Irregular Post; Malta2

Friday, Jan 6 2017

Hi, they speak English here.

Malta IS a hidden jewel in the Mediterranean. English is the official and common language but Maltese is the one locals use with each other.  The country is made of 7 small island with Malta being the largest at about 900 square kilometers, the second largest is Gozo at 25 sq km.  It is not very expensive.  Food and architecture is a fusion of Maltese, Italian and other Mediterranean influences.  It looks and feels very different from any place we’ve been before and yet it is very comfortable and inviting and visually stimulating.  Few Americans are here because it requires at least one plane change for a long travel day.  For us, it is a can-go-back-to place.  Gran Canaria was a nice been-there-did-that place.

We spent Thursday on Gozo.  An hour by local bus #212 from Sliema to the ferry. HopOnHopOff bus for the little island; not our usual choice of transport but it was a good compromise for Gozo.  The time between HopOff and HopOn stops is about 45 minutes.  I could have used an hour but then the next bus would have been another half hour later.  It WAS 50F AND Gale windy on Thursday; hanging about extra-time waiting for bus was NOT in the cards. We wore ALL our layers of clothes that we had planned for returning to January Boston.  We did NOT sit on the top of the double decker bus very much.

Most exciting was at the Azur Window at the northwest corner of Gozo.  This is an arch somewhat like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  But it is exposed to the winds from the north across the open sea. Salt spray and gale slashing winds and crashing waves onto jagged limestone rocks.  My glasses were useless in a minute.  I kept the camera lenses for the most part protected. I shot downwind whenever possible.  We found out today, Friday, that 6 tourists who got too close, were washed off the rocks just before dark.  They were saved and hospital repaired.!!.

Another exposed coastal stop was Marsalforn,  Here the waves were being funneled into the bay and crashing onto and over the retaining walls at the harbor edge.  Restaurants were gathering outdoor chairs and tables, tying down flapping awnings and exposed/loose walls.  Small fishing boats were being loaded onto trailers and taken away.  On the edge of the harbor, piles of wave tossed seaweed strewn the road and swirling water washed through the street.  I will try to attach a 2 second video I took of this.

Local bus travel is interesting as usual.  We have a 12 ride pass that we share.  Getting on a bus at the origin/start of a trip is fine; you get a seat. We are staying in a simple guesthouse near the harbor where the buses originate.  Soon many tourists from fancier digs up the route get on.  Seats are now scarce.  Soon there are no seats and people have to stand as the bus winds its way.

On the way back we might not be the fortunate sitters.  More savvy bus riders know where to stand and get on early.  Returning from the Gozo ferry, Meg got the last seat…beside a baby stroller.  The owner stood while her husband sat with the little boy. After awhile some locals got off near where I stood.  I got a seat beside Meg and the lady got the seat behind with her husband and 9 month old baby.  El Ambassador Pequeno introduced us all to each other. They are Argentinians, living in Scotland, on vacation in Malta.  We shared some stories of travel with little one, and other things.  Like Tristan, El Pequeno Filippe, was intrigued with my beard, and my simple Espanyol.

Today, Friday, was tough weather; 47F, gale winds, spits of heavy rain, a few minutes of small hail.  Museum Day in Valletta! But the winds had curtailed the ferry across the harbor.  Bus #15 to Valletta.  But the museums and houses were not really heated.  “We have only one month of winter so its not worth doing too much.” said our guest house host.

Archaeology and history of the island group (over 7,000 years).  Cold, we needed warm food INDOORS.   A few places were filled, others asked if we had reservations.  “Friday business lunch time is very busy.”  OK found one with an open table for two.  We shared a mushroom soup with marrow, then each had calamari in chili cream sauce spaghetti (again spaghetti?) with a glass of red French Rhone wine; 37 euros for two.  Meg wanted clams linguini but the clams were all gone.

The war museum detailed extensively, in unheated rooms perched on the gale winded sea cliffs, the war history of Malta.  the 15th century; Knights of St John vs the Ottoman Turks (christians vs muslims).  Wars between French and English.  World War I and especially II    Cold and dark we found the last two seats on the bus home.  The bus windows fogged immediately with the pack of sitting and standing commuters.  Good thing we are the end of the line since we couldn’t see the landmarks.

“travel light and wear  a smile.”  Jack

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