It was love at first sight. I fell in love with this island at the moment I saw from a landing plane, its small houses, cliffs and church towers emerging from the clowds. I don´t know why Malta captivated me but one thing is sure – from the very first moment I felt there like at home. Just the idea of being on a tiny island literally in the middle of Meditarranean fascinated me. I was impressed even more with the view from huge cliffs on the neverending see, wild waves being smashed by rocks, streets as if not leading anywhere, secret corners of Valletta and Mdina, colorful boats in a fishermen village Marsaxlokk.
I will guide you to my favourite spots.
Valletta and Sliema
Valletta, the smallest European capital. Built on a headland it offers a unique view on cities on the other side of the bay – Sliema, Vittoriosa and Sengelea. Together with other cities they form a large aglomeration. What makes Valletta different is not only the presence of numerous palaces left behing by Maltese knights inside of its mighty city walls but also it´s the absence of people – apart from the main street, Triq-il Republica, the city is basicaly deserted! It´s a capital with empty streets. I suppose that in summer it gets filled with tourists, but during my visit in April this absence of people and life had a special charm. But where are those seven thousand people who should live here? Even after sunset there was no sign of light behing windows. One evening I heard a priest giving his sermon and church choir. I tried to follow the source of the increasing sound. And what I reached was…….a speaker. Masses in Valletta are reaching people trought speakers! This sound, as if coming from nowhere, further intensified my impression of Valletta being a ghost city.
Except from being the smallest capital, Valletta has another primacy – it´s the first one that was completely built according to the urbanistic plan. Tall houses were supposed to provide enough shade and straight streets a circulation of fresh wind coming from the sea, so its inhabitants can be relieved a bit from the summer heat. My most favourite spot is the area around San Elmo citadel which provides beautiful view on surrounding lighthouses and port.
Whilst Valletta seems to sserve only as a monument to Maltese knights, Sliema, spreading on the other side of the bay, is a city where people actually live and have fun. A long promenade offers a great view on Valletta and its mighty walls.
Fishermen village, oasis of peace. I´m observed by dozen of eyes of the colorful boats called „luzzu“. How tranquilly they swing on the water undisturbed by cries of fisherman and noise of tourists. Some of them let themselves to be looked after by their owners who coat them with paint and make some reparation works on the ground. For these men luzzu is like a family member. For Malta these boats are one of the national symbols. For me it´s a beautiful memory on a relaxed afternoon.
Standing at Dingli cliffs and looking at the neverending see makes me forget everything around me. The whole world. I just enjoyed the feeling of absolute freedom. Even if this was the only place I saw in Malta, I would be grateful for that.
Public transport turned to be quite adventurous here at the southern part of the island. Only minibuses that can take up to 15 people are able to drive on narrow roads. Regarding the fact that out of a season the minibus goes only once per hour, a question emerges of what to do with all those who don´t manage to fit in. I happened to be in such a tricky situation when I wanted to get from the megalitic temples Hagar Qim to the nerby Dingli cliffs. I missed the minibus per ten minutes and after I saw that the bus stop was getting packed by some twenty desperate people like me, I came to the conclusion that I won´t get out of there unless I hitchhike. At home this option would be out of question but somehow locals gained my trust. If someone kills me at least it should´t be hard to find him on such a tiny island. After a few minutes two guys stopped to give me a lift – a Welshman and a Scotsman. They were both humorous fellows and the fact that we got lost in a few minutes allowed us to have a chat. I´m fully aware that one should´t get to political topics with strangers who are giving him a lift, but it was just before the Scotish referendum on independence and I couldn´t help myself. I asked the Scotsman how he is going to vote. „You know, I like all of my British friends but I´m going to vote for the independence. We used to be independent for centuries in the past and I think we should be again“. „But then we will start a war with you!“, was the reaction of the Welshman. I don´t know if they stayed friends even after this ride but finaly we got to Dingli cliffs and our jouneys splited.
Sarcastic sence of humor is perhaps something that Brits left here. In the evening as I was on my way to leave this place I was searching in a small town of Dingli for something to eat. The only shop that was still open was a butchery. As raw meat is not something I would prefer to eat I told to the shop assistant with a disaponted tone of my voice that what I´m looking for is sandwich. A woman standing next to me grabed my hand and took me round the corner to a small bar. She asked the waitress to quickly prepare something for me because I´m waiting for a bus. Then she said quietly as if just for herself: „The bus won´t go anyway“. Luckily the lady was wrong and I got home even while it was still a daylight.
Its Arabic name, which means „a city inside of the walls“, is not the only thing that it shares with Arabic cities. It is also the essence of mystery that radiates from its streets. Life is taking place covertly, not in front of the eyes of random passersbyes and neighbours. The only pompous building is St.Paul Cathedral, the rest is turned towards itself and enclosed from the outer world by surrounding walls. And yet the viewpoint on the north of Mdina enables to see almost half of the island. It´s a place where one realizeds how small Malta really is. Rain is coming. Narrow streets, that seem not to lead anywhere, get empy. I have them all for myself. Only the sound of a radio coming from a window I´m passing reminds in which century I am. Emply corners, secret gardens, soaked laundry hanging in a balcony, dried up well at the forbiden square, a feeling of fulfilled loneliness, evanescence, a dream.