Saturday, March 5, 2011

Men's March Malta Madness.

I had the great fortune last weekend to visit the bizarre and wonderful island nation of Malta.

I had been looking forward to this trip since my friends and I bought our plane tickets on December 8th.  I remember the date very clearly because it was the day I missed my flight back to Spain from Paris due to inclement weather, and was forced to spend the night in a hotel in the most distasteful town in the world: Beauvais, France.  Just a little background.

I bought a Lonely Planet guidebook to Malta while in Paris, and looked through it in the weeks leading up to the Malta voyage to figure out what there actually is to do on the island.  You may be asking yourself, “You mean you didn’t know what there was to do on the island before you bought your tickets?”  To you I say, “You are correct, sir!”

The only things I really knew about Malta were that it’s an island off the southern coast of Italy, about halfway between Sicily and Libya, it’s famous for the “Knights of Malta,” and the language (Malti or Maltese, both are correct) is the only Semitic language with a Latin alphabet.  That last one means that, while the language is written with the same letters we use in English (or French, or Spanish, or German, or Italian), the words have their roots in Arabic.  If you transcribed Arabic phonetically into English, you’d be able to see similarities between quite a few words.  It’s really fascinating.  Needless to say, I bought a dictionary.

I went with three of my good friends from my teaching in Spain program, Mike, Joey and Reed.  We decided when we bought the tickets that we wanted to keep things low key and have some guy time.  It was probably one of the most fun weekends of my life.  I enjoy traveling with my amigas here in Spain, don't get me wrong.  That being said, it was nice to take a break and just kick it with some brohans.  It was a very relaxed, meander-from-place-to-place kind of trip.  A vacation indeed.

We had to fly out of Sevilla, so we all convened the day before to hang out for the afternoon/evening.  I met up with my Sevilla host mom for lunch and one of the CIEE program directors, Helena, after lunch for some lunch beers.  Mike Fish joined us as well.

Mike Fish, Helena and myself at Plaza Alfalfa, Sevilla

Eventually I met up with my amigos americanos and we had dinner at Los Coloniales (fantastic), and then met up with some other friends who live in Sevilla for some drinks.

We flew out to Malta the next afternoon, finally got to our hostel in Valletta (the capital), met a girl named Vanessa who was in our hostel, and then corralled her into joining us a night out in the neighboring town of Paceville (the going out capital).  It was a surprisingly happening place.  Despite the windy rainy weather, the Maltese youth were out in full force, dressed to the nines.  I was impressed.  I feel like a lot of the time in Spain jeans and an ambiguously logoed t-shirt are “going out” attire.  These kids were wearing button up shirts, jackets, nice shoes and dress pants, dresses and stilettos.  The works.

We hit up the town for a few hours and then retreated back to sleepy Valletta.

The next two days were filled with trips around the island to see different sites.  We saw some 5000-year old temples that were arranged according to where the sun rises on the Equinox.  We went to the other side of the island (an 45-minute, 0,50€ bus ride) and got rained on while looking at some cliffs, and then stopped for a visit to the fortified city of Mdina.

My favorite part of the trip was the visit to Mdina (pronounced /emdeena/).  It’s smack in the middle of the island, and is incredibly well preserved.  Here’s an aerial shot:

Sky shot of "The Silent City," Mdina.

If it looks big, don’t be fooled.  You could walk from one end to the other in less than 5 minutes probably (the whole city is 0.3 sq miles).  Mostly all the streets had this uniform tan stone on the building façades.  At first I thought the city was too sterile and uniform to be beautiful.  After walking around for a while, however, it dawned on me that there was an inherent beauty in its simplicity.  I don’t really know how to explain it other than that.  The longer I was there the more comforted and more at ease I felt by my surroundings.  I would highly recommend it.

After a few days of seeing as much as we could of the island (no beaches, unfortunately), we had to return to Spainland.

Thanks, Malta, for good times.

Reed, Mike and Joey at the Hagar Qim temples.
The preferred form of Maltese public transportation.

Cathedral in Mdina.
Streets of Mdina.
Another Mdina shot.
The cold, windy and rainy cliffs of Dingli.
Evidence of the

Square outside of Valletta with the Floriana cathedral in the background.
Valletta at night.
On the shoreline.

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