The heart of my heritage

Trip Start May 01, 2007
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Trip End Dec 11, 2008


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Monday, June 4, 2007

Firstly, I'll mention Sunday. Although we had a quiet day, wandering around Valletta, taking it easy, it was a special day for Malta. Malta's first Saint - St Gorg Preca, was set to become canonised. For such a deeply religious culture, this is a big, big deal. So Sunday was quiet on the streets, everyone was either in a Church, or in a pub watching the live telecast from the Vatican over a pint. Something truly rare! We had noticed the pictures of the man all over Malta in the preceding week, and wondered what it was all about. It was the Priest at Mdina who let us in on the secret.

Monday was a day I had been planning for a long time - a visit to my mother and uncles birth place, Birkirkara. I wasn't there to meet anyone, nor to trace direct ancestors, merely just to visit the house, the door, the street, the shops, and the church in the very place where my Maltese heritage lies.

I had found the location from the address my mother gave me, and with the help of 'The Maze' a very fitting name for the book of the road in Malta. Finding the house was not going to be easy, as we'd had only a dodgy mobile phone photo of a page from the Maze, and a street map with only a few of the hundreds of streets in Birkirkara. Not to mention street name signs are rare in Malta too! Anyway, he hopped off the lovely old bus somewhere near the old train station, so I knew we were in the right area. After a short time we found Triq il-Kbira,a main street in the heart of Birkirkara, of which Imnajjar Street was connected to. It was raining a little by this time, which was a little disappointing, it never rains in Malta! We had found the area, where I thought the street should be, yet I could not see it.

Kbira Street was a gorgeous street, very quiet, and not a tourist at all. This for sure was the 'real' Malta where people lived. After a little confusion I decided to bite the bullet and pop into the nearby police station for directions to Imnajjar Street. The police there were very friendly, and the station was hilarious, something I'd only picture in a film from 1940's! Turns out we were right next to the street, only about 20 meters away! Splendid we had found it!

So we headed for number 18, the house where my mother was born, and where my grandparents lived. Imajjar Street was an alleyway, not a street, and number 18 lies about 30m down the alleyway off Kbira Street. By alleyway, I mean a gorgeous pedestrianised street with cobblestones and hanging flowers, and very very quiet. It was a nice moment for me, as I felt I had just fulfilled a requirement of my life. So what did I do? Of course, I rang Mum. She was delighted to hear from me particularly due to where I was calling from. She described to me the police station opposite, and the St Francis School, so there was no mistaking where I was. It was a truly magical moment. The house is not actually a house anymore, and has been renovated to form part of the school. I though this was kinda nice. Better than a hotel I guess! However the door was still there, together with the number 18. It was amazing to think I had come from half a world way to find this exact place in the world. My mind began to do the imagination thing, and I began to wonder about my mum, my uncle, and grandparents living there. It was not only nice to visit the house in Imnajjar Street, but also the town of Birkirkara. There were zero tourists, and I had a glimpse of what standard life in Malta might be like. We also visited the surrounding streets, shops, and the lovely Church of St Helen.

Upon our return, we stopped for a look at Mosta, home to the Mosta Dome Church, or as it is really known, The Church of Santa Maria. This church is special. In WWII, a German bomber dropped three bombs onto the Mosta Dome, whilst a congregation of about 300 were sitting mass inside. Two of the bombs bounced off the dome and did not explode, and the third pierced the dome, hurtled onto the floor, skidded, and slammed into a wall. But it did not explode. Miraculously no one was hurt. This what they call a true bonifide WWII miracle. You can feel something in the Mosta Dome, and I couldn't help but believe that was an act of God. It's a truly magical place. I pulled up a pew and stared at the ceiling, to area above the altar where the bomb was meant to have come in. There is no doubt it would have been horrific. Aside from the miracle, there church itself is visually stunning, and the dome is mind boggling as it is one of the largest unsupported domes in Europe.

Afterwards we had time for a coffee, and just as we made inside this nice little cafe, the heavens opened and began to pour down. This was some seriously heavy rain, not unlike what I have seen in tropical Queensland! It was still stinking hot nonetheless. After coffee we hopped back on the  bus headed for Valletta, in the rain. We may it about two-thirds of the way back where the bus started taking silly detours, and ultimately came to a halt on steep street behind a whole swag of other buses and cars in the same predicament. We asked the bus what the problem was and he said flooding. Ha! What! It had only been raining for half a day? I guess it rarely rains in Malta and then when it does rain, the drains are equipped for it! I made the on the spot decision to ditch the stinking hot bus and go for it on foot.

Only about 100 meters down the road we came into chaos. The entire intersection connecting Floriana, Sliema, and the Three Cities was under about a meter of water! I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought it was kind of funny, but then I realised, there were people really stuck here, and real damage was being done. We headed of along the waterfront for a short distance, where we stopped to ask a police officer the best way to get to Sliema. He replied, " It dependa if you wanna swim or you a wanna walka!!". A great sense of humour! I was laughing for the next half hour. In the end we did a little of both. Over the hill we walked, and then at the bottom, another intersection was flooded, and we had no choice but off with the shoes and socks, and up with the trousers. It was great fun! We made it about half way back and stopped for a pint, and then a meal, which took us well into the evening. So that was Monday 4th June 2007, one of the best days I've ever had. Ever.
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Comments

will
will on

Now I'm confused.
Just read your post here on Birkirkara. Interesting mate. I wonder if number 18 was renovated to become part of the school? The little nun showed me the plaque which said 1885-1985, so there's no doubt the school has always been there. She also said that the numbers had changed though. I'll have to call mum!

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