Thursday, April 9, 2015

Euro Spring 2015 - Part 15 - Practicing What We Preach and History

Where Our Heroes
  • Decide that there own counsel is worth listening to
  • Gaze upon the crossroads of the sea
  • Wax poetic (or at least in prose) on the deep footprints of history
  • Dig deeper into the a culinary find
Do you remember those bits we've been talking about Wife and I slowing down, trying to take it easier, not doing so much?  Those bits of advice that were not just ignored but spat upon, trampled, scorned, despised, maligned and thrown out in Istanbul?  We are actually trying to heed them here in Malta.  We've got plenty of time to see what we want and we have a lovely apartment that is a joy just to sit in a gaze at the crossroads of the sea.

It is amazing just how much shipping traffic goes by our window each day and evening.  Of course there are the cruise ships coming in and out of Valletta almost daily.

(taken in the evening yesterday)

But there are tankers and freighters and working craft of all sorts plus sailing ships and other pleasure craft, and ferries.  And there are a host of ships passing just on the horizon to the east/southeast of us, a major shipping thoroughfare.  Daughter Alexis sent me a link to this cool website ( that allows you to find out the names and destinations of the ships that you can see. 

I promised that I would talk in a bit more detail about the history of Malta.  Actually for the history buff, Malta is a rather special place.  It has been almost continuously inhabited for over 7000 years.  There are certain places like Mdina where we were yesterday where there's been an ongoing city type settlement for almost 2500 years.  The overview looks like this in brief.
  • A very advanced neolithic civilization was on the island from around 5000 BC through around 2500 BC.  They build numerous monumental structures.  They did fine art.  They did art in both large and miniature versions.  the miniatures have as much detail as the large.  They even made miniature replicas of their monumental buildings.  This society for unknown reasons collapsed.
  • Shortly that collapse a new bronze based culture comes in.  They have different burial rights and seem much less advanced than the prior neolithic culture.
  • Some time between 1000 BC and 800 BC the Phoenicians arrive and begin the serious use of Malta as a base for shipping.  This is when the first city building takes place in Mdina.  The Carthaginians are the successors to the Phoenicians.
  • Rome takes over Malta as a result of the Second Punic War in the 3rd Century BC.  The island remains Roman and then Byzantine until the 9th Century AD when it is conquered by the Muslims.
  • The Normans move in during the 11th Century
  • The Knights of St. John take control in the 15th Century
  • Various European powers are in control until the British become the ruling force in the early 19th century until giving Malta its independence in 1974
This may all seem very dry until you go to something like the Archeological Museum and see this collection of coins that covers in detail just about every section of the history from the Phoenicians on.  There's something about coins.  They're used by everyday people.  A coin found is an example of a real life, of real living.  To see this collection with all the names of the thousands of rulers and their principalities that covered the millennia that this little island has been habitated is to fill in the gaps of history with the fabric of real people, and real lives.

Since we were just hanging today, we decided to indulge with another meal to our find here in Sliema, Ta' Kris.  I don't consider myself to be a particularly refined palate but I have to tell you that I'm pretty darned impressed with this place now after a second visit.  Often times you have a good meal and the next time doesn't quite match the experience.  Not so today with Ta' Kris.

We're sticking to local wines the whole time we're here
I can't say that they are fabulous but they're drinkable and not expensive.
This one was about $17 - that's the restaurant price

I'm finding that most of these wines have a very minerally quality to them.

In spite of our knowing how big the portions are I weakened and ordered an appetizer because it was a local thing

This is a sheep's cheese deep fried with a slightly sweet covering (honey?)
It was actually much lighter than I thought it was.
Wife and I shared it.

Wife had a chicken breast that was stuffed with spinach and ricotta in a cream sauce

I had rabbit that was fried then braised in a wine and herb sauce

Notes on these dishes - they were really well done.  There were lots of little touches that to me spoke of some real quality to the kitchen
  • The chicken was not over cooked at all - really hard to do with chicken breast
  • The rabbit was incredibly tender
  • Both sauces were both flavorful but subtle.  They held up, meaning that they did not weigh down on your palate even after you were getting full
  • Attention was paid to the vegetables.  The broccoli was nice and firm, the green beans had a crunch, the carrots were sweet, the potatoes full of flavor
We even decided to try a local dessert.
A deep fried dough around a filling of almond paste and dates with a little side of halvah

The frying was nice and fresh and the tastes again firm but subtle.

Decided that we're going to keep going with this while were on a role and made reservations come again for Sunday lunch.


Renee Michelle Goertzen said...

It's such a treat when you find a restaurant you like. I can understand going back repeatedly.

Diana and Steve said...

Wow - thanks for the history lesson. Puts things in perspective - the nanosecond we inhabit the earth is enriched by learning from the past and you bring it to life through your journal.

alexis said...

those are seriously large portions!