Malta was the last UN country in Europe that I had yet to visit so I was pretty psyched to get there. I was also psyched because I got to stay with and see my friend Tom whom I hadn’t seen in five years as he is living in Malta and I also got to meet his wonderful fiance Sonya and their two pet bunny rabbits, snail and turtle. I hadn’t seen a pet rabbbit in 20 years so it was pretty funny as all they do is go to the bathroom everywhere and hop around but alas I was in Malta and it was awesome!
Tom’s apartment was in the area called Sliema right across the creek from the capital Valletta, where many expats and foreigners live. His killer apartment had a sweet view of the Mediterranean and was right on the water. It was a great place to stay. As Jake and I arrived we were greeted with some Cisk beers (the local maltese brew) before we set out on our march around Malta as our time was short but there was much to see and do.
Tom and Sonya brought us down to the harbor to catch the water taxi across to Valletta, the ancient capital of Malta and a bustling place by day with cruise ship people and businesses but a ghost town at night. The highlight of this city was without a doubt the view from the Upper Barrakka Gardens with panoramic views of the creek, the Mediterranean and the beautiful city of Vittoriosa across the other side of Valletta. The view was spectacular and reminded me a little bit of the way Monte Carlo looks from afar with a great harbor, with beautiful yachts as far as the eye can see and a nice backdrop of mountains and houses.
The other highlight for me of Valletta was having a pint of Cisk at “The Pub” which is the most famous bar in Valletta because it was the favorite drinking establishment of English actor Oliver or Ollie Reed, most well known for being the slave trader in Gladiator. He actually died during the filming of that movie in that bar. The walls of the pub are devoted to him and the day he died he was reported to have had: 8 pints of lager; 12 double rum drinks; 8 vodkas; and a half bottle of whiskey. No doubt old Ollie had been on a few benders in his day but that is enough to put down a hippo, let alone an old man. After Valletta, we jumped on the 81 bus and headed up to the crown jewel of Malta and the world heritage site of Mdina.
Mdina is, without question, historic Malta at its most photogenic. The hidden and tiny laneways offer exquisite architectural detail and some respite from the cruise ship crowd from Valletta. In medieval times, Mdina was known as the noble city. It was the favored residence of the Maltese artistocracy and the seat of the governing council. Today, with its massive walls and peaceful, shady streets, it is known as the silent city and it is well worth a visit, especially toward the end of the day as we saw it after the day trippers have left to experience the tranquility and quiet of its bygone era streets. In fact, we walked down a local street to see a father and son who still live in the city playing soccer (never mind that the kid kicked one off his face right in front of us); it was perfect.
We then headed back to rest up for dinner at a place called Cafe Jubilee which is down on the harbor in Sliema and had some excellent pasta and dips. The service was pretty awful but as Tom and Sonya said, they don’t work for tips so they have incentive. Food for thought as service in general around the world sucks if you don’t have to tip. We then headed out for a drink at their favorite local watering hole called Black Gold before heading out to Paceville for a long night out.
This area of Malta reminded me of Ayia Napa in Cyprus because it was just a long strand of a ton of bars and clubs that were overrun with people. Today was a public holiday in Malta so everyone was out partying last night and the clubs apparently never close. There were so many people out that they didn’t even have to go into bars because being on the street was like being in a bar. When we finally did decide to stay in one place it was at a place called Havana (I think). They played mainly American music as most places do and was run amuck with people ranging from probably 12 to 60 with incredibly cheap drinks. We had a great time and were thoroughly impressed by the energy and night life scene in Malta-would be a great spring break place. Finally at about 4am we headed home as we had to catch an early flight to Sicily this morning-I say early, it was at 12:30pm but when you went to bed at about 5am then it’s early!
On a sidenote, I was always curious about the Maltese Falcon because that is the only thing that many people know about the island of Malta and here is the story. The Maltese Falcon was the name of a detective story written by Dashiell Hammett and in the book the eponymous black bird was nothing more than a red herring. Falcons in general on Malta have been non existant since the 1980′s as hunting basically killed them all and this is still a big bone of contention for its residents.
I want to thank my hosts, Tom and Sonya again for an amazing tour and their great hospitality, we really enjoyed our time in Malta and it wouldn’t have been half as good without your guidance. Also, the people of Malta were so nice and courteous, it was really amazing and just made you feel welcome. I have a sneaking suspicion that this won’t be my last time in Malta as I want to go back to see the accompanying islands of Gozo and Comino and just spend more time on the classic Mediterranean island of Malta.