The Heads of Tarxien Women and Shipwrecked Apostles

Posted: Oct 2, 2003 10:24:13 AM

Owing to the snafu regarding Tunisia, I had more time in Malta than I knew what to do with, so I decided to go on a Neolithic tour of the islands. This meant hunting down a series of significant archaeological sites that are so old that the fonts of this website can't handle them. I shall improvise.

First were the famous Hagar Qim and Mnajdra, both of which are around five or six thousand years old (not that it's a competition or anything) and, although small, were very cool. One of the temples seems to be aligned so that every exit points towards a nearby island, and I got a great photo of the lines of doorways stretching out towards the ocean.

The next day I went to the Tarxien Temples, five thousand years if they're a day, and formerly home to some really strange figurines of women with detachable and interchangeable heads: a Neolithic version of 'Guess Who?', I suppose. Or perhaps they were statues of the reigning monarch and they didn't want to have to carve a whole new figure each time someone died. See some examples here.

The day after I explored the last significant set of temples in the country, on the smaller island of Gozo. I was there on a Sunday, however, and unfortunately the public transportation system shuts down on Sunday in Gozo, leaving me to walk from the port to the megalithic Ggantija (about six kilometres each way). It was nice to see the countryside again, and the temple was also very impressive and interesting.

There were plenty of other things to see and do in Malta, and I saw and did plenty of other things (visited Fort St. Elmo, the Inquisitor's Palace in Vittoriosa, the site where St Paul preached from a grotto, and saw Carravagio's The Beheading of St John in St John's Co-Cathedral), but the temples were definitely a highlight. They are the oldest free-standing structures in the world, apparently, and that made them all the more impressive (not that it's a competition or anything).

Malta in general is a very curious mix. If pressed to describe it and its people I would say that they are a combination of British, Italian, and Arabic influences. British in that ever-so-delightful politeness and that suspiciously tacky tourism, along with the charming names that everyone gives their homes on little ceramic plates. My favourite said 'Shalom'. Why my favourite? It's the Jew of Malta! Marlowe would be so pleased. Italian in that everything shuts down in the heat of the afternoon and everyone retreats back to their homes, leaving the streets desolate aside from the occasional oblivious tourist. Arabic in that the people are exceptionally pleasant, but at the same time there's a sense of reserve, as if you are something of an outsider not only in their country but in their world. On the whole, I found the people of Malta really nice.

From there it was the ferry back to Pozzallo, the train from Pozzallo back to Siracusa, and the night train from Siracusa to Rome. I won't bore you with the details, but it took a very long time and involved a large amount of standing around and waiting. And then ... Rome!

I'm looking forward to returning to Rome in December, because there's no way that I could do everything I wanted in a day and a half. Okay, so I went to the Palazzo Altemps wing of the Museo Nazionale Romano, saw the (absolutely awe-inspiring, even if it was draped with tourists) Trevi Fountain, explored the (jaw-dropping) Pantheon, and met the Pope, but there's still so much to see.

Sorry? Met the Pope? Well, I exaggerate, perhaps; I went to the weekly Wednesday Papal Audience, and saw the Pope drive by in his roofless Popemobile. I was in the row right behind the path, so I was approximately two metres (six feet) away from His Holiness. Enough to get a really good photo, which I really hope will turn out; I have yet to develop much film at all on this trip, although I have shot exactly two hundred photos so far.

Again, I won't bore you with the dreadful details of the flights out of Rome and Frankfurt, which had me on tenterhooks for quite a large part of yesterday (when the guy at the ticket office tells you that he doesn't think you'll make it, and the woman at the check-in counter tells you to "run, run now!", you'd be a nervous wreck too), but I made it to Edinburgh, and found a hostel very easily.

I'm here! The Old Country. The Motherland. Today I am going to the castle (compulsory), and I'm making a pilgrimage up Arthur's Seat (perhaps I shall write some private memoirs and confessions to justify my sins up there, although I wouldn't want to Hogg the spotlight). The 'net cafe here is very nice and very cheap, so if I'm not careful I could spend all day in here rather than out exploring like I should be. So I shall sign off now and say good day to you.

Good day to you!


Charlotte   Oct 2, 2003 11:35:49 AM

Good to hear you made it safely.

