Trip Start Mar 16, 2004
35Trip End Jun 13, 2004
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Where I stayed
Malta is a fairly small island, well actually group of islands. I was going to base myself in the Hibernian Hostel and explore a different part of Malta each day before moving onto Gozo, the second largest island, for a day or two. So I was up early on Saturday morning to make the most of the day.
I had picked up a brochure for the Malta experience and decide d it would be a good place to start. The Malta experience is a 45 minute film about Malta's amazing history. It's shown every hour in a very stylish little cinema within the old city. When it started with shots of a thunder storm and a deep voice booming "In the beginning..." I thought it would all be very silly. But not so. The show is a collection of still images very expertly woven together and supported by a good narrative. The perfect lazy way to cover 5000+ years of history
It seems to have been a part of every empire going, some more beneficial to the island than others. Of course the main shaping power of the history we see is the famous Knights of Malta, who didn't really want Malta in the first place when the Spanish king offered it to them, even though they were a fleet of refugees avoiding the Turks. Reluctantly they took it and after narrowly surviving a Turkish invasion attempt set about building serious fortifications. You can see from the height and thickness of the walls these people were pretty worried about their safety. They make Derry's Walls look insignificant by comparison. I was so impressed by the story that I bought a little book about Malta's history and more weight is the last thing I need.
My head swimming with history I set out to explore the eastern side of the island. The cities seemed to go on for ever. It would be easy to believe that there is no countryside in Malta, but I eventually found it. I passed by Fort Rinella and into a countryside of small fields and stone walls. When I got to St Thomas Bay I followed a little rough track around the headland
As i was taking a few photos a girl came up and asked if I knew why they liked to trap so many birds. I was able to reply honestly I have no idea. I thought at first she was a local , but she was a Canadian on shore leave from an oil supply vessel.She had a couple of weeks leave and was taking a break in Malta. We walked around the coast into Marsaxlokk and had a good oul chat on the way. It was late afternoon by now so I took my leave and headed the 6km back to Silema by the direct route. I hadn't brought any lights with me.
I spent the evening watching the second half of the England v France rugby match before going to Simon's bar for more of the music.
South Of The Island
On Sunday I explored the south of the island
Anyway I was looking forward to exploring the limestone area. I cycle through Zebbug and soon reach Siggiewi. You barely leave on town here before entering the next. I skirted around the town and found the track up to Lafarla Cross which marks the edge of the limestone plateau. An old woman walking her dog came over to talk to me when see saw me checking my map. She told me it was a rough path and she was right. A little rocky lane between stone walls led up the steep hillside to the cross and the Church of the Annunciation.
On a clear day you can probably see most of the island. Today Siggiewi, about 2km away disappeared into the mist as I reached the top.
I continued on the road past Dingli Cliffs, could see nothing and tried to find some of the famous cart ruts. The Clapham Common Cart ruts were nearby. I found them ok and can only presume its called clapham Common because there are so many of them criss crossing.
Being an exposed limestone plateau, the landscape was naturally very similar to the Burren. Lots of red campion around, one of the few plants I can recognise. A Sardinian Warbler sings from a bush as I pass deep quarries where most of Valleta probably came from.
I didn't bother going to Rabat and Mdina, the old capital, as they are on a ridge and half hidden by mist. On the way into Hamrun at the edge of the conurbation I cycled past the Wignacourt Aqueduct. I never seen one before so stopped to take a look
The party at Simon's pub had moved into the street where a large Cisk marquee had been erected. I drifted in just before dusk, great now that the clocks have gone forward. There was a nice crowd milling around and I found a free seat and table outside the door. Soon got chatting to Steph the rep. Worked for an agency selling tours and liked to hear what people thought of Malta. Him and the rest of his friends were good fun. During the conversation I discovered that Malta is looking forward to the EU, although small businesses are really worried that the competition will destroy them, bird hunting is actually illegal and that political corruption still exists in Malta.
As they got up to leave Steph wrote out a list of the major sites for me in Gozo and Mata and gave me a copy of their tourist magazine. I checked out the disco area near Sliema, but I must be getting old, I preferred to have on in the Scotsman Bar and back to Simons.