A week in Malta - Day #1
For the first half of our weeklong vacation in Malta, we stayed in a hotel in St. Paul’s Bay whose balcony offered a gorgeous view of the open sky and the Mediterranean. When we woke up on the first morning of our stay, both the sky and the sea were a moody grey. Just the kind of weather we were hoping to escape, but thanks to living in Amsterdam, also just the kind of weather we were prepared for - or so we thought.
It was drizzling when we stepped out. In the distant horizon, you could spot cargo ships of various kinds lingering for their turn to berth at Malta’s port. A small island like Malta must need a lot of imports to keep going.
Walking in Malta on a rainy day was not a lot of fun. The stone they use for footpaths gets slippery pretty quickly and you have to tread gingerly1. Given the hilly geography of Malta, many streets are at a steep incline. When it rains, the water gushes downhill. This makes trying to cross streets without getting water into your shoes extremely difficult. After a few minutes of being utterly miserable, we got into a bus towards the Rotunda of Mosta. We kept an eye on the weather outside and the moment it looked like the rain would relent and the sun would come out, we got down.
We found ourselves in a street where the outsides of houses were adorned with tiny, delicate, plaques and colourful figurines with religious Christian iconography.
When we reached the Rotunda of Mosta, a rainbow had appeared in a street adjacent to it.
After a short coffee break we checked if we could enter the Rotunda but weren’t allowed in because of a private service. So instead, we walked around the neighbourhood where we were struck by colourful, boxy, wooden balconies of the houses there.
The rain resumed shortly thereafter. I had lost all will to walk because my socks and shoes were completely drenched by now. We decided to take another bus, this time to Mdina Old City Fortress. Malta was clearly proving to be a place where, like many other cities of the world, cars have a priority over pedestrians and cyclists. Mdina bills itself as a car-free zone. I was expecting to see no cars at all inside the fort walls. The reality turned out to be different. People living within the fortress are allowed to bring their cars inside. In effect, plenty of cars were parked inside with a few even moving about slowly through the narrow, winding streets.
We were going to stay in Valletta - Malta’s capital and a UNESCO world heritage site - for the second half of our trip. But given the inclement weather and abundance of buses to Valletta from Mdina, we decided to go pay a visit right away2.
We got another break from the rain that allowed us to walk around Valletta for some time. The city with its narrow, cobbled streets, lighthouses, many historic buildings going back hundreds of years and sweeping views of the water reminded me of Tolkein’s Númenor.
The typical boxy balconies were here as well. I was fascinated with them throughout the trip so these are hardly the last pictures on this subject that you’ll see on this blog.
And we spotted some contemporary street art too:
I find fewer things in life more unpleasant than having to walk in wet socks and shoes. Before heading back to the hotel for the night, we decided to do something about my now squelchy shoes. It was a pair of hiking shoes (and the only pair I had with me for this trip) I had bought in late 2019 in anticipation of many hikes through the alps. Given that pandemic hit us soon after, they hardly saw any action. So I was a little surprised to see that their soles were completely worn and might even have had cracks in places. Must’ve been all that walking we did in Amsterdam during and after the lockdowns. No wonder that despite having been waterproof, water kept getting into them all the time. We found a Decathlon store and I procured a new, identical pair along with some fresh socks. Getting into them was such a big relief3.
When we reached our hotel the rain had started falling again. Our hotel was in an ordinary building but paired with its pointillist reflection in the slick road outside, it looked somewhat regal.
I slipped once and fell flat on my back. Almost. My backpack cushioned the fall and I incurred nothing more than a slight adrenalin rush.↩︎
An Indian restaurant there that came highly recommended from my sister-in-law from her visit last year, was another reason that drew us there. Both I and Mansi were craving something hot and comforting after nearly a day of walking in the rain.↩︎
And I almost jumped deliberately into the first puddle I encountered outside to test if the pair was back to being waterproof. Better sense prevailed.↩︎