April 27th to May 3rd
27.04.2013 - 03.05.2013
View 2013 on Claire.Miller's travel map.
Heading to Malta I had all these people chatting to me at the airport! Getting there about 3.5 hours early the check in hadn't even opened yet so I started chatting to an elderly couple in front of me, and ending up going to the same place for my airport dinner as well. They apparently go to Malta every year and the guy went on and on about what to see and people and how I would either love it or hate it, while his wife kept telling him to be quiet and let me eat my dinner. It was hilarious, but great they got me really excited. Then heading to the gate started to talking to some other guy who proceeded to also tell me how amazing Malta was and the life stories of his three children, one of which moved to Australia which is how the stories started. But hey, it was nice to talk. When I got on the plane though I had the row to myself which was good but also bad in that I was totally psyching myself out about flying and was fairly convinced of my impending death and if there had been someone to talk to it would have at least distracted me.
I arrived there at about 1am on the 27th, but had organised a pickup with the hotel so I felt all cool because I had one of those people standing there with Miller on a card. He didn't have a hat though, so that was a little dissapointing. He was also quite chatty and was talking about how brave I was travelling alone and how his son had done it but he could never do it etc. At this point I was way too tired to make conversation and was like just get me to the apartment!
I only had the apartment, which was in Bugibba, for three nights and then was going to work out my plan. I ended up staying for a week and changing to a place close to Valletta for the rest of the time. Both times I managed to find apartments which was nice as it meant I could cook, although as usual this meant I got ingredients and ended up pretty much eating the same thing all week. I initially made beef stuffed eggplants, which then turned into a beef and eggplant pasta. The first place had a pool on the roof, apparently this is pretty common in Malta, but I never ended up checking it out as it was not warm enough for swimming. Although in saying that I was so happy to see sun and not have to drag a coat around with me all the time!
My first day was spent sleeping in, getting food supplies, skyping Alana, and wandering around Bugubba. It was a nice relaxing town on a small peninsula so lots of bays. I say bays as there was little to no sand. It made it quite pretty but very much had a resort feel to it. The other side of the town, St Pauls bay, was a lot nicer area so it would have been better to stay there, but my apartment was so cheap I really wasn't that fussed.
The second day I decide to go to Gozo, the second largest of the three islands. Problem was by the time I got myself organised it was already past midday and I didn't want to be too late back as I was planning on going to the fireworks festival that night, although this didn't happen in the end as I discovered that the last bus back was at the start of the fireworks. But anyway, I hadn't realised how long it would take to get there. This being because the bus and the ferry are terribly matched because they arrive at pretty much the same time the other leaves. So on the way there my bus arrived as the ferry was leaving and on the way back, the bus left as we were trying to get off the ferry. I say trying because there was some kind of issue with the exit and we couldn't get off for about ten minutes. So this meant in each case about a 45 minute wait. In the end I was gone for about 7 hours but spent about 5 of those hours trying to get there and back. This wasn't so bad when actually on the bus and boat as they were nice trips, it was just the waiting that was irritating.
Gozo itself however was a really nice place. Lots of churches. The capital is Victoria and the main attraction is the old Citadel. There is also a church but it was closed. The citadel sits at the top of the hill which means walking around the wall you get great views over the island. It really was wonderful. And sunny, so mebeing me, finally see some sun in Europe and immediately burn. I did have sunscreen with me but it didnot seem to survive the plane trips. And by that I mean I put some on and about 5 minutes later I started to get a stinging sensation wherever I put it. Needless to say that got ditched! But I am wandering around and I thought to myself, 'way to go Ellie for being related to such an awesome place. Respect.' Then I remembered I wasn't street and probably don't sound as cool as I thought I did saying respect. Then I realised noone gaves a rats as it was all in my head and I could be as cool as I want. Then I decided I really needed to stop having weird conversations in my head like this, I am probably going crazy. (I know everyone, you are all thinking 'going?'). But anyway, Ellie, if you read this, good work on the Maltese heritage thing.
The following day I had to change hotels as mine only had availability til Monday. This turned out to be a good thing as I moved to Msida, a place about a 10 minutes bus ride from Valletta, the capital. Loads easier to explore the Southern side of the island and Valletta. Spent the afternoon in Valletta going on whim rather than following a map. It is truly a beautiful city. Everywhere you look there are cathedrals and harbours. It is absolutely stunning, and full of history. Although hot. Very hot. The fact it is on a hill and populated, so few places for the breeze to get through, can make it quite stuffy.
My second day was also spent in Valletta, however I had a plan of where to go this time. That morning I actually thought to put sunscreen on, only to discover that something had happened to my sunscreen in the plane and about 5 minutes after I put it on, my skin started to sting... Needless to say it got thrown.
In Valletta I started off with the Upper Barrakka gardens where they fire off a cannon at noon. Only just got myself organised in time to see it! I then headed down the market street to the National War Museum, via some jewelry shops to see some Maltese Filigree that is. The museum was very interesting and went into detail about Malta's place in the two world wars. The Maltese seem to be quite a hardy and proud people. For such a small country the amount of bombing they received in world war 2 was ridiculous. However they of course are in a very difficult position being a bridge between central to eastern europe and northern africa. There is a strong british influence here. One of the stories I enjoyed (I apologise if my facts are slightly off, I am writing this a week later) was the British allowed the french to use Malta as a defensive port, however discovered that the French were using it to protect their own coastline, while the british wanted their shipping routes defended. The french were booted out within a couple of years. I swear all you ever hear about in the UK is 'this wall/fortress/whatever was built to stop the French', and even when they were supposedly allies they couldn't get along!
