The history of Malta runs way deeper than I had known before getting there, though I’d sort of purposefully under-researched the trip beforehand. I’d known a little about the WWII period, when it was critical in the Brits’ supply lines into North Africa, and the Italians and the Germans bombed it nearly flat, and a little less about how it figured in the post-crusades Mediterranean conflicts between the Ottoman and Holy Roman empires in the 16th century. But it turns out there’s been civilization there since the neolithic, 5000 years ago, it figured in the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, and St Paul shipwrecked there on his way from Alexandria to Rome.
Our base in Malta was in Birgu, the old harbor town which the Knights of St John successfully defended in the Great Siege of Malta in 1565.
Hagar Qim is a complex of neolithic monuments on the southern shore of Malta, and at more than 5000 years old, may be the oldest free standing stone monument on earth.
Valletta is the new harbor city on Malta, new being a very relative term, since it’s been developed since the 16th century. It’s major attraction is St John’s Co-Cathedral, but the highlight for us was the museum featuring an extensive collection of arms and armor from the 16th-17th centuries.
Mdina is the old city of the interior of the island, and is everything you expect from a medieval city, from the walls and the moat to the small winding streets. It’s also home to Malta’s other Cathedral, St Paul’s, built on the site the man himself is said to have stayed while shipwrecked on the island.