If you live in Malta or any one of the 17 Eurozone countries, you may have noticed a newcomer in your wallet since May 2013. Or, like myself, you may not have. As someone who lived through the UK’s momentous changeover to decimal currency in 1971 and then Malta’s change to the Euro on 1 Jan, 2008, it’s strange to think that there are children, now aged 11 like my son, who’ve only ever known the face of Europa. I hazard a guess that only bank tellers have clocked the latest note change even though around 332 million of us use it daily.
This post is of the practical advisory type to help visitors and residents of Malta get to know their notes well, not just to spot fraudulent ones, but also to help them when they delve into purses and wallets. Since May, a new-design Euro fiver appeared; the first and lowest denomination new-look Euro note to be in circulation as part of an ongoing programme over the next few years to replace Euro bank notes. Wear and tear of old notes and replacement with smooth, sleek new notes apart, there practical reasons for the change.
The design changes are quite subtle to an untrained eye, but these quirky European Central Bank videos explain how to spot the design differences:
New security features and benefits
The new €5 banknote has benefited from advances in banknote technology since the first series was introduced in 2002. It includes some new and enhanced security features. The watermark and hologram display a portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology – and hence the name of this series of banknotes. An eye-catching “emerald number” changes colour from emerald green to deep blue and displays an effect of the light that moves up and down.
Short raised lines on the left and right edges of the banknote make it easier to identify the banknote, especially for visually impaired people.
All these security features can be found on the front side of the new note and can be readily checked using the “feel, look and tilt” method [see videos above for how]. It is envisaged that they will be included in all the banknotes of the Europa series. The other banknotes in the series will be introduced in the years ahead, with the €10 as the next denomination.
Classic cars, who doesn’t love them? Oozing retro glamour with their curvaceous bodies and vintage liveries of pillar-box red and racing green and some softer 50s pastels and greys dominating. They are a car and photographer’s delight. The Valletta Grand Prix Foundation‘s Mdina Grand Prix 2013 is on this weekend. We’ve just walked by the static car display in Mdina’s cathedral square and wished we’d had a camera with us. But with camera in hand, we’ll be back over the weekend for some photo opportunities (how’s your moving image shooting?). The Grand Prix takes place in the picturesque setting beneath the Bastions of Mdina, Malta’s Old Capital city, affording some good spectator viewpoints from the upper bastion gardens above the ditch.
Here’s some info from the organisers…
What started off in 2009 as a dream with an organisation going into motion all in within a few weeks has now transcribed into a prestigious annual event which is becoming also internationally renowned with participants from all over Europe attending. The event which was a first for Malta, having recruited foreign participants to take part in competitive motorsport, clearly illustrates the high standards that are being portrayed.
Last year’s event, that was spread over three days from the Concours d’Elegance on Friday to a weekend of racing, has been described as another success with major coverage both locally and also the by the international classic motorsport press. Enhancing the event were various local activities that continued to illustrate what Malta had to offer in terms history and culture
Over the weekend, spectators were also treated to Static Car Exhibitions put up, in collaboration with the VGPF, by the Old Motors Club (OMC) VW Club Malta and various other local motoring clubs.
This year the Mdina Grand Prix promises to be even more spectacular, with the programme being further extended by another day in order to accommodate more competitive and social gatherings. Preparations are in full swing and entries for the Grand Prix and Concourse will soon be available online.
The event would not be possible without the logistical support from the Mdina Local Council, backed by the Mtarfa and Rabat Local Councils, together with the continued support and cooperation of the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), the Malta Council for Sport (KMS), Transport Malta (TM), the Ministry for Infrastructure, Transport and Communication (MITC) and the Malta Police Force, as well as the collaboration of the Old Motors Club (OMC), Island Car Club (ICC), the Malta Motorsports Federation (MMF), the Malta Drag Racing Association (MDRA) plus our dedicated Corporate Sponsors.
Grand Prix including static classic car displays from 10 – 13 October, 2013, in and around Mdina. See the Valletta Grand Prix Foundation website for details.
Photos: top photo courtesy of Gege Gatt; in-text photos courtesy of Leanne Attard Photography, Valletta Grand Prix, 2012.
There are plenty of reasons why holidays to Malta are still so popular. The tiny archipelago is like a scattering of gems set in the Mediterranean’s diadem. Don’t let the tiny size (the entire country – one fifth the land area of London) discourage you from traveling and taking a holiday here, says travel writer Michael Roberts. Here’s his round up of what he likes most about Malta however many return trips he makes to the Islands.