Because I spent so long in the war museum, by the time I had walked back up along the scenic road by the grand harbour, St John's Cathedral was only open for another half an hour, and I had no hope of getting into the art gallery. So I did a quick look at the cathedral, although in the end time wasn't too much of an issue as the cathedral museum was closed. To say that the cathedral is elaborately decorated is an understatement! It was almost blinding. However in saying that I didn't find it tacky, as I have found many other cathedrals with such elaborate decorations to be.
That night was the last night of the International Fireworks Festival held in the Grand Harbour. So I went home to grab dinner and then headed back into Valletta to get a spot. I headed in about half an hour later than the guy I was renting from recommended, and it was probably still a little too early. I was sitting there about an hour and a quarter before it started, and got quite cramped legs. Firstly there were traditional fireworks, which were good, for about 20 minutes. Then the next 20 minutes were a singer and presentations. With regards to the singer, she was rather terrible. Can I just say, I am sick of people thinking if they slow down a song, it becomes their 'artistic' version of it. Particularly when the song she chose was 'You Sexy Thing'. I mean come on, in what universe does that work at a slower tempo! It was horrible, particularly when people tried to sing along and just kept going too fast. Then there was obviously a technical error as it was about 10 mins of nothing. I know nothing on event management, but I even I would know never to let there be silence! Everyone was going, umm was that it. Finally the main fireworks happened and they were amazing. About another 20 mins of fireworks matched to music, absolutely amazingly done. Although can I just say the name 'pyromusical' is not the best, if I didn't know the details that would mean someone setting things on fire and singing about them...
The next day did not work out so brilliantly for me to be honest. I headed down to the blue grotto, which involved a half an hour walking in the rather hot sun as the bus I got didn't go the whole way, only to discover when I got there that the 'daily' boat trips were cancelled for no apparent reason. So I hopped straight onto the arriving bus, which I only just got, it luckily stopped for me even though I was about 50 metres away from the stop still, to Rabat. On the bus I saw all these people get off at the next stop, which was at the bottom of the hill, to see the blue grotto. Slight idiots as you could not see it from there, rather up the hill, and that was the boat trip stop. I wonder if any of them actually worked that out...
Once there I had no map so had to steal one from the train tour, which was not particularly descriptive. First I went into the Mdina, which is an absolutely wonderful little place. It is an old town on the edge of Rabat, entirely pedestrian with tiny little streets. I found a cute little wine bar down one of its streets, with a guy playing, I think, a mandolin outside. There I had a lovely (overly generous) glass of maltese white wine and a 'maltese wrap', although the maltese sausage in it seemed suspiciously chicken-esque... I then headed into St. Paul's Cathedral in Mdina, which was nice but nothing exciting to tell there. Similarly decorated to St. John's, but less richly. Heading back up to Rabat I then had my second fail. Turns out that St. Paul's church and museum were both closed which was a little upsetting. Feeling defeated, I headed home.
The next day also didn't turn out so great. In the morning I booked my train ticket for Budapest to Sighisoara for that Friday, now that I had finally decided where to go. Somewhere during the payment process it decided to charge me for two tickets (an extra €70). I called them but apparently they couldn't cancel the order over the phone and as I was only at the station on the day of travel, would have to pay a €20 admin fee! I was rather irritated as I consider it their websites fault, not mine. Additionally, even though I have now filled out the form for the refund, who knows if I actually receive it!
That afternoon, and I say afternoon because the morning was spent organising things and whining to my rents about how horrible it all was. You know, being in Malta is obviously not good enough... Anyway, that afternoon, my last afternoon in Malta, I headed to Mosta, which I actually planned to go the day before but figured when everything in Rabat was closed it was unlikely that I would have success in Mosta. So I went out, had lunch and headed into the Church, known as Mosta's dome. The story relating to this church is that 4 bombs were dropped on it in world war 2, with one even falling through the dome. At the time the church was filled as war had been declared and so everyone went to the church. Miraculously, 3 off the bombs never went off, including the one that went through the dome, and the one that did onflicted only minor damage. Can you imagine, sitting in a church and a bomb comes through the roof, yoj are frightened for your life, and then nothing! Apparently though, whenever a German visits the church they deny the possibility vehemently.
Heading back into the capital I had little time left and so had to choose between the National Museum of Fine Arts and seeing a 3000BC temple. Although the temple would be interesting, as I was unsure how long it would take to get there I went for the gallery. This was definitely interesting as it contained Maltese art, European art, and items from the order of St John, which is why I went there. After I finished there, just before closing, I thought hey, I might as well head to the Tarxien Temples and see if it is possible to see them from the outside.
In catching the bus there I discovered there is something worse than Adelaide metro, the Maltese bus sytem. I waited about 20 minutes for a bus out, which should have come 5 minutes after I arrived. On the way back I waited half an hour, during which 3 buses should have come I could catch, 2 came I couldn't catch, and 7 of the ones I could catch went past in the other direction. Sound familiar...?
But I managed to get a fairly good view of the temple from outside the fence. There was a gardener there, who saw me wandering around to find the best view. I took one photo and he totally didn't notice. Then I found a better view point, but when I took the photo he looked straight at me and so I walked quickly away. But I still go my photo, so huh!