Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Selmun Palace & Fort Campbell

Last Saturday, my husband and I went for a walk in Selmun. The name Selmun is derived from the Salomone family, who owned large tracts of land in this part of Malta in past centuries. This mostly-rural area is located on a hill with unobstructed views of the north-eastern part of Malta and stretching all the way to Mdina in the west. Selmun Palace and  Fort Campbell are built on this promontory and they provide a brief glimpse into two very different eras of Malta's history.

Selmun Palace

Sincerely Loree: Selmun Palace, Malta

Selmun Palace (it's actually more of a country villa) was probably built around 1783 and is typical of the Baroque style. Its shape is similar to Verdala Palace in Buskett and Wignacourt Tower in Saint Paul's Bay. It was rented for use as a hunting lodge by the Knights of Saint John. There's not much to hunt in Malta but it seems there were sufficient wild rabbits in this area to warrant a day's journey from Valletta to indulge in this 'sport'. 
Sincerely Loree: Selmun Palace, Malta

Sincerely Loree: Selmun Palace, Malta

The villa has a square plan with a pseudo-bastion at each side. The purpose of these pseudo-bastions is for the building to look imposing and to serve as a deterrent to corsairs looking for a potential landing spot. Selmun Palace was never intended or used for military purposes. 
A cluster of farmhouses is situated close-by. Selmun Palace is not currently open to the public.
Sincerely Loree: Selmun farmhouses, Malta

Fort Campbell

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

Fort Campbell, which was built by the British between 1937 and 1938, is about a kilometre away from Selmun Palace. It is different from all the other forts built previously. Due to the threat of aerial warfare, the fort was surrounded by a long, thin wall and the buildings were constructed at a distance from each other. 
Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

When viewed from the air, this layout resembled the the field walls and farm buildings of the surrounding countryside. Unlike earlier forts, it is unadorned and its gateway is just a breach in the perimeter wall, unlike the ornate gates of Victorian or Baroque forts. Fort Campbell was built to protect the northern approach to Malta.
Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

Unfortunately, this fort was never maintained and, after the British forces left Malta in 1979, it was vandalized and has fallen into disrepair. The  entrance to the fort is open and it is possible to wander around in the grounds, but rooms and barracks should be avoided as the beams have been removed from most ceilings, causing them to cave in and making them dangerous to visitors. Walls abound with colourful graffiti and the remnants of hundreds of broken bottles litter the ground.
Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell, Malta

From Fort Campbell's vantage point it is possible to get a bird's eye view of Saint Paul's Bay, Mistra Bay and St Paul's Islands. The latter is purported to be the place where the ship carrying the apostle Paul ran aground while he was on his way to Rome to be tried. An account of the shipwreck can be found in the Book of Acts. 
Sincerely Loree: St Paul's  Islands, Malta

Sincerely Loree: St Paul's Bay & Mistra, Malta

Sincerely Loree: St Paul's Bay & Mistra, Malta

We spent around 3 hours walking around Selmun and it was a very enjoyable outing. Spring is definitely in the air and giant fennel and asphodel are in full bloom; almond trees are fully of pretty blossoms.
Sincerely Loree: Almond blossoms

Sincerely Loree: Crown daisies

The crown daisies are everywhere too and they fill the air with their own particular pungent smell. Bees, wasps and a few butterflies are busy with their own little chores and I also came across a ladybird (ladybug for my US readers). I can't remember the last time I saw one but it was when my son was very young because I recall showing it to him and explaining how rare these pretty little beetles are becoming. 
Sincerely Loree: Giant fennel

Selmun is a great place to visit for a walk, a picnic or to learn a little bit about Malta's past. I just wish that the buildings of Fort Campbell could be restored to their former glory and guided tours offered to visitors. The barracks could be rented out to artists or photographers (there's plenty of inspiration in this area) and the fort grounds could still be used for picnics if people are charged a small fee that would go towards the upkeep of this historical fort. I am sure that this will never  happen, but a girl can dream.

