All countries, especially very small ones, like to proclaim that something of theirs is the world's First or Biggest or Oldest whatever. These superlatives almost always lead you down a disappointing road. Chances are the site in question is both a) in contention for but not unequivocally the winner of its title and b) never as impressive as the hype surrounding it. I hate to be so negative, but Merlin and I left Fort Rinella saying, "that was the biggest rip-off, ever." So, I guess it wins that? In the four days we've spent in Malta, we've found it surprisingly jam-packed with beautiful and interesting things. That's why Fort Rinella and its famous gun offended us so much. Really? We spent two hours (walking - our choice) and 20 euros (10 each, their choice) for this?
I'd like to clarify that I was not so much disappointed with the pink cannon itself, as I was Fort Rinella - called "Malta's only live museum" in its brochure. It couldn't have been any deader when we arrived. Above, we have the soldier's quarters where empty cans of soda and beer sat on the desk and a pile of random artifacts were piled in the corner. When the man inside saw us looking in, he came and closed the door. On our way out, their was a Staff Only sign posted and it was locked shut. The signposted "Ash Pit" had a cat bed inside and two plastic feeding bowls. It was pretty clear that the museum isn't fully up and running at the moment. There's some interesting history here - the cannon was very possibly the biggest in the world when made by the British in the 1880s. The fort was built to house the behemoth gun and hydraulics were constructed to operate it, a rare feat for the day. The cannon never actually wound up being used except for test runs a few times a year (it cost the same amount to shoot it once as to pay 2600 soldiers for a day, so practice shots were kept to a minimum). But it was still an important piece of Britain's defense against Italian attack. On the line was their lucrative route to India.
The steam powered hydraulic system was removed at some point after the 20 year era of the gun's "activity" ended. So, aside from the 100 ton muzzle-loading cannon itself, there's really nothing to see at Fort Rinella. That's why, usually, there are so many displays and reenactments for visitors. People rave about the exhibitions, the horses and weapons and men in uniform. We saw none of that. Instead, one man painted a wall in white overalls and this woman cut away at satin, presumably making banners and flags for the joisting competition next week.http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
One young man walked around in uniform. He urged us to stay for the dvd showing and busied himself with polishing these daggers. I'm really not sure why the museum was open at all. The worst part, not their fault, was that the Viewing Deck looked down on a strip of shore that resembled a junkyard. Two older British couples walked around the site similarly bewildered. We didn't stay for the dvd, wanting nothing more than to get the heck out of this "living museum" and back into living Malta. You can't win 'em all.
We should have gone to Popeye Village instead.