One of the unexpected joys of this trip is going to somewhere you didn’t expect or plan on visiting. We had a weeks gap in between meeting our friends in Barcelona and meeting more friends in Rome so we looked up google flights and checked where the cheap flights were going to. We discounted a number of places and settled on Malta, it had sunshine, history, water and we had never been there.
Malta has turned out to be a place of contrasts, there are neo-lithic sites to visit, wars to learn about, festivals to participate in and then there’s the tourist corners! Malta is made up of three islands, the main one being Malta, the next is a very small island called Comino and lastly Gozo. Malta is only 316 square kms, approximately 450,000 people live in Malta and most of these are Catholics. There seem to be lots of young families and a fair number of retired people. You can visit areas of great natural beauty but you can also go to parts of Malta that are built up, touristy and dirty. We stuck to the quieter parts.
We based ourselves in Sliema and our accomodation was on top of a hill, our room at the top of the stairs and at the end of the corridor. LOTS of walking was done in Malta! Bonus was we had a pool to cool off in. The unexpected plus of being up the hill was we got to walk around the streets. Just incredible, mostly people live in terraced houses that are old and gorgeous. Malta is the most densely populated country in Europe. You learn something interesting every day!
The view from the waterfront is Sliema is straight over towards the capital Valletta. A breathtaking view, so glad we were on this side as the view from Valletta to Sliema is not nearly as good.
We had a very new experience on Saturday night, we went to the small village of Chaxaq (I can’t remember how to say that!) where they were celebrating the Feast of St Joseph. The streets (small and narrow) were blocked off from traffic and everyone was outside in their best clothes, people sat in chairs at their front door – which is directly on the street. They ate, drank and conversed with neighbours and those who wondered by. There were various stalls set up selling all kinds of things, the St Joseph’s Band was playing and the church was open. Never have I seen such an ornate church! Every surface is decorated, the sides hold floral displays sent by families ( I sensed a little competition here) and people were coming in and out. All over this village people were promenading (best word I can think of to describe this scene). We saw people of all ages, it was very much a family event. Anyone with any association with this village seemed to be here. At 10pm a 90 minute fireworks display started with three villages taking part. The villages make their own fireworks, I didn’t believe this at first but it turns out to be true, they are made and stored outside the village. They are very professional, very big and very noisey! We are so glad we went and we certainly left with a smile on our faces.
Sunday saw us visiting Marsaxxlokk, a small fishing village that holds a weekly market. Once you scrambled through the junky part you came across the fish market, such fresh and interesting fish. I wanted to cook.
Valletta is the capital of Malta and we went to visit the old town, something we seem to do everywhere. It is built on a hill so we did the sensible thing and started at the top and worked our way down. Not quite as interesting as we had thought it would be but we went to 2 things to learn more about the history of this very old country. The most interesting was St Elmo, a very old fort that has saved Malta on a number of occasions. Here we learnt about battles with the Ottoman Empire through to Malta’s incredible experiences in WWII. The other interesting thing we saw was a drilling platform being brought into the harbour by 4 tug boats! Never seen that before.
Another adventure was walking around to Julian’s Bay and St George’s Bay. This appears to be where all the package tours go. The area is full of hotels and rubbish was everywhere, the cigarette butts! So many smokers here. Mmmmm, the less said the better.
On our last full day we took a boat trip to Comino and Gozo. This was a somewhat underwhelming experience. Picture a crowded boat, not enough seats, not enough shade, 75% were smokers and beer was drunk from the moment we left the harbour. We went first to Gozo and took a bus trip, no airconditioning and a rude driver, short stops to see the wonders with too many tourists making too much rubbish & buying too much junk. After waiting for 30minutes on the jetty with no shade it was off to Comino to see the azure blue waters and swim. Only problem was the beach is tiny and yes you guessed it, full of tourists. Of course we are not tourists, we are digital nomads! This was a true case of expectations being too high. I was so looking forward to swimming in the mediterranean sea that I just joined the crowd and in I went, then out and back on the boat.
So all in all we are undecided about Malta, glad we went but I doubt we would return. Maybe it is best to visit during there winter when there are less tourist?