Malta, a beautiful country where you can go to… not dive.

Malta has a 7,000 year old history of human habitation. It has been occupied by the Phoenicians, the Roman Empire, the Arabs, the French, the Brits and others. But you can read all that on Wikipedia.

What you may not know is that in Malta, the Dollar Stores sell wine! To be honest, they used to be Lira Stores and, since 2008, they are 2 euro stores, but still. I’m really not looking forward to the next time I have to buy a bottle of garbage wine for $12 in Canada.

Another important fact you don’t know about Malta is that the glass blowers are not all ugly. I’ve seen glass blowers in a few countries, and let’s just say it’s not a profession that seems to attract the best looking men.

But incredibly in Malta, based on an exhaustive review I conducted, exactly 20% of glass blowers are beautiful blond women! Fake blond, but still.

And those two important facts are all I learned about Malta. However, in order to prove I’ve actually been there, here’s a few pictures of churches.

The Mosta dome, the 3rd largest unsupported dome in Europe. 

Usually this is how it looks, as Malta receives nearly four times more tourists a year than its total population.

Inside, they keep a replica of a bomb the Germans dropped through the dome during World War II. It failed to explode. Now, even today, in modern western armies, unexploded ordinance is a common occurrence. It was much more so during the forties, especially for the Germans, who were often building their bombs in less than ideal circumstances (i.e. with ours falling on the factory). But there’s a catch: when 100 bombs land in a field and fail to explode, it’s usually because of a defective fuse and everybody agrees on that. However, if one bomb fails to explode in the middle of 300 parishioners, it has nothing to do with the fuse, it’s a miracle!

The Blue Grotto is one of Malta’s top tourists attraction and you can go for a boat ride inside the caves. Unfortunately, it was apparently too windy for the boats to operate (although it looked pretty quiet to me), so I couldn’t go. This was only a preview of things to come.

It got really windy! To be honest, this kinda ruined my Malta experience. Malta is a top destination to learn about not only the country’s own history but, indirectly, thousands of years of European history. But that was not at all what I had planned for my trip to Malta. I wanted to go cruising around the other islands (Gozo and Comino), and most of all, go diving, since I hadn’t dived since January, in Bali. The weather did not allow that. The cruises were cancelled and diving was out of the question. So, I spent a lot of time in my hotel room, planning my next trip.

I was staying in Sliema, where there is nothing special to do, but it’s a convenient place from which to go anywhere on the island, and it has nice views of Valletta. It reminded me of a town called Levis, across the river from Quebec City. Not much to see there, and it’s not particularly pretty, but the locals joke that at least when they look at the river, they have a beautiful view of Quebec City, not Levis! On one of the elevated boardwalks, hundreds of people had put locks with messages on them, most of them anniversary dates or “Jack + Jill” things.

In the centre of Malta’s main island lies Medina, an ancient fortified city. It has been exhaustively restored and work is still ongoing on some of the facades. The entrance is through this massive gate and you better hope they open the door for you…

Because you’re not going to jump over the fence! When I see these defensive fortifications, I can’t help but imagine myself in a tunic, with a copper hat, a sword and a flimsy ladder, being told “we are going to take this fortress from the enemy!” Scary stuff.

Medina is a major historical monument, but it is still a living city, with about 300 people calling it home. I can’t imagine having to share such a small city with zillions of tourists.

Just trying to drive out without crushing a few must be very difficult. However, the guide told us it really wasn’t that bad, at least on week days, because most of the tourists are day trippers, and by the time the residents come back from work, most tourists have left.

It’s a great place to live if you like going to church; no shortage of those.

If you can’t make it to the church, you can just get the “Mass app” for your smartphone. I really wonder what it does.

Malta’s iconic capital city, Valletta, seen from Sliema. A short ferry ride will take you across the bay in no time, but because of the wind, it wasn’t operating, so I went for a lovely 6 km waterfront hike.

Some people clearly visit Malta on a budget very different from mine. Perhaps they came from Monaco?

A contrast of times, in the land of the Knights of St-John, today they build oil rigs. I think this is an exploration rig, not an exploitation one. Its mission is to find petrol; something the Maltese very much look forward to. While the country has a diverse and stable economy, it suffers from a large trade deficit, in good part due to having to import most of its foodstuff and oil, both for transportation and electrical generation. Having its own oil resources would help tremendously.

When I took this picture, I had just entered Valletta and the city limit was less than 100m behind me. At the end of the pedestrian street, you can see the water: that’s the end of the city! It is probably one of the smallest capitals in the World: 1km long and 600m wide.


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