It would be nice if you could develop some of those photos and post a few of them so that we can see what you have seen. *hopeful look*

Peter   Oct 2, 2003 4:49:24 PM

Good to hear from you again, Damon.
And good to hear that net access is cheap over there, so that we'll get more reports.

Or so I hope ;)

Let me know if you plan to develop the pictures before you get home, so that I can prepare a gallery. I guess you'll have to wait until you stay in a place for a couple days so you can get the pictures developed and scan/upload them (or develop them on CD and upload those...).

I can definitly scan and upload them as soon as you get here, but I guess that won't be before November...

Ok, I'll stopp rambling now... ;)

Have fun!

lian   Oct 2, 2003 5:47:11 PM

The speed in which you tour the world dizzies me :) The Tarxien temple looks really cool. All those super-fertile women statues.. makes me feel slim alright. I'll have to press you for details of Malta sometime, cause I consider going there for a holiday, but I'm not so sure it's the right place for that kind of buddy holiday (me: "I wanna go see historical sites and museums!" her: "I wanna lie on the beach!")

Anyway, from Malta on to Rome. Do you regret having missed Tunisia? But well, there's still Marocco...
I feel so uneducated when you post all those allusions to literature and custom. Bleh. ;) Anyway, don't you dare waste your time in net cafés! And I'll send you a lot of positive karma so that you'll always catch your trains/flights just in time!

Damon   Oct 2, 2003 6:58:51 PM

Heh, I'm sure to be full of good travel tips by the end of the trip, and I'll be happy to oblige regarding Malta. Long and the short of it: there are both excellent beaches and excellent historical stuff, but you don't want to split yourself between them unless you want to take lots of time.

On the other hand, most of the historical things are closed in the afternoons, so I guess you could visit them in the mornings and then spend the rest of the day getting a good tan.

I will try to get some film developed, but it's so expensive over here I'm avoiding doing so until I find somewhere cheaper.

I'm heading out of Edinburgh tomorrow evening, I think; I've packed so much into today (the castle, Arthur's Seat, the Writers' Museum, St. Giles) that I won't need that much longer to get through the rest. I even ate haggis, neeps, and tatties, and it was nice, too!

lian   Oct 2, 2003 10:15:50 PM

LOL! Haggis! Who wrote that poem about it, Robert..umm.. Burns, right? In you case -- I guess -- not accompanied by whisky, though. And another quiet chuckle: you'll understand that getting a good tan is not high on my priority list, once you've met me face-to-face ;)
What is your next destination?

Binky   Oct 2, 2003 11:03:53 PM

I remember smarching (not to mention cursing the inflexibility of Eurail passes) from a nice internet cafe down Grassmarket, when I was in Edinburgh, just on a year ago. The weather was too bad for Arthur's Seat to tempt me. I also recall a surprising number of young men who needed a little money to get back to Cornwall.

footle   Oct 3, 2003 2:54:10 PM

Well, you know, after Maggie stuffed the country up...

Sahi   Oct 3, 2003 3:53:12 PM

Heh, another point we have in common Lian! I had a slight tan one summer (8 years ago), because I had been on the water for three weeks that summer. And I only was kindof yellowish. :)

Tamsyn   Oct 4, 2003 3:58:38 PM

Um - whenabouts do you hazard you might be headed this way? Let me know, I don't want to doublebook the living room floor... (it's much in demand!)

Damon   Oct 5, 2003 1:21:19 PM

Erm, some time next week, probably towards the end of next week? I'm in York right now, tomorrow I'm heading down to Shropshire, where I will be staying a few days (at least), and from there to Oxford.

Dr Zazus   Oct 6, 2003 5:02:55 AM

i am a very model of a modern mager-general

Tamsyn   Oct 6, 2003 4:19:45 PM


By the way, you've arrived in England just as the temperature has nosedived from 18 degrees to 8. Congratulations on your splendid timing! We'd hate for you to miss out on REAL English weather... ;)

jon   Oct 6, 2003 5:59:31 PM

Hi Damon
Im currently surviving my own Tarxian environent here in the Liverpool YHA. Not as many headless women here as there were in York, possibly due to the freezing (I'm not joking) conditions here. I hope you are enjoying your travels and I have to say it was a pleasure meeting you. Ive seen the remainder of your itinerary and am already jealous. Travel does that..even to other travellers. It's a cruel disease.
Stay in touch.
PS. The Beatles have apparently broken up.

