Sitting in a dentist’s chair half-way around the world from ‘home’, I was told the disappointing news: I had my first, albeit tiny, cavity. Shawn and I had come to Subotica, Serbia to devour its delightful Art Nouveau architecture, but I hadn’t imagined that one of my teeth would be wearing a porcelain souvenir upon our departure from the historic city. While we’d read about Subotica’s gorgeous architecture and promising wine in a New York Times article dubbing it one of 52 Places to Go in 2014, we had only learned about the northern Serbian city’s well-respected dental tourism by chance, once we’d arrived there. Long curious about the medical tourism phenomenon, we sandwiched routine dental check-ups in between a Subotica walking tour, market visit and leisurely strolls.
When we moved to the Mediterranean island of Malta last autumn, we envisioned our leisure time swiftly being spent exploring the country’s plentiful heritage sites, soaking up the sunshine, and strolling by the beautiful blue water encircling the tiny island. Back then, we couldn’t imagine all the red tape that we’d have to ‘cut through’ in order to settle into another new country. At times, we were feeling a bit daunted by it all.
Once we’d overcome bureaucratic tasks like securing a visa and finding an apartment, it was time to begin getting acquainted with this island, which boasts 7,000 years of history and a fervor for festivals. Not long after we arrived, Malta ‘rolled out the red carpet’ for world leaders attending a high-profile summit and meeting of Commonwealth nations. And soon, Malta’s communities began ‘painting their towns red’ with traditional saint’s day festivals (festas), and lively celebrations of the Carnival, Christmas and New Year’s sort. In finally being able to soak up all these details, we went from feeling daunted to delighted by our new surroundings.
As I looked back on the past six months here, I noticed that of all the fantastic color that makes Malta’s street scenes come alive, red hues are especially plentiful. From the island’s flag, to its ubiquitous crimson-colored phone booths and enclosed balconies, red simply abounds here.
What follows is a photo essay of some of the splashes of red which I’ve spotted. Continue reading “Seeing Red: Capturing the Island of Malta in Cardinal & Crimson”
Living in Valletta, where there isn’t much green space, Shawn and I have swiftly fallen for the charms of Malta’s countryside. While honking horns and heavy traffic prevail in the densely populated parts of the Mediterranean island, the feeling is relaxed outside these urban areas. Open fields are dotted with agricultural plots of land and rocky walls, and the air is fresh and crisp. And if you keep motoring far enough, you reach land’s end and the beginning of the brilliant blue sea.
When I had my maiden visit to the Mediterranean nation of Malta in 2006, the island’s capital city, Valletta, was largely a diamond in the rough. Countless old limestone palazzi were forgotten, shyly sporting boarded-up windows. Nestled among these once-noble structures were shuttered storefronts, many of which still wore vintage signs that showed what businesses were housed inside decades before. I tried to imagine who passed through the doorway of a former ironmongers’ shop. I visualized sailors, in port for the day, buying their sweethearts something sparkly at the jeweler’s. I could almost hear the laughter and pleas of children, begging their parents to purchase them a sweet treat from the confectioner’s shop.
Strolling some Mediterranean sidewalks during the late-autumn months, it’s not unusual to see shriveling olives wasting away on the ground. There are, of course, locals who spirit away buckets of a forgotten tree’s olives, or the odd pigeon that might take a peck at the bitter fruit, but it’s been my observation that a considerable amount of urban olives go to waste.
Enter enterprising University of Malta Professor, Dr. David Mifsud. Late last year, Shawn received an email from the university inviting students and community members to participate in an olive harvest being led by David. As something that’s been on our must-do list for some time, Shawn and I jumped at the chance to spend a few hours as volunteer olive pickers. We were also thrilled to hear that this Mediterranean staple was being harvested for a cause. The olives picked would be pressed into oil, bottled and sold, all to benefit charities serving Maltese residents with special needs or illness.
When I first visited Malta nine years ago, my new Maltese friends told me about the islands’s beloved festas – days on which church parishes honor a patron saint in the most celebratory of fashions – replete with fireworks, food, parades, and elaborate decorations. Most festas are crammed into the summer months, and my maiden Maltese visit in November unfortunately didn’t coincide with any. My intense curiosity about festas was finally satisfied on December 8th of last year, when the city of Cospicua (known locally as Bormla) celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
Perhaps best known for its annual Palio, a 700-year-old bare-back horse race replete with pageantry and tradition, Asti also has a lot to offer architecturally and gastronomically. The Northern Italian city once had more than 70 towers, which symbolized wealth and power. While there are less of them punctuating Asti’s skyline today, the city also features impressive churches and palazzi, beautiful brickwork, and varied architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Baroque to Renaissance.
Which of these finestre are you most drawn to?
As I went to say goodbye to Cocoa, I found him basking in the afternoon sunlight and grooming his lustrous black fur. Occasionally, he would stop and gaze out the window at the Swiss paradise before him – a landscape sprinkled with palm, lemon, and olive trees framed by the brilliant blues of Lake Maggiore. When my eyes welled up with tiny tears, the pampered young feline reached for my hand, eager to play. I was pleased that he’d lightened the moment by wanting to get rough and tumble instead of sweet and cuddly. I chuckled as I wiped away the tears rolling down my cheek. “You lucky fellow,” I thought.