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E - Day : Malta - The Journey Begins

The big day is here! Everybody arrived in Malta except one guest who was kept back in Sicily. Air Malta decided that his US Vaccination Certificate was not good enough for boarding the plane. Crazy world! Oh well, we pick him up in Syracuse tomorrow.

Malta during the short French occupation from 1798 to 1801

It will be a busy day today. The AFAET is anchored in the Port des Galères, needs to be stocked and fuelled. There will be some shopping to do and Visnja Cali, a professional art historian, will take us on a walking tour through La Valetta in the morning.

La Valetta's main trench - carved manually into the soft

lime stone - 63 m deep at the deepest point

The towns fortifications are truly impressive. The four months long siege in 1565 left a lasting impression on the Knights of Saint John. Never ever did they want to be forced to leave their home again. They lost Acre in 1291 and Rhodes in 1522. In 1565, the Ottomans came close. With money from Philipp II, the King of Spain, La Valetta was built in only 6 years. It was a giant undertaking. Big underground sisterns had to be dug, bastions erected, giant seawalls built, warehouses constructed and public buildings for the Order created. The Knights's Grand Master, Jean Parisot de Valette, was in such a hurry that he forced his fellows to live in tents in the new town under construction. In 1571, the year when Turkey suffered its worst naval defeat in Lepanto, La Valetta was ready.

The seawalls on the Grand Harbour side

To bring the town to live and settle people took a bit longer but the wide streets and the fresh air attracted not only new Knights but also traders and merchants. Due to its rectangular grid, some of the streets are rather steep! Some are not even streets but stairs. But in 1571 this did not matter. People walked and transported goods on mules

One of the many steep streets in La Valetta

The visit to the Cathedral was also impressive. What wealth! It easily rivals Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. The story I liked most was that the Knights were allowed to write their own text on their tomb stone - good things only of course - nobody wants to stay in purgatory!

One of the magnificient tomb stones in La Valetta's

Co-Cathedral of Saint John

After shopping we took the traditional water taxi to cross the Grand Harbour and get to the AFAET. These taxis remind me of the gondolas in Venice. Similar rowing techniques - but with an outboard engine! For a little tip, our "driver" dropped us right next to our sailboat.

Traditional Water Taxi in Malta's Grand Harbour

The captain and the crew had already prepared the boat in as much as possible. We will have dinner on the boat tonight and then head out to cross the 143 miles to Sicily over night.

The AFAET with the flags up

At 21.00 h we were ready to leave. Captain Nikos steered the boat carefully out of the harbour. We waved good by to La Valetta and Fort St. Angelo and headed into the dark night. There would be no moon tonight. We should be able to see the stars overhead in their fullest beauty. Particularly Jupiter should be easily visible in the early morning/

Captain Nikos on the wheel steering out of the harbour

La Valetta to the left and Fort Sant Angelo to the right

Wind forecast for tonight - it will be a little rocky! But

that is what sailing is about!

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Jul 12, 2021

Have a great trip! 😊

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