Friday, April 28, 2017

Malta - catacombs and WW2 shelters

I made my first visit to Malta in January 2015 but only did a blog on the "limestone and caves" as well as "The Limestone Heritage". I didn't get round to any other posts, probably because I took so many photos I couldn't be bothered to decide what to choose!! I really liked Malta, so went back again in March 2017. In 2015 I didn't go to the neigbouring island of Gozo, so intended to go in 2017, and wanted to see the famous rock arch, the Azure Window. However this collapsed just one week before I went to Malta! I did a blog of before and after.

On both trips to Malta, I bought a week's bus pass and spent the time going round on the buses. So I covered a lot of ground and saw a lot of things. In 2017 I concentrated more on underground sites such as WW2 shelters and catacombs.

The first of these was at Mellieha in the west of the island, where I went into the World War II Mellieha shelters. €2.40 entry.

During the war, Malta was one of the most bombed places on earth. In Mellieha people hid in natural caves until the government organised the digging of shelters in the soft limestone. The largest complex was opened to the public in 2004. Here there are 500 m of tunnels.

Families could apply for a permit to dig small private rooms. See more on the Times of Malta.

Across the road is Our Lady of the Grotto, a little chapel in a dug out grotto

My next underground excursion was to St Pauls Grotto at Rabat. St Paul supposedly lived in this cave for 3 months after being shipwrecked on the way from Crete to Rome, around AD 60.
There is also a complex of tunnels and catacombs at St Pauls.

Above is the Wignacourt Museum, formerly the baroque residence of the Chaplains of the Knights of St. John.

Nearby is the St Catald Church and catacombs, entry by donation. This is only a small complex.

Further up the road is the Museum Department St Paul's Catacombs. I guess this is St Paul pointing the way -

It was only later that I realised these are the main ones, not the one at the Wignacourt Museum that I had already visited. So a couple of days later I went back to visit those. They are located on the outskirts of the old Roman capital Melite (today’s Mdina). They are under the care of Heritage Malta. The tour starts in the exhibition hall, then you can walk around the grounds visiting the 21 (?) tombs plus explanation rooms. St Pauls' Catacombs - Gateway to the Underworld -

The site was first a quarry, the stone was used for the construction of buildings in Melite.  When the quarry was abandoned the site was turned into a large cemetery, outside the city walls. There were hundreds of shaft and chamber tombs used circa 4th c. BC - 2nd c. AD. There was also a section for cremation urns and amphorae burials. Sometime around or after the 2nd c. AD the area was quarried again and some of the burials were lost and buried.

I was very impressed by the way Heritage Malta have constructed the walkways etc.

 Rows of tombs -
Each numbered catacomb has an info board describing what is inside and how many steps there are down into the catacomb -

Menorah -
The complex is quite narrow -

See more on Heritage Malta St Paul's Catacombs.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Full moon near Jupiter April 10-11

The April full moon is visible in the UK on 11 April. This is the first full moon of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The Christian festival of Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon in Spring. This year Easter Sunday is April 16.

Jupiter is very close to the full moon. On 10 April the moon, one day before full in the UK, passes Jupiter in Virgo, passing just 2 degrees above Jupiter in Virgo. Also in the vicinity is Spica, Virgo's brightest star. (Virgo is a constellation).

The first full moon of Spring is often called the Pink Moon, due to the Springtime flowers.

This photo is from National Geographic -

And my lousy photos - Spica is visible below the moon on the right

If I get any better photos on 11th I will post them here.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Flowers, cows, lambs and donkeys in Somerset

Spent a few days in Somerset, nice Spring weather. Flowers in my friend's garden -

Cat drinking from the pond -

Tadpoles in the pond -

Cows at a friend's farm -

The donkeys will soon be going back to Weston super Mare for the summer season -

Different donkey in a neighbouring field -

Sheep with their young lambs -

Spring is here!!!!!!!!