There are More Than Two Sides to Malta
I like the fact that while Malta is one of the most densely populated pieces of real estate in the world, a veritable rabbit warren afloat on the sea, Malta still has secluded beaches. And places you can contemplate the profound depths of history. But if you find the quiet of those spots starts getting to you, the place crawls with restaurants, shopping centres, spas, and just about everything else in quantities great enough to enjoy an entire life (or, alas, just a fortnight) of travel and leisure.
Just to illustrate though how much it has to offer, Malta’s the kind of place where hotel amenities regularly include several centuries of history alongside a pool, not to mention splendid luxury. I’m often able to find cheap flights there, and there are regular ferries, if you like a little transportation variety. And there’s the weather, which is about as good as you’ll come across most times of the year.
Top destinations include the town of Valletta, sitting on a scenic finger of land and doing double duty as Malta’s capital and one of its three World Heritage Sites. Mediterranean coastal towns run the risk of sinking under the weight of superlatives, to the point where I can’t talk about their charm without feeling cliché-ic. No matter how many of these places I’ve seen before, however, I never regret a visit to Valletta.With a car rental, you can escape to the Delimara Peninsula, a world away from the bright lights of the little city. Driving is also a good way to see The Megalithic Temples of Malta, which not only roll off the tongue; they’re also on the World Heritage Site list. Consisting of eleven stone monuments up to seven thousand years old, wandering them is like voyaging the seas of time. Speaking of old stone and seas, don’t miss Dwerja, a coastline of fantastic limestone formations.
Subterranean in the Middle of the Mediterranean
My Maltese favourite happens to be the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni. The name alone conjures something arcane and exotic – a port of call where interstellar cruises disembark in some science fiction novel, perhaps. As unique as its name, it’s the world’s only known example of a subterranean temple built in prehistoric times. It had a long and varied history, beginning as a temple, or perhaps the home of an oracle, but was later converted into a necropolis where eventually 7,000 souls were laid to rest. You can still see some of the remains today.
The chambers lie on three different levels. This first is the main ossuary. The second, to me is the most interesting, with walls cut from limestone so skillfully they resemble laid stone, rather than carved rock. The second level contains what I think are the most interesting rooms in the whole Hypogeum. The name of the Decorated Room speaks for itself: curving walls are covered in swirling designs, evocative of lost dreams and forgotten ancient beliefs. The ochre paintings in the Oracle Room are just as fascinating, but the real attraction there is the acoustics of this odd little gourd-shaped chamber. It’s easy to imagine a whispering oracle crouched in this dark spot under the uncanny swirling paintings designs, uttering prophecies magnified by the very earth itself. Easy, because you can try out the acoustics yourself.
Perhaps most impressive is the age of the structure. The Hypogeum was constructed during the Bronze Age, around 4,500 years ago. Think about it: 500 more years will have to pass before our Gregorian calendar is just half as old as these chambers. And remember, Bronze Age. No iron to cut and carve Malta’s hard limestone back then. The ancient masons did it all with flint and obsidian. To achieve such workmanship with such tools is another reason the site is famous.
A Few Important Details
That the Hypogeum lies essentially directly beneath a thriving metropolis not only makes it weirder, it also makes it extremely easy to visit. Multiple buses run from near all the hotels in Valletta past or very close to the Hypogeum. And once you’re done with your tour, the Tarxien Temples, definitely worth a visit in their own right for their intricate stone carvings, are a short stroll away. That’s one of the things I love about Malta, it’s so small, you can see a lot in a single day, and still have time to soak it all in without feeling rushed. The only catch is that Heritage Malta, which runs the site, only allows 60 people a day to tour the Hypogeum. So, be sure to plan ahead!
There’s an old saying on Malta, “A kiss without a hug is like a flower without fragrance.” No one place in Malta is far enough from the water that you don’t get the fragrance of the sea in each breath. The little island country truly is a flower, where you can breathe deeply of the ocean of history.
About the Author
Michael Roberts’ love of travel began at a young age, when his historian father regularly took the whole family on holidays to Malta. Refusing to grow up being an integral facet of the successful travel writer, he spends trips ferreting out forgotten historic sites, contemplating their grandeur, and then writing about them for websites like Travel Republic.
