Thursday, September 9, 2021

Revenge is ours!

Malta. Getting there was tough, but ultimately well worth the effort. You heard about the bad, now hear about the good.

The good.

First, while technically a rock in the middle of the sea, Malta is gorgeous. Golden stone, azure water, handsome architecture, vestiges of ages past at every turn … it’s a veritable movie set. In fact, it’s an actual movie set. Loads of movies and TV shows have been shot in Malta. Part of Game of Thrones was filmed right across from our hotel, which is not exactly a selling point for me since I detest GoT; however, Paul, Apostle of Christ was also filmed in Malta and that is cool.

Who wouldn’t want to shoot a movie here? NO ONE.

Second, Malta’s breadth and depth of history is astounding; the whole country may as well be governed by UNESCO. And while fans of all eras are well-served, the prehistory crowd is especially spoiled. The place has megalithic temples that predate Stonehenge, for crying out loud. Malta is also home to the phenomenal Hal Saflieni Hypogeum, an underground burial site and temple that is among the marvels one must see in one’s lifetime, if one has the chance.

The Hypogeums iconic 5,000-year-old “Sleeping Lady,” who looks truly great for her age.

Perhaps unsurprisingly considering its 7,000+ years of history, Malta has a TON of ruins. There are ruins lining every field, just sitting there in the hot, hot sun, waiting to be admired. There are also many extensive and extremely awe-inspiring catacomb sites. We visited Saint Paul’s Catacombs, which are not only badass (albeit haunting), but also offer a welcome bit of respite from the pounding heat. Not sure I’d have a full-on meal down there though, as early mourners are believed to have done. I once saw a group of tourists try to have a picnic inside Chartres Cathedral, which was shockingly uncouth, but interestingly, eating alongside decomposing bodies in the catacombs back in their heyday was, Im assuming, ceremonially respectful. Probably stinky, though.

Saint Paul (we meet again!) is especially beloved in Malta for having spent several months on the island following a shipwreck on his way to face trial in Rome sometime around 60 AD. One can visit the cave in which he is said to have stayed during his sojourn. You bet we visited it. It was rad. 

Highly shipwreck-worthy.

Like Saint Paul, the Knights of Malta are a very big deal. They are notably celebrated for the heroism they showed during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565, when some 500 knights and 6,000 foot soldiers managed to fend off an entire armada of like 30,000 angry Ottomans. I won’t bore you with the details (which are frankly not so much boring as they are bloody and gross). Instead, here’s a kid-friendly summary:


What else can I tell you about Malta?

Malta is dry. And as someone who grew up in inland Southern California, I know about dryness. Malta is “tumbleweed and baked earth” dry. How anyone cultivates anything there is a mystery. Luckily, Sicily is nearby, and while also dry, apparently it grows more stuff than Malta. Malta has fennel. And cows. But the cows are from Sicily.

Dry toast. And ruins.

Driving around Malta is terrifying. First, they drive on the left, which, with all due respect to Lord Lets All Drive on the Left, may be the dumbest idea anyone has ever had ever. Second, they drive really fast. Even my husband, who drives really fast, said repeatedly that the Maltese drive really fast. Plus our rental car had an engine about the size of a coconut, meaning going uphill was somewhat comical. The battery, apparently even smaller than a coconut, died on us while waiting to board a ferry to visit the nearby island of Gonzo. That was much less comical.

The Maltese language is crazy. It’s a mix between Arabic, Italian, Sicilian, English, French, Spanish, and the kitchen sink. And while written Maltese uses the Latin alphabet, it includes letters I’ve never seen anywhere else, but for some reason they give me a thrill. Check this out:

Do you have goosebumps? I have goosebumps.

Eating lunch on the street in Malta is very cheap. You can buy these fun little stuffed pastry things called pastizzi for about €1 and be full for like eight hours.

Malta takes Covid seriously. Really seriously. When you arrive, you are immediately faced with a wall of stern-looking authority figures demanding to see your paperwork. Woe to those who have not the proper paperwork! Also, the testing procedure on the island is next-level absurd. They send you to a sketchy parking garage behind a “hospital” in a part of town that looks like Baghdad, where you must pay in cash so that some dude wearing a moonsuit can jab at your sinuses with a glorified Q-Tip. I’ve now been tested like five times since the start of this Corona madness and honestly, the process is less painful each time. Is that a good thing? It doesn’t seem like a good thing. You’d think my sense of smell would have improved, but instead my hay fever has worsened. Hmm.

So there you have it. An overall wonderful trip despite a very rocky kick-off. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Malta, definitely seize that opportunity. Just make sure your Covid paperwork is pristine, your rental car is bigger than the Hot Wheels model we had, and your flight is not with Lufthansa (sorry not sorry).


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