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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Ten of Valletta’s most beautiful balconies

Every workday morning government officials and tourists mixed into one gigantic swarm, invade Valletta, rushing through Republic Street before disappearing in the quiet narrow side streets. Every evening the same human stream flows in the opposite direction, leaving the baroque city to its residents and self. Like the Moon, Valletta induces tidal human flooding. Like the Moon, it is familiar to every Maltese since childhood yet carries its “other”, hidden side, unknown to many.

How many times did you look around today, on your way to work and back home? How many times did you notice sometimes new? The hectic lifestyle, eyes and fingers stuck to screens leave little space for surprises and new discoveries. Sometimes, lifting your head is all it takes to be surprised. Valletta happens on many levels. The abandoned, crumbling balconies and the busy human swarm belong to different eras and dimensions; the contrast between them is particularly striking.

Here are just a few of Valletta’s unique balconies, discovered while roaming around on a warm October evening.

  1. The Rococo Beauty
    St. Ursula Street is known for its haunted reputation. While a paranormal encounter is not guaranteed, a walk through this street would nourish your aesthetic sense. The facade of this house, particularly the balcony, remains my favorite spot in Valletta. I can never get enough of its curved shape and the beautifully carved windows.WP_20151006_18_07_06_edt

2. The Ensemble of Perspective

Right opposite St. Dominic’s Church, in the corner of Merchants and St. Dominic’s streets, is located this humble, both in shape and in colour, ensemble of balconies. What is unique about it, however, is the vertical perspective: the whole ensemble narrows toward the top, giving the visual impression of a much greater height.

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3. The Rebel Corner

Now keep walking on St. Dominic’s Street towards St. Paul’s Street. A very particular corner balcony crowns the corner of these two streets. The most peculiar side of this architectural specimen is not it’s shape however. It belongs to the world of its own, as if it was designed for a different building but, for some strange reason, became part of this one.

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4. The Shabby Elegance

Unfortunately, there are many more of these exquisitely carved yet abandoned balconies as this one on the corner of Merchants and St. Lucia streets. Located at one of the busiest spots of Valletta, with the close proximity to the Valletta 2018, it yet remains in this state.

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5. The Baroque Twins

Merchants Street is home to Valletta’s most beautiful balconies. The variety of styles and colours in this area is truly amazing. This facade, right in between the Russian Centre for Science and Culture and HSBC, blends Rococo decorative features with understatement of elegance.

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6. The Nobleman

I bet everyone can tell where this one is. Correct, this baroque splendor is located right above Camilleriparismode store. Breathtaking architecture!

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7. The Humble Curves

This one is easy to miss out. Too, a resident of Merchants street, unlike its close neighbors, does not manifest itself with bright colours. Look closer: it’s curved windows did not get the glass to fit the frames. WP_20151006_17_44_36_edt 8. The Dusty Chic

Now turn to Zachary Street, walk towards St. John’s Co-Cathedral and, approaching the cafeterias, look up and you’ll see it. Finding this one feels beautiful: the narrow street with little light has more  to offer.

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9. The Grand Master

Grand in all aspects, this corner balcony needs no advertisement. At least once in their lifetime, anybody who ever walked past the Palace paused their pace to admire it.
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10. The Lady in Red

Walking through St. George’s Square, turn right, pass through Archbishop’s Street and then immediately turn left into St. Frederick. One of the narrowest streets of Valletta hides a jewel. Just look at this newly renovated facad and the oval  balcony. Simply beautiful!

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P.S. Sometimes, a simple solution to traffic problems lays in a relaxed lifestyle. After finishing work, take a stroll around Valletta. It is much more pleasant than being stuck in traffic.

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More articles about Valletta:
https://raisatarasova.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/parallel-worlds-reflected-valletta/

2014 in Pictures

Traditionally, the final post of the year is dedicated to a selection photos and the stories behind them. Many thanks to all the followers for their interest and shares! Happy New Year 2015!

JANUARY

Narcissi

On a cold windy Saturday a woman was selling narcissi at the farmer’s market. The contrast between the tender, sunlit flowers and the gloomy sales person was striking. She seemed absolutely uninterested in what was going on around her, not even paying attention to a few potential customers.

Narcissi
Narcissi

MARCH

The Malta Experience

If Maltese population is to be described in two words, it would be ‘politicized’ and ‘segregated’ that fit best (https://raisatarasova.wordpress.com/2014/06/03/malta-lovely-yet-overly-politicized/). Truly, politics in Malta is a very sensitive topic, thus, in previous years poking fun at politicians in a direct manner at carnival was not allowed. This year, however, the taboo was finally abolished and politics became the central topic for the carnival in March 2014. Politicians caricatures were waving from the floats and walking down streets in Valletta – finally, Maltese got a permission for something they had been longing for. On the photo below, Nationalist party leader, Simon Busuttil, floats above the crowd of Labour supporters.

