Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Malta, April 2018
Let me tell you how I first stumbled upon Malta. I started my masters in Aug 2009 when one of my classmates introduced himself to me and after talking for ages he told me he was originally from Malta. I didn’t know where that was yet alone that it was a country island of its own. I had to look it up – did it really exist? There it was, just south of Italy, a dot in the Atlas. Since then I have always wanted to visit the country island. At some point in my life I even considered moving to the country island and start a life over there. After nine years I finally visited the country island and I found myself doing nearly everything within a week.
Day 1 – Tuesday – Bugibba, Valletta
Hotel Santana is collaborating with Supreme Travel, hence the airport-hotel transfer and all the activities were booked via Supreme Travel.

“Lucky for us” there were construction work going on just outside our room door and in the building next door. However, it was only for two days and the hotel staff offered us to change rooms – it didn’t bother us since we weren’t going to stay in the hotel anyway. The first thing we tried to do was to find a beach nearby, but we only found rocky beaches, plenty of restaurants, pubs, casinos and swimming pools.
In the evening, we bought 15 single bus tickets for €12 and took bus number 41/42 to Valletta, which was the fastest and cheapest way to travel. The ride was bumpy and there were plenty of stops until we reached Valletta. Upon arrival, we were met by the big beautiful triton fountain and we visited the park across. I noticed an inspiration from Italy – Italian names, restaurants and music. We found an Italian restaurant called San Giovanni, they had only outdoor serving with several flambeaus and served homemade pasta and pizza. Apparently in Malta rabbit is a delicacy and I always prefer to try the traditional food, hence I had rabbit with potato. To my surprise they served the whole rabbit without the head. Mellie kept looking at me in chock – I know, I’m a terrible person for eating rabbit but I didn’t enjoy it, too dry.
We were strolling around the city just to see if we missed anything and we also wanted to find a place for a drink. A stranger approached us and made small talk, Lyon said he was living in Gozo a place he recommended us to visit and in fact a place we were planning to visit on Thursday and he then asked for my number. I usually don’t give out my number, but I didn’t see any harm in it, hence I gave him my number and we left. Mellie and I ended up having a drink in a bar called StrEat Whiskey Bar & Bistro, where you also could order food and buy some artistical paintings for €600.
Lyon texted me same night asking how my night went. I didn’t text until I saw it the next day, he asked if he could cook me a Maltese rabbit stew. I told him my plans with my friend these two days, but agreed to meet up for drinks later this week.


Day 2 – Wednesday – Sliema, Saint Julian’s
Mellie and I woke up for breakfast. I wanted to swim in the ocean and she wanted to go to the mall. I looked at the online map and pointed out that Sliema should have both. I told her we could go to the beach and then do some shopping.
We just missed the bus and had to wait about 15min. for the next one, hence I took some photos of all the time tables. One of the bus staff approached me and asked if he could be of help. I told him I’m fine but then he made small talk, he asked me: what I was doing in Malta? where I was from? where I was staying? how long I was staying? what my age was – he thought I was five years younger. Petrous was from Greece and was working in Malta almost nine months and was living in Bugibba. Bus number 222 arrived and my friend called me over, I said my goodbyes to Petrous.

I asked the bus driver if he would take us to a sandy beach in Sliema and he looked at me strangely with his sunglasses covering his eyes and said there are no sandy beaches in Sliema, I told him there should be one called Ghadir beach. When we finally arrived, he took off his sunglasses, looked at me with a smirk and said, “Enjoy your sandy beach”. There was no sandy beach, but there was a friendly rock beach and it would probably have been packed with people if it was warmer. It was about 20degrees and cloudy, but that didn’t stop me from changing to my swimsuit. I was eager to get into the ocean, but my friend wasn’t that eager. The salt water was refreshing and it was even warmer in the ocean than on land. After a while, an old man with a dog passed by and told me to be careful as it could be sleepy and then said he could show me a much safer and nicer area. I followed him to an area nearby. He was right, it was too deep to touch the rocky bottom and it had edges to hold on to. His dog wanted to jump in with me, but thankfully the owner didn’t let him. I thanked him and continued swimming for a while. I air dried my body and put on my clothes which became yellow from the powder on the rocks.
I met Mellie at the Point Shopping Mall, the largest retail mall in Malta, there were about four floors. We were shopping at River Island, Bershka, Terranova and Stradivarius. The stores closed at seven and we were about to head to Saint Julian’s for some food, but we found a woman crying and shouting out Joe. Apparently, she was there with her three children and had lost her two-year-old son. Everyone around wanted to help her in finding him and asked for a picture of him. She was shaking while opening her phone and then just gave it to a random person. We were about ten people trying to find her two-year-old son when someone finally found him in the candy store.
We walked along the coast to Saint Julian’s where we found Naar Restobar and ordered some pizza. I tried the Maltese pizza made of sourdough pizza bread with toppings such as Maltese cheese, Maltese sausage, sliced potatoes, dried tomatoes and brown, juicy olives. The pizza bread had a soft taste and there were plenty of food left over, hence we asked for a box. The staff were young and friendly and the music playing was old and hip.

