Written by Stanley Greenberg Friday, 30 November 2012 00:00
When our cruise ship arrived in Malta, there were no signs of Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Sydney Greenstreet or the Maltese Falcon. Malta is a limestone-walled city, sitting proudly in the southern Mediterranean. It is Malta’s location, not its size that dictates its importance. You might have trouble locating Malta on a map, but its history is written in large letters.
Valletta, the capital of Malta, was built by the Order of the Knights of St. John. It has two deep channels that accommodate large vessels. The history of Malta dates back 7,000 years. Malta was conquered by the Arabs, Normans, Germans, French and Spaniards. It was also an important Crusader outpost.
In 1565, the Turks, under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, attacked Malta with 35,000 troops. The 540 Knights of St. John repelled the Turks. During World War II, Malta was bombed daily by the Nazis. King George VI, Elizabeth II’s father, awarded the George Cross for Bravery to the entire island. An interesting note, the Duke of Wales and his bride, Wallis Simpson, honeymooned on Malta. The current population is 401,880.
We arrived in Venice, which is at the head of the Adriatic Sea. The heart of Venice centers around St. Mark’s Square, which has been called “a great marble salon,” open to the sky. The piazza is huge with covered galleries, luxury shops and cafes. St. Mark’s Square has always been a vibrant, dignified and exciting meeting place. Unfortunately, we arrived during the rainy season and the piazza was flooded. We rolled up our jeans, took off our shoes and socks and squished through St. Mark’s Square. The gondolas kept rowing and we felt that there is no more exciting place than Venice.
The graceful Bridge of Sighs links the Doge’s Palace with the dark old prison building. The name comes from the small windows on the bridge providing the last sunlight the prisoners would see for many years. The tall Rialto Bridge in the heart of the business district is arched to allow commerce and gondolas to pass beneath it. The island of Murano, known for its intricate blown glass, is a must stop for tourists. It certainly is easy to spend all your Euros in the bewitching city of Venice.
Back onboard the The Grand Princess, we waved goodbye to Venice and sailed on to Croatia.