A whole new transport experience
24.05.2007 - 07.06.2007 26 °C
Unlike most other countries in Europe and presumably the world, the buses in Malta are privately owned and the driver makes a commission on the tickets sold. Factor in the old school Leyland buses, where the front door is always opened and the bus is decorated with the drivers favourite football team and religious sayings and you have a transport experience like no other. Quite often there is a side-kick hanging out the front door yelling obscenities at his mates whilst trying to increase passenger numbers. Now I may not fully understand the language, but coming from Maltese blood I know enough of the swear words to find this hilarious entertainment.
We've enjoyed many fun bus rides in Malta whilst steering clear of the "dodgy bastard taxi drivers". My parents were only very young when they emigrated to Australia but one thing they warned me about was to avoid the taxis. After only taking a couple of steps outside customs we were approached by taxi drivers who proceeded to tell us that the only way to get to our destination was of course by taxi....and it would only cost us 25 euros. We refused their kind offer and started the walk up the hill to Valletta city centre which was 'apparently' only a 15-20min walk from the ferry terminal. Some 45 minutes, and many stairs later we arrived at the bus terminal 2 hot and weary travellers given the combination of backpacks and 30 degree heat. A 30 minute bus ride costing a mere 0.30 euros we arrived at my uncles empty flat. The 2 bedroom flat just 2 min walk from the water at St Paul's Bay seemed more like a palace to us after 2 months of hostels, pensions and dodgy hotel rooms with noisy motorway views.
One thing I haven't been suprised by is the friendliness of the locals, especially the old folk, which I encountered in my search for my mum's family cave. The beauty of Malta is that pretty much everyone knows everyone. Even though my Mum's family left over 50 years ago, I only had to ask a few locals in the town where they lived who somehow could still recall my Mum's family and point me in the direction of where they lived. On many occasions I can recall my Mum saying "Son, if I told you I was born in a cave you wouldn't believe me!" and to be honest I probably didn't. But having tracked down the site where there are about 10 caves built into the side of a rock face where my Mum's family lived amongst others and wandering through them, I now believe her. The caves have long since been vacated but there were still signs that these were well lived in caves. Some were sectioned off into numerous rooms, the hessian sacks used as curtains were still hanging, along with rusted old buckets we're told were used to carry water, and old cooking pots. Visiting these caves was quite a surreal experience to think that people actually lived here, let alone my Mum's family.
When visiting a country you always gain a much bigger appreciation of the history because you get to see it with your own eyes. In Malta I have been blown away by the amount of attacks and attempted invasions this little island has had to endure, mainly due to its strategic location smack bang in the middle of the meditteranean. We visited some WW2 air-raid shelters when Malta became one of the most bombed places on earth.
We also visited the Mosta Dome - a massive church, which during WW2 a bomb was dropped, piercing the roof during a service and did not explode or injure anyone. This is considered a miracle by the Maltese. It's after visiting these places that the locals are so proud of their history and these little islands.
We've had 2 wonderful weeks here and even though you can drive from one side of the island in less than an hour there is plenty to see and do here. We have swum in some of the most crystal clear bright blue water at the Blue Lagoon, had a day snorkelling, did a Jeep Safari around the island of Gozo and experienced a religious festival quite unlike anything I've seen before. We sampled the islands night-life hotspot at Paceville where some of the female fashions really do leave nothing to the imagination. Throw in the hot weather and we can see why this is such a pommie tourist haven.
Next stop is to Sicily and then the Amalfi Coast.
PS: The pastizzi and Kinnie taste better here!