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Trip Report 1 lazy week in Malta with some sight-seeing

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As I was benefitting from some of the posts during my planning, I thought I would give a quick recap of our week in Malta (May / June 2012). Lufthansa got us to Malta without any problems, our bags made it as well and we were ready to get our rental car. When exiting the baggage claim area, we were greeted by a large crowd. Arriving with us was Malta's Eurovision Song Contest Singer. This is the night, this is the night ... nice way to be welcomed. Sixt handed us the keys to a Peugeot 107 and gave us vague instructions how to find it (not to difficult). The map that was promised to be in the car, was nowhere to be found however. Good thing we brought one. The 107 is not really a dream car, but it would do for the week and it was an okay car to get used to driving on the "wrong" side of the road. With a bit of luck and some sweating we made it to our hotel in St.Julians: The Corinthians St George. Located outside of busy St Julians right on the water it is a nice place to relax, either right on the bay or at one of their (not too big) pools. You can watch the harbour entrance of Valletta and see the cruise ships coming in or departing. Overall a decent hotel and we did enjoy our stay there mostly. For a five star resort it was missing a wow-effect and there was many small details, that could be improved. But like I said, good enough for some relaxing days.
St.Julians is close enought for some shopping, dining and just for a quick stroll from the hotel. Our first "real" daytrip took us to Valletta. As the city gates are under construction, the entry into the city is a bit less spectacular. It is a a very busy city and our first stop was at the church of St.Azzizzi. While this is already an impressive church it is not even close to the Co-Cathedral. The outside of St.Johns does not prepare you for the amazing sight when you enter the church. The knights have created chapels with altars, rich decorations, tombs, ... it is simply breathtaking, whereever you look. Really amazing. Utterly impressed we continued on to Republic Square and took a look into the National Library. Though you can't do too much as a simple guest, it is still an impressive sight with thousands of old books.
After a brief stop a the Grand Masters Palace (parlament was in session) we continued on to Fort St. Elmo, the Great Siege Monument and then spent some time at the lower Barracca Gardens with a view of the cruise ships. Strolling through the city and the Merchants Hall we made our way back to the Lower Barracca Gardens and then the Fountain at the bus terminal. A nice day, with lots of items left to see for a future visit.
Our next day trip was to the Hypogeum. Now a bit more used to driving here, we made it to Paula and after checking with a local also found the Hypogeum. Wow, like in previous posts, it is really easy to miss. After the last roadsign, check half a block up ... Anyway, we were there May 29th I think. The sign on the door said they were fully booked until June 30th. Well, we had booked well in advance, but quite a few people left dissappointed. It is a one hour tour, starts with a small exhibition and a video and then leads into the monument itself with an audio tour. With lighting and the music it is really a somewhat mystic tour and really a different experience. You are lead down to all levels and get a peak into this world heritage site. Very well worth it. As we were in the area, we decided to take a look at the Tarxien temples as well. To us, this was not that impressive. I am not saying it is a waste of time, but you do not get a real feel for the temple. With an areal view, you can still identify the former layout, but at the site itself it looks like a collection of stones, rather than an identifyable temple. but it has some interesting aspects as well, and if you want to see historic sites, it combines well with the Hypogeum. And while you are there, check out the massive church of Paula.
Trip 3 took us to the silent city of Mdina. After a train ride through the surronding country-side and Rabat, we went into Mdina itself. And in deed, compared to Valletta it is really a Silent City. There are also tourists, but it is much more laid back and actually you'll find places that are quiet. We visited the Cathedral with the attached museum and strolled through town, also enjoying the views from the city walls, looking all the way to the coast.
And finally, our last trip was the bus tour of the island (south bus). We just wanted to get an overview and did not want to do any additional sightseeing. But it gives you a nice overview, especially some great views of the larger Valletta area, its surrounding cities and the harbours. For future trips we would include visits to some of the archeological sites and the Falconry. With just a week's time, we wanted to relax as well, so we were quite lazy. But as a first glance of the island, this was good. And if you want to spend less time at the water, you have plenty of options to sight-see during a week.
One of our tour books said that Malta is a not a beauty at first sight. We tend to agree, building is going on like crazy and many cities and towns with the modern houses are fairly ugly. But there are enough gems to be found and at second sight, the island has so much to offer. We thought it was very worth the trip and for us, it had the right mix of relaxing and sightsseeing (and enough left for future trips).

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