. Now, we’ve lived in Eastern Europe including the Balkans and the Caucasus for a long time. Driving in Malta is very civilized and we didn’t see a single driver or pedestrian with a death wish. We see death wishes on the daily in our current home. The only part about driving that proved a potential challenge (for us, at least) was driving on the left and managing a stick shift with the left hand. Landry drove, because I’ve had a grand total of one lesson in driving a stick.
I have a fondness for small walled cities like Sighișoara, Romania and Cité de Carcassonne, France. Mdina falls into this category. It doesn’t take long to get anywhere within the walls. The buildings and walls are largely made of limestone. One can only enter with a car with permission, so we parked at a public lot and walked over. In medieval fashion, one must cross a bridge over a dry moat to get to the gate and enter. There were horse drawn carriages for rental to ride through the streets. We wanted to do our own thing however, because things were closing early due to the holidays.
First stop was the St. Paul’s Cathedral and it’s associated museum. Now, I’ve been to Notre Dame, the Duomos in Milan and Florence, the Sistine Chapel, Westminster Abbey and many others. The cathedrals in Malta are small by comparison, but stunning. The wealth of Malta and the devotion of its citizenry sings in these chapels. They are among the most ornately decorated I have ever seen. The smaller size allows you to better appreciate the quality of the paintings and finery. There is an intimacy which you don’t get in those giant spaces. And there is light. The fault of some of those others I’ve been to is in darkness. Building with heavy stone, windows can be overlooked. Notre Dame is (or was) dark. Not so the Maltese cathedrals.
It did help that the weather was uncommonly good for our whole stay: sunshine and sweatshirt weather. If we were walking briskly in the sunshine, I found a t-shirt to be sufficient.
We also did a couple of ‘touristy’ things including the “Knights of Malta” film and their dioramas showing the history of the Order of St. John. This was good for the kids, I think. It was a good brief hit of history to give them a taste of what Malta was and is. We ate at their associated tavern for very reasonable prices and watched another video “Mdina Experience” focusing on the siege of 1565.
By mid afternoon, we were exhausted by our early start and we headed to the hotel.