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell,  Malta

Sincerely Loree: Fort Campbell,  Malta

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Winter musings

Yesterday I woke up to a  cold, grey morning with the mercury just hitting the 6°C mark and a strong wind blowing from the north/ north east. The Italians call it the bora and it is the coldest of cold winds that makes it to the central Mediterranean. It seems that winter has found us - for a few days. It won't last. By Thursday we will be back to normal 'winter temperatures' - somewhere in the 16°C range. It's been an even milder winter than usual this year and we even had several days in January and early February when the temperature rose above 20°C, and we've barely had any rain. Even our hibiscus plants are confused and we've had flowers in the middle of January when they are usually completely leafless and look entirely lifeless at this time of year. 

Sincerely Loree: Flowering hibiscus

As I write this, I can hear the clock in our hallway ticking away and I very much fear that each passing minute is bringing me nearer to the demise of my laptop. It is now over 10 years old and it has served me well, with only one or two major problems during all these years. I am always loathe to upgrade to something new as I know there will be a learning curve and I am, sometimes (or most times), too impatient to read instructions or change the way I have to do things. So, fingers crossed that I can get some more life out of it. 


Thinking of friends, near and far

Today I received a lovely card pf a beautiful snowy scene from Jeanne. Jeanne and I have been sending postcards to and fro for a number of years now. Her beautiful cards, depicting the lovely Tahilla Farm and its surroundings that Jeanne calls home, are always a joy to receive. If you've never visited Jeanne's blog, I suggest you head over to Collage Of Life right now and subscribe. Jeanne writes about life in New Hampshire, her mischievous puppy Tani, and Tahilla Farm and garden. I always enjoy Jeanne's book recommendations (and have added several of the books she recommended  to my reading list), her tales of expat life and her coffee chats.
Sincerely Loree

After an absence of  several years, Jane and Lance Hattatt are back to blogging. This lively English couple live in Budapest and, although they describe themselves as 'eclectic, eccentric and esoteric', their blog, aptly named Hattatt, is a pleasure to read, as I always discover a talented new artist that they have befriended or learn about some wonderful museum that they have visited. With travel restrictions still in place, it does me a world to expand my horizons. Perhaps they disagree, but I think that Jane and Lance would feel right at home during the period we now call the Belle Époque. Of course, writing about the  Hattatts has reminded me of my brief trip to Budapest in 2016. It is a lovely city that I hope to visit again someday. You may read my first impressions of this city in A Moment, In Budapest.

Sometimes I think I owe some of my sanity to my friend Lara, who made me laugh during some very dark days. We haven't met in what seems like forever but yesterday we chatted about an Instagram photo, as people sometimes do. It was a photo of a prinjolata, a traditional cake that's only made during carnival (thankfully so, as its calorific content is nothing to laugh about). As we chatted about this delectable dessert I realised it was time for us to meet up for a coffee or two and have a good laugh. Just like the old times.

Sincerely Loree: Mtarfa



Weekend plans

Most of my weekend plans these days usually involve an outing with my camera as I try to perfect my photography skills. I have finally 'graduated' to manual mode, only to discover that my bridge camera has some inherent technical limitations (that I won't bother you with) that, when using certain settings, result in photos that are not as sharp as I would like them to be. After spending several hours on YouTube, I think I have found a way to overcome this. Unfortunately, the solution involves a tripod that I am loathe to lug around. But, needs must. So we'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I am quite enjoying the walks we (my husband is my partner in photographic crime) are going on and, although we haven't discovered any new places, it has been nice revisiting old ones and taking the time to spot details that we would otherwise have missed. I will share photos from some of our 'walkabouts' in future posts. The ones I'm sharing today were all taken in the town where we live and the countryside in its vicinity.
Sincerely Loree: Mtarfa

But back to this coming weekend ...
Our son has a rafting expedition with the Boy Scouts. No, it won't be white-water rafting as no such things as rivers or rapids exist here, but he and his friends will be required to build a raft (from scratch), pile their patrol on it and race it across Mistra Bay - all while hoping it won't sink. It will be fun for the boys and, hopefully, they won't get too wet.
In the meantime, there are two things that I would like my husband and I to do and I am going to have a hard time choosing between them.
Sincerely Loree: Mtarfa

