My adventure to Malta, the Southern European archipelago about 80 km south of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea, proved to be one of the most interesting and unexpected trips. It was an adventure where my best friend and I quickly learned to be resilient and problem solve our way out of some sticky situations.
We land at Malta International Airport with a lot of young Italian teens getting ready for the Tomorrowland Music Festival –one of the biggest music festivals in the world. I send a message to our Airbnb host after we land with no reply. We decide to make our way to the apartment, continue calling the host and just knock on the door. We take the bus and roll our suitcases through the dusty, uphill streets until we find the apartment. We knock on the door with no answer. We wait for 30 minutes while still calling and messaging the host. We see an older lady walk into the main-floor apartment. My friend knocks on the door and asks her about our host. The lady speaks perfect English as English and Maltese are the official languages of Malta. The lady, enthusiastically, claims he is a “foreigner” and says she saw him buy cigarettes in the morning. Based on her rant, we can
clearly see she that she is not very fond of this guy.
Eventually, the man comes and tells us that he cancelled his Airbnb account and that the company was supposed to let the customers know that his place was no longer listed. This was interesting because his place was actually still listed and his account was clearly active. He says he feels bad and he will let us stay, but says we can cancel the place and get our refund. Someone, however, is living in the room he listed, so we aren’t able to sleep there so he offers his room and says he can sleep on the couch. Another red flag for us. Then he tells us that in the morning at 8:30 a.m. someone has to check something in his room, which sounds extremely sketchy to my friend and I. We just say okay, and then the man goes back to work. We both agree that we don’t want to stay there and feel uncomfortable, but we had planned to see Valletta, the capital city, and only had three full days in Malta.
We turn on the air conditioning, change and get ready to go to the city. Then the “enthusiastic” lady bangs on the door. We open the door for her and she walks right into the apartment like she owns it and says that the air conditioning is leaking water onto the stairs. She claims, “The police are going to come and throw you in jail!” Then turns to me and yells “FETCH ME A PAIL!!” “You mean a bucket?” my friend asks completely straight-faced. I automatically bolt for the kitchen, slightly giggling, but I really have no idea where I can find a pail. I find the “pail” in the kitchen and give it to the lady, trying to hold in my laugh. She turns off the AC and goes on again about the police throwing us in jail because someone will dramatically crack their skull open from the drops of water. As soon as we close the door behind the lady, my friend and I burst out laughing hysterically. A stressful situation turned into a hilarious one in an instant. To this day, that lady still makes me laugh.
After this episode, my friend and I finally go to Valletta, the smallest capital city in the European Union with an area of 0.8 km². We walk to the spectacular gold and burgundy lined St. John’s Co-Cathedral Church, a complete gem of Baroque Art. Now we are stress-free wandering around this truly spectacular church, snapping photos. Malta is a very religious, Roman Catholic country as the Acts of the Apostles in Christianity, state that Paul the Apostle was shipwrecked in Melita in 60 CE, which is believed to be Malta.
Next, we walk to the Lower and Upper Barrakka Gardens, a pair of small, unspectacular gardens. At the end of the Upper Barrakka Garden, near the coastline, is the Saluting Battery, a series of eight cannons pointed to the Valletta harbour. The artillery battery was constructed in the 16th century by the Order of Saint John in proximity the site of a battery used during the Great Siege of Malta, a period when the country was heavily bombarded and devastated by German and Italian aircraft during World War II. This tiny and densely-populated country became a British colony in 1815 and served as the headquarters of the British Mediterranean Fleet. Malta served a vital role in the Allied war effort during the Second World War. The country was awarded the George Cross, which appears on the Maltese flag, by the Queen of England in 1942 for its bravery during the Siege. Malta became independent from Great Britain in 1964 and a republic in 1974. They officially joined the European Union in 2004.
At the edge of the Lower Barrakka Garden, we see the Siege Bell War Memorial, a giant bell facing the Valletta Harbour that commemorates the Maltese defenders during the Great Siege of Malta. From the garden views, we see the ocean, harbour and view of some Maltese cities. The ivory buildings and copper-coloured dirt remind us of a Middle Eastern city full of sand and poor vegetation. We expected Malta to be greener and more tropical, but are disappointed by this dry, dust-covered reality.
Our final stop in Valletta was the Grand Harbour and Waterfront; my friend wanted to see the colourful Maltese boats. We follow Google Maps and walk for hours trying to find the harbour, not realizing that it is the giant harbour in front of us. We are starving, sweating and dehydrated when we finally come upon a string of restaurants at the bottom of the harbour. We both eat a fat burger in front of a beautiful view of the harbour and spend 15 euros on five 1 litre bottles of water.
We buy more water before we go back to the shady apartment. We find another place on the opposite side of the island, pack our stuff and carry these giant water bottles. Our bag holding the bottles breaks on the street, our hands are full and our arms are sore as we try to make it to the bus stop at 7:30 p.m. It’s been half an hour and the bus doesn’t come and the sun is starting to set. Finally, a taxi stops in front of us and somebody gets out. We go straight to the taxi and ask for a ride about 40 minutes away. The kind driver says it will cost 30 euros, so we jump right in and throw our suitcase and million water bottles in the trunk. He calls the host of the next apartment and makes sure that he comes out to get us and that we are okay. We make it to a beautiful house with a kind family and a whole basement apartment to ourselves with a fridge and AC. Our disaster ended in relief. What a day.
The next day we visit the Tarxien Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of the country’s seven megalithic temples, which are some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. It takes about ten minutes to walk around these huge piles of rocks and we are so disappointed that we remove any other megalithic temples from our plans. We visit Ghar Dalam Museum and Cave where we see hundreds of pre-historic bones, Paleolithic art, human remains and Ice Age artifacts. The cave is beautiful, but we are disappointed that we can only go in a few metres. We finish our morning quickly and head over to St. Peter’s Pool.
St. Peter’s Pool, a natural pool surrounded by low cliffs, is one of the most spectacular sites in Malta. I jump off of these white stone cliffs into the natural, crystal blue pool for the rest of the afternoon. In utter disbelief and excitement, I see a celebrity at this gorgeous pool. It is Titti, the YouTube star for being a cliff-diving dog. As an avid dog lover, I am beaming and so happy as I pet Titti and watch her jump; it is the best part of the trip.
On our final full day, my friend and I take the ferry to the other Maltese island, Gozo, to kayak to the Blue Lagoon in Comino. Besides the three islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino, the country also has two uninhabited islets of Comminotto and Fifla. As we kayak through the ocean, we see the beautiful coastline of steep, vertical limestone cliffs indented by bays, inlets and coves –a few of which we kayak into. When we reach the Blue Lagoon, we see the most turquoise water I have ever seen in my life. The Lagoon is something out of a fairy tale, but packed with heavy traffic, boats, locals and tourists. The kayaking trip is a magnificent experience, but slightly nauseating and extremely exhausting. My friend has a difficult, tiring experience, but claims that she learned so much about herself and that she can convince herself to get through anything.
Our short trip to Malta was one of the biggest adventures we had endured, full of obstacles at every corner and where we both learned about how strong, resilient and street-smart we actually are.