Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Silent City

The rain had come down heavily overnight and the first of the day's showers had just begun as I arrived in Mosta shortly after nine. I was up a lot earlier than the Luftwaffe had been sixty-eight years before when the town's residents, gathered for an early-evening mass, had another unwelcome visitor from the sky: a two-hundred kilo bomb that fell through the roof, bounced without detonating and is now - along with the dome it pierced - the only reason anyone visits the place.

I took the next bus west for Mdina, the rain briefly coming down with all the force of a car wash as we passed the National Stadium and the new, purpose-built U.S. Embassy, leaving me to shelter from the last drops in the overhang of a pastizzeria. Through the entrance gate to the city you'll find yourself among a tight warren of narrow, high-walled streets, opening suddenly into odd-shaped squares each with its own cafe or church or museum. It's no longer quite as traffic free as the tourist guides proclaim - if the only cars here belong to the 400-or-so residents then there's a striking number of one car, one van families hereabouts - but from the rear bastion walls you can make out the coastline from St Paul's down to Valletta. Loiter long enough and the Silent City still holds true in the maze of honey-coloured buildings, listening to the wind and my groans of dismay at stepping in yet another puddle.

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