Mini-gems: Valletta’s smallest balconies

Once I was told how you would never stop looking up when strolling around New-York. I cannot tell – I have never been to New-York – but I trust it must be exciting. What is stopping you from never ceasing from looking up in Valletta, however? New-York is far, Valletta is close and balcony-spotting there is fun full of discoveries.

Soon after the selection of Valletta’s most beautiful balconies had been complete, a new portion of new unique finds accumulated. It is difficult to spot two identical traditional balconies in Valletta unless they belong to the same palazzo. The variety of balcony types in Valletta is the beautiful side of Malta’s architectural anarchy. St. Ursula and Archbishop street are particularly rich in unique architectural features.

Click on the map below for a virtual balcony tour or access the full map.

Ten unique mini-gems

1.  Red Dwarf

Have you ever seen a wooden balcony-resembling structure smaller than this dwarf in Archbishop street? This curious structure is a mix between a muxrabija window and a balcony. One can only wonder whether it serves any purpose apart from decorative and what it feels like for an adult to stay in there.

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Red Dwarf, the smallest wooden balcony-resembling structure in Valletta (corner of Archbishop and St. Ursula streets)

2. Little Green Juliet

Balconettes, barely protruding from the wall structures, also referred to as Juliet balconies, are not uncommon in Valletta. This one in St. Dominic Street is the smallest in size.

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Little Green Juliet (St. Dominic Street)

3-5. Curved elegance

Although all unique, these three balconies have one thing in common – curved shape. The green balconette’s rounded base is almost indistinguishable from the decorative edge on the facade. With its curved shape, tiny size and the elaborate metal railing, the balcony is fit for a doll’s house.

The white elegantly curved balcony in lower West Street is similar to its green sibling except it protrudes a little more prominently from the wall. Squeezed between much larger balconies, it appears out of place. It is one of the many symbols of the architectural anarchy in Malta.

The all-wooden blue balcony on Archbishop street is a surprising discovery if you look up every so often while strolling around the baroque city.

 

6. Medieval Grey 

This balcony forms part of the newly restored house in lower West Street. Its imaginative roof design is unique to Valletta – so much it resembles Medieval coffer ceiling with its essential decorative elements.

 

7. Beige Box

Even though aluminium window frames ruin its authenticity, this balcony in lower Republic street has its particular humble charm. Another asset of the architectural anarchy in Malta.

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Beige wooden box-like balcony, lower Republic Street

 

8. Yellow nest-box 

Although this yellow balcony on the corner of Old Mint and Archbishop streets is a little larger than a bird’s nest-box, it is equipped with clothes lines.

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Yellow Nest box (corner of Archbishop and Old Mint streets)

9-10. Little neighbours of Casa Rocca Piccola

Have you ever noticed these two triple-window miniatures in the close proximity to Casa Rocca Piccola? Indeed, strolling around the baroque city with your head up is worth it.

 

Double-window miniatures

Double-window balconies are scattered around Valletta. A couple of them, twin brown balconies in St. Ursula Street, were newly restored.

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Triple-window miniatures

Triple window mini balconies are most concentrated in lower Valletta, especially lower Republic street. From all the balconies of various shapes and colours one is especially particular. Spot the little green balcony in Sappers Street, part of the abandoned house, and you will notice the flushing tank right above it. Overlooking the Hastings Gardens, this must be a toilet facility with best view on the island.

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Just a few inches deep: Valletta’s balconettes

Wooden balconettes are intriguing. Although their shape is similar to the other traditional balcony types, they barely protrude from the facades. A wooden balconette is a teasers of a balcony – it only mimicries proper balcony appearance while lacking its functionality. You can spot a few balconettes in lower Valletta, around Old Hospital and North streets.

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Point of no return … to the homeland

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Point of no return by Heiner Blum (credits: http://sammlung-zimmermann.com/collection/heiner-blum-point-of-no-return/)

What if you could meet yourself from a far away land as if you were strangers? Would you recognize yourself then? Hardly do we see ourselves LEGO-like, constructed from different customs, languages, mentalities and geo-references that can be altered into a new combination. No difference is felt between a self of yesterday and that of today. What if your consciousness is not as indivisible as you think? What if you met yourself a decade younger, would you be friends?

A few days ago a ghost from the past sprang out from an email by someone once very dear, whose influence on me back in my Russian days was unprecedented. It felt as if I could hear myself of a decade younger talking to the present day me and the voice from the past did not sound any familiar. On the contrary, those few sentences made me realize how much these past few years have changed me, how far ‘my Russian past self’ and ‘the Maltese me’ have grown apart and how much this transformation is irreversible.

The message, the sound call for patriotic love for the motherland and the firm condemnation of immigration brushed upon my senses like sandpaper on bare skin. It was disturbing and alienating. It made me wonder what response the exact same words would have caused in me if I never left Russia – would it have been natural to side with that point of view? I would have been different then, no doubt. Existence determines consciousness. ‘The Russian me’ today would have regarded ‘my Maltese self’ as a traitor, a poor-spirited westerner who exchanged the excitement of belonging to one of the world’s greatest powers for the comforts of a European residency. ‘The Russian I’ would disdain, just as much as my former alter-ego did, the lightness of the Mediterranean lifestyle as unintelligent. The very thought of how different my consciousness could have been in different environment from what it is today scares me. And what scares even more is that I could have approved of something I so dislike now.

You know it precisely when you hit the point of no return and the idea of returning to a place once called home brings fits. When a message from a former soul mate, so admired back then, is ideologically offensive, you know there is no way back. It is not the fear of being again misunderstood and constantly unaccepted but the fear of subjecting myself to a risky mental experiment – existence determines consciousness – and feeling comfortable with the ideas cultivated on the other side of the fence. If, to a great extent, my consciousness is a function of the social reality around me, I would like to be able to choose what reality to be a function of.

Even after decades spent in immigration, many of us still care of that, often invisible and unsensed, umbilical cord connecting to the place of birth. There our eyes saw the world for the first time, there belong all our childhood memories. Cutting yourself off from the homeland is painful. Your senses were hurt beyond healing and you had to perform an emotional surgery. What once had been an indivisible part of self became external and disconnected. The remains from that umbilical cord are now in the fragmented memories of rather sentimental than ideological significance – the sunlit memories of bursting buds and of the air filled with the rustle of sticky newborn leaves, of the spicy smell of spring grass, of the smoky scent of autumn and the cards with greetings. The memories are the roots transplanted into new soil.

Admitting to yourself there is no return unavoidably separates you in two: the one back then and the one now. These two might be best friends or they might not be, but in either case no longer are they one.