Would you accept immortality? What would you give for it? What would you give up?
Suppose it was offered to you, and with it came a beautiful woman, bewitching, lustrous? (One could imagine the same scenario with a man.)
But the trade off would be that you had to live forever on an island. You would not lack food. In fact you would feast each day. You would live in splendor and luxury.
You might want to pause for a moment before deciding. You will live in a cave, but all around it would have wonders to behold.
“Thick, luxuriant woods grew round the cave, alders and black poplars, pungent cypress too, and there birds roosted, folding their long wings, owls and hawks and the spread-beaked ravens of the sea, black skimmers who make their living off the waves. And round the mouth of the cavern trailed a vine laden with clusters, bursting with ripe grapes. Four springs in a row, bubbling clear and cold, running side-by-side, took channels left and right. Soft meadows spreading round were starred with violets, lush with beds of parsley. Why, even a deathless god who came upon that place would gaze in wonder, heart entranced with pleasure.” —The Odyssey
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus lived on the island of Ogygia, where Calypso detained him for seven years. She would not let him leave and return home to his wife Penelope but wanted to give him immortality and to marry him. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!
During my month stay in Malta, never did I tire of wandering along its tall, fortress walls and of pausing to look out, to look at nothing in particular, but to look quietly out then look away or close my eyes then see again. I did not want to be watching what was out there. I wanted myself to see.
Blues and many hues and yellows and many hues and clear sun light and the objects they formed became familiar as grays and rain in my home state.
I took any opportunity where I could climb above the ramparts to a perch above all else. Equally, a boat ride on the smooth blue Mediterranean Sea meant opportunities to gaze out, to see there without a barricade what was around me.
Two light houses greet ships entering the Grand Harbor, the largest of two natural harbors in Malta. Several tour companies offer harbor cruises that take tourists into the various “creeks” and along the coast line. One opportunity is the sight of the light houses. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!
The Upper Barrakka Gardens should be visited during any trip to Valletta, Malta. That would include a repeat visit as well.
A garden with plants and trees and flowers and a fountain dominate the central section. A small kiosk with cool drinks and covered tables for shade is off to the side and unobtrusive. Further into and past the shaded areas are the arcades and the spectacular views of the harbor below and the Three Cities beyond. Bathrooms are available for a few voluntary centimes, too.
I went to the Gardens my first day, after arriving in Valletta, because the two guide books I carried told me so. Most likely moored below in the Grand Harbor will be a large cruise ship, which arrive almost daily. From there on the waterfront, tourists will go up the elevator to the gardens, and it will be their first experience of Valletta on land.
Other tourists will arrive in large chartered busses at the central bus terminal outside the main gate, and with guides holding their flags in the air for orientation, they will enter Valletta and turn right and after a short walk will walk through the arched gate into the Gardens.
The first moments in the Gardens are welcomed: the light is blocked by the trees; the air is cooler. The walk to the entrance is on hard stone, and the sun and heat reflect off it. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.) But wait, there’s more!
Unless you go to Valletta in a taxi and it takes you around the ramparts for some reason, you will enter Valletta, a fortress city built in the 1500’s, through the main gate.
You might arrive by cruise ship and take the elevator up for 1 euro and bypass the main gate. You can cross the waters via the ferries from Sliema or the Three Cities and walk up the streets to the center.
As I mentioned earlier, Valletta is a peninsula with water on three sides. The fourth side is a deep deep trench.
Steps to the left as one walks through the main gate into Valletta.
Gate to the fortress city of Valletta after walking through and looking back.
Steps to the right as one walks through the main gate into Valletta.
The main gate into Valletta after crossing the deep deep trench was the last formidable task that invaders would have to overcome in order to enter the city. That gate has gone through five incarnations: “The last fortified gate was demolished in 1964, replaced by a Futurist gate designed by Alziro Bergonzo. This gate was then demolished in 2011, and it was replaced by Piano’s gate which was completed in 2014.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)
Off to the left and right beyond the gate are symmetrical steps that lead off to other buildings or to some apartments. But wait, there’s more!