Cemetraries are some of my favorite “hangouts”. They provide solitude, good perspective on many aspects of life, memories, tell stories and also say a lot about the local culture by how people treat their ancestors. Military graveyards additionally remind us of the nonsense and horrors of war. There is many of all this on the Capuccini Naval Cemetary. But what is special for me, is that here lies Henry Ernst Wild who survived the Shackleton expedition and then died of typhoid in Malta.
Like every year, also 2019 started with a long walk. This time it was from Kalkara to Marsaskala, along the rocky coast and back; a bit more than 20 kilimeters. As of the strong wind from the New Year's night, the sea was rolling on the roks with high swell and in its typical turquoise color for sunny days in Malta. There is no better way than starting a new year like this.
Dead people are very good companions. That's why I like sitting down at the Kalkara Naval Cemetery to read my book. Specially now with mild temperatures, this is very pleasant. The place itself has also some historical relevance, which I am not too interested in. It is one of the Commonwealth War Graves. I always found the term "Commonwealth" rather cynical. I also don't like "Heros" very much, specially when we talk about people who put themselves into service of brutal expansion and invasion of others to serve economic or ideological interest. There are a lot of this kind of Heroes here. But when they are dead, they are fine for me.
When I travel to new places, I always try to visit two venues: a cemetery and a market. They both tell you a lot about the local culture, sometimes much more than the municipal museums. There are many differences in cemeteries: sometimes people are cremated and put into small compartments, and in other places cemeteries are like cities for the dead. They all have in common that they function as a memorial for the deceased. It must be a basic human desire across all cultures, that people want to be remembered. And when you read the tombstones, there is the second commonality: they want to have made sense. The third thing which is important, you can't find on the cemetery, but when you talk to dying people. They want to be forgiven. And that's not so much the forgiveness of a superior being, like a "god". But they want to be forgiven by those who they disappointed. No matter where in the world you are, I think these three things are the same.
I like cemeteries also because they are quiet and somehow a good backdrop to being a bit philosophical. Cemeteries at least show a direction in life,
Kalkara is having a feast. It is the kind of annual celebration most towns and villages in Malta have in turns. It is a joyful one, with music, fireworks, food, wine and laughter. Communities here are local, but welcome all to join in. With the view on the neighboring towns or villages, all feasts tend to be more grand each year. And with respect to increasing altitude fireworks reach, the airport adjusts along the year its operational mode to stay out of the way. These days Malta is struck by some heat waves, pushing the mercury up to 44 degree Celsius. After noon until four all outdoor life gets quiet. Only the ones preparing the fireworks, are working under the boiling sun. The construction sites become very quiet during this season. I tried myself and it is impossible to move more that a few bricks, before longing for some shade. People in Malta are hard working. The reputation of Mediterranean lax does not apply here. Actually, I think it applies really nowhere in the Mediterranean. Not even in Libya. This myth must have been invented by people just coming and watch without feeling the heat themselves. For those who think austerity and discipline are the path to prosperity, yes (!), but just come and try to make a move outdoors when the sun stands high. Sure, there are a lot of things which can improve, no doubt. But working harder, is not one of them.