PlacesWeGowithJenniferAdams: The journey of a lifetime through the Canadian High Arctic and Greenland. Tuesday, 9.30pm, Discovery Travel & Living.
GrandDesigns:London: An English couple build a sparkling jewel of a home to reflect their creativity. Thursday, 6.10pm, ABC1. Ian Cuthbertson the door. You lot for the nine o’clock?’’ he asks, and so begins one of the spookiest experiences.
The Hypogeum is an underground replica of the temples above, used as a burial chamber. Experiencing it is like being inside an underground version of those temples as they were thousands of years ago. It is hewn out of solid rock with uncanny curved perspective, some parts represented in relief.
As we descend in ever tighter and steeper concentric circles, passing through ancient gateways, their lintels carved in relief, we peer into hollowed-out rooms, dimly lit, one beyond the other, the curved relief pillars and carvings meticulously reproducing the internal structure of the megalithic temples.
Even the layered circular roofs are represented, some with their ceiling decoration intact. There are strange cavities, haunts of the shamans, which produce terrifyingly deep human-like sounds. The tour is accompanied by appropriately eerie percussive music and, as we approach the bottom, the tension and claustrophobia are palpable.
By the time we reach the last part of the circle, gripping the handrails, not a few of us are thinking about Dante and I am desperate to get back up.
Surfacing is a blessing and I decide to go to Mdina, via the restored summer palace at Verdala. (Malta is so compact that you can get almost anywhere by public transport.) Mdina is a perfectly preserved walled medieval town, with a magnificent square, some marvellous gothic and Saracen-inspired buildings and a huge elaborate cathedral. It is quite small and I keep coming back to the square. Malta is a popular destination for filmmakers, but today Mdina is the setting for another kind of theatre. Suddenly a couple of costumed trumpeters appear and play a fanfare. Much to my delight, around one corner comes a bride in a white Rolls-Royce and around the other comes the groom, a handsome black man, also dressed in white. A local wedding? How colourful.
Except when they open their mouths, I hear they are Irish. The bride’s mum tells me, It is all the rage to have your weddin’ abroad, you know.’’ I tell her I didn’t know that. Next thing you know, they’ll be renting out the megaliths. Or have I spoken too soon?
Tempo Holidays’ three-day Taste of Malta package with harbour cruise is from $281 a person including airport transfers and breakfasts; add-on tours available, including a one-day Gozo island excursion from $122 a person. More: 1300 558 987; www.tempoholidays.com. www.visitmalta.com www.phoeniciamalta.com Susan Kurosawa’s DepartureLounge column returns in April.
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