After we had escaped, we then learned that the island was called Malta. And the natives showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold. (St Paul’s shipwreck in Malta
– Acts 28:1-2 RSV-CE)
Malta (called Melite (honey-sweet) by the Greeks) is an ancient country. The welcoming mentality and kindness which St Paul described is still there although the summer weather is not so hospitable..
Some of Malta’s ancient architecture also still exists of some of the oldest free standing structures in the world – namely the historic temples scattered around the island (and in Gozo) but it has also played a major part in world events. St Paul and Napoleon have both been ashore. The island has passed through Roman (Byzantium), Arab, Spanish and more recently British hands. The Knights of St John quickly fortified the island and it even valiantly survived a siege from Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.
Maltese and English are the official languages and Italian (itself once an official language) is widely understood. The country is also strongly Roman Catholic as reflected in some policies that with the Philippines it was until October 2011, one of the few countries not to allow divorce until a narrow referendum in favour of permitting it was acted upon. However the Roman Catholicism is given privileges and is defined as the state religion in the constitution itself. Its conservatism perhaps be demonstrated in in a Maltese proverb
Id-dbielet twal ikarkru t-trab,imma d-dbielet qosra jkarkru l-erwieh
Long skirts carry dust, but short skirts carry away souls. – A Maltese proverb
As my plane descended I could view a panorama of the island with many low lying cream buildings, sometime crumbling walls and dotted parts of greenery. The climate in summer is harsh at least when I visited. The soaring heat was apparent as I waited for my bus to Sliema, I took the X2 to the Strand and to my hotel.
The old beautiful iconic Maltese buses of old have been replaced with new air-conditioned, apparently more comfortable Arriva buses. However how any country could choose a British transport company still puzzles me. The buses while reasonably priced (they are cheaper for natives) were unreliable, the bus displays especially at Valletta really meant nothing at all. the buses seemed to arrive whenever.
There is not much in terms of sightseeing in Sliema, St Julian’s or Paceville but it is where a lot of tourists stay. Paceville being the nightlife centre. At Sliema there is a beach and it was a nice place to relax in the evenings when the temperature was much more hospitable.
I also met my Maltese friend from Interpals, Lise and we visited the Upper Barrakka Gardens. Valletta is the capital of Malta and affords a beautiful view over the harbour and is also a main transport hub. The streets there are beautiful and from several there are views of the coast and the harbour itself. There is plenty of history in its old churches and buildings such as the one where Napoleon administered his command during his brief stay in Malta.
On the Sunday I attempted to attend the Greek Orthodox Church in Valletta for liturgy to find the doors were shut. I was told by a local it is currently only open for the major feasts.
On the way back in the town of Dingli I missed my bus to Rabat. My friend Ann who I was going to meet kindly offered to pick me up. But as my Maltese is non-existent I didn’t know how to pronounce or the area I was in so I passed my phone to an elderly guy standing out a bar (Dingli swallows).
The guy turned out to be the owner of the bar and beckoned me inside. Then showing the famed Maltese hospitality gave me a drink of my choice (diet coke) for free and also gave me fruits As I waited. Ann and I first went to Mdina (Mdina is the walled city and Rabat is the city outside).
The town, and one time capital of Malta is picturesque with impressive buildings and narrow streets helping provide some protection from the heat. If there is one place in Malta to see away from the coast then it is certainly the place. Rabat the adjacent village derives its name from the Arabic word for suburb and is where St Paul is said to have resided according to tradition and there is a Roman Catholic church dedicated to him there.
It was not so busy when I went there with many shops shut at the time. However is another pretty place worth spending time visiting.
A good hotel is either one that does not interfere in your stay, you just sleep there or on special occasions it adds something to your stay. Unfortunately the Kennedy Nova Hotel, an allegedly four star hotel, added nothing to my stay. After booking I read a review which stated that for breakfast there was a lot of choice but everything was poor quality. I would apply that observation to the whole hotel. I was to have experience of this as they had no details of my booking, whether it was their fault or hostelbookers I cannot say, but it was the first of a catalogue of errors and some bad service I either experienced or observed there.