Day 3 – Thursday – Gozo, Comino, Blue Lagoon
A bus from the hotel took us to the boat that would take us to Gozo. In the boat, we could buy snorkeling equipment, snacks and beverages. We had to add another €10 to enter the top of the boat. From the boat, it was beautiful to see how Malta was divided into three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. It took about one hour to get to Gozo by boat. We then took a Hop-On Hop-Off bus to explore the island. It took us along the coast and then dropped us at the center of Victoria. We strolled around and found a small market, a handful of churches and food joints. We eventually found the sign to visit the Cathedral of Assumption. It was a long road up until we reached it and then we could take different directions depending on what we were interested in learning. We nearly explored every corner and found amazing viewpoints over the village. Gozo was a very quiet island, I would say it is a place to live in if you wish to escape the busy life. We had some ice cream and then took a Hop-On Hop-Off bus back to the boat. I ended up paying €5 to enter the top of the boat.

The boat made 1.5 hour stop in Blue Lagoon, Comino before it went back to Buggiba. The scenery was amazing and the water was as blue as it could be. We passed several food and drink stands and then went down to the artificial beach. I loved how they served drinks in a pineapple shell – it looked very tropical. I changed to my swimsuit and didn’t wait one more minute until I jumped in the water. There were many people posing for pictures but not as many swimming. I went back on land to talk to Mellie, she was feeling cold. It was 20deg. and the sun was shining, hence I jumped back in. It started getting windy, but it was time to get back to the boat anyway. After the boat started and turned, a sunbed flew all over the place, injuring a man who was sitting on one of the sunbeds. He was quickly looked after and came back with a bandage wrapped around his head.

Day 4 – Friday – Golden Bay, Bugibba
I went jogging in the early morning along the coast – the weather was amazing for it. Mellie and I had breakfast together when I got back. She only wanted to stay at the hotel terrace today and catch some sun. I told her I didn’t mind doing that, but wanted to head to Golden Bay to swim and stay there until sunset since the scenery are supposed to be amazing. I asked her if she wanted to join me, but she was going to stay put and then maybe go to Saint Julian’s.
Lyon texted me saying it was nice weather to do something outdoors. I told him my plan and he was glad to meet me at Golden Beach. I walked along the coast towards Golden Bay and had to wait for bus number 223/225 at Imhasel bus stop. At the bus stop, there were an Egyptian man that approached small talk. He was working at Radissons Blue and moved around for work and had been in Malta for two years. I asked him if he could speak Maltese and he said yes, since it was 50% Arabic and 50% Italian. He mentioned a ride school close by, hence the traffic from the horses. He wanted to show me how to go to the beach which was following the road, I thanked him and said goodbyes.
I rented a sunbed and then phoned Lyon to meet me at the very end of the beach. He was from Germany and was two years younger than me. He got interested in bitcoins and moved to Malta two years ago to market bitcoins. Apparently, bitcoin is a big thing in Malta and you can use it as money in many places. To be honest most of our conversation ended up being about bitcoin. He had a very strong passion/believe in it. I started getting cold and told him I wanted to go to the hill and see the three beaches before heading back and he joined me. We walked, talked and made jokes. We ended up watching the sunset together and he then lent me his jacket before we went back to the bus stop. I gave him a hug, his jacket and we said our goodbyes.
Mellie and I were strolling around Bugibba to find a quiet place to have something to eat but it was ten o’clock by the time we wanted food and apparently all restaurants/bars close their kitchen around that time. We ended up going to a place called Mr. Kebab Dine and had nice food for a low price. The staff had great humor and were joking with their regulars.

