We viewed the not quite baroque cathedral itself and then just wandered the tight little streets for an hour before going to the immediate neighbour Rabat. Both names are an indicator of the long Arab presence on the island. Then, more caves! chilledchimp impressed the friendly keeper by paying for the tickets herself, and then by showing an interest in football, both rather unwomanly things for the older Maltese generation it seems. These caves were entered through a mausoleum which had a steep staircase instead of a grave. Below, spread out over several acres and criss-crossed by narrow passages and other steep steps was an early Christian burial ground, hewm out of the rock. Apparently it had started life much as the Hypogeum as a pagan place but had been adopted and turned to different religions as time passed. There were some Jewish tombs. Near the entrance where several large flat areas with raised borders. One even had a nick in one side that made it look like pacman. These were for the refigerium, the pre-burial meal for Romans.
Afterwards we wandered around Rabat looking at the Dominican cloisters, some more caves which were only open to the local cat population. The Maltese like their cats, leaving out water and food for the many strays that you see in the streets. Next, buns: I had a kwarizema made of hazelnuts, spices, almond flour and egg white, then baked to a chewy consistency before being topped with nuts and honey. I´ll have to bring some back, they were good.
Finally it was time to leave and we took the bus the short distance to what used to be an RAF base and where the Nissen huts had been redeployed as a craft village and therunway as two football pitches, the Centenary whihc looked like it was built by Royal Engineers and the Millenium, built ten years ago, a modern all-seater with 17,000 capacity. We were here to see Malta v Finland, a friendly, along with about aaaaaa thousand other Maltese and twenty fanatic Finns. The Maltese Ultras had a good array of flags and drums and many of the local kids teams were in attendance including some tiny ballboys.
It was a lively gaem with both teams going close in the first 15 minutws, Finland hitting the bar and Malta missing a penalty before Michael Mifsud, ex of Coventry and easily the best player on the pitch, picked up a loose ball in the area and poked it home. Finland were looking dangerous although Jari Litmanen couldnt find the killer pass and the defence held out until half-time. In the second half it was all Finland. Malta played too deep and gave the Finns too much time on the ball instead of pushing up with the midfield. And when they did get the ball, they were too slow in releasing Mifsud and so squandered the few chances they did have. So it was no suprise when Finland equalised, although it was from a dodgy penalty. The ref who had been fine in the first half had a bit of a mare in the second, seeing many Maltese fouls where there were none. Aaaaaafter the Finns got their second Malta came back into the game a bit more but in the the end Finland´s class was too much. Malata 1-2 Finland was not a bad result considering less than half a million people live here.
Then we had a mad 2 mile rush back to the bus stop in the dark for the last bus back to Valletta. Fortunately the buses seem more reliable than in the UK and we got back by about 11:30 armed with a couple of chicken pasties for supper. Along the way the bus drove past the longest aquaduct I´ve ever seen, eerily illuminated by floodlights the whole way.