Damon   Oct 6, 2003 10:13:11 PM

Hi Jon: it's great to get one of the many people I've met on the road posting here - of the dozen or so I've given my address to, you're the first to actually reply! Gold stars all around.

When is the Hotel De Tamsyn booked up, out of curiosity?

David   Oct 7, 2003 1:18:25 AM


I'm back in NZ. I have some anecdotes, but being that I was in the US, they all involve television.

I saw this program on engines, and they had the guy that made the world's smallest jet engine (rotor about the size of a button) and the guy who made the worlds smallest motor (78 atoms, total). Both were asked why they did what they they did, and both gacve near idenctical answers. "Well, the main reason I did it was becuase I thought it would be cool..."

I caught the tail end of Larry King Live with "psychic" John Edwards. Wow. He is the biggest douche in the universe.

Another reality show you're going to have to watch out for, The Joe Schmoe Show. It's like any trapped-in-a-house show, except everybody but one guy is an actor. Their goal is to see how farcical they can make it before he relizes it's a gag.

Have fun storming the castle!

Tamsyn   Oct 7, 2003 1:53:45 AM

I had someone staying this weekend, who thought she might need to stay on this week... but nope, it's cool, she's gone. The floor is all free!

I'm going to email you my address and phone number, so you can find me. If you're travelling from London to Oxford, you want to take the Oxford Tube - a red double-decker bus that runs every nine minutes from Marble Arch, Notting Hill, and Shepherd's Bush - it's MUCH cheaper than rail!

Damon   Oct 7, 2003 11:36:38 PM

Hee hee - I love the idea of the Joe Schmoe Show. Good title too, lots of assonance. Not much possibility to re-do it, though. Welcome back to NZ!

I'll let you know when I'm coming, T, but I'm not entirely sure thus far. I will be catching the train to Oxford, though, because I have one of those rail passes and I've already paid for that.

fraZ   Oct 8, 2003 3:56:04 AM

Schwarzenegger, is the man, i hope he wins. & yeah i forgot to tell you about the Joe Schmoe Show, so damn funny huh. but yeah is a bit of a one off, great idea thou. hey now tell me what films are beingm played over there? Any Nz ones? When i was in CAlifornia i saw at a few places whale rider was on show.

Charlotte   Oct 8, 2003 4:11:16 AM

*impatient for a new report*

You've been in England for a week! Surely you must have something to say about it by now?


Tamsyn   Oct 8, 2003 2:50:33 PM

Hear, hear, Charlotte!

lian   Oct 8, 2003 5:40:25 PM

yeah, so today I was supposed to give my dates for November, when I'm free or not, so my employers can puzzle out my work schedule. Um-hm. I guess I'll just have to be ill, then, the day you decide to invade Berlin :)

Anyway, seen Whale Rider. The lead actress must be the cutest girl I've ever seen. I instantly fell for her...and the film was nice too. *nods* was a German-NZ co-op anyway, ne?

*nudges damon* Yeah, so...what's it with all that rain?!

Jaime   Oct 8, 2003 6:56:31 PM

So which hostel in Edinburrah are you staying in? I stayed on Cockburn St., which is about two thirds of the way up the Mile, and it was largely populated by Australians. I met more Australians than I did Scots, I think. There's a yummy fudge shop a few blocks down the Mile, and there's also the infamous World's End pub...

You're there the same time of year I was too - if you've got time, go to the Royal Botanical Gardens, which is a couple miles away from the Mile - the trees should be just starting to turn. The Chinese garden is especially beautiful.

There's another hill you can climb a bit past the top of the Mile, where you see that tall white tower with the cross on top... nice view of the city and the Firth from there. In the distance, you can even see the bridge that crosses over into the Highlands.

(of course, I may be posting this way too late and you'll be gone by the time you see it, but what the heck. *grin*)

Jaime   Oct 8, 2003 6:57:34 PM

(yep, I just saw that you were leaving the evening of the 8th. Oh well...)

Damon   Oct 9, 2003 12:01:19 AM

Ahnuld has won, and this is a disaster. Bosco will be spitting nails. I haven't gone to the movie theatre here, although I did watch 'Pirates of the Caribbean' in Malta.

I will be posting a report at some point... Yeah, I sure will.

