ME Active - Right across Valletta, on the other side of Grand Harbour, are the Three Cities. Three fortified cities of Birgu, Senglea and Conspicua in Malta. With the Rolling Geeks I had some great experience to discover the Three Cities, but also the neighbours Kalkara and Smart City.
These little electric cars are prefect to discover this large area. By feet you need many days, by car it's difficult to park and drive through the little streets, and by taxi it's too expensive. The little cars are like a robot. They can talk to you and they have a complete pre-programmed GPS showing you were to go, and what to look at when you're there.
With the Rolling Geeks you get all the knowledge of a tour guide, but within the freedom to park up, get out, and explore whenever you want to - and trust me, you'll want to. In just 2 hours and 30 minutes you can see three of the richest historical cities and their surrounding villages in Malta. The tour is 18 kilometre and the cars can speak to you in 8 different languages.
The Three Cities
The oldest of the Three Cities is Birgu, which existed since the Middle Ages. The other two cities, Senglea and Conspicua, were both founded in 16th and 17th centuries by the Order of Saint John, a medieval and early modern Catholic military order.
Birgu - Vittoriosa
It's also know under the name Vittoriosa. It's in Birgu were you also can find the starting point of the Rolling Geeks. If you come with the public ferry from Valletta or with the public bus, it's just 5 minutes walking to the Rolling Geeks.
The Order of Saint John, which chose the settlement of Birgu on the Grand Harbour as its headquarters, left a few impressive buildings here. Since the arrival of the British lived in this place especially dockworkers who made their money in the shipyards. In the meantime, Birgu has had a career as a home for the modern elite through the construction of Grand Harbour Marina. Old buildings have been converted into apartments and offices.
Picture: Middle Ages street in Birgu
Despite all the developments, the narrow streets from the market square still have a historic atmosphere and you can still see the daily life of ordinary Maltese people here. And with the Rolling Geeks you can drive through this small Middle Ages streets.
Birgu is the location of several tourist attractions. At the waterfront from the historic Birgu you see the former Palace of the General of the Galleys and the Order of Saint John's treasure. But these days it's home to a casino and the Malta Maritime Museum. Another interesting place to stop with the Rolling Geeks is the Saint Lawrence's Church. The first church is said to have been founded here by the Normans in the 11th century; the current building dates from the 17th century.
Fort Saint Angelo
The bastioned Fort Saint Angelo is located at the very tip of Birgu. It was originally built in the medieval period as a castle called the 'Castrum Maris' - castle by the sea. In the 16th century the Order of Saint John rebuilt the castle to the bastioned and impressive Fort Saint Angelo, which played an important role during the great siege of 1565. From here, the knights defended themselves against Ottoman force majeure, which had already taken Fort Saint Elmo at the point of Valletta.
Picture: Fort Saint Angelo
Senglea - Isla
At the southwest of Birgu is another isthmus, on which Isla lies. The official name is Senglea, named after Grand Master Claude de la Sengle, who built the fortifications in 1551.It's also one of the Three Cities. With the Rolling Geeks you definitely must stop at the Safe Haven Garden, named also Gardjola Gardens. It's at the very tip of Senglea. The Rolling Geeks you can park very easy somewhere and from the gardens you have a beautiful view over the harbour, the skyline of Valletta and Fort Saint Angelo.
It is protected by an old watchtower on top of the bastion, decorated with an eye, an ear and a carne bird, to indicate that everything is seen and heard. The eye is a popular icon in Malta. All fishing boats in Malta have an eye painted on the front. With this, the boat can see dangers coming and evil spirits are kept out at sea.
Conspicua - Bormla
Between Birgu and Senglea you find Conspicua. It's the densest city of the Three Cities. In the 2nd World War the city was hit hard, and later Conspicua was rebuilt as an industrial city. The city has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Its maritime facilities started during ancient times around the Phoenician era c. 600 BC. Prior to the 18th century it was know as Bormla, a name which is still in use. Its fortification walls, constructed to protect the town and its neighbours Birgu and Senglea, were build by the Order of Saint John.
All three cities were connected by an outer wall built by Grandmaster Nicola Cottoner to ward off any attacks. The fortification was built in the 17th and 18th centuries to form the outer defence. They surrounded an earlier line of fortifications, known as the Santa Margherita Lines, which constructions started in already in 1638. The outer walls, which are called the Cottonera Lines, are clearly visible when you explore the area with the Rolling Geeks and are still as impressive as they must have been in the 17th century.
Picture: drinking coffee in Birgu
Kalkara and Smart City
In the northeast of Birgu you find Kalkara. This village is one of the few localities within the Grand Harbour area that still had relatively large open spaces that naturally divide it from other towns and villages. At Rinella Bay in Kalkara you can discover also the only sandy beach in the Grand Harbour.
In Kalkara you find two nice fortifications. The first one is Fort Ricasoli, built by the Order of Saint John between 1670 and 1698. It's the largest fort in Malta. The other fort is the Victorian battery Fort Rinella. It was built by the British in the 19th century. Its greatest attraction is the world's largest cannon. Next to Fort Rinella you will find Smart City, a European e-commerce centre.
My impression about the Rolling Geeks
I was very surprised and I'm glad I did. I also must be honest and admit I could use the Rolling Geeks for free. But also, when I had to pay for the Rolling Geeks I would never regret. It's more than worth their price. You stop wherever you are, the car always shows you how to drive and tell you about all the important things you pass. And when you still loose your way, the Rolling Geeks have a two-way communication system with the office. Without the cars it's almost impossible to discover this whole area is just a few hours. The electric cars can be used by families with children, by older people which can walk more difficult, but specially for everyone who like to discover a unique historic area at an easy, fun and comfortable way.
And if it's all not impressive enough, some very famous people drove already with the Rolling Geeks: Ban Ki-Moon - the ex Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, and now also your favourite blogger ... me. Who want to join me at a ride the next time?
Text & pictures: T. Hanan S.
ME Magazine & Blog
Magnificent-Earth.com is an online 'Magazine & Blog' from the Belgian traveller and adventurer Thierry Hanan Scheers travelling around the globe. Be sure you follow the adventures! You can find at Magnificent-Earth.com reports, stories, photos, videos and more about travel and culture at worldwide destinations. Discover at Magnificent-Earth.com the beautiful and wonderful places of our planet, far and close to home.
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