"Return to Malta.........and again......" Malta by leics
Malta Travel Guide: 5,571 reviews and 13,093 photos
Strange how life works. At the end of my original 2006 Malta page I wrote quite firmly 'I won't go again'. Unusual for me to be so decisive.
I've been back twice now. Things change, new friends are made, opportunities arise.
The second time, without the personal gloomy pall which warped my perceptions in 2006, things were lighter and more pleasant altogether.
On my two subsequent visits I saw more prehistory, more archaeology, more history, more architecture. I explored the south of the island, away from the built-up and touristy northern coastline. I ate good food and enjoyed very pleasant company.
I've visited in August on both my last two visits. Hot. Really, really hot .....and very humid. That takes some getting used to for a Brit fully acclimatised to year-round chilly grey damp but I have managed it better each time.
and its capital
But it's not a bad idea to remember how one once felt, so I've left the original page as it stood:
Most people I have spoken to either like Malta a lot, or don't like it at all. No strong feelings exactly, just that people either seem to embrace the place or feel it has little to offer them.
What did I know about Malta before I went? Well: it is a fairly small island, with a long history, some hugely important prehistoric monuments and perhaps an association with the medieval Knights Templar; that it was an incredibly brave place in the Second World War; that it had few sandy beaches but was good for water sports/diving/sailing etc (not for me, I'm afraid); that the British forces had bases there until the 1970's, and that the Maltese had taken many aspects of British culture into their own (red phone boxes, English as a generalised second language etc).
What did I discover? That the Maltese are a polite, friendly and pleasant group of people; that there are many of them in a small amount of space and therefore much of the island is built-up (catering for the annual influx of tourists, as well as ex-pats and the Maltese themselves); that most of the rest of the island is taken up by terraced fields; that, in winter, the only birds I saw all week were a few groups of sparrows (not even sea-birds); that farm animals (again, perhaps because it was winter) were not visible in the fields but housed in large units; that all the buildings are constructed of the local limestone, which erodes, needs replacing and hence reduces the number of historic buildings still standing.
I also discovered that the Maltese are exceptionally fond of Christmas cribs (with live people/animals on Christmas Eve, and competitions for the best model cribs), they like Christmas lights in the villages (they are all 'villages', however large, except Valletta) and that Christmas music (including...........aaaargh........Slade) is loudspeakered down some high streets from 9am till 7pm during the festive season. Hmmmmmmm.
I liked the food; a great Italian influence, inevitably, with pizza as good as any I have had in Rome but also some Maltese variations and specialities. Fresh fish is always a luxury for me, so eating it was a pleasure; living in the centre of the UK, our 'fresh' fish simply isn't so I don't generally bother.
I liked the buses too; they are simply wonderful, all with yellow livery but many customised (they operate as franchises) with stickers, dangly things, driver's names (Fallen Angel, Wings of Love) etc, and many dating from the 60's/70's (I think; I'm not very good with vehicles). They go all over the island, frequently and cheaply......you really don't need to hire a car.
And I did discover that the local liqueurs (pomegranate, prickly pear, aniseed and honey) were exceptionally palatable and very reasonably-priced in the local supermarket. So much so that I felt impelled to purchase (and consume) rather more of the honey liqueur (rather like a thin mead)than is my usual habit..........:-)
But Malta wasn't really for me. It's too built-up, there is too little free space in which to wander without seeing cars and people (it would have been far, far worse had I visited in the high season), the history is there but has to be searched-for if it is not over-touristified.
I'm glad I went; I saw the prehistoric temples I had long wanted to see, I found some rock-tombs tucked away and unsigned, I was fascinated by the mish-mash of Arabic/Italian/British influences which make up modern Malta..............I discovered honey liqueur, and there were some very good moments (these two points are not necessarily linked!). But I won't go again.
- Pros:Masses of history, beautiful landscape in parts.
- Cons:Tiny, crowded, busy, popular all year round with package tours.
- In a nutshell:Tiny island with a huge past.
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