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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A stone's throw away from Africa - Malta

Two months ago I was lucky to spend several days in Malta - a place that had always attracted me by its marginal geographical position and its yellow stones seen on pictures.

Just as an orientation, Malta's history is linked to Carthage, Rome, the Arabs, the Phoenicians, the Kingdom of Sicily, the Knights of St. John, the French and the British.

Valetta is fantastic as seen from a boat in the bay. It looks haughty and inaccessible, strangely austere in its warm colours. The trips takes you to a cholera hospital, run down custom houses, magnificent palaces....

View of Valetta from the port

The two pictures below can give you the impression of the many nooks and crannies hidden in the wide Valetta port. One wouldn't have a problem finding a parking place for one's boat which is not the case for one's car.

Valetta or Sanglea or Vittoriosa (they are all linked anyway)

Fort St Angelo seen from Valetta

A place not to miss on Malta is the inner city of Mdina and its suburb Rabat. They say it was built by the Phoenicians who obviously preferred to stay away from the coast. Too vulnerable to the pirates I guess...

Mdina, the old capital

The small towns adjoining Valetta - Sanglea and Vittoriosa - are of particular interest at dusk and before storm when water is motionless.

Martaskala and Marsaxlokk were two happy fishing villages on a Sunday morning late October. The African sun dries the puddles from the evening rain and caresses the men sitting in cafes enjoying the renovated waterside in Martaskala and the cute white benches. Who said EU funding doesn't have an impact?


Although we looked hard for it we couldn't find a nice piece of coast. If I go back to Malta it will not be to the seaside but rather to Valetta. And of course, to confirm the cliche, we immediately ran into a bird shooting party. If you don't know local people are famous for shooting the birds that migrate from Europe to Africa and vice versa. Pretty mean I would say but maybe they also have their justification.

However, imagine that you are a tired bird finally seeing a piece of land. You hear the sound of your brothers and sisters (which are actually recorded), you get closer and you get a bullet.

Malta West Coast

Another disappointment was that no one was spared the 1990s and 2000s building spree damages. The empty apartments are in the thousands and they are simply not nice unlike the great old yellowish houses that were pulled down to make space for the new monstrosities with a sea view. Business and economic growth can't be an excuse here.

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