Colin and I had the same impression, in fact the same word in our heads when we first saw Malta from the plane: beige. It’s a dry island; no rivers and not much rain in the summer. In fact we’ve seen a lot of cacti here and they even make a local liqueur out of prickly pears. Also red wine mixed with lemonade which was waiting for us when we arrived. I thought it might take it easy with the alcohol this month after Italy, but now I’m itching to find our local liquor store and see what other interesting concoctions Malta makes locally.
But back to our first impressions. Most of the buildings here are made of local limestone which of course is beige. Our apartment has limestone ceilings, a limestone staircase and in some places ancient looking limestone brick walls. It’s built into a ridge so the bedroom is actually underground which makes it deliciously dark and quiet, although also a little damp and dungeon-like. It was something like 27 Celsius out there today but our apartment was super cool, I don’t imagine ever needing the aircon here.
We’ve got an awesome view of farms, vineyards and miles of distant city. I think this is the greenest area we’ve seen so far, and about 2k south is a big forested park. The beach isn’t far although we haven’t figured out how to reach it yet. The important thing is that yesterday I set my computer up by the window and actually got some work done on Rebuilder. I enjoyed the view and after sundown watched fireworks displays in two different towns. They had fireworks during the day as well, lots of them just big explosive bangs. I think it’s for the 70th’s anniversary of the day the bombs started falling in WWII. The raids lasted for two years.. it’s hard to imagine. On the other hand, it might just be celebrations for a Saint’s Feast, which every town in Malta does during the summer months. The feast in our town of Rabat is the biggest of all, and we’re going to be here for it – what luck!
So we knew basically nothing about Malta when we decided to come here, but I’m learning all kinds of facts, such as:
– The entire country is only twice the size of San Francisco and half the population (400k)
– They speak Maltese, a crazy language that sounds like Italian crossed with Arabic… because that’s what it is. I still have no clue how to pronounce our street name (Saqqajja Hill).
– The buses are beautiful antiques of various makes, owned and maintained by the drivers
– Malta was run by the Brits until the 60’s and only recently joined the EU and got on the Euro
– Malta is crazy crazy Catholic and believe Saint Paul was shipwrecked here
– Divorce, abortion and pornography is illegal in Malta
– You can’t walk to the corner store here without tripping over ancient ruins or a UNESCO world heritage site
– Everybody watches TV in Italian here
– Their public health care is rated 5th in the world by the WHO (Canada is 30th)
– They make good, cheap wine here, particularly Syrahs which are Colin’s favorite
Today we got food delivered from Smart.com.mt which was a smart idea, and I was happy to find it’s cheaper here than SF or Vic despite so much needing to be imported. They do have good local bread, cheese, wine ($2 a litre, let the good times continue) and even interesting beer.