Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The View From Where I Sit

We're having one of those days I love here - a balmy 19C (66F), sunny, and only the lightest of breezes. So I dug out my camera and snapped a few shots to show you what I'm looking at as I gaze out the window.

To my right the view is partially blocked by an apartment building, but partially hidden from view beyond it today is what looks like a fishing vessel that has been sitting there for several days now. The ships come and go. I enjoy all the traffic, from the tiniest one-person one-sail boat, to the ginormous cruise ships and container ships. The cruise ships are more frequent in summer and look like white apartment blocks floating past on their way to or from the Valletta Grand Harbour without stopping. Other working ships of all sizes frequently make anchor here, waiting for a storm to clear, waiting for a berth in the container port? I'm never sure.

Today is a public holiday here, so there are some sail boats out on the water, and early this morning before I was up I heard the sound of a small motor boat headed somewhere - Gozo? On sunny weekends in the summer and early autumn the blue water is full of white sails and luxury white motor launches.

This is the street in front of my flat. To the left, a couple of miles further down, is the original resort area of St Paul's Bay. It has been overtaken in popularity by the area of Bugibba/Qawra where I now live. Opposite my flat there's a semi-abandoned house (you can see the peeling yellow paint). This happens a great deal here. Many people own two properties, one inland, one by the sea. As they get older the sea-side property is used less often and gradually not at all. Then someone dies, inheritance battles ensue, and in the meantime properties quickly decay. Saddest is seeing old street front buildings lining the popular urban bays such as Gzira, Sliema, St Julians where the peeling paint, rotting window frames, and weed-sprouting walls of abandoned buildings lend a seedy air to otherwise prosperous resorts. In the meantime over 50,000 unsold newly built units in bleak modern blocks of flats sit empty.

This photo was taken with the zoom, so what you see here I'm not able to see with my own eyes. What you see in the mid-foreground is St Paul's Island, with a statue of St Paul, where the disciple Paul landed, shipwrecked, while being taken to Rome. Thanks to him Malta became an early outpost of Christianity and today there are (apparently) more churches than days of the year for a population of less than half a million people.

In the distance what you're looking at is the island of Gozo (known to Maltese as Ghawdex (aow-desh), and the enormous (and hazy in this photo) church to the right is the rotunda of the parish church of St John the Baptist in the village of Xewkija. The dome is higher than St Paul's Cathedral in London and the nave can seat 4000 people (around three times the village's population).

Back to the foreground and you may have noticed the odd-looking items in the water. These are fish farming ponds, full of tuna being fattened up for eventual sale in Japan. Raw tuna is very popular for sashimi in Japan (and Hawaii!) at this time of year.

That's my view today. I hope the weather stays good for the visitors I'm expecting!

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