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*****

WARNING!!! This is a longish post, with quite a few pictures and also quite a few words. But - it's tough to squeeze seven days and 1300 pictures in a few lines.

*****



=> Seven days for seven years

Ok, that's not the rule, but we usually take a week off at the end of October/beginning of November - we met on 9 November and this is of course the best time to make little anniversary trips. So, after weeks off in Berlin, Genova and Marseille (and some shorter trips before that) we decided to go to Malta - tiny Mediterannean country, located on two main islands, named...



Yes, that's a Lonely Planet guide and it proved to be extremely useful - with one tiny detail. Maltese have become members of European Monetary Union with 1 January, so the information regarding Maltese Liras... just didn't work. But, life with € in hand is easier, right? Well, life is easier if you manage to get really cheal deals for your flight, hotel and rented car - meaning 50€, 320€ (fro two) and 120€ (for a week) respectively. So, we landed on Malta on 30 Oct, sometimes at 9pm. Surprise #1: there was a guy at the airport holding "Tomaz Celestina" sign in his hands - it was a guy from the rental company. It felt nice. And then - after some formalities - we had to face left side traffic for the first time - it was dark, I was nervous, roads and streets were full, but we were armed with good will, basic instructions and - basically - we didn't have any other option, right? So, wheel on the right, driving on the left, wipers on the left side of the wheel, blinkers on the right and luckily automatic transmission. And after some silly, touristic moves, stupid looks, some sweating and a lot of cursing we managed to manouvre our way to the final destination - St. Julian; as we got to know during the weekend - the party heart of the island. One tiny detail from St. Julian and from the whole island for that matter. They love covered wooden balconies and they look like...



...this. We didn't do much on the first evening. Just a few beers, some food, quite a lot of talking with, David, very kind and friendly owner of our hotel - Adam's and it was time to call the day off. Frankly said, I didn't feel like driving the next day, so we opted for a bus ride to the island's capital city - Valletta; magnificent fortified city, built in the 16th century. Malta is so full of history I will try to skip some of it. Buy a guide or Google or Wiki it. :) So, bus it was and riding a bus in Malta is a thoroughly interesting story, which might happen a bit later.

 
Igor waiting and inside the bus. When it was full you could hear shouting from just behind the wheel: "Move back!!!..... please." Effective!

=> Valletta

So it was Valletta, fortress city and our first encounters with extremely kind, hospitable, warm local people. Maltese people are a really funny combination: physically they can look like (handsome and charming) mixture or Latin and Arabic, but their manners are very English-like: well-behaved, slightly reserved and very polite. But - they are always willing to help you, explain what you don't know, asking you where you're from and stuff like that. And they do it in a nice and kind way - not in often slightly intruding Italian way. And also the feeling you get when you walk around is similarly funny. Buildings look - again - like a mixture of Mediterranean and Arabic, yet you see English phone booths, postboxes and all that traditional English writings and stuff. Charming as hell, trust me. We did a lot of walking, a lot of sightseeing, visited some museums, tried original Maltese food for the first time and we did Valletta. And Valletta did us. We were overwhelmed.


At the Triton Fountain on the square at Valletta city doors.



 
Old city walls and sun getting in Igor's eyes.

 
And more and more city walls.

 
A fat local kitty and even more city walls.

 
I was taking some pictures of flowers, too, not just stones and walls.

 
It was windy, can't you tell. Well, I can't tell the name of that church, to be honest.

 
Just a detail and chunks and chunks of new hotels buing built on Malta.


=> Oh, those charming buses...

