Beautiful Valletta, Malta

IMG_1565_2Valletta, The Fortress City, Citta’ Umilissima, “a city built by gentlemen for gentlemen” is Malta’s capital city: a living, working city, the administrative and commercial heart of the Islands. Valletta is named after its founder, the respected Grand Master of the Order of St. John, Jean Parisot de la Valette. The magnificent fortress city grew on the arid rock of Mount Sceberras peninsula, which rises steeply from two deep harbours, Marsamxett and Grand Harbour. Started in 1566, Valletta was completed, with its impressive bastions, forts and cathedral, in the astonishingly short time of 15 years, even more remarkable is considering the fact that mechanical tools did not exist at the time and the whole city was built entirely by hand.

The city is busy by day, yet retains a timeless atmosphere by night, that gives the feeling that you are walking back in time. The grid of narrow streets boasts some of Europe’s finest art works, churches and palaces.

“The sun had gone down but the trees and the first houses of Kampos were still glowing with the sunlight they had been storing up since dawn. It seemed to be shining from inside them with the private, interior radiance of summer in Greece that lasts for about an hour after sundown so that the white walls and the tree trunks and the stones fade into the darkness at last like slowly expiring lamps.”

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Patrick Leigh Fermor

Probably (at the time) the worst airport in the world, Ouessa, Republic of Congo, 2009

RNHEAJauMqqln3yn4oXvSxAno1_1280Probably the worst airport in the world, at the time, although there have been a few since which come close or even superseded to reach the top of the league table, however this remains strong in the memory. The little landing strip, situated in the remote north of the country on the outskirts of Ouessa a tiny town of incomplete dirt streets lined with low walled buildings, a small berth and rusting jetty which is slowly sinking into the vast river and an incongruous five-storey Congolese bank headquarters (what an earth it was doing there was never clearly explained) replete with a skin of shining tinted glass. Ouessa airport earns its award as the worst airport in the world for one simple reason…it’s not really there. Well it is there, only its wrapped in tape, sealed from the outside world. The brand new terminal building, despite being completed eight months before, has remained closed ever since due to the president having not agreed on a suitable date for the opening ceremony. Passengers are trafficked along a sunbaked runway to a small shed of wood and tin roofing which serves inadequately in all departments as departures and arrivals, fly blown butcher stall, shuttered and long-closed if ever opened bar, the local customs and police station where small sums of dirty money are exchanged for various reasons and finally as a taxi rank for the handful of cars which still work.