Well, HELLO again!!!
It’s been a while!! Haven’t been traveling lately, just enjoying spending some time at home in Stockholm, Sweden. But as we say in Swedish ”det kliar i fingrarna” (sort of that my fingers started itching) meaning that I really wanted to do just a little trip to someplace new! So I gave my boyfriend this gift for his birthday – a trip to Malta! (He didn’t know anything about it until his birthday :)
So the 20th of may we flew to Malta – an island in the mediterranean sea, somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia. Malta’s location has given it great strategic importance throughout history. Phoenicians, Romans, Moorish, Normans, Aragonese, Habsburg Spain, Knights of St. John, French and the British have ruled the islands during different periods. Malta gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1964 and became a republic in 1974.
Malta is a quite big tourist destination because of its warm climate with crystal clear water and architectural and historical monuments. It has plenty of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and temples.
We landed in the evening, took a bus from the airport to our hotel in Gzira close to Sliema. The bus really went everywhere and we didn’t understand at all were we were, but we arrived well. The bus ticket fare is 1,50€ for a day, as many trips as you want, so it’s really nice!!
Our ”room” was much better then expected – I thought it was only going to be a hotel room, but it also had a living room, a kitchenette and a balcony, and bathroom of course. So we were happy! And really hungry. After packing up we went to find a restaurant which the receptionist had recommended, called ”Ta Kris”.
The prices are ok, a little bit expensive at first. We chose the little cheaper options, I had a pasta with basil and tomato and Duilio had a maltese cuisine called ”Dad’s Famous Braggioli”…. and the food….. AMAZING!!! It was sooo goood. Fresh local food, and I don’t know what the heck they had done – but it was the greatest pasta sauce I’ve ever had. We spent about 20€ for two meals with a beer each and it was totally worth it.
Check it out – Ta Kris Restaurant – 80 Fawwara Lane, Sliema, Malta.
We started early by enjoyed the hotels breakfast buffet – yummi yummi. Had everything. Then we went to the Hypogeum which I had booked tickets for long before. You have to be about 2 months ahead to get tickets there, and they cost 30€ each. :/
The Ħal Saflieni Hypogeum is an underground prehistoric burial site. Earliest remains at the site date back to about 4000BC, and the complex was used over a span of many centuries, up to c. 2500 BC. Cool place sure, but you couldn’t take any pictures and only walk around were they had a pavement, and also they only lit up only a few places at a time, if someone was in the way for you to see you missed it. So to me, it wasn’t really worth it.
After the visit we went around in the streets in Paola and went to the Tarxien Temples that are quite close, thanks to a map. A funny thing here, nothing is marked out well! We got to the bus station closest to the hypogeum, which is a mayor site of interest, and there are no signs of where it is, you have to ask around how to get there. People here are super friendly, and everyone speaks english! Old ladies, men, teenagers. But there are not really any signs on the street of where the site is until you get to the same road where it is located.
We figured we would ”win” on buying a Malta Heritage Multi Ticket for 35€ each with entrances to all the places/museums/temples by Malta Heritage, instead of buying ”loose” entrances to the places we wanted to visit. Very good decision!!! All entrance fees are between 6-10 euros, and I would have gone quite mad at some sites since they didn’t live up to my expectations, but since they entered in the multi ticket (which as a value of 95€ if you visit all the places) – I didn’t mind so much. Hehe.
The Tarxien Temples was built between 3600 and 2500 BC and re-used between 2400 and 1500 BC. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of six inscribed as ‘The Megalithic Temples of Malta’ in the World Heritage List and one of the largest and most complex of the prehistoric sites on the islands. Home to some of the best examples of prehistoric art which have survived the millennia. Sure a nice place, but much smaller then I thought, took less then 30 minutes to walk through.
After the Tarxien temples we took the bus to The Three Cities, the harbor in front of Valetta. We visited Vittoriosa, an old fortified city in Malta, very pittoresque and sweet with narrow streets and all limestone buildings here as well as the rest of Malta. We bought some stones there for future jewelry and visited the The Inquisitor’s Palace and the Malta Maritime Museum. The Maritime Museum is nice but nothing I would pay 9€ to see if it wasn’t included in my ticket.
The Inquisitors Palace is the only one open to the public in the world and an architectural gem, representative of the chequered history and European heritage of the Maltese islands. It’s a former centre of power accountable directly to the Pope. At first a little bit of a deception too, until we got to the prison complex and the torture chamber – where you can see some ”grafitti” from old prisioners – day counting, names and some images carved into the soft limestone. They also have put up som printed stories from the old prisioners that were released. So it was quite cool after all!
Then we took a boat taxi over to Valetta – the capital city of Malta. It only lives about 7000 people there, and it’s quite small with a couple of main streets. The city serves as the island’s principal cultural centre and its unique collection of churches and palaces.
We arrived by the water and climbed up for maaaany stairs to get up into the Upper Barraka Gardens. You could also pay 1€ to take the elevator. Funny, a woman came to us and asked for money, we thought it was a beggar at first, but she only wanted to change because the elevator only took 50 cents-coins or 1€ and she had everything in 10 and 20 cents haha. Then I realized – there are no beggars here and you don’t see homeless people either. Weird!
At the upper Barakka Gardens we had a couple of Maltesean pastizzes and pies, filled with chick peas and Ricotta-cheese. Delicious, and the pastizzes only cost 70cents and the pies 1,5€. We sat there for a while and then started to walk around Valetta.
We visited the The National Museum of Archaeology. It serves as a good introduction to prehistory and early history in Malta and puts Malta’s archaeological sites in context, but we were a little bit tired of seeing artifacts and tools.
Instead we walked around Valetta, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site and plenty of films like Troy, Gladiator, World War Z have been filmed here. We even found a leather craftsmen who made the costume to all those movies! Hehe. This city is quite weird, there are totally abandoned buildings with a super nice sea view, just next to some church.
For a second Duilio thought someone had stolen his sunglasses, but then we walked back a block and they were lying there on the ground. Malta is actually super safe, you can easily walk around with money and phones and camaras, you don’t feel like a target for robbery. It’s one of the safest countries in Europe.
We bought some local sweets (honey rings) and went down to the wall that surrounds Valetta and enjoying the last sun of the day.
So, this was the first days in Malta….. More to come!!