Day 5 – Saturday – St Paul’s Bay, Mellieha, Paceville
Mellie and I had breakfast and I told her I was going to explore Mellieha beach and then maybe Paceville. She thought it was a good plan but wanted to go and sunbath at the hotel terrace first. We changed to our swimsuits and went to the sunbeds on the hotel terrace.
We started walking along the coast towards Mellieha and then took the bus. There were two beaches with one or two food stands on respective beach – it was artificial beach with low water depth. We had some burgers and shortly after the guy who just handed us the burgers, started to bargain with a man selling watches and sunglasses. He wanted a watch for €5 but the price was €50 and he then took the sunglasses and said €5. The seller’s response for that was to also get a burger for free, but he never got the burger. We had some ice cream and then headed back to the hotel. We left at the same time everyone else left, i.e. when the sun started going down. Therefore, some of the buses left without even stopping due to becoming packed from previous stops.
We took turns in showering and then got ready to head to Paceville. The buses going to that direction were full but eventually got one. We arrived at a busy street. Nearly everyone we met in Malta were praising Paceville for its amazing nightlife and how all the young ones hang there. We saw shisha bars, casinos, night clubs and strip clubs – it was Malta’s own “Las Vegas”. We didn’t know anything about the area, hence we weren’t sure what club we should go to. We started listening to the music and one club stood out with its old school music and the line was quite long. I told Mellie let’s try Havana, but I wanted to check it in my phone first. Mellie didn’t care about the line and went over to the security guard and asked if we could enter and the next thing I know, I hear her shouting for me and we enter for free. It ended up being a club with Latin, R&B and reggae music. We took some seats at one of the bars that wasn’t too busy and ordered vodka & red bull. We wanted to put away our jackets in the cloak room but it was closed. The bartender offered to put it behind the bar. The two bartenders were always smiling at us and one of them made some small talk, next thing I know he pour us free shoots and wants us to drink with him.
We left to the dancefloor, which was packed with people. Mellie and I were enjoying ourselves and from time to time guys would approach and try to make a conversation. How would you even be able to talk with that loud music. Mellie and I ended up dancing with a French guy and then left him to get another drink. We went back to the dancefloor and a Maltese guy started to dance with us. We then left to the restroom and got back to the dancefloor and the French guy came back to us and started to dance with us again. We called for a cab and then went back to the hotel – it was about €20 for a cab.

Day 6 – Sunday – Marsaxlokk, Blue Grotto, Valletta
Every Sunday the biggest market in Malta occurs in Marsaxlokk, where locals sell all types of things: groceries, clothes, technology etc.
A Hop-On Hop-Off bus took us around south Malta – it had multiple stops. However, we decided to only go off at Marsaxlokk, were the biggest market was held, and at Blue Grotto, were the notorious caves could be found. The market finished at two o’clock, I bought a hand bag for €20 and some Maltese and Italian spices for €6. We found a father-daughter stand that sold the tastiest crepes – I had one with Nutella. Strawberries and bananas. The Hop-On Hop-Off buses went every half hour. We took the next one to Blue Grotto. While in Blue Grotto there was a man who held an owl and we took turns in holding it – of course we gave him a tip afterwards. The caves in Blue Grotto was breath taking.
In the evening, Mellie and I went to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, where a church ceremony on Maltese and English was held. We didn’t take any seats, instead we were standing behind the band with the other tourists. We asked if we could light a candle and were let in. We put some coins in the donation box and the candle turned on automatically since it was electronic. After the ceremony, we headed to the restaurant across which in our case was San Giovanni. I found it very cold to dine outside in the evening, but I was given a blanket to keep me warm. Mellie had some pizza and I tried the rabbit again, but this time with homemade pasta. I still found the rabbit too dry.

Day 7 – Monday – Golden Bay, Sliema, Valletta
Mellie decided to relax in the hotel terrace. I went back to Golden Beach and had my final swim. I went to Sliema by bus and entered the Harbor Cruise, a two-hour tour around Valetta. The guide was pointing out some interesting facts, e.g. Valletta is the Culture Capital in Europe. The driver took us to see the three cities, the renowned park, the viewpoints in Valletta, the bridges and the port for the shipment. Close to the end of the tour our guide stopped talking and had a surprise for us – he put on the Titanic song. He drove faster and warned about water splashing. I took the bus back to the hotel and we went to a mall just further down the road. We didn’t stay too long because we had to pack for an early flight.