Lian, I will let you know as soon as I can, but I guess if the dates are set now then it'll have to be as you describe it. Do you have a weekend? I could aim for that; it'll probably be Berlin in early November or late this month, as I'm only seeing Kopenhagen and perhaps Stockholm before Berlin.

Jaime, it's all Australians and NZers in Edinburgh. We run the city, you know. I would have liked to have seen all these things, but I'm afraid I left several days ago (as you saw), so I'll have to save it for the next trip. Or if anyone else who is reading is planning to go to Edinburgh, it's all good.

lian   Oct 9, 2003 8:40:47 PM

ah, Damon, but it should work out fine one way or other, date- setting is solely my problem. I'll send you a mail, though, with, umm, suggestions :)

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Oct 9, 2003 11:49:26 PM

Late October or early November sounds good to me too. Just two questions:

Do you think you will be in Berlin on November 6?
Can you get something in Kopenhagen for me? The item is small and doesn´t weigh much.

If the answer to question number two should be yes, I´ll email a description.

Banjo   Oct 9, 2003 11:54:56 PM

There is no Bosco, only Zuul. I hope that as payback Paul Hogan becomes PM of NZ. *sweet smile*

lian   Oct 10, 2003 12:05:40 AM

Hej Roberto, -- err, Captain, I mean -- somewhere between October 31 to Nov. 2nd? That would be fine by me. Already notified my company that I'm not available, cause I originally planned to visit my family. Oh well, later in Nov. will do, also. (hmm...Oct. 31st, Reformation Day, and I'm studing at the University Halle-WITTENBERG! Bwahahaa...)

*rubs hands*

You want danish cookies, right?! I don't even want to imagine what else it might be (except almost invaluable fruit bat babies, smuggled from colombia to keep you company ^_^)

Banjo   Oct 10, 2003 12:20:14 AM

Hmph. While the two feather weights are off prancing about the rest of us have to languish and wither and turn into mold. I've a mind not even to bother pining anymore. :p

Banjo   Oct 10, 2003 12:24:59 AM

Why aren't my cruel barbs working?! whyyy is there no new Damon + Ian penned report? Whyyyyyy? Oh yeah, maybe because I only waited like two minutes. *resumes state of cat like readiness*

Banjo   Oct 10, 2003 12:52:02 AM

Okay, how about this. I uh, I dont even CARE if there's a report or not. Yeah. DON'T write the report. Go ahead. I dare you. Or wiat, I DON'T dare you cause I DON'T care. At all.

Charlotte   Oct 10, 2003 1:21:58 AM

Poor Banjo. Being ignored by two heads is sooo much worse than being ignored by one head....

*marches around chanting 'report, report'*

Banjo   Oct 10, 2003 1:31:27 AM

It is! Stupid heads.

Damon   Oct 10, 2003 2:00:30 AM

Okay, okay, I'll write a new report. I know just what to say. You spammers.

Fruitbat: no probs, send me a description and I'll do my best to find it. Of course, I come bearing gifts anyway...

Banjo   Oct 10, 2003 2:05:27 AM

Aaiieee! Domo Ellis-& Johnson san! Sugoi! ^_^

Charlotte   Oct 10, 2003 11:35:01 AM

Sugoi is a great word! *grin*

lian   Oct 10, 2003 4:53:02 PM

*ignores bandee-girl*

man, the moment I'm gone everything springs to life. I'm feeling oike the evil governess that all the kids hide form, in cupboards and under the table and... *goes into a corner to weep quietly*

@Charetto: Spam Burger. LOL!!!

Bosco   Oct 10, 2003 5:07:05 PM

Okay, then, I'm ignoring you too! Even as we speak. Boy, are *you* in for some ignoring, yes sir. Ignoring like you've ever seen before or will ever see again! Any minute now.

Banjo   Oct 15, 2003 1:30:13 AM

also, this is the only report where pringles boy hasn't made the last remark. incongrous I say. I demand action be taken.

Banjo   Oct 15, 2003 11:51:00 PM

I wonder how long I can fool around here before I get noticed.

Here's a deep dark secret Ellis doesn't want anyone to know - he's deathly afraid of stuffed animals. Really. Especially if they're pink.

Banjo   Oct 16, 2003 1:15:55 AM

Here's another - that thing about the pringles? All Freudian.

Damon   Oct 16, 2003 8:51:06 PM

*doesn't notice*

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