First planed city in Europe

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We have been to a bus terminal several times already. But so far we didn’t make it inside the walls of Valetta. We walk across the bridge over the ditch protecting the city. The city is actually the first planed city in Europe.

Back during the great siege of 1565 when the ottoman landed their fleet at Fort St. Elmo there was no city at this sight – only the fort. The Maltese manage to inflict so many losses on the Ottoman army they decided to give up the conquest of Malta. But the knights of Malta feared the Ottomans would return later so they began the construction of a stronger fortification around Fort St. Elmo. They build the great ditch you have to walk across to get to the city of Valetta and the walls around the city – the construction of the wall started already in 1566 just a year after the failed Ottoman siege.

The city was built pretty much in one continues process making it easy to plan the town. There were straight streets all over the city at a time all other European cities at the time had strange winding roads just put up where ever there was space for a thoroughfare. The straight streets of Valetta actually have a dual purpose of being easy to navigate but the narrow streets also provide shade during the day and make it easy for the wind to blow through the streets helping to reduce the sweltering heat of the summer days when temperature in the city can go above 40. For the visitor the layout in a grid system make it very easy to navigate the old town.

The Grand Master palace

The first thing we see when we get inside the old town is the big parliament building and just after this we reach the ruins of the old theater. The building like much of Valetta was destroyed by German and Italian bomb since Malta and in particular the harbor around Valetta was an important British base disturbing the transport from Italy to Rommel’s troops in North Africa. It has been decided not to rebuild the theater and leave it as a reminder of the hard time in Valetta history.

We walk along the broadest street of Valetta – when you go into the city you immediately come to this street – most of the buildings of interest in the city is along this street. So we walk the length of the streets in its entirety. We pass the main palace of the city the Grand Master palace which is located on a big square. From the main palace the street goes downhill until we reach the Fort St. Elmo. This is where the city ends in at the fortress which is protecting the harbor of Valetta. The unfortunate thing about going down to the fort is you kind of have to walk back up hill unless you take a ferry across the water to Slima or Victoria. We walk back up – it isn’t too bad so we make it back up the hill with no problems.

We go around a couple of the side streets of Valetta passing the main church of the city. At the edge of the town is a small garden with a terrace with a view across the water where you can see Victoria. The garden is the Upper Barrakka Garden and right below the garden you can see a saluting battery which apparently sometimes does give gun salutes and you can go down and see it for a price – but we are not going down for the firing of the guns. I think it was earlier in the days anyways. The garden is a nice place to rest and enjoy the view and the relative quiet of the garden.

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