The Malta Experience
The Malta Experience

MAY

The First Feast of the Year

Passion for celebrations is another signature of Malta. Starting from St. Publius feast in Floariana, the country dives into enormous bustle of street celebrations, ‘bombi’ and fireworks (https://raisatarasova.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/malta-not-a-day-without-a-celebration/). To be fair, not everyone in Malta is a fan of fireworks yet sounds of blasts rolling from one shore to the other silence their disagreement.

The First Feast of the Year
The First Feast of the Year

JUNE

Midsummer Evening

The view from the Hastings Gardens in Valletta is one of the best on the island, many came to enjoy it on the longest day of the year. I could see a group of teen-aged guys, jumping on the thick walls of the gardens – such a good shot! – yet missed the moment of the jump by a split second. Every missed good shot feels like a dream which will never come true. Thankfully, midsummer nights are filled with joy and leave little time to revisit moments of sadness.

Midsummer Evening
Midsummer Evening

JULY

Bird-watchers

BirdLife Malta organised a few boat trips for the public to admire colonies of Yelkouan shearwater, migratory species of birds that can be easily recognised by specific raucous cackling calls in the breeding season. When the boat came closer to the colony raft, most of the passengers reached the state of delight and euphoria, seeing the birds flying very close by. Cameras were clicking hundreds of times per minute, exclamations of excitement and wows dominated our little boat. I was standing there, in the middle of it, failing to share this passion and unable to feel that way, once again struck by the evidence of how many different passions there are in the human world. What possibly is the most exciting thing in the world for one might mean nothing to the other.

Shearwaters
Shearwaters

AUGUST

Fireworks of Mqabba

The little village of Mqabba in the south of Malta is renowned for it’s state-of-the art pyroshows. The show attracts thousands of visitors, Maltese and foreign, eager to see what is claimed to be the finest fireworks in the world.

Fireworks of Mqabba
Fireworks of Mqabba

The New Valletta Entrance

As has been mentioned above, in a simplified yet still realistic manner, the Maltese population is divisible into ‘Labour’ vs ‘Nationalist’, ‘pro-hunting’ vs ‘against-hunting’ and in 2014 it also became ‘Renzo Piano’s project fans’ vs ‘Renzo Piano’s project haters’. Whereas the new City Entrance is praised by some, it is passionately rejected and criticized by others. The Entrance and the New Parliament Building are often called an ‘eye-sore’ and a ‘pigeon house’. In my opinion, the Entrance is simply stunning with its clear lines and the beauty of architecture which calls for associations with Ancient and Medieval times. The new steps, however, unite the fans and the haters. Yes, I love them too!

The New Valletta Steps
The New Valletta Steps

SEPTEMBER

One Funny Russian Wedding

Unlike the current Maltese wedding customs, Russian weddings are easy and informal. Frankly, most of Russians experience more than one wedding ceremony in their lifetime and keep it easy and informal. In Astrakhan (my hometown https://raisatarasova.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/astrakhan-where-east-meets-west-and-both-get-confused/)marriages are registered at the Wedding Palace the place where love oaths are part of every day routine. The formal wedding procedure does feel like routine: couples and their friends gather in front of the Palace, entering one by one, the continuation is standard: ‘I do’, signatures, kisses, a glass of champagne, walk out of the Palace on the path, covered with rose petals, a group photo. If you stay next to the Palace for longer, you would see a long line of couples walking in and out, taking the photo on those steps and you would also hear the elderly woman complaining about the mess (the petals) that she has to swipe after each and every couple. And off it all goes – couples drive away in cars, rose petals end up in garbage bags. Everything passes, love shall not :).

One Funny Russian Wedding
One Funny Russian Wedding

The Sun Worshiper

Mnajdra Temples in Malta are among the world’s most ancient man-made constructions, designed for the cult of equinox worship. On the 23rd September A broad range of audience gathered inside the walls of the Temples waiting for the first sunray. The misty sunrise almost ruined the scene leaving no trace of light on the altar. Slowly but surely, we all were becoming disappointed when at 7.30 am the sun finally managed to cut through the clouds and to light a path straight onto the altar. Greeting the sunrise at the ancient place over 5000 years old, where the mysterious civilization used to perform its cult, felt magical.

The Sun Worshiper
The Sun Worshiper

OCTOBER

The Reflexion

This photo free from any stories and interpretations apart from the fact that it features Castille Place, the office of Prime Minister. Make your own, if you like.

The Reflexion
The Reflexion

NOVEMBER

Footprints on Sand

On one very sunny November day we ended up in Gozo for a field trip. The weather and the atmosphere was calling for an adventure (and it did come, not on that same day but later on). After a picnic, our group headed to Ramla bay, beautiful sandy beach in Gozo. Our footprints on the sand are now gone and we are not there but the memory of it survived.

The Footprints on the Sand
The Footprints on Sand

Big hugs, small kisses and best wishes! See you in 2015!