Visiting Malta through our eyes
Visiting Malta has been on our bucket list for a very long time. Having been under the rule of several nations and cultures, it has one of the most varied histories. We knew it would be an inspiring experience. Here we are sharing it with you from a perspective of two introvert non-typical travelers 😉
Already on the way from the airport, we realized that Malta has changed a lot since Ursha last visited it about 10 years ago. Some heavy development and construction have been going on. Many areas are being completely modernized and not always in a good way. It is becoming a strange mix of the old and modern world.
But later, when we strayed away from the main tourist attractions and modernized parts of the island, we could still find quiet little places for ourselves. Places where we felt like we’ve stepped back in time and we could let our imagination wander freely. We were picturing all the stories that had been going on in that particular street or on those stairs we were slowly walking. That was the most precious part of the whole experience for us and we are sure longing for more.
A week in Valetta and the Three Cities
We decided to book an apartment for a week in Bormla, one of the so-called Three Cities. From the moment we stepped down from our bus, Malta hit all our senses. It was a somewhat strange feeling as the updated storefronts and some freshly painted doors reminded us we were still in the present time yet everything else gave us the impression that a time machine took us somewhere to the past.
For two old souls, excited to discover places with stories and rich history, already Valetta and the 3 cities seemed to offer more than we could chew in one week. We didn’t want to feel like quick visitors but more like two people who just moved there and really wanted to get to know the place. This slower pace really suited our mood and after 2 or 3 days, we completely forgot about time.
In the evenings, when we were returning to Bormla, we often noticed whole families sitting out on the street in front of their homes, chatting and eating dinner. A habit that is, as a local told us, sadly disappearing but can still be found in some of the remaining older cities. It gave us a warm feeling of human connection and reminded us of the days when our faces were not yet glued to mobile devices.
“No parking” signs for people of all different heights and quality of vision 😉
An unexpected Photography Gem
In our apartment, we came across a Richard Ellis’s book which included an amazing selection of his historical photos of Valetta and Floriana. Richard Ellis was a British-Maltese photographer who was one of the pioneers of photography in Malta during the late 19th and early 20th century. He actually created over 30 thousand images which form an invaluable record of Malta’s history and development during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Fascinated by his work, we went in search of some of the specific buildings captured in his photos. We wanted to see how much they have changed since then. We enjoyed that quest very much and actually managed to find most of them. It was a great way to connect with the past and we had lots of fun along the way.
Things that should not be lost
Unlike the majority of tourists visiting Malta, we didn’t make a list of “things to see”. We even tried to avoid the most popular sights and preferred to discover randomly chosen places on our own. To feel and understand the life that goes on behind the obvious.
The one place we actually wanted to visit for its historical value was Mdina. But when we got there, it was so packed with tourists that we turned around very soon.
We feel this high concentration of people is completely killing the the authenticity of some precious historical sights. Tourists literally waiting in line to take the best selfie at the best spot. With little or no care about the history and having no respect for the place they are visiting. And we were not even there at the peak of the season! This is also affecting life there and we could notice some locals being clearly annoyed by disrespectful tourists. We felt a bit sad that we are losing a chance to really connect with the culture and the unique stories the locals could share. Unless we will soon rethink tourism and reshape it into a more sustainable form, we are really afraid a lot of towns’ or cities’ cultures will be lost.
To go back to our journey on that day, we chose to spend some more time getting lost in the less busy alleys of Rabat. It was a great decision and we absolutely loved it.
Our Transportation across the island
After the first few rides, we realized that taking a bus in Malta is an adventure on its own. We could almost hear the accented voice from the Harry Potter movie: “It’s gonna be a bumpey ride!”. Reckless driving on a road full of holes with sharp turns leaves you clinging to the bar really tightly. And it’s not a big surprise if the bus sometimes doesn’t arrive at the last station at all. Lucky for us we don’t mind walking. We even happened to spot many interesting things along the way to the nearest bus stop.
Whenever we could, we loved taking a small ferry to get to and from Valetta. It was such a peaceful and romantic short ride. Especially in the late afternoon, when the first evening lights started appearing on the shore.