We could go for a walk around Selmun Palace and Fort Campbell. I haven't been to Selmun since I was a teenager when we used to organise hikes and picnics in this area of Malta. I don't remember much about it except that the rugged terrain and the abandoned and now-derelict fort, that was built by the British just before WW2, will provide many good photo opportunities.
Sincerely Loree: Chadwick Lakes, Mtarfa

Or, we could visit the exhibition Darkness At Noon that is taking place at The Splendid in Valletta. Darkness At Noon features ceramist Paul Scerri, photographer Charles Balzan and painter Gabriel Buttigieg. Apart from the exhibition itself, what  is even more alluring is The Splendid itself. This old hotel, located in Valletta's former red light district, merits a visit all to itself. Since its interior has never been renovated, a visit to The Splendid will feel like a walk back in time. Naturally, I  find that very hard to resist.
Sincerely Loree: Chadwick Lakes, Mtarfa

So, what shall it be: a roam around our coastline before the harsh summer sun dries up every bit of vegetation or a wander around a building that has a rather lurid history? I'm sure I'll let you know in a future post.

Monday, 8 February 2021

A visit to the Inquisitor's Palace


Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

We visited the Inquisitor's Palace in Birgu during the week between Christmas and the New Year, when all the days seem to merge into each other (I had to put that in there just in case you spy a random Christmas tree in the photos and wonder whether we're going back in time). It was probably not the most cheerful of places to visit but, keeping in mind that the inquisition was a product of its time, we had an enjoyable experience. The Inquisitor's Palace houses the Museum of Ethnography and it is the only building of its kind open to the public in Europe.

The Inquisitor's Palace - the architecture

Entrance to the Inquisitor's Palace is through the older part of the building that was built by the Knights of St John soon after their arrival in Malta in 1530. The kitchen is located in this part of the building, as is an internal courtyard surrounded by some very beautiful Gothic-style arches. After the acquisition of a number of adjacent properties, the building was enlarged. The current edifice looks very much like a Roman palazzo of the Baroque era.

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

A magnificent staircase was built to access the piano nobile on the first floor. The piano nobile was where the main living quarters of the inquisitor were located and is made up of several large rooms, the inquisitor's bedroom and his private chapel. Painted in pink, I found the inquisitor's private chapel to be quite intriguing. Pink almost feels like an anomaly in this place but it's possible that it may have been a popular colour with which to paint chapels and churches at the time. Indeed, a brief search on the Internet when I got home confirmed my suspicions. In the article A Brief History of the Color Pink, author Alice Bucknell mentions that pink was the favoured colour of the Rococo movement and was a popular colour of the interior design world of the 1700s. 

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu


Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu
T

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

The tribunal hall, prison warden's bedroom, prisons and torture chamber (alas, yes, such a room did exist) are located in another section of the building. The prison warden was responsible for the general well-being of the prisoners and  had to ensure that they were given their meals and that they were taken out for exercise. One prison warden took his responsibilities so seriously that he carved a crude sun-dial on the wall of one of the courtyards to ensure that everything was done at the appropriate time - although I am sure that not all wardens were quite as conscientious about their duties.

            Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu  

The Inquisition in Malta

The first inquisitor, Pietro Dusina, arrived in Malta in 1574. Malta fell under the Roman Inquisition not the more notorious Spanish one. The Roman Inquisition is thought to have been more tolerant and lenient than its Spanish counterpart. Punishments were generally corporal, such as public lashings or pelting with rotten vegetables, and torture was rarely used. The inquisition was abolished by Napoleon in 1798 during the brief tenure of the French Republic in Malta. Thank goodness for Bonaparte.
Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

I've just realised that it's almost Valentine's day and here I am, writing about the Inquisition. It's hardly a romantic subject but I hope you didn't find it too morbid. Despite their grisly history, I still find places like the Inquisitor's Palace very fascinating.

Sincerely Loree: The Inquisitor's Palace, Birgu

The Inquisitor's Palace, Main Gate Street, Birgu
Open on Tuesdays, Saturdays and  Sundays between 10:00hrs and 16:30hrs

My Instagram

Sincerely, Loree. Theme by STS.