Yes, buses of Malta are a very interesting story. Many of them date from the 50's or 60's and as much as the locals hate them for being loud and not really comfortable, tourists just love them and they have surely become a tourist attraction by themselves. Frankly said, they are loud and not really comfortable, but they surely do have their own charm. They only have one door, so climbing on and getting off happens there, if you're not quick at the station waving at the driver he can easily "not" see you, you get to pay for the (cheap) ticket to the driver as you enter and there's a long rope on guides on the ceiling - pull it and the bell at the driver rings - a signal for your stop. If you know where you want to go, that is. Oh, buses only have numbers, so it takes a while till you realise which number is going somewhere. But even if you end up on a wrong bus, it's not a tragedy. Almost all of them start and end their routes on a square next to Valletta city gates, so it's not a problem. Drivers own the buses, but there's some problems with that form of public transport in Malta. State used to (and still does) subsidise the petrol for buses - keeping them really cheap (one side of island to another costs you less that 1€), but this is against EU rules, so I am afraid that charming buses of Malta are nearing their final ride. At least in the form I found so appealing.

 

 



=> Beach life

Malta is a very rocky island. And a small island. So there are not that many really pleasant beaches as one might expect. Internet surfing and reading and preparations before actually going there gave some sandy results though. But a very important question was still lingering in the air: "Where can I find nude beaches?" Igor and I are nudists, so we somehow loathe the idea of actually wearing something at the beach. But Malta is also a very religious country and nudism (as well as topless sunbathing for women) is prohibited, which is slightly annoying. But we all know how it goes. All you need to do is to ask a local gay man about nude beaches. There is always at least one in your neighbourhood. So, the usual trick: "clothed" beach and as you go further down the coast you may encounter nude sunbathing and then you can actually drop your panties. And, needless to be said: cruising area follows nude parts of the beach.
We managed to explore three nice - clothed - bays and Malta's Western coast: Gnejna Bay, Ghajn Tuffieha Bay and Golden bay. Just a tiny taste of Malti - as one of the official languages on Malta is called. Ghanj Tuffieha is pronouced as eye-n two-fee-yEAh-ha. Go figure. So, nice sandy beaches, warm, late summer weather, warm sea, picturesque wild surroundings and kind people. Perfect weather for us, continent people.

 
Igor at Gnejna bay and the nude outskirts of the same bay.

 
Boat "garages" in Gnejna and it takes a long, clayish pull to get to the nude part.

 
Gnejna and Ghajn Tuffieha across that little hill. Igor and clay.

 
Il Karraba is the name of the rock and it's good to be careful - it might hurt.


=> Stony History

Malta is really packed with history and we saw what the oldest there - two temples that really go way back. Hagar Qim [adge-ar eem] and Mnajdra [mm-nigh-dra]. Temples date from the period 3600 to 3000 BC, which makes them the oldest freestanding structures in the World. They are older than famous Stonehenge and they predate Egyptian pyramides by more than 500 years. I'd say... old. What was the purpose if these temples is still unknown and modern visitos needs to have a lot of imagination to picture how these magnificent buildings once looked like. We were visiting Hagar Qim and Mnajdra in a rather inappropriate time - well, years, actually. The whole setting is one huge constructions site, because the temples are being covered to protect them from the elements. But still and surely a part of history well worth visiting. You know, obviously you can't get it built and much older than that. :)

 
Main portal in Hagar Qim and Igor in the remains of Mnajdra.

 
Inside Hagar Qim and the whole setting from afar.

 
Going to Mnajdra. And some local life.


=> And the works of Nature

Yes, Nature was also quite generous on Malta and it really produced some astonishing views for us. We went to see two of them (quite enough for a week on the island, right? :)). The first one was Blue Grotto on the Southern coast of Malta (on our way to the temples) and the other was Azure Window on the Western coast of island Gozo. Let the pictures do the trick.

 
Blue Grotto and Azure Window.

 
The twit on the boat and the boat and the rocks - Blue Grotto.

 
Yes, water is actually blue in Blue Grotto. And some cliffs around Azure Window seem dangerous.

 
"Oh, take a picture of me, please" and some little life.


