I spent two and a half days visiting relatives of my Grandparents. Everyone was really nice and welcoming, and excited to have me visit. I was fed everywhere I went although my Pop is still the best Maltese cook I know. Coming from a country without a true ‘national dish’ yet with plenty of variety in food, I was surprised at the ordinariness of food in Malta. I saw only a few places offering rabbit dishes, and I did love the Qassatat (correct spelling this time), however most of the rest of the food was exactly what you’d get at home. It was suggested I try the Ftira, which I did, however it was just toasted Turkish bread with sandwich fillings.
My body was still on Melbourne time for the first two days, so I was exhausted at 8pm (4am AU) and was in bed at 9pm both nights. The weather was beautiful, about 25 degrees and sunny each day, until Thursday when it rained. The receptionist at the hostel said she’d never seen rain in June in ‘all her life’, and I was just glad I had packed jeans, closed toe shoes and a light rain jacket. Until The Rainy Day, my tan was reappearing quite nicely, with what will become permanently tanned sandal strap marks on my feet I’m sure.
I managed to see only a few sights in Malta once I’d visited all the relatives, and there are many more places I’d like to have been. I did get to the capital Valletta, and spent a few hours walking around. Initially it reminded me of a show/fair – the city is enclosed by walls, with one entry/exit. They are renovating the entrance so it was not as impressive as I imagine it has the potential to be, and there was a sea of people descending on the place at once, which added to the carnival atmosphere. It took me a while to get my head around the fact that people actually worked there, and in the areas closer to the sea, people lived. I can’t imagine having so many tourists traipse around my house all day, every day. In Valletta I went to the lookout at the Upper Barrakka Gardens, where you could see the Grand Harbour, and Grand it is. I managed to get someone to take a photo of me to prove I was there, although these photos are rare when you travel by yourself. Next I visited St John’s Co-Cathedral. Impressive from the outside, and magnificent from the inside. Jaw dropping in fact. I spent a few hours wandering around and they gave you personal handsets in a language of your choice to listen to recorded messages and information about the various aspects of the Cathedral. There was no flash photography allowed, however I managed to get a few really good shots by changing the ISO on my camera. Gold leaf and ceiling paintings dominated the building and it instantly became my favourite place in Malta.
Next I walked to the very tip of Valletta to see the Police Academy at Fort St. Elmo. There is a monument there I wanted to see of my Pop’s Uncle who was killed on the spot when the first bomb was dropped on Malta in WW2. Unfortunately, the Academy was being renovated and turned into a tourist attraction and I was told I would be able to see the monument in one year’s time. The police officer I spoke to did know of it, and said that my Great Uncle was one of six killed from that bomb. He did offer to sneak me in to see it on Sunday, however I wouldn’t be in Malta then.
The following day I went to Mdina which was the old capital of Malta. It was a very quiet place, as I had visited Dingli Cliffs first and by the time I got to Mdina most of the crowds had disappeared. It had also started raining so I had the place almost to myself. Again, people actually live here, which is something I’m still amazed by. I saw family names near the doorbells on many doors, and yet we were free to wander and take photos. Dingli Cliffs were disappointing, however I had to remind myself that it was the highest point on the island so it was of some significance. For comparison purposes, the height of the cliffs are equal to the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge from the Harbour.
Following Mdina I met up with my Pop’s cousin again, and she took me to Mosta. We went to the Mosta Dome and I experienced my second jaw dropping moment as soon as we walked inside. Exquisite comes to mind, with all the paintings, gold leaf, decorated ceilings and an imposing pulpit that had a flight of stairs to reach the top. We saw the replica bomb of one that had fallen through the dome ceiling on April 9, 1942. Luckily for the 300 people inside the bomb didn’t explode and no one was hurt.
I managed to submit my final essay for Uni on Thursday when it rained for most of the day, and although I didn’t want to ‘waste’ a day inside, I had to get it done. Now I can properly relax and slip into holiday mode. I didn’t get to Gozo, Malta’s second largest island, nor did I get to explore many other places, however there is always next time!