Photos: courtesy of Neil Alderney & I.Vogelmann (Flickr creative commons)
A few weeks ago, we received an email at Malta Inside Out that stood out from the daily flow through our inbox: a US anthropologist, P. Christiaan Klieger, told us he’d been made a Knight of the Sovereign Order of St John. His research on the singularity, and singular success of Europe’s micro-states in surviving and thriving among their larger neighbours, had drawn him to Malta, and drawn the attention of the Grand Master. Christiaan gained not only access to the Order for academic purposes but also a knighthood and what is now a life-long personal commitment to the Order. As we’re interested in outside-insider views on the Islands, we asked him to explain his research on Malta and also what his entry into the Order means to him.
Q.What drew you to micro-states of Europe as a subject of research?
As a kid growing up in the Cold War United States, it seemed like the only countries that mattered in the world were the large, multinational super powers or giants such as China. With this came the notion that Modernism, with its televisions, jet planes, and spaceships, was an infinitely better proposition than adhering to a dusty past, especially in regards to social conventions. When I first began to travel to Europe as a teenager, I realized that there were fully functional, happy nations smaller than Rhode Island, the smallest state in the US. I was thinking Luxembourg. But then I discovered that there were countries smaller than my hometown—in fact one “state” didn’t seem to have any territory at all (i.e. the Sovereign Military Order of Malta). My question is why do these places still exist? That has been my fascination.
Q. Malta is one of the larger micro-states in your study, and unlike most of the others is not a state underpinned by a principality. What are the main similarities and unique aspects of Malta compared to its fellow micro states (apart from it island status)?
The Republic of Malta is unusual among European microstates that it is an archipelago rather than an enclave within another country or an area surrounded by larger, continental states. And, of course, Malta too had its feudal period, having been a fief of the Kingdom of Sicily, itself under the crown of Aragon. Since I write so much about the Order of Malta in this book, it was natural to include the Republic of Malta.
Q. What lasting mark, architecture and artefacts aside, did the Order make on Malta? And of what relevance is the Order to Malta today? How also, have the relations ebbed and flowed between the two states?
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes, and of Malta, of course, founded the capital of Valletta and glorified all the landscape by building great baroque churches, palaces, hospitals, and auberges throughout the land. Although in the past the Order must have seemed like just another occupying force to the Maltese, there was a lot of integration between Maltese and the knights. Relations have been steadily improving since Maltese independence. While the Order of Malta is headquartered today in Rome, where it exists in Rome as a sovereign enclave like the Vatican, the important Fort St. Angelo, aka “Castrum Maris” in Birgu, was given back to the Order in 1999 under a 99-year lease. In addition, it was given a sort of limited extra-territoriality under the supervision of resident knight, Frà John Critien, himself Maltese.
Q.Your work shows that Europe’s micro-states are among the richer states in Europe. How did this phenomenon happen? What came into play to preserve their independent spirit and enterprise?
Q. Most of us living here today, feel Malta is incredibly cosmopolitan. On the other hand, Malta manages to retain its traditions, such as village festas, which are in fact growing stronger by the year. A reaction to increased globalisation perhaps?
Malta always has been one of the most cosmopolitan places in the world. As crossroads of the Mediterranean, it has seen wave after wave of settlers from other places, the Phoenicians, the Normans, the Knights, and the British. All have added their own unique layers of culture. The current inward migration seems part of the same phenomenon, as new peoples come and enrich the rich cultural milieu. You could say that today’s innovations are tomorrow’s traditions. Change is inevitable, but identity maintains.
Q. During your research, the Order, particularly the Grand Master, took a keen interest in your research. On a personal note, what does being a Knight of the Order of St John mean to you, and what obligations does it bring with it?
Being a part of a chivalric order that is over 900 years old is a staggering surprise for someone who started the project as an anthropological observer. Being a knight presents unique challenges, for one being in obedience to religious superiors. Second, as a military order, one also must take directions from superior officers. For those who are from the corporate or academic world, who might be used to a great degree of freedom, it is not always an easy thing to control or be controlled. In the Order we call it “herding cats”. Yet despite the challenges, being a knight charged with the twin duties to defend the Faith and care for the poor and sick, charisma that descend directly from the Crusades, gives a special substance to my life.
Q. A final word: can you say what Malta means to you personally?
Malta is a wonderful example of a post-modern state. Having been a colony for most of its history, its present “ethnogenesis” as a unique state in the Eurozone is an inspiration for many other small places in Europe and beyond.
