ARM­CHAIR TRAV­ELLER

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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?

Check­list

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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