b'since 1571, has a total of 6,500 inhabit-ants.Vallettahassomespectacular IN SEARCH OF THE sights,suchastheGrandMasters Palace, built in 1571, which currently Maltese Falcon houses the of ce of the President of Malta and the House of Representa-tives. The palace is allegedly haunted by a number of ghosts, but that didnt hold me back from visiting. Malta has 359 churches, more per with me, or to learn Quasimodo was atance when the Knights of St. John, thecapitathananyothercountryinthe work ofas I looked down frommedical branch of the Knights Templar,world. In fact, you could attend a differ- ction, Notre Dame. Surely though, the Maltesemade it their home in the sixteenth cen- ent church almost every day of the year Falcon was real. tury. They stayed for several hundredValletta, the capital of Malta, is verywithoutsettingfootinthesameone Forthosewhohavenotbeentoyears, and built hospitals and schools,picturesque. twice. In my travels around the globe, Malta, it is located in the centre of theandwerelargelyresponsiblefortheI have seen many churches. Very few Mediterranean, halfway between Turkeyinfrastructure, which exists today. however, come close to the splendour JONATHAN VAN BILSEN and Gibraltar, and Italy and North Africa.The population of the country is justof St. Johns in Malta. The knights of This, of course, has always made it aover500,000,andthecapitalcityofMalta built the cathedral in 1573, with When I recently had an opportunitystrategic stronghold during any con ict,Valletta,whichhasbeenthecapitalan extremely ornate interior.to go to Malta (pre pandemic), I couldespecially World War II.oor Theentire oftheChurchisThe re ection in the water along Maltas not help but reminisce about the movie,There are actually two main islandscovered with marble tombstones, com- southern coast, is like looking in a mirror.the Maltese Falcon. Perhaps it was anand one smaller one. Malta, the largestmemorating 395 of the most illustrious opportunityformetoseethefabledof the landmasses,gained impor- knights of the order. There is also akilledduringtheconstantattacks,rst icon, however I have been let down incryptcontainingthetombsofGrandwhich took place between 1940 and the past. I was shocked to learn DraculaMasters. 1944. was not in Transylvania, after bringingIf you plan to visit Malta, spring orContinuing south, I stopped at some awoodenstakeandclovesofgarlicfall are your best seasons. In the sum- fascinating rock formations, known as mer, temperatures climb to 35 degreesthe Blue Grotto, which are actually a and it is very dry. In winter, it only getsnumber of sea caverns on the south to around 13 degrees. The houses arecoast. This is a popular destination for built with very thick walls to protect thetourists, and has some fantastic sites The scenery in Malta is amazing! inhabitants from the elements, as therefor diving.are virtually no heating systems. Therearemanysmallvillages DuringWorldWarII,thecountryin the country and Rabat is one not wasastrategicBritishstronghold.Ittobemissed.ItiswhereSt.Paul washeavilyattacked,enduringovertheApostle,allegedlyspentthree 3,300 air raids, which destroyed nearly 11,000buildings.9,000peoplewerePlease turn to page 56The Blue Grotto, on Maltas southern coast is a spectacular place for tourists to visit.54 FOCUS - OCTOBER 2021'