Malta and Gozo, teenager view

Malta – along with its sister islands, Gozo and Comino – is devotedly visited by tourists from all over the world, and not without a reason either. Diverse landscape, the folklore and great weather are only three of them, so it’s definitely a place worth visiting. As all three of us missed that little bit of sunshine, we took the direction of Malta – and this is an account from the perspective of a teenager.

Day 1: Arrival

The first day was exciting, to me at least – I have never been in such an exotic place before, so it was something completely new. Despite of a car ride at an ungodly hour, all the burdensome security and another three hours spent on board, I was thrilled. After all, you don’t get to visit a place so different from your everyday life, well, every day, and I was sure that Malta would be exactly that.

As per usual, we had to get up at three in order to have a coffee at Starbucks to keep up with the airport ritual. The flight itself was alright. Just like any other flight carried out by regular airlines, even though the seats in this particular airplane were quite close to each other. The biggest attraction throughout the entire thing was the landing, where we finally saw the sun reflect from the dusty landing lane and the small terminal building itself. Already, mum (known as Kinga on this blog) was making fun of me, saying how the poor child finally saw a palm tree in real life.

Popeye Village

After another hour driving from the airport we arrived at Mellieha – our place of accommodation. Our luck had it so that the hotel was located on quite a steep hill, which in turn meant that literally all of our trips ended with climbing back up to our little haven. Talking of trips, there was no time to rest. After leaving the luggage in the hotel, we went just down the road to the first attraction, Popeye Village.

The village built in the 80s for the Disney film was bought by the Maltese council and is used as a tourist spot to this day. That place was definitely quite climatic – colourful, wooden huts, hand-painted signs and allusions to spinach wherever it was possible. Besides the places one could expect from a fishers’ village, there also was a smaller alley dedicated entirely to Christmas, including moving elf puppets. It was quite evident that the location was old, but workers painted and cleaned the rooms and balustrades relentlessly.

After visiting all the available places we decided to swim out in a boat – one of the more questionable attractions supplied by the village, which nevertheless impressed me as we swam quite far into the sea. We could see the village itself, but also the hilly landscape of Malta. After returning to land, we ended up at the only restaurant in the village to eat something. Although the food wasn’t spectacular, at least we had our first encounter with the Maltese cats. We had no idea then that they are an inherent part of the islands – it was just a nice encounter with the kitties. Finally, having the return up the same road we came from in perspective, we decided to take the bus up to the hotel and that’s how the first day has ended.

Day 2: Valletta and Marsaxlokk

Second day was designed to Valletta. The current capital of Malta. The city itself is not big at all, however the difference in altitude means that sightseeing can be challenging. We started with a small park just to the left of the bus station, where you can see the beautiful panorama of nearby towns. Going to the high street, we passed a couple of side streets that took our breath away. A street could be steep enough to need steps rather than a pavement on either side of the asphalt. When we got there, we found the famous ice cream place known for its rose-shaped ice cream. They look great, just the way they tasted! Later, we went down to the fort, just to climb back up to the famous Valletta gardens…

However, I think that it was worth it, despite our legs hurting the next day. Finally we decided that instead of looking for food in the town, we would go to a fishers’ village known for its colourful boats.

After forty minutes on the bus we arrived at Marsaxlokk, where we soon found out that getting a meal would be tricky. Most of the restaurants opened in the evening, which meant up to two hours’ wait. Luckily, smaller places had open kitchens, so we ended up picking one of them. It was a good choice: not only each of the restaurants had fresh seafood because of being located in a fishers’ village, but the food in that particular place was divine, from crab sticks to octopus.

Day 3: Gozo

Third day meant Gozo – Malta’s sister island. After getting to the ferry and crossing over we immediately got onto a hop-on, hop-off bus – a typical tourist contraption, in which we could go around the whole island. Slowly riding around and appreciating the view from the open-top upper deck, we met an elderly Polish couple who happily got off in the same places we have under the excuse of wanting to see certain places. It soon became evident that they were having trouble with English, so we determined that one day couldn’t possibly hurt us when helping someone is always worth it.

We saw the salt place where Maltese people used the sea to collect salt and one of the bays before we got to Azure Window, one of the most popular tourist destinations because of its sheer beauty. As there was an opportunity to go down closer to the “window”, we used the occasion to shoot some material. The way down was a bit wild – if that’s a way to to describe a surface covered with stones and the tide that soaks your socks completely. It was a certain survival experience, from trying to not break our legs to keeping our shoes nice and dry as the day was long. Once we got there though, it looked incredible. I’ll just say: it was definitely worth it.

After Azure Window mum and I went on a boat to see the place local people call “Gozo’s Blue Grotto” as it’s similar to the famous location in Malta. Sure enough, the water was equally blue, but there definitely were less caves. We got back onto the bus and after seeing the last bay we headed for Victoria, the capital city of Gozo. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the Citadel as it was already too late, so instead we turned back to catch the last bus ride and went back to Malta only to come back to Mellieha and have a great meal in a restaurant opposite our hotel.

Day 4: Blue Grotto and Mdina

After seeing “Gozo’s Blue Grotto”, mum insisted on seeing the original. We got another bus (I can’t believe how many times we used public transport!) and changed at the airport to go straight to Blue Grotto. The place itself can be seen in its full glory if you get off a stop early, where you can step down to a terrace of sorts bordered by a stone fence and see the bay as well as Blue Grotto itself, which is formed by a stone arch and numerous hidden caves. We walked further down, where you could find little cafes, souvenirs and, most importantly, boats religiously flocked by tourists. The trip by boat – all three of us this time – really showed us, that visiting it is definitely worth it. It looks grander from below than it ever did on postcards.It definitely lives up to its “blue” status – the water is not even blue, it’s cerulean!

When we finally had enough of the views from the nearby cafe, we took on the direction of Rabat – also known as the link between the outside and the city of Mdina, the silent city. Besides the residents of the city itself, all road traffic is forbidden. Before we got to Mdina itself, however, we also dropped by the Rabat catacombs – which lacked that flavour of history, in my opinion. Even though you could buy an audio guide, the catacombs were just corridors without visible purpose, so I’m not convinced that they would add anything to the experience. Once we got to Mdina, however, it was something else entirely. The whole village was formed with lightly-coloured bricks and it actually felt quieter.

It has its own charm in the sense that besides tourists, it seemed abandoned and peaceful. It’s very hard to describe – it’s seemingly just another place where there ar just regular people living their lives, but the element of silence sets it apart. Particularly in smaller alleyways it felt right to remain silent just to respect the residents. It was definitely a very interesting experience.

Day 5: All that’s good always comes to an end

Just like all of the good things in life, our stay in Malta came to an end. Friday morning meant packing and checking out of the hotel. After a short while of stress due to late transfer we were finally on our way to the airport. Coming through customs took only a while and we were back to the place that has the same feel regardless of country – the gates. One interesting thing about the duty-free shops at Malta was the fact that instead of just one section set aside for the local specialities, the whole zone was dominated by Kinnie (their local soft drink), Maltese sweets and liquors. It was soon time to board though, and we were back at Gatwick.

Sure enough, all that’s good always comes to an end.