Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Back to Malta

Then my colleagues came over to Malta for a visit. We looked around St. Paul's Bay a bit, had lunch. Then we went into the University to see the Rector and some of his administrators for international programs. It was a very pleasant and interesting meeting.

On Sat. we went to Gozo for the tour (Tech and Keweenaw's sort of like going on the Copper Country Cruise with visitors) and then Kim and Christa took me to Tarragon in St. Paul's Bay for dinner (great place--all you folks on Malta who want a nice, fancy-but-tasty meal should try it). Marvin, the chef/owner, came out and made a fuss over us; that was very sweet of him.

On Sunday, Dr. Claude Busuttil, Architect and Restoration Consultant, had volunteered (via the US embassy) to take us on a guided tour of the architecture of Mdina. This really made the place new for me, even though I'd been there before. We ran into a rally by the hunter's, so that was different--even saw dogs in camouflage. After we'd looked in Mdina, he showed us some of the architecture of the surrounding city of Rabat. He then took us into Valletta the back way due to political rallies in two spots by the Labour and Nationalists parties. It was fun approaching the city from a different direction. He was gracious, funny, charming, and wonderfully expert. He also showed us a couple of his restoration projects in Valletta--quite impressive.

On Monday, we returned to Valletta for two events set up by the US embassy. Before the events started, we went to St. John's Co-Cathedral, a magnificent baroque edifice that also has two Caravaggios, Preta paintings, and some wonderful tapestries. You have to see it to believe it. Then to the functions. First was lunch with architects and heritage people in the Malta. We went to Fusion4 up between two sets of walls in the fortifications (and I forgot to take pictures). It was a spectacularly pretty day and so we ate outside. The conversation flowed readily and produced lots of discussion on comparative land use, ways to preserve both natural and built environments, and some general history of Malta. We then moved over to the embassy and met with university students interested in entrepreneurship and young businessmen. All of us were impressed by how upbeat the Maltese students were about the economic future of their island. Things really are happening here, so the mood is hopeful among the young, educated Maltese.

The photos: Salt pans in Gozo, a quarry operation in Gozo, a view of a cloister in Rabat, my colleagues and Dr. Busuttil on the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta.

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