Another article in our OBT series.
We planned our visit to Malta as a rest week between Scotland and our tour of the Middle East. We wanted to catch up on work and get some downtime. But we arrived at our hotel after 9 pm and discovered that the place we were supposed to stay for six nights was a dump with minimal power for Mike’s CPAP and no WiFi in the room. The maintenance guy also told us they were tearing the building down in a month. That night I decided there was no way I was spending more than the one night we were already stuck with.
We have also learned we don’t like being out in the sticks. So we booked ourselves into the Intercontinental in St. Julian’s on the busy side of the island. It was a great place to spend our remaining 5 nights. It is a compact, hilly town, with many restaurants, shops, clubs, and some casinos. The food scene is quite international, with Italian taking a strong lead over other Mediterranean cuisines. This is not surprising since Sicily is only a 45-minute ferry away. Rabbit seems like a national dish, it was available everywhere. It’s always rabbit season (not duck season) in Malta.
Unfortunately, we just didn’t get enough of our work done. When you travel all the time, unlike a vacation, you still have to handle financial, insurance and caregiving stuff and personal maintenance like hair and nails, etc. It also turns out this blog stuff takes a lot of time and requires really good WiFi. All that said, we did get to see some of Malta.
We worked some and then decided we needed to go do something, so we went to Valletta, a city planned and built in the 1500s. There is a fort on one end and a grid-work of streets going from the plateau to the sea. The town is made of local limestone, one of Malta’s biggest exports. Valletta is also the main port on the island for cargo and cruise ships.
There seemed to be a lively café culture, but everyone smokes, which makes sitting in a café, even on the street, less than pleasant. There were beautiful views of the Mediterranean all around and architecture the is engaging, with many colorful doors with interesting knockers.
We stopped into the Knights of Malta museum with a movie and then dioramas of the Knights’ history. We learned that the Knights of Malta started as Hospitallers during the crusades. (The eight points of the Maltese cross represent both the lands of origin of the Knights themselves and the eight obligations of the Knights. The obligations include being truthful, having faith, repenting sins, being humble, striving for justice, showing mercy, being wholehearted, and enduring persecution.) Most came from noble families in France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, and England. After the crusades, they looked around the Mediterranean for a place to settle, but no one would take them in. They finally landed in Malta and set about electing a leader and building Valletta with homes and palaces that they could defend.
Another day when we just couldn’t work anymore, we decided to visit Mdina, one of the oldest walled cities in the world. It sits on a hill in the middle of the island. We were told by friends that it was worth a visit and we agree. The town is mostly pedestrian, making it very quiet and clean.
Malta was the most difficult place so far to navigate by car, at least for me. They drive on the left, a little crazy, and Google maps was a little tricky. I didn’t look forward to getting in the car so we stayed pretty close to the hotel. The entire island is limestone colored, the buildings and ground are all beige. It was very cool in October and we were hoping it would be warmer.
Overall, we might come back to do more sightseeing. But, between the traffic, crowds, and lack of vegetation, a long term stay isn’t in our future.
How does Malta sound to you?