Malta – history & scenery that will amaze you!
For those of you who might not know where this little jewel of the Mediterranean is – it’s about 93km south of Sicily & 300 Km off the coast of North Africa.
We got there on a flight out of Frankfurt via Brussels (with a direct flight to Frankfurt on our return). My wife & I picked Malta because we wanted somewhere to spend the first week of January that was warmer & sunnier than Germany – that means travelling south or East. We didn’t want long flights as we only had a seven day window for our “Wintersun” break.
As fully fledged Aussies we need our sunshine & the 6 month German winter deprives us of that – so this is our chance to recharge those solar batteries of ours to help us make it through the second half of winter!
Malta is a wonderful place – the people are friendly and the islands
have over 300 days of sunshine each year. Whilst we were there we had sunshine every day & temperatures of up to 15C which, when you are living in temperatures hovering around zero, is positively balmy!
I was surprised at the history of Malta & the crucial role the islands & her people have played through history. We stayed on the main island of Malta, at a place called Xemxija (near St Paul’s Bay) – it’s about 30 minutes drive from the capitol Valetta. We would start each day with a short stroll from our apartment to the Xemxija Café, where we would have breakfast, before heading out to explore the island.
If you ever get the chance to come here, take it – you won’t be disappointed! In summer, there are beaches and innumerable water sport activities in addition to the historic sites & buildings that are scattered everywhere.
Our favourites were St Elmo’s Fort, where we spent close to half a
day exploring the refurbished fort & soaking up the history we were surrounded with. Then there was the Armoury – which has one of Europe’s largest collection of arms & armour, St John’s Co-Cathedral – the interior of which is entirely covered in gold & decorated in the Baroque style and the Sacra Infermeria (or the Holy Infirmary) which was built as a hospital in the 16th century by the Order of St. John (the Knights
Templar) – today it is known as the Mediteranean Conference Centre but the story it tells is staggering in its depth & impact on western society.
We spent New Year’s eve in Valetta – starting at St. George’s Square, which is the main public space. It was set up with a stage for the evening’s festivities with over 25,000 people expected during the evening (for a place with a population of 450,000 that’s a big crowd!).
Iris & I decided to find a bar close by to while away some time which,
as it turned out, was a great decision as we ended up meeting some locals who ended up taking us around the island a few days later!
We also went to the second island, Gozo, where we took advantage of a “Hop on hop off” bus tour to see the main sights.
Getting to this island was easy – we caught a bus which went through Mellieha to Cirkewwa, where we caught the ferry (it’s only a 30 min ferry trip). The highlight of the day for me was the Citadella & the Ġgantija temple complex from the Neolithic era.
Public transport on Malta is cheap & reliable (albeit crowded at times). It only costs 1.50 Euros for a 2 hour travel pass which allows you to go anywhere within that time frame. The ferry to Gozo was 4.75 Euros return! If you are going to do a lot of travelling around you can get weekly & monthly passes which work out to be even cheaper!
One of the highlights of this trip though was being shown the island through the eyes of a couple of locals – Martin & Josephine. They picked us up at 10am the day prior to our return to Frankfurt & we spent the whole day with them, being shown the Malta they know & love – it was very special.
They took us on a tour of the three cities & we had lunch in Bajja, an old fishing village, at a restaurant right on the water. Followed by a trip to see “Smart City” at Kalkara which is so different to all the historic architecture everywhere else on the island. We finished the day with a visit to their home where we were treated to some traditional Maltese cakes before being dropped back to our apartment.
This is one of the truly wonderful experiences you can have whilst travelling – to meet with locals who you connect with & who are so enthusiastic to show you their homeland. No organised tour comes close!
In no time at all our 8 days were up & it was time to come back to Frankfurt. We will definitely be back here &, hopefully, we will get to spend more time with our new Maltese friends.