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Viva Malta!

MALTA | Saturday, 19 January 2008 | Views [1065] | Comments [1]

Viva Malta! That was the cry of the Maltese pirates before they stormed their enemy and sent them to Davy Jones Locker!  haharrr...

Well after a delayed flight from Rome, I finally clocked into my Maltese hotel around midnight. The plane was delayed for security reasons as the baggage count didn't match the number of passengers, so they made us all get off in groups of 8 and identify our bags! So 2 hours later we finally took off, and I had to thank the poor old hotel reception guy for staying up past his bed time to let me in :).

It has been all systems go as I started my first day tour of the Island this morning after clearing up a few arrangements (unfortunately they cancelled the Sicily excursion so I substituted a half-day look around Valetta instead). But first I must say, its been a pleasure getting back to a place where they drive on the left side of the road! And my hotel is right on the beachfront in Sliema, a gorgeous part of the coast which is kind of like a Mediterranean Scarborugh beach if you get the picture ;). Its been a joy listening to the waves crash against the limestone as I watch from my own personal balcony.

Now Maltese is a strange language being a mix of arabic, italian and french and half the letters in their words aren't pronounced (which has caused some revisionary tactics in the education system) so I pre-arranged some tours to get me familiar with the place. I got picked up by bus as part of an English and German day tour in which our guide spoke fluently in both but he had to repeat every story twice! To his credit though, he did a great job.

We first went to the south of the Island and visited the Blue Grotto - a beautiful chunk of limestone cliff carved out by the ocean. The waters were sparkling crystal blue and this is a diver's hot spot in the warmer months. After that we walked around some streets in a 'village' called Qrendi - there aren't any real villages left as they've all merged into the suburban sprawl, but these people remain territorial about their own patch of rock! The south of the island is largely agricultural and we found out that was because it used to be the haunt of the local pirates, a ruthless mob meant to be the most fierce in the Mediterannean, and nobody wanted to live near them, hehe.

We stopped into 'The Cave of Darkness' which isn't really dark, but is famous for its archeological discoveries of ancient fauna from the iceage. Did you know they used to have pygmy elephants here? Well, I didn't.. and lots of hippos, wolves, bears, foxes and deer too. In regards to more recent fauna, they like eating rabbit, and they still hunt song birds, but only for the black market which has some kind of folkloric notoriety about it, even so, you don't bring up the subject over dinner, hehe.

We stopped for lunch - fish, fish and if they could make chocolate fish, then that too. Then my favourite part of the day came when we visited Marsaxlokk, on the southeast coast. Its nestled in a protected harbour, and its the place you find all those colourful fishing boats painted blue, gold and red, with the eyes painted on the front bit (you can tell I'm a sailor hey). But the place has lovely old limestone buildings all around it (everything is made from limestone giving the whole place a warm and fuzzy yellow vibe :), and lots of al fresco cafes on the sea front with market stalls as well. I had a coffee and enjoyed sitting by the water thinking how it reminds me of Fremantle, but this is Malta where half the fishermen in Freo probably came from haha.

The next stop took us to the Neolithic Temples nearby, which are fascinating stone age formations believed to be built over 5500 years ago in veneration of all things female - some of the oldest stone formations known. I have my own theories (not unique) about astronomical alignments with the solstices and Venus to determine the approriate times for spring fertility rites, much like they did in Ireland and elsewhere, but this was the stone age, and how they moved and built these stones isn't really known despite all the theories.

So endeth the tour for the day and we all got dropped back at our respective hotels. Now I spotted at least 3 signs bearing the name 'Caruana' during the day and, chatting briefly to the cafe guy in Marsaxlokk, he said there's plenty of Caruanas in Marsaxlokk! Hell, they even have a Ron's Cafe and a Matthew's Bar and Restaurant, so no wonder I felt comfortable there, lol.

I've also just come back from trying some local cuisine down the road - home made ravioli stuffed with swordfish and ricotta cheese, in a tomato and prawn sauce, with a glass of vino bianco, followed by a dark chocolate and cream dessert :). Yes, its been a good day, hehe.

And there should be more to come tomorrow. I have another day tour arranged for the sister island of Gozo to the north.

Until then .. ciao ciao!

Tags: Sightseeing



wicked matty...you make me wish i was there..especially the seafood..you see..atm i have a cracker hangover:( and a craving for crab meat....bummer..there's no seafood joints near where i live:(..oh well...fruit will suffice on this hot day....take care mon.

  Chris Jan 19, 2008 6:58 PM

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