Posted: 1/13/2011


┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Away from the ice and cold for a few days and a cheap 3 hour flight to the Mediterranean island of Malta for some sunshine, history and football.

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  I am met at the airport by Michael,who is in charge of the youth teams at FC Valetta and he has found me a really good, modern high rise hotel on the the waterfront The Plaza, with a ridiculously cheap winter price.┬  Across the road with the waves lapping the rocks below is Peppi's Restaurant. Inside are three gigantic flat screens in the corners. One is showing Inter Milan v Genoa from The San Siro, another Ipswich Town v Arsenal from Portman Road, and in the tangerine corner, Blackpool v Liverpool from Bloomfield Road. I AM IN HEAVEN!┬ 

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Its already 12 minutes into this EPL match and it's 1-1. I order a large chicken, corn, ham, pizza and a bottle of water and settle in. I am not disappointed because D. J Campbell gets the winner for Ian Holloway's men and it's┬ 0 and 2 for King Kenny. Marvelous.

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Malta's history goes back 2,5000 years┬ with the ancient Temple Builders, then Phoenecians, Romans, Arabs, Normans and more, but the early 1500's are the most interesting.┬  The Ottoman Empire of Suleyman had driven the Knights of St. John out of Jerusalem┬ and then out of the island of Rhodes, and they had arrived in Malta.

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Grand Master Philippe Villiers de L'Isle Adam was not impressed with their barren new home. In 1551 Dragut Reiz the Turkish admiral had invaded little Goza next door and carried off the entire population of 5,000 into slavery. Eight years later the Knights, who were a fiersome fighting force lost half their galleys in a disastrous attack on Dragut's lair off the Tunisian coast.

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Suleyman the Magnificent saw the chance to capture Malta as a base to attack Europe. We then have The great Seige of 1565. Grand Master Jean Parisot de Valette prepared defensive walls and ditches. Just 700 Knights and around 8,000 Maltese irregulars. Dragun Reiz lost 8,000 men taking the Fort of St, Elmo. It looked all over, but heroism prevailed and finally 5 months later a relief force from Sicily helped to drive the tired Turks away. Thousands were hacked to pieces, beheaded and their heads shot from canons at the fleeing Turkish fleet.

┬ ┬ ┬ ┬  Who are The Knights of St. John? They had their origins in the Christian Crusades of the 11th and 12th Century. Muscular Christians! They built hospitals and guest houses for the poor in Jerusalem and helped people of all faiths. and were advanced in medicine and cleanliness. Now known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta they are internationally recognized- a state without a territory. They have an embassy in Malta today.