Gaining more bearings and confidence and armed with detailed bus routes etc, today was very relaxed and productive.
In June I pre-booked a ticket for the much sought-after Hypogeum, meaning Underground, and was conscious of missing out on getting there for the mandatory 10 minutes before scheduled group tour time. So I left plenty of time for peak hour bus traffic…and I nailed it!
Such is its preservation status as a Unesco Heritage site that only 10 people max at a time are allowed in, and only a few groups a day. It is a very unassuming facade in a very pedestrian street in the village of Paolo.
There are no bags or photos allowed so have chosen to include the brochure information to try to give a hint of its impact. A truly well guided and presented site. Strangely, there were 3 Aussies in our group of 7, and 8 in the next group. Global sponges we seem to be!
Next I walked the short pre-planned route to the Tarxien Temples only a few blocks away. Weather was much cooler today and a little cloudy, so the walk was very pleasant. Again there is no fanfare at the entrances to these heritage sites.
This Neolithic example of stone cutting, building and religious significance is really worth a slow read and reflect time. Who they were and why they disappeared are still unknown. Examples of finds from the temples are surprisingly large and the limestone blocks very beautiful. Must have taken hundreds of years to build and embellish.
Even the public cemetery next door was fascinating.
Took stock of my next route in the shade of this graceful public parklike footpath next to the Museum.
Even some of the bus stops are rich in history and public recognition of contemporary religious offerings. I found the short waits between sites and buses quite relaxing and definitely lots of people watching.
Quite a distance to the next site of Ghar Dalam. The bus hummed past semi-industrial areas, fields of farrowed ground ready for potato planting, franchises such as KFC which have their distinct Maltese take, and then to the open area for a different history – the natural fauna and flora development.
Before visiting the cave where the layers of animal remains were discovered, the visit to the museum at the site was a great way to understand the containment of the animals on the islands. It was refreshing to see the flora and fauna. I particularly enjoyed learning about the dwarf elephant and hippos.
On the path down to the cave, there is a brave attempt to beat the heat and stoney ground and replace the introduced European species of trees and shrubs with indigenous species. The chief beneficiary of this is the native bee……harmless to humans. It was heartening to hear and see them flying about in the cave.
The walls covered with plump cactus fruit and the industrial cranes of the port industries in the distance shout distinctly Mediterranean.
Archaeologists were working on sites, and the exploration in the cool cave of about 80 metres inside was a different break from the cloying crowds in Valletta yesterday. I was the only person in the cave, and was able to take my time in the dim, stalactite dripping dampness. Very interesting.
I had read comments about this site, and others had been disappointed they were not able to go further in to the cave. There is a reason. The Maltese Woodlouse only exists in the inner areas of this cave and its existence is compromised by intrusions such as cave trampers. A lousy reason or not….🤣
Retracing my bus routes and various changes was just at the right height to see lots of interesting shops and businesses, and to identify the familiar shoreline and ferry services at Sliema. It was only a short walk home through a variety of street food outlets, and I shouted myself a cider and tasted traditional Maltese stuffed marrow, marinated mushrooms in infused olive oil and lemon, and tender meaty octopus salad to celebrate my travel triumphs.