Soaking Up the Sun in Malta

Winter in Warsaw: cold, gray, interminable, and to top it off, the air is toxic. By February, everyone who hasn’t gotten out yet is starting to get a little crazy. We sure were!

Last week, we grabbed a red-eye to Malta. SO WORTH IT. 

Malta is a fascinating place for all kinds of historical reasons. The Maltese language, which is a mix of Arabic, Italian, and English, reflects the island’s crazy mix of cultures. But that was just a bonus. We really loved the sun, the landscape—and the food! Also a mix of Mediterranean influences, Maltese cuisine (and wine) definitely stacks up favorably against that of Italy or Spain, my other two favorite places to eat.

We stayed in an apartment in Sliema, a short hop by ferry across the bay from Valletta, Malta’s capital. This is what Valletta looks like from the ferry. 

By coincidence, we arrived the Saturday before Lent. This posed a few minor problems in terms of things being somewhat randomly closed with no notices posted online, but on the other hand, we were able to see Carnival preparations and parades close-up.

This group of Ethiopian Christians is removing their shoes before entering church services. 
Malta was a British possession until 1964. Which is why Queen Victoria overlooks the main square in Valletta. 
There are other vestiges of the British colonial era throughout Malta, including these old-fashioned phone booths and post boxes.
Many store signs haven’t been changed for decades. There are “stockists” all over the island.
By early afternoon the Carnaval parade, zigzagging through most of the streets of Valletta, was in full swing. It was noisy and very crowded, but definitely a family affair–at least during the day. 
There were amazing costumes everywhere, and everyone seemed to want to have their photo taken.
The gay disco float had the best music, by far. 
There were also completely adorable children by the dozens.
A lazy lunch on an outdoor patio. In the SUN.
Nearly all the buildings in Valletta have these bay windows, painted in different colors. They “pop” nicely against the sandstone buildings.
Blue!
Many buildings in Valletta are in a state of genteel decay or are downright abandoned. We heard that a dysfunctional tax system has something to do with this. Strangely, other towns on the islands are in better repair than the capital.
View of suburbs from the big Knights of St. John fort at the end of the Valletta peninsula.
Most things on the island was not as per schedule, but we didn’t care 🙂

We only spent a couple of days in Valletta, as our real objective after being stuck in an apartment all winter was to GET OUTSIDE. So, we rented a car and made several only slightly terrifying expeditions (left-hand driving, daredevil drivers) to other parts of the island.

Mdina is a lovely, quiet city not far from Valletta. We loved it, but we loved this “Maltese platter” lunch even more. A mix of Italian and North African specialties. Yum!
The seaside fishing town of Marshaxlokk. Touristy, but for all the best reasons. We enjoyed one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever eaten at a cafe on the waterfront.

We also took the car ferry to Gozo, Malta’s smaller sister island and hiked around. We liked Gozo a lot: it is less developed and quieter than Malta, and oh my, the landscape!

Hiking up to Djewra Tower on Gozo.
Some of the mysterious “cart tracks” found Malta and in this case, on a hilltop on Gozo. These are really weird–they are Neolithic, but no one has yet figured out exactly how they were made or what they were for!

On our last full day, we set out in search of the Victoria Lines. These are a series of forts and walls that are built along a natural fault line running east to west across Malta. The various fortifications date from the time of the Crusades to WWII. A sketchy hiking trail follows the wall across the island. Like most Malta attractions, it was a bit of a treasure hunt! But that’s why it was a good thing we had the car.

You can clearly see the wall running across a gap and zigzagging up the hill beyond. On the left, the cliff is honeycombed with man-made caves that have been used for everything from Neolithic burials to bomb shelters.
We walked for a couple of miles along the lines and enjoyed views like this. Sigh.
Our final stop was the Dingli cliffs: another sketchy but beautiful hike with gorgeous views.

Malta was more than just a vacation. It was much-needed therapy. Hopefully, we both stored up enough Vitamin D to last until spring!

Advertisements

5 comments

  1. Surprised there was a gay disco float in carnival…considering this is a deeply catholic island.
    We too enjoyed our week in Malta. But the weather can be tempestuous some times and we missed out on our cruise to see the Ta Cenc cliffs.

    Like

    • Yes, even though the traffic is a little death-defying, we saw several people making really long treks from bus stops to various sights–sometimes longer than they should have because directions are not very clear. We would personally rather do our hiking along cliffs etc. rather than along roads, so the car was totally worth it.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s