MALTA – I STRADDLED THE CANNON

2We woke up before the sun on the day we were arriving at Malta. We had been told that if we were on the ship’s balcony at sunrise, there was a good chance we would see dolphins jumping out of the Mediterranean Sea. So we all woke early and bundled up in sweatshirts and sweatpants. It got very chilly at night.

We managed to make our way to the ship’s bow where we found some seating and waited patiently for the dolphins to jump up and do a dance for us. It was cold and the wind coming off the water bit the skin on our faces sharply. But we couldn’t miss this.

After about thirty minutes, Julie offered to take the chance of missing them and get us some coffee. So she did, and ten minutes later she was back, not having missed a thing. We waited another thirty minutes and were about ready to give up when we saw the island off in the distance. As the minutes went on, tall buildings could be seen with a few specs of color. We started walking up and down the side of the ship, snapping pictures of Valletta – Malta’s capital – as we got closer.

Finally, the old, beautiful buildings were within sight. And they were breathtaking, some of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve ever seen. About three stories tall, made of a light brown stone, or maybe clay, with brightly colored shutters and doors. Royal blues and barn reds and grass greens all filling our eyes up. I couldn’t wait to get off and explore Malta.

3We all rushed back to our rooms to quickly shower before the ship hit land. When it arrived, we gathered with our English-speaking tour guide who informed us that we would be traveling to Malta’s three main villages. Little did we know that the island was so small we could have walked from one village to the next (although in the essence of time, we used a bus for transportation). Our first village housed one of many of Malta’s beautiful churches. The second village, Mosta, showed us the Mosta Dome. The Mosta Dome is the world’s third largest unsupported dome. The Pantheon, in Rome, is the world’s largest. I would see this later in our trip.

Unsupported domes like this one have always fascinated me. It’s a dome with a hole in the center, and perfectly aligned so that the sun will reflect on very specific areas of the inside of the building at certain times of day. It fascinates me to think that hundreds and hundreds of years ago, our ancestors were able to engineer something so dynamic, something that would determine the time by using the sun and an open circle in the ceiling. And then they were able to build it! Buildings bigger and stronger than anything we make today…

5Our third and final village was home to an old fort, which looked more like a village. It was full of cobblestone streets and sidewalks with small alleys leading between tall buildings. It was the same location that Brad Pitt had filmed his movie Troy, and I couldn’t help but wonder how long he was in Malta. While it was an absolutely gorgeous place, I wasn’t getting the impression there was a lot to do. After all, it was such a small island that, when in the highest points, anyone could see water on all sides.

In the center of the fort was an open area where we spent some time taking pictures. Julie was fascinated with the many doors and how colorful and full of detail they were, so she spent considerable amount of time photographing doors. The rest of us noticed that there were two, old, shiny cannons in the center of the fort. And since we were enjoying the picture taking, we thought it would be a great picture…all of us straddling the cannon. However, the cannon was about six or seven feet in the air and very difficult to get on. We decided I would go on the front, where the cannon would have actually shot out. So I crawled on first, starting on the back, where there was a base to help me get to the tubular part of the cannon, and was able to get up to a point where I straddled the cannon. I started to shimmy my way forward, all the while holding Matt’s hand out of pure fright that I might plummet to my death on the hard cobblestone six feet below. Once I made it to my place on the cannon, I hung on firmly until Matt positioned himself behind me. After a few minutes of this same process for everyone, we were all aboard.

7Before we left Malta for the day, we had some time to explore Valletta. After walking the virtually carless streets, and thus very quiet streets, for some time, we found a rooftop restaurant for lunch. There was an old, rickety elevator that I used to get to the top. I looked as though it hadn’t been used in years, so I held my breath for the very shaky ride up. It was so small that only I could fit in it. Once the door to the rooftop opened, I saw Malta from a completely different perspective. I didn’t think it could get any prettier, but I was wrong. We could see the Sea all around us, and the hills of the island covered in greens with specs of colored buildings.

I sat on the rooftop surrounded with loved ones and soaked up every piece of Malta that I could. The restaurant wasn’t that nice; my spoon was dirty and the food just wasn’t that tasty. But I felt like the luckiest person in the world. And while I never got to see the Maltese dolphins that I had gotten up so early for that morning, I got to see so much more than I could have ever expected. Of all the places in the world, Malta is still one of my favorite.

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