Survival meant borrowing underground.
By June 1941, on the island of Malta, nearly 500 public rock shelters had been finished and another 400 were in progress. At the end of November 1941, the Governor of Malta announced there was space available in a shelter for the whole population of Malta. It is said that there are more streets under Valletta (capital city), than on the surface. Living like ants underground, zig-zagging tunnels allowed residence to traverse the city of Valletta.
Due to the island’s strategic location, Valletta was the most bombed city in WWII. The citizens had no choice but to burrow underground. As I descended the narrow opening of the private bomb shelter, at Casa Rocca Piccola, the Disney like vision I had of a bomb shelter faded. The confines of the dwelling struck first and then the damp, well used air next. Imagining family upon family in this and less spacious shelters gave me a very real image of people having survival thrust to the forefront every day for over a year. Malta was being starved of supplies and the Maltese people along with it.
Visiting the private shelter at Villa Bologna echoed the same sentiments.
Underground too are the Lascaris War Rooms. In 1942, the war was being run from these underground war rooms. Fleets and air squadrons taking orders from the army elite housed 100 feet beneath the surface. Learning of the mechanisms incorporated and the eventual victory was fascinating. With a large map painted on a low platform, fleets of ships and bombers were moved around like playing pieces on a large game board. Motorcycles running from one end of the island to another delivering orders.
With the war being over the passageways beneath the city were closed off, but I would highly recommend visiting one of the bomb shelters and the Lascaris war rooms. Definitely a must do.
Close your eyes. Now open them.
Images of far off lands stimulate our appetite to venture beyond our structured lives. Willing us to be a part of it all, images allow us to daydream of wonderful experiences that exist throughout the world.
A photo coming to life in our imagination gives us a sense of experience. What is stunning is when that imagined experience becomes a reality.
In the promotion of our Sicily & Malta tour I lived vicariously through many lovely images. In destination, photos came to life in an extraordinary way. I no longer had to drum up what it might feel like to be there, I was there.
The first of these experiences occurred when, on the day of our arrival in Sicily, our group viewed the Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina. All my senses took in the scene. It was sunset so the lighting was perfect for viewing this ancient ruin. Through an arched opening at the front of the theatre I could see the Ionian Sea. Following the sea to the shoreline brought in sight the Gulf of Naxos where ancient Greeks landed and decided to call this part of the island home. It was the third century BC. I felt as though, by merely being here, I became a part of that history.
Our tour continued to emotionally enlarge images for me: the Temple of Concordia, the fishing village of Marsalokk, the Azure Window to name just a few.
Images became my own. When showing my personal photos to friends and family the showing came part and parcel with a knowing smile.
Among ancient ruins.
We are in Syracuse, Sicily. A piece of paper is slightly torn and the tearing is clearly heard 213 feet away. A resonance of sound so extraordinary it has garnered the world’s attention. The marvel is referred to as Dionysius Ear, Orecchio di Dionisio.
The 75 foot high limestone opening invites us to enter the 213 foot depth of the ‘S’ shaped cave. Whispers are carried on air as we make our way toward the back of the enclosure. The cave's 25 foot width allows us plenty of room to explore. Our necks crane upward to take in the cave’s entirety. Mentally climbing over the immense ‘wow’, questions of why and when formulate.
Dionysius I (432-367 BC), a cruel, suspicious and vindictive tyrant, had the acoustically adept cave built to house political prisoners. From a focal point, at the top of the cave, Dionysius was able to listen to the plans and secrets of his captives. More morosely, it has been suggested that Dionysius had the acoustically flawless cave built to amplify the screams of prisoners being tortured.
With a more plausible ‘natural origin’ explanation at hand, I dismiss it, preferring to remain in the mysterious world of Greek mythology.
The vast Archaeological Park of Neapolis contains Syracuse’s greatest concentration of ancient ruins. For me, Dionysius Ear, in the ancient quarry (Latomia del Paradiso), most effectively turned me on my 'ear'.
With 235 years under its belt this small town has its fair share of war time happenings, historical firsts and ghosts.
