During the winter of 2017 I visited the post-communist world of former East Germany and the Czech Republic. During the winter of 2018 I continued my travels through the same part of the world and experienced the post communist transition of Poland.
I have learned during my world travels that *tracing the history and movement of the Jews is helpful to learn about the history of Europe and beyond. Poland was a part of this continuing journey of discovery for me.
Visiting the island nation of Malta in the central Mediterranean just off the coast of Sicily was a last minute decision while I was traveling through Poland during the winter of 2018.
I was visiting Wroclaw, Poland, near the end of five fascinating weeks exploring Poland with a focus on the country’s Jewish legacy and WWII. I had planned to continue along these lines in nearby Budapest, Hungary, but circumstances encouraged me to skip Budapest for the time being and propelled me to continue my journey in the Maltese Islands instead.
While I was sitting in the cozy apartment of two Servas hosts in Wroclaw, they commented on the fact that a brutal nor’easter was coming this way in the next few days from Siberia which would cause temperatures to drop dramatically. They were going to avoid this cold spell by taking a cheap, direct flight to the former British colony of Malta and vacation there for a week.
Inspired by their plans to avoid the nor’easter, the following day I did some online research on Malta. I saw an opportunity to complete my blog on Poland in a beautiful, historic country where warm sea breezes would replace the cold days of winter up north. I decided Budapest would have to wait.
The Mediterranean island nation of Malta has been inhabited since 5000 BC when settlers arrived from Sicily. A succession of Powers have ruled the archipelago including Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, Order of St. John, French and British. .
The Knights of Malta (formerly Order of St. John), a Roman Catholic order, became a powerful force during their 300 year presence on Malta. They were originally from Jerusalem as hospitaliers, arriving on Malta in the 1500’s. They built the baroque, walled city of Valletta and many of the great buildings of Malta. Exploring behind these fortress walls is where my story begins.
Why Budapest and Ukraine?
It is now the winter of 2019. A year after aborting my plans to continue my East European journey into Budapest from Poland, I have arrived in that culturally-rich city. After exploring Budapest focusing on its Jewish legacy and WWII history, I plan to visit various places in Ukraine, including Lviv, Kiev and Odessa, with a similar purpose in mind.
My desire to visit Kiev started in 1987 when I went on a tour of the USSR on a peace keeping mission with members of Servas (a non-profit international peace organization of hosts and travelers) from around the United States. We visited many parts of the Former Soviet Union, but had to miss Kiev because of the nuclear disaster that had recently happened in Chernobyl (April 26, 1986). I made a commitment to myself at that time that one day I would return to this part of the world and visit Kiev. Now is the time.
*Other than postings in this blog, following are postings from blogs I have written from various parts of the world about Jews and their history:
Berlin, Germany – www.zellnertravel2017.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/introducing-berlin
Venice & Padova, Italy – www.zellnertravel2016.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/the-jews-of-northern-italy-part-ii-venice-and-padova