More on the author
P. Christiaan Klieger was born in Montana but lived most of his life in Hawai’i. He received his doctorate in anthropology from the University of Hawai’i in 1989 on the process of national identity formation. He is a leading expert on the principle of self-determination among the peoples of Tibet. He has also worked extensively with Native Hawaiians in historic preservation and with Native North Americans on self-determination and the application of Native voice in museums. He is the author of several books on the history of Tibet and the Hawaiian kingdom and dozens of articles. Klieger currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is a knight of the Order of Malta and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, and is a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
P. Christiaan Klieger’s website
His book, The Micro States of Europe: Designer Nations in a Post-Modern World’, is available to order from Rowman and Littlefield.
Photos: Fort St. Angelo courtesy of wikicommons. Knights in Rome, P. Christiaan Klieger.
It’s late 2009 and IT professional and photography fanatic Pierre Axiaq is tinkering with his latest project – a 360 degree panoramic photo. Confiding in his friend and fellow IT professional George Borg, the two history buffs set about perfecting the images and the process behind them and to putting the idea to good use. They decide to place the images online for all to see, and also so as to dispel the widely held myth that there is nothing much to see in Malta that can’t be visited and done in a day or two’s sightseeing.
So began maltain360.com. Today, the site features over two hundred 360 degree panoramic images of historical, scenic or otherwise interesting locations from across the Maltese archipelago. Maltain360 has proved immensely popular and its success has been recognised more officially too with the site having scooped the Most Promising Innovation Award in the Malta Innovation Awards 2012.
Among the most popular of the 360 images on the maltain360 site are those of the Cottonera Lines, Għar il-Kbir, Lascaris War Rooms, the War Hospital Shelters under the Police Headquarters, the Medieval Chapel at Ħal-Millieri. However, in this article, Pierre and George are sharing a few of their particular favourites.
Situated on Manoel Island in Marsamxett harbour, construction on Fort Manoel started in 1723 after it was rightly pointed out that the almost brand new city of Valletta could suffer heavy damage from an undefended island flanking it. The fort was intended to act as an outpost for Valletta while covering the city’s western flank. Fort Manoel is one of Pierre’s favourite 360 degree images as the seaward entrance shows the awe inspiring western side of Valletta to great advantage. The fort was also military engineer François de Mondion’s magnum opus and he had expressed his desire to be buried in the Chapel of St Anthony of Padua located in this same fort. He died of a heart attack on Christmas Day 1733, however his tombstone was sadly lost through the ages.
Summer Solstice at Mnajdra Temples
The 360 degree image of the Summer Solstice at Mnajdra Temples is one of George’s favourite images for the simple reason that so very few people ever have the opportunity to enjoy the momentous twice yearly occasion. The solstice at Mnajdra demonstrates the advantage of having such happenings digitized and available all year round on a website for all to see and this thought motivates always George. While it is it is not known for certain whether the Mnajdra temple’s orientations with the solstices and equinox were intentional, they are so precise that it is very probable, also as in prehistoric agricultural societies the observation of the motion of the stars, the moon and sun could have been related to the changing seasons and times of planting and harvesting crops.
Mġarr ix-Xini Tower in Gozo
The Mġarr ix-Xini bay in Ta’ Sannat, Gozo can be found on the island’s south-west shoreline. The Mġarr ix-Xini Tower is the largest of the handful of coastal watch-towers erected by the Knights of St John on the island of Gozo which it is to be noted was much less fortified than Malta. Built in 1661, one year after Grandmaster De Redin’s death, the tower has no inscriptions as to who erected it, however, similarities in its design to other towers in Malta, as well as the fact that it was De Redin who built a network of 13 towers on the larger network all point towards the same Grand Master as the hand behind the Mġarr Ix-Xini Tower. The Mġarr ix-Xini Tower was jointly restored during the year 2000 by the Ministry for Gozo and Wirt Għawdex.
It is one of Pierre and George’s favourite images not just because of how heavily set in stone the tower is, but also because of the supremely panoramic vantage point it enjoys, as demonstrated by the picture below, snapped from the 360 degree panorama from the tower’s roof.
George and Pierre are out there constantly collecting more 360 degree images of these fascinating Islands. Check back on their site for more panoramas and stay updated with the latest news from Maltain360 on their Facebook page.
Digital nomad lifestyles are not for everyone. However, if you like traveling, meeting people and the freedom to work whenever and wherever you want, it might be a working lifestyle to opt into. It can offer new ways to manage a work-life balance that allow you time to learn new skills such as exploring cultures and cuisines, or the chance to simply chill out meditating, exercising and so on.
