Malta’s Defense Mechanisms

Gozo defense tower

A defense tower guards the island of Gozo

I feel like I’ve come full circle in my current travels in a way. Being in Turkey has conjured up memories of Malta for me. I started in Malta in February and then traveled through Europe and now I’m in Turkey 4 months later. The two countries vastly different in size are linked historically and as I learn more and more about the Ottoman Empire in Turkey I continue to think of Malta.

Specifically it has reminded me of the great defense mechanisms that Malta put in place to protect itself from the Turks – the system of towers that run around the perimeter of Malta and the tiny island of Gozo. The Turks of the Ottoman Empire sailed into the little island nation of Malta in an attempt to seize it in 1565. The siege was the climax of an escalating contest between a Christian alliance and the Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean. And the miracle was that the Knights of Hospitaller, along with the Maltese people held off the Turks in that siege.

Malta was used to being bullied in the Mediterranean and because they were a popular target for the Turks, and other various fleets and pirates they built an impressive tower/messaging system that you can still see today around the island. In fact, I photographed many of the towers as they were a lovely addition to the landscape as well as a modern day reminder of Malta’s history.

The towers were meant to be a way to communicate when pirates/enemies were spotted letting the Maltese know to get to the forts for protection quickly. A system of fires were lit in ancient times as a system of morse code to communicate. In later years they were fortified with cannons in order to fight back. Also – simply by their presence it seemed to dissuade some potential enemies as they wondered what else Malta had in store for them.

Today the towers can be visited as museums and some can even be rented out for parties. I even found a site that describes how you can do a trek from tower to tower around the island of Malta which I think would be fascintating.

I love it when a trip can connect in ways you don’t expect. That’s the wonderful thing about traveling in and around Europe, there is an immense amount of historical overlap that continues to thrill and surprise me. It reminds me of how young America is and how complex cultures and the drive for power can be.

malta defense tower


malta defense tower


malta defense tower


gozo defense tower


malta defense tower


malta defense tower


malta defense tower

Your Comments

13 Comments so far

  1. Mike says:

    Cool pics Sherry, as usual. Interesting that the sign was in English. Is that common?

  2. Richard says:

    When I lived and worked in The Hague, I made a number of weekend trips to various places, including a long weekend trip of about 5 days to Malta. I went with some friends of mine. Wish I had gone back and, perhaps, visit Gozo as well.

    I really liked Malta, especially with its yellow public transport buses, its history, and its fishing villages. I just loved spending a day in Marsaxlokk, a very pretty and colorful fishing village, filled with many, many brightly colored fishing boats with their characteristic eyes.

    I’ve been wanting to buy a high end film scanner for all of my old film pictures, and every time I think of Malta, that thought crosses my mind again because of the Maltese fishing boats! If you love color, you’d love these boats!

    • Sherry says:

      Richard – I’m sorry to tell you – but the yellow buses are gone in Malta! They have been replaced by modern ones. However I did see that they run tours around Malta in the ‘vintage’ buses now. But sadly not the same.

      • Richard says:

        Hi, Sherry.

        Sorry to hear that the buses are gone. Didn’t realize that. Looks like they went away last year because of environmental reasons (gas guzzlers). I think I was there in May of 2000 or 2001…..there were many of them in Valetta. I like color, and they were very brightly colored. At least I had the chance to see and photograph them!

  3. This looks like a very calming yet powerful place. Love the photos.

  4. Emilia says:

    Sherry, how great to see this post as I’ve just come back from a trip to Sicily and Malta. I saw many of these towers and some fortresses when we toured the coast on a small boat. They complement beautifully the harsh landscape.
    And I understand what you say about one trip connecting with another one: I felt just the same in Malta, but with a trip I did some years ago to Rhodes. The Knights’ story was fascinating for me then and I was happy to see another piece of the puzzle come together as they fled Rhodes escaping from the turks to seek safety in Malta.

  5. Ohh I would love to visit Malta. The history is so fascinating for such a tiny island! Beautiful photos – you always capture the location perfectly

  6. Great photos Sherry. I plan on spending 10 days in Malta before returning to Turkey next year for a month. It seems like May 2013 is a light year away. Malta will be a good group of islands to practice my Italian and do some hiking. A great start to a 5 week long overdue trip. While in Turkey I hope you get a chance to stay in Urgup for at least 5 days. It is an unforgettable town.

  7. Enni says:

    Your photos are simply amazing! I could look at them forever!

  8. Roseman says:

    We were there in September 2012 & guess what? …. we will there again in 2013. Loved it !!

  9. Roseman says:

    We were there in September 2012 & guess what? …. We will be there again in 2013. Loved it !!

  10. Malta is a heavily fortified island… Valletta and the area around it is the most fortified place that I’ve visited so far.

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