The historical role of Malta and the meaning of the 8 arms of the Maltese cross
Houses built of limestone are present in Malta. Limestone is the only building material and trademark of the islands in the Mediterranean Sea (Malta is 90 km from Sicily). Maltese stone changes color from white to pale yellow in the sun. The stone hardens, so it is easier to maintain, the locals explain. Skilled and hard-working Maltese have cultivated and arranged rocky beaches that seem magical and unreal. Clear sea, blue sky and pleasant wind are the most famous features of Malta.
The Maltese archipelago consists of 5 islands, among which are Malta, Gozo, Komino, Kominoto and Filfa. Tourism and shipbuilding are the main agricultural branches. Only about 400,000 inhabitants live in Malta. This small island country (316 km²) has the highest population density in Europe (1,400 inhabitants per square kilometer).
The name of the island comes from the Phoenician word “malek” (shelter).
Legend has it that in the 1st century AD, Saint Paul landed on Malta (after a shipwreck near the coast of Malta). St. Paul stayed for 3 months in the small town of Rabat preaching Christianity. In the 9th century, the Arabs arrived in Malta, then the Portuguese, the Spanish, the Knights of St. John, the French and the English.
The city of Slima is not a fashionable place, although there are many luxury hotels (Intercontinental, Hilton, and others) where famous movie stars have stayed (Brad Pitt filmed parts of the movie Troy here), Sharon Stone, Madonna, and others. The famous film Gladiator (Russell Crowe) was filmed in the “new Hollywood”, ie in Malta. Malta has been called the “new Hollywood” because this small Mediterranean island is home to Europe’s largest studio for recording maritime effects.
There are more than 360 churches in Malta, including one Orthodox church and one mosque. All other churches are Catholic. The Maltese are great believers. Almost every day of the year is dedicated to a certain saint, with stormy celebrations, parties with fireworks. Parties are almost a daily occurrence in the period from May to September. Every city has a story associated with a saint. Such is the city of Most, where the Church of St. Mary (the third largest dome in Europe) is located. In this church is kept a copy of the bomb from the Second World War that fell on the church but did not explode. Religious Maltese believe that “God intervened” there and thus protected the faithful.
However, Malta is best known for the Knights of St. John the Baptist who have been here since the 16th century. The knights then stopped the Turks who intended to penetrate into Europe via Sicily. The Knights of Malta were led by the great knight Jean de la Valetta, who built the city-fortress after the victory over the Ottomans. Valletta is today the capital of Malta and the deepest European port. In Valletta, you can see huge ocean liners, luxury yachts and two patrol boats for the security of the state border (a gift from the former president of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito).
Valletta is one of the largest fortresses in the world. The walls reach a height of 50 meters. It had 8 palaces where knights lived. Only members of the richest aristocratic families in Europe could join the ranks of the Knights of Malta. Some parents registered their sons immediately after birth. Boys from the age of 12 had 6 years of training. At the age of 18, young men received the famous Maltese cross with 8 arms – a symbol of the eight charities that every Christian should know and the 8 countries from which the most famous St. John’s men came.
Today, 28 aristocratic families live in Mdina (city of silence) – direct descendants of the Knights of Malta, who actually own the entire city. A square meter of residential space in Valletta reaches an astronomical price. The Maltese consider it a way to protect tradition, history and culture.
The tombs of the greatest knights of the Order of Malta are in the magnificent Church of St. John the Baptist in Valletta. In the Church there are 2 extremely valuable Caravaggio paintings (The Shipwreck of St. Paul and The Death of St. John the Baptist) and sumptuous tapestries from the 16th century. Knights were known for their charity. That’s how the great knight António Manoel of Vilhena built a hospital-quarantine in Malta-one of the best in Europe at that time. Working in a hospital was part of a knight’s training, and a sick person (regardless of origin and belonging class) had the right to stay in the hospital for 3 days. The patients were served food on silver plates (the most famous dishes from Malta are rabbit or fenecata). This hospital is considered the forerunner of today’s Faculty of Medicine in Malta.
The average monthly salary in Malta is around 800 Maltese pounds or 2000 Euros. The unemployment rate is very low (about 4%). Malta is known as a country where very few women are employed. Maltese women who have a job stop working when they get married and have children. One family has three children on average. The state takes care of married couples, providing affordable apartments and paying rent of 100 Maltese pounds or 250 euros.
The Republic of Malta is a member of the European Union. The Maltese are extremely proud of their membership in the European Union.
It is a curiosity that the color of the windows on the Maltese Parliament building changes depending on the ruling parties.
Malta was a British colony for a long time (1800-1964). Traces of British culture are deeply rooted in the culture, traditions and daily life of the Maltese. This is most noticeable in traffic. Drive on the left side. Due to the benefits of the Mediterranean climate, almost forgotten but perfectly preserved models of old cars can be seen on the streets of Maltese cities. Those few who do not have a car have the privilege of driving oldtimer cars that are more than 50 years old in city transport. It is a kind of tourist attraction. Enjoying one of the old English buses is about 15 Eurocents.
The average annual temperature in January is 17 degrees C and in July 35 degrees C. It rains only in December.
English is the official language in Malta. The Maltese language is an interesting mixture of Arabic, English and Italian. That is why the Maltese learn foreign languages easily. However, children start learning their mother tongue in schools at the age of 12. From the age of 5 to 16, education is compulsory, which can be in state, church or private schools. Malta is certainly a paradise for students because most of them have a scholarship and the possibility of staying with Maltese families during their studies. That is why Malta is always home to a large number of girls and boys from all over Europe who most often come to foreign language summer schools. A two-week arrangement with air transportation (school, accommodation and meals) or a similar 3-week arrangement can be used. http://www.visitmalta.com
Malta offers tourists (in addition to affordable study) the opportunity to buy extraordinary items made of Maltese glass (modeled after Venetian Murano glass), gold, silver and lace.
- On the neighboring island of Gozo is the oldest Neolithic temple, so tourists like to visit Gozo as well.
- You can use a carriage when sightseeing in the capital of Valletta.
- The fishing village of Marshaslok is famous for its fish market.
- The richest Maltese families live in Mdina (descendants of the Knights of the Order of Malta).
- In the northwest of the island of Malta is the amusement park “Popeye Village” (or Sweetheaven). The village was built in 1979 for the filming of the movie about the sailor Popeye, directed by Robert Altman. All the buildings were turned into a museum after the film crew finished filming. Here today is a can of spinach with the image of Popeye – a favorite souvenir.