Maltese Internet specialist Jean Galea recently returned from a four-month spell as a digital nomad travelling in Asia, primarily in Thailand. He talks to us about how the lifestyle enabled him to live out his dreams. Jean feels that not only should more Maltese try out a digital nomadic lifestyle, but also that Malta can be a place where digital nomads come to fulfill some of their own ambitions. He sees a mentality shift as key to inspiring both ends of the digital nomad spectrum. We intend our interview with Jean to spark discussion about the viability of Malta as a viable digital nomad destination, providing a new type of visitor stay on the islands and the chance for greater interaction among local and overseas digital cultures and creatives.
Digital nomads have tended to avoid Europe for obvious reasons – developed tourism industries, cost, lack of opportunities to live a different way of life, less exciting destinations, and so on. Malta may be easy to move to and live in – English speaking, relatively good value etc – but on paper it seems not to check boxes on the digital nomad’s wishlist. Why do you feel it could fit the bill as an ideal digital nomad location?
In my opinion Malta may be the best place for a digital nomad in Europe, although it remains relatively unknown especially among non-European nomads. Most digital nomads look for a new cultural immersion, affordable cost of living, a beautiful location and excellent climate. I believe Malta can deliver on all counts. The only thing that Malta misses is of course a digital nomad community and a different mentality when it comes to jobs and careers. But then that’s the reason why I’m talking about Malta in the first place, in order to change this status quo.
Would it be fair to say that your interest in promoting Malta as a suitable digital nomad destination is tinged perhaps by a sense of nostalgia for homeland after a good few months on the road as a nomad yourself? What motivates you to promote Malta among the nomadic ‘tribes’ out there?Rather than a sense of nostalgia, I think my interest in promoting Malta as a suitable digital nomad destination stems from my vision for a more modern attitude towards work and career in Malta.
I have always disliked the pigeon-holing of our education, which also comes from most parents’ mentalities unfortunately. From a young age, our youngsters are pushed and pushed to perform well at exams, and are then expected to secure a ‘good job’ as soon as they graduate (or sometimes even earlier) and ‘live happily ever after’.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much value education and spent a good five years at University in Malta and UK. What I want to challenge is the mentality and one-dimensional approach to education and life in general. Being a digital nomad is definitely not for everyone, but I want to make sure that those who have it in them to do such a thing are not restrained and have their ‘course corrected’ until they end up unhappy on the career ladder.
The digital nomad lifestyle is one that can be lived perpetually or just for a year or two. What’s more, you can do it at any point in life. I’ve met digital nomads who are 20 years old and others who are in their 50s and 60s, and of course all the ages in between. That’s the great thing about being a digital nomad, it’s a flexible lifestyle and it gives you a lot of freedom.
You’ve recently set up a Facebook Group – Malta Digital Nomads – to act as a hub for those interested in experiencing ‘nomadism’ on the islands or in promoting it. How do you see the group/initiative developing? What, if any, infrastructure would you need here and what entities would you perhaps need to galvanise into action to enable this new niche of ‘tourism’ to get going here?
I am not so inclined to look for official support for digital nomads but rather I want to foster the development of such a mentality on a personal level with other people. That is why I set up the Facebook group. I would like the group to act as a source of information for digital nomads coming to Malta, a means of communication and organisation for those who are already in Malta, and a place where Maltese people who entertain the idea to find support and information from others who have lived/are living the digital nomad lifestyle.
On the other hand, having more and more cafes providing good internet access would definitely help us digital nomads. My mind boggles as to why, in 2013, it is so hard to find a cafe with free Wi-fi access in Malta. And I’m not talking about intermittent connections and 1 megabit speeds. Very close to where I lived in Chiang Mai, in Thailand, I came across what could be more aptly described as a haphazardly-built shack than a cafe; but take note of this, they provided 24 megabit free Wi-fi access. That’s just one example. You’d be hard pressed to find a cafe in Thailand’s digital nomad hubs which doesn’t have free Wi-fi of that ilk. And, of course, digital nomads appreciate that and gravitate to these centres.
Would putting Malta on the map as a digital nomad destination be good for the country? A sweeping statement, I know, but perhaps there would be spin-offs in terms of ie. internationalising our local digital culture as people rub shoulders, sparking innovation among Maltese young people, or giving the country a different edge in certain online circles?
I think the Maltese are very interested in mingling and exchanging ideas with people coming from other countries. I definitely see a growth in the presence of digital nomads being positive for the country. One must remember that many digital nomads tend to be very interesting, well-traveled people who have loads of experiences to share. From my own experience, you can learn a lot and widen your horizons by having discussions with other digital nomads.
Photo: courtesy of Leslie Vella.