=> Gozo, Malta's little brother

Yes, Malta has a little brother, too. It's an island Gozo close to Malta's Western coast. If Malta seems to be enveloped in the colours of stone, Gozo appears to be extremely green with all its fields. It's a quiet island, much more peaceful than almost over-populated Malta. There are only a few bigger cities on the island and - of course - there's an impressive church in any of those cities. There is a city that's truely worth the visit. It's Victoria/Rabat and its old fortressed heart - The Citadela. A day on Gozo was a really relaxing experience. It was funny - we were actually able to drive around for 5 minutes without seeing a single house - that just cannot happen on Malta. Green granary of Malta - that's Gozo.

 
Impressive rotunda in Xewkija and going up the stairs of Citadela.

 
The view from a ferry just before Mgarr and inside rotunda in Xewkija.

 
Maltese Cross and Xewkija from above.

 
Dead cute and three cities L to R: Mgarr, Victoria and Gharb.


Sending greetings.


=> Nightlife, fun and all...

Yes, nightlife on Malta is... wild, especially in St. Julian where we were staying. I have to say I didn't really expect extremely loud streets, full of nightclubs with booming music and partying till the morning. And if I come to think Malta should be a very religious country I can't really tell how all these half if not three-quarters naked babes manage to escape their mothers. :))))) But it can be a very relaxing city to party - gay club Klozet in a totally open venue in the middle of all those half-naked-chicks-clubs. And DJ Chunkyal - I have to write that now - the best DJ I have met till now - was fueling the party with his set. Boy oh boy - two nights of really wild dancing and even more drinking and... stuff. I totally enjoyed it. And, no, I didn't take any pictures and, yes, I totally liked CISK, the local brand of beer.
On a more quiet side - I even played Bingo at the hotel we were staying and I need to say I did pretty well. And, yes, I finally managed to have a short drink with Mario - I guy I've been chatting to on ispq for quite some time now. Maltese people are really kind. Really.

 
CISK, my good friend, and empty post coital partying streets.

 
The words says it all. And we didn't need the police, thanks. :)


=> The best was yet to come

Yes, as far as sightseeing goes, we somehow managed to save the best city for the last day - it was Rabat, to be precise the cities old citadel, called Mdina. Fantastic little city with a commanding view of the northern coast, great food, picturesque little streets, (of course another) big church and a lot of rain to welcome us. It turned sunny later. A perfect farewell.

 
Oh, a church! and No comment.

 
It was raining in Mdina at first and then it wasn't and I was taking pictures...

 
...of this and this.

 
Oh, just combine them and shut up! :)

 
You have to send out postcards on the last day of vacation, right? Oh, and a detail.



=> Two pecularities

Well, one thing was rather unusual to see in November, at least for me - and that was the rainbow we saw on the coastal road on our way back to the airport in Luqa. And the other is bird hunting, an illegal obsession which is hugely popular. For me it was rather disturbing to observe green hills of Gozo and to have to listen to shots all the time. Well, there is some hope that EU will put halt to this disturbing habit. Well, Malta is certainly the worst European country as far as bird hunting goes. Annoying.

 
The rainbow and the remains.


=> And then...........

It was time to go home. We dropped the car at the airport and then took a bus to Valletta for a lovely dinner and then back to the airport and off we went. I miss Malta. A lot.

 
Goodbye, little odd car and one last look at Triton Fountain in Valletta.

*****

And I am already completely ready to go back to Malta.


 

Comments

vksi
Nov. 10th, 2008 01:44 pm (UTC)
I heard that Malta is totaly boring place but I see that you can not trust people ... :)

I'll put it in on my travel list.

I'm glad that you had a great time.

Kiss to you and to IGOR, ahhhh
paterson_si
Nov. 10th, 2008 02:38 pm (UTC)
Malta...... is FAR from being boring. Far, far away, honestly.

And kisses to you, too! :)
mitjablazic
Nov. 10th, 2008 09:14 pm (UTC)
"my travel list?" .... hmmm... i thought it was OURS ?!
paterson_si
Nov. 10th, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC)
is there an argument in the air, sweeties? :)