DENSELY POPULATED – HOT – HARSH
Malta is an archipelago of 7 Islands situated in the heart of the Mediterranean; only 3 of the islands are inhabited, Malta, Goza and Comino.
Malta is one of the world’s smallest states, comprising only 316 km², (122 sq mi) it is also one of the most densely populated areas worldwide with just over 400 000 people.
I had thought that, it being September, it would be cooler but, make no mistake, the sun beat down every day in the mid thirties. After a long, dry summer, the rather flat, rocky landscape was dry, parched and harsh.
AQUAMARINE OCEAN – BEACHES – LIMESTONE
The dry landscape does though eventually lead you to steep coastal cliffs where you are rewarded with amazingly beautiful aquamarine water, clear to the sea-bottom, shimmering blues and greens. Absolute bliss to simply immerse your sizzling body and just float for hours, suspended by the very salty Mediterranean Sea….
Every building, home, country road wall, church, you name it, old and new is built using the local limestone, Malta’s greatest natural resource; warm yellow-toned colours which, at this time of the year rather blend into the landscape. I noticed though that the colours seem to change as the day progressed, hard on the eye at midday and then in the evening, the limestone became a soft yellow glow, very beautiful.
FRIENDLY – HELPFUL
The Maltese people are extremely friendly and very happy to give directions. Everybody we met, spoke English (English is an official language together with Maltese) which helped a lot, especially as we did get lost a few times….after giving directions, they always had more advice to give, advising us where to swim, what to see, where to eat and asking where we were from and how we had heard about Malta.
HISTORY – CHURCHES
I thought I was just ignorant, but have since found that there are very few people who actually know that the Malta Islands have the oldest free-standing Megalithic Temples on earth. Some of the temples date back to 3600 – 2500BC, its mind boggling….. They are much older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids of Egypt. There are 11 of these prehistoric monuments on Malta and Goza, 7 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Maltese are 98% Roman Catholic and there is a church in every village square! It seems that nobody has actually counted how many churches there are but the consensus seems to be that there is a church for every day of the year so about 365 and this is on a tiny Island… each one is different but all are magnificent. Even if you are not religious at all, walking into one of these churches just feels different, there is a reverence, a quietness, and you feel there is “something” there.
POT-HOLED ROADS – BAD DRIVERS
I must be honest, the roads were pretty awful, some so pot-holed you had to literally drive at 15kph, but, having said that, there was a lot on new upgrading of roads taking place so there is hope…. then came the drivers…. and this is not just me being picky here. There were articles in the newspapers every day about bad driving. Nobody seems to adhere to any rules of the road; forget indicators or right of way at a roundabout, they are pretty aggressive drivers and we soon learnt that you have to give as good as you get or, literally be driven over…..I read somewhere that they have the highest accident rate in Europe, am sure it’s true. Just be brave, we could not have done without a car and it’s all part of the experience.
PIZZA – CISK BEER – KINNIE – RABBIT
As a lot of the Maltese cuisine seems to be vaguely Mediterranean with an influence from Italy, we found that there was a pizza shop on every corner. The local Cisk beer is really good and very refreshing as is the local soft drink Kinnie; it is very popular, fizzy with a bitter orange / herby taste. Rabbit or Fenek is the most popular meat dish. It is usually cooked as a stew with wine and herbs, but it is also fried or roasted and is also used as a sauce in pasta.
BALCONIES – FLAG POLES – FIREWORKS – FESTIVALS
All the buildings have enclosed little balconies that look a bit like alcoves. They obviously date back to the beginning of time as some are really old and falling to pieces, others have been revamped and painted. They are quite fascinating to see.
Everywhere you look there are flag poles, every house and building seems to have a mile high flag pole. I noticed it while I was there but then when I looked at my photographs they were even more visible. The Maltese love festas and not only does each village have a festival to celebrate its local patron saint, there are also annual country festivals so, there are literally festivals every week; and this is when they hang out monstrous flags, hundreds of them, quite a spectacle.
Don’t forget the fireworks, they actually specialise in fireworks and have a huge factory making them. The festas usually end off with a big “bang”.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to go and visit Malta? If not, there is more still to come…