At 8:45 a.m. we boarded a van headed towards Mdina. I was eager for this group adventure since I had yet to visit Mdina, Malta's ancient fortified city. During the last few history lectures we had learned about Malta during the Medieval ages with an emphasis on the Order of St. John. Prior to the Order's arrival in Malta, the only major cities were Mdina, Rabat, and Birgu. These cities are truly remarkable — everything seems to have a historical significance!
Our morning started at the National Archives in Rabat, the city outside of Mdina's fortified boundary. Not only is the National Archives a historical monument due to the documents housed inside, but also because of the building itself. The "Santo Spirito" Hospital is the oldest documented hospital in Malta, origianlly titled St. Francis Hospital. Throughout the years, the hospital experienced countless changes including the addition of a giant underground shelter during World War II. By 1942, the tiny country of Malta had become the most bombed place on Earth, making these underground shelters crucial for survival. The hospital's shelter had to be dug with enough space to wheel patients down on stretchers during the intense bombings during the War.
We made our way through the old hospital wards that now house precious documents instead of patients. I felt like a VIP being escorted through rooms packed with history — we even got to see a letter, complete with a massive royal seal, addressed to Malta from Queen Victoria! One of the most intriguing parts of the tour was viewing the voting records through the ages. The stark contrast between the booklets of years when only land owning males could vote, all males could vote, and when females were given voting rights was absurd! I particularly enjoyed viewing old "passports" or documentation allowing Maltese emmigration to the United States. We saw the document of an iliterate 24-year-old woman who emmigrated from Malta to Chicago with her two-year-old son. It's so fun to see connections between this small Mediterranean country and home.
Next on the agenda was visiting Palazzo Falson, a massive historic house museum with an eclectic collection of goods. Despite having countless owners in the two-story palace throughout the years, former owner Capt. Olof Frederick Gollcher left a stash of treasures now displayed within the historical walls. From endless pieces of silver to a 10-hour clock produced after the French Revolution, this palace is an absolute gem.
Before getting in the van going back to Sliema, we had free time to eat and walk around Mdina and Rabat. I ate the best patstizzi, a traditional savory pastry usually filled with either mushy peas or ricotta, for just 40 cents a piece!
Wandering through the fortified city full of history was truly magical. There were horse drawn carriages (since cars can't fit through the narrow streets) and laterns strung high between the buildings. As someone who has watched the first three seasons of Game of Thrones (so far), it was really fun to see where parts of season one were filmed. The fortified city of Mdina was the location used to film scenes at King's Landing! Don't worry — I won't dive into any spoiler alerts!
Going on field trips with the group has been so fun! We have a great group dynamic and enjoy wandering around places on the island together. I've enjoyed showing others my favorite places and tagging along to theirs! Together, we're conquering this island one city at a time!