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情迷马耳他 Island of Intrigue

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I was lost. Again. I've been here times, and yet I confess that I spend much of my time in Malta hopelessly lost, an embarrassing admission considering the island is only about 17 miles at its longest point, nine at the widest. But, I am not alone in my directional dyslexia. Nearly all independent travelers to Malta spend part of the time wondering where they are, a source of mirth for the locals. A Canadian friend who worked here discovered an office tradition of placing bets on how late newcomers would arrive on their first day at work.

我又迷路了。我来过这里几次了,可我得承认我在马耳他度过的大部分时间都不知自己身在何处,实在是无可奈何。说起来真难为情,但是这个岛屿最长只有 17 英里,最宽也就 9 英里。不过我并不是唯一的方向白痴,几乎所有独自前来马耳他的游客都得冥思苦想自己究竟在哪,而当地人则以此为乐。一位在此工作过的加拿大朋友发现,当地人会打赌新来的人初次上班时会迟到多久,而这种喜好一直沿袭至今。

The Maltese are used to strange visitors invading their homeland. Almost every nation with interests in the Mediterranean, from the Phoenicians in the 9th century BC to the British in the 20th century, has claimed Malta as its own. It has one of the world's great natural harbors and a location in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia. Some of the greatest figures of history - St. Paul, Napoleon, Count Roger the Norman - have set foot on Malta's rocky shores. All have left their mark on the island's landscape, and as a result, Malta is a living, breathing museum, a place where all of Mediterranean history, thousands of years' worth, can be seen and touched and smelled.

马耳他人已经习惯了陌生游客的蜂拥而至。从公元前 9 世纪的腓尼基到 20 世纪的大不列颠,但凡垂涎地中海的国家都宣称马耳他为其所有。马耳他有着世界上最大的天然海港,它地处地中海中部,西西里与突尼斯之间,许多历史上的伟大人物——拿破仑以及诺曼第人罗杰——都曾踏足于此,并在风景如画的岛上留下了自己的足迹。因此马耳他是一个活生生的博物馆,在此我们可以亲眼见到,亲身体会到地中海数千年的历史。

The Maltese are fond of using the language of food to describe themselves. They will say their culture is, like their food, a mixture of all that's around them. They will tell you their personality is like Maltese bread: crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.

马耳他人喜欢用食物来形容自己,他们觉得自己的文化与其食物一样,是一种大杂烩。他们的性情就如马耳他的面包:外刚内柔。

One of the wonders of Malta is that you can cover several thousand years in just a few days. I planned to travel by public bus. I sat back to enjoy the ride to the temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra. As we made our way through little towns I could see into storefronts where bakers, bankers, and cobblers worked their trade as they had for centuries. I watched children in their smart uniforms playing in the schoolyards, the priest greeting his parishioners, women lining up to buy bread, and men in the cafes arguing loudly, probably over politics.

在马耳他令人拍案叫绝的就是短短几天时间,你的游览就可以涵盖几千年。我乘车前往哈扎伊姆神庙和姆那拉神庙,一路上的景观令我心情舒畅。汽车在小镇中穿行,映入眼帘的尽是各种铺面,面包店、银行和皮匠店从事着已延续数百年的工作;孩子们穿着整齐的制服在操场上玩耍;牧师为其教区居民致贺词;妇女们排队买面包;男人们则可能因为政治观点产生了分歧而在咖啡店里高声争执。

Soon the towns became countryside, farmland marked off by stone walls. The terrain is varied considering the island is only 120 square miles. It has rugged ridges, deep valleys and a coastline that varies from beach to sheer cliffs.

很快车便来到郊外,农田被石墙隔开,虽然马耳他占地仅 120 平方英里,地貌特征却不尽相同。这里山势崎岖、峡谷幽深,沿岸景观从沙滩到陡峭的悬崖应有尽有。

Hagar Qim and Mnajdra are ancient stone temples on Malta's south coast: Hagar Qim high atop a cliff overlooking the sea, Mnajdra is more than 500 yards downhill. About 1,500 years after the island's first people arrived (probably from Sicily), using only stone tools, they began to carve temples with many circular chambers from the island's limestone, structures very large.

哈扎伊姆神庙与姆那拉神庙两座远古石寺坐落在马耳他南部沿海:哈扎伊姆神庙雄踞于一绝壁之上,眺望大海。姆那拉神庙的位置则要矮 500 多码。大约 1500 年前,第一批人来到此岛(可能来自西西里)时仅能使用石器,他们便用岛上的石灰石将许多圆形的洞穴雕刻成寺庙。

Malta's temples are unique. There was nothing like them before and there has never been anything like them since. Created before Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt by more than 1,000 years, they are the world's oldest free-standing stone architecture.

马耳他的庙宇可谓独树一帜,前无古人,后无来者,比英国史前巨石阵以及埃及的吉萨大金字塔还要早上一千多年,是世界上最古老的独立式石器建筑。

My next stop: the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground temple for the dead once filled with the bones of thousands of people. The people who built it must have been remarkable but 1,600 years after the first temple was built they disappeared. No one is sure why. To protect the site, visits are limited and must be booked in advance - I asked for help. Fortunately for the tourists, almost everyone on the island speaks English. Maltese take pride in their politesse and will often ask if you think they're nice.

我的下一站:哈尔·萨夫列尼地下宫殿(世界文化遗产之一),这个地下寺庙为死者而建,一度容纳了上千人的尸骸。建造这个宫殿的人们一定不同凡响,但距第一座庙宇建成 1600 多年后,岛上的人们便消失得无影无踪。原因无人知晓。为了保护遗址,政府对游客人数予以限制,想参观的还得先预订——我是找人帮忙的。幸运的是,岛上几乎每个人都能讲英语,而马耳他人则对其彬彬有礼的举止引以为豪,常会问你他们是否够友善。

Over the next few days I continued to explore and enjoy Malta's long rich history. There is something about this dry, rocky island and its people that unexpectedly enchants, no matter why or how you first arrived. I think it's because no matter how often you visit, there will be something that surprises, something that will make you smile.

接下来的几天,我继续探究并享受着马耳他博大精深的历史。不管你第一次因何而来,如何到此,你都会为这个干燥、岩石林立的岛国及其人民而着迷,这是始料未及的。我想是因为不管你来多少次,总会有意想不到的事,令你笑逐颜开。

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