When the Tempest Makes you Dream, Malta

Because of its strategic position in the Mediterranean, Malta has never been at peace since the time of antiquity. The first to arrive were the Phoenicians, with their commercial vessels, then the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans and the Aragonese. In the end, the Emperor Charles V granted it to the Knights of the Order of St. John with a symbolic annual fee: a falcon. 

The Knights only remained for about three centuries and then took refuge in Rome when Napoleon arrived.  After Napoleon was defeated by Nelson, the British settled in for more than a century and, later, there were no more threats from the sea but from the sky when the Italians and the Germans ruthlessly bombarded it because of its strategic position - between Europe and North Africa.

What a turbulent story for such a tiny island!

Panoramic view of Valletta, Malta

Panoramic view of Valletta, Malta

When I arrived in the first days of December, the wind was so strong that the street lamps swayed and the sea was swollen and wild.  Valletta, the capital, seemed to be threatened by this storm, so violent and bombastic as to convey the feeling of reliving those old battles and clashes of the past. I immersed myself, both with my heart and my mind, in those warlike events.

In all the fuss of rain and wind, what gave me a deep sense of protection were the gigantic fortifications around the old city arranged on that narrow strip of land (a peninsula) which separates the city from the sea. The walls were erected by the Grand Master, Jean de la Vallette, after the terrible siege by the Armada of Suleiman the Magnificent, who wanted to subdue the island at all costs. The Sultan didn’ t succeed in his mission because of the great importance that Christian Europe gave to this tiny island that on the global map is marked only with a spot.

The hotel where I stayed during my sojourn, The Phoenicia, located right outside the fortifications, had a spectacular view to the port.  At night it was hard to sleep because of the roar of the rain and, opening the curtains, I watched the storm raging in fascination from my window.  Certainly, travelling with such weather is not comfortable, but dreaming the story of a tiny island tossed through the storms, relieves the spirit.

Barbara Athanassiadis