Planning my trip to Malta came about after using skyscanner to find out what the cheapest flights leaving Rome were. I crossed off places I had been before and places that were going to be colder than Rome and came up with Malta! Just an hours flight south, it looked to be the perfect escape.
Now to find out what to do there.
Have you ever tried using Pinterest to plan a trip? I hadn’t but on this occasion I gave it a go and it was so so helpful! I like reading other peoples blogs of what to do in places rather than TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet and Pinterest links to many blogs and so is exactly what I wanted. I pored over pictures and got excited.
My flight was not very early this morning and so Rozie and Christie drove me to the airport. It was an uneventful, flight to Malta and I landed to temperatures of 24 degrees. Just what I had wanted.
The bus system is very easy to figure out and you can buy your ticket from the driver himself or from nearby ticket machines, super convenient. 1.50 euro gets you a days pass on the buses and I cannot say enough how impressed I have been with them! From Valletta (where I was staying) buses leave to every corner of the island, the timetables are super easy to read and they come pretty much on schedule. Coming straight from Italy, the public transport has been a pleasant surprise.
I noticed on my drive from one side of the island to the other just how full it was. I had expected Malta to be a lot of empty almost desert like land but instead the whole 25 minute drive was filled with square, goldeny-cream buildings and their postbox red and dark green doors and windows. It didn’t take me long to figure out that this is Malta’s colour pallet.
On getting to the capital of Valletta the bus stopped just outside the gates of the walled city. My hostel was easy to find as the whole peninsula is laid out on a grid offering some spectacular views down straight streets all the way to the harbor.
The hostel is an interesting one. I found it on AirBnB and there seems to be no one who works here. They emailed me a few days before arriving about the door codes, bunk number and hostel rules and it literally is just come in and use the bunk, bathroom, kitchen and then leave. No reception and very few guests. I’ve seen 4 others. But hey, its working well for me so far. I left the hostel straight away thinking I would just use this first afternoon to tour the capital. With all of my stopping to read, write, watch the scenery etc. The perimeter of the city took me about 3 hours to complete. It is actually probably only 2-3km. I found little rock beaches, so many fortifications, a few walled gardens that reminded me intensely of the gardens in kings landing as well as a few memorials. I stopped for a cider, much needed in the heat of the day and took in the main street, mostly full of tourists, souvenir shops and high street brands. It was good for picking up a power adapter though. It didn’t even occur to me that they might not use European plugs here (they use UK in case you were wondering).
I spent a little bit of time in the tourist info center gathering information on what I might do and I found out that there is a fireworks competition on tonight not far from here. I love fireworks so I am excited for that but I am interested by what they meant when they said it was ‘ground fireworks’?
I strolled up to the area just outside of the gates to Valletta which is called Floriana. The deal is that every year since 2006 the fireworks companies of the island build ground fireworks, 2 each, and then set them off in competition. Voting happens via text.
I had seen these huge skeletal structures earlier in the day when the bus had driven past them and had no idea what they were. Now they started to make sense. They looked like huge wire snowflakes but now I could actually see that fireworks were strung on to the structures and motors and stuff were going on at the back.
The big square was pulsing. The streets were hung thick with red and gold drapery and the main church was lit up like a house at Christmas. In front of it was an orchestra playing a variety of popular songs and orchestral pieces in the lead up to the main show.
There were 13 fireworks companies, so a total of 26 explosions to be seen. They were not what I expected. Each company had chosen a music piece and their fireworks exploded and performed to that. Most were just good. They lit up, they spun, it was nice. A few were really bad, like the one that got tangled in itself and stopped and looked like it was in danger of fully combusting and rolling in to the crowd (it didn’t) or the one that didn’t seem to light properly so I think that they ran back in and re-lit it. And then some were great. One was to a re-mix of Cher’s ‘Bang Bang’ and the display actually went in time to the song and impressed everyone.
It ended up being a fairly late night and I got back home after midnight exhausted from my first half day!
Here is a link to the one that won to give you a better idea. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbKyQJr8vPA
Today I had my plans and they started with coffee and a croissant. I was up early(ish) to get to the Sunday markets in Marsaxlokk.
Something to know is that it is so easy to communicate here. I have not met a single person so far that has not been able to converse with me in perfect English, it really is amazing. From the police officer, to the random guy in a church who spoke to me, everyone speaks English perfectly and I have seen several of them reading English books. The Maltese language is kind of confusing to me because it is a mix of Arabic and Latin and at times I understand a few words but then I am left wondering if I am listening to an Italian tourist or a local. They also seem to slip a fair bit of English into their everyday conversations (I was eavesdropping on the bus).
It was a bit overcast this morning but that was probably better for the markets. They were just like any I have been to in Italy, but with more fresh fish. They are not artesanal, no crafts or the sort of things you might expect at an Australian market. It is instead a mix of cheap mass made clothes, ‘2 euro’ stores, cheap household goods and fresh food. It is a lot of fun and I spent several euros. Some on my first selfie stick(!!!) and some on lunch of garlic octopus and olives. The harbour that the markets were around was filled with little fishing boats. They were the most beautiful colours, all of them blue and red and yellow and green. They looked like the could have been specifically put there for pictures but the same boats are found all over the island from what I have seen.
I wanted a quiet spot to eat my lunch so I took the first bus coming through and got off when I saw a beach. It wasn’t so much a beach as a rocky edge of the sea but it was still a lovely spot with people swimming all about me.
I took a bus home and as I am sick (boo why does this wait until holiday times?) and needed a small siesta. I couldn’t relax too long though because I had heard that there was a strawberry festival on somewhere on the island and I wanted to find it before it finished!
The town was called Mgarr and it is quite opposite from where Valletta is. Once in the town I followed the school children’s drawings of strawberries to the main square and church were they had all sorts of strawberry treats, pastries, ice-cream, drinks, liquors and of course huge punnets that were selling like hotcakes.
I had some strawberry punch with a crepe covered by strawberry puree and strawberry sorbet whilst listening to the local school kids sing their hearts out on the stage in front of the church.
Again I finished my second day wiped out and I had big plans for tomorrow so I made it an early night after dinner in a cafe. Get excited for my best day yet, walking Comino!