It is early March and Queen Street, the main street in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is relatively unpopulated. The sparseness allows for easy meandering in and out of local shops. No hustle and bustle. Sunshine is happy to be a part of this serene day. Having just come from the spa at 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa is definitely playing a role in my happy go lucky mood. Adding sweetness to the day is being here with girlfriends. The town has provided a wonderful backdrop for our girl’s weekend getaway.
The bricks and mortar of the buildings along with the narrow two-lane main street serve to maintain the town’s simple historic ambiance. Thinking of the age of the town put me in mind of the town ghost walk I was treated to years ago. Niagara-on-the-Lake has its fair share of ghosts. Last night while dancing up a storm at the Olde Angel Inn (Ontario’s oldest operating Inn) we may have missed the rumblings of Captain Colin Swayze. Murdered by American soldiers in 1812 the Captain is said to be responsible for ghostly encounters since the Inn’s rebuilding in 1815.
Before venturing over to the Olde Angel Inn we enjoyed a dinner that had our taste buds enthralled. Treadwell is the name of the intimate establishment. The restaurant is a part of 124 on Queen Hotel and Spa (highly recommended accommodation). I have heard that cooking is an art form. I believe it. Spinning his creative magic the chef presented us with perfection. All four of us were in culinary nirvana.
Late night photos with the bronzed sculpture of Bernard Shaw set more wheels motion as to what we could experience if our stay were longer. The Shaw Festival hosted here every April to September is the only one of it’s kind. Back at our lovely hotel the four of us chatted about everything and anything until the wee hours of the morning.
The small town left me with many reason to return. Driving home I knew that Niagara-on-the-Lake had not seen the last of me.
Château Lake Louise and the Canadian Rocky Mountains
It is February and the waters of Lake Louise appear frozen in time. Near the water’s edge Rocky Mountains begin their ascent high into the sky. An eerie silence echoes off the stoic mountainsides. Truly, the majesty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains resides in a travellers embracing of the first hand experience. I am moved. In awe of the enormity of the scene it strikes me how proud I am to be Canadian. This country of ours is magnificent.
I cannot imagine a Canada without our western provinces yet, in 1867, when Canada became a country, western colonies remained independent. After the United States purchased Alaska that same year, our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, saw that he needed to work fast to expand the country westward. With a commitment to build a trans-continental railway, the western colonies agreed to join Canada. Completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), in 1885, unified Canada and, as van Horne (president of CPR) promised, opened the west up to adventurers and tourists alike. Van Horne famously said, ‘If we cannot export the scenery, we shall import the tourists.’
Van Horne set about building dining stations and luxurious hotels along the western route. The original Chalet Lake Louise (renamed Château Lake Louise in 1925) was built in 1890 as “a hotel for the outdoor adventurer and alpinist”. Its location solidified by the existence of breathtaking Lake Louise. Tom Wilson, a surveyor for the railway and the first non-native person to lay eyes on Lake Louise, wrote in his journal, “As God as my judge, I never in all my exploration…saw such a matchless sight”. (Summer 1882) Today, despite its expanse and modern amenities, the charm of Château Lake Louise extends beyond its walls to the great outdoors where it is greeted by a natural acceptance. My stay at the Château and skiing at the Lake Louise Ski Resort provided memories that came with wonderful awe inspiring moments.
Mountain exploration can seem daunting, however, there are many ways to safely experience the Canadian Rocky Mountains. One such way is to hear the “all aboard” calling and travel by rail. See the mountains as they were first seen over 130 years ago. Rocky Mountaineer, the largest privately owned luxury tourist train company in the world, appreciates the authenticity of train travel. Their goal is to provide the most spectacular and unforgettable travel experience in the world. Their slogans “Prepare to be Truly Moved” and “Don’t take our word for it” are strong statements of their commitment to offering you an extraordinary experience. Whatever your travel preferences, if natural wonders and adventure are dear to you, I urge you to experience the Canadian Rocky Mountains.
Canada, backyard travel, provides a treasure trove of marvelous travel experiences. When thinking of your next travel destination, it would serve you well to keep Canada on your list of possibilities.
Further Afield Travel and Tours would be pleased to assist you in creating and booking your next travel experience. We put personal back into travel. Come get to know us, as we will get to know you. By way of introduction feel free to visit our website: furtherafieldtravel.ca