We spent in Malta couple of days and realised that it would be a perfect place for retirement. It’s just a perfect country for pensioners, warm, not too expensive, rather small (it takes no more than one hour to drive accross entire island) and looks like life goes really slowly there.
It would have been much better to be a rentier but since none of us is, we will keep on thinking about Malta as a place for usual retirement. We imagined how a day of such pensioner would look like in Malta.
We get up not too early in the morning in one of fisherman villages Marsaxlokk. We chose this town because south of the island is less popular among turists and our town gets crowded only on Sunday when hundreds of tourists pop in to see the fish market. In low season morning streets are rather empty. First we are going on a walk on seaside boulevard and watch fishermen returning from morning hunting. After some time whole bay is filled with colorful boats luzzo. Boulevard gets crowded, parents and grandparents wait for their children to get back from the sea. Sun is rising higher and some tourists arrive.
More and more chairs are occupied in many seaside restaurants and we keep on hearing Cisk i Kinnie being ordered. The first one is a beer – an international lager but Maltese production. Tastes exactly like like Russian, Spanish or African but being on Malta you have to try one. Children and drivers reach for Kinnie – another Maltese drink, non-alcoholic, of bitter – sweet taste, made of bitter oranges extract (chinotto) and some Mediterranean herbs. It’s a must to try one but it’s difficult to like it. We, pensioners, enjoy morning espresso together with our neighbors. When it gets really crowdy and hot, it’s time to leave.
Today we planned to visit the capital city. Maltese distances are really small so we are wondering whether to take the car or to use public transportation. We choose a bus since tonight we are having a dinner with friends being on holidays in Malta. Recently old buses have been replaced with new ones and they seem to be somehow more punctual. The journey will take longer but the bus will take us directly where we want to. Maltese buses arrive everywhere.
On the way we admire neighborhood. Stone fences separating fields, roads and estates are characteristic for the island. Built of loosely stacked rocks or stone blocks, very often overgrown with giant cactuses largely make up the atmosphere of the island. Whole Malta is covered with dense network of walls. They look especially charming in our part of the island where stone – gravel, narrow roads together with those stone walls create idyllic landscapes.
After several minutes of travel we are in Valletta. The city lives a lot faster than a sleepy south, you can easily see that this is the capital. “White collars” running the streets contrast slow moving tourists. Narrow, intersecting at right angles streets of the city, thanks to the high buildings give a little cool from the heat, but many stairs and high hills of the city do not encourage to walking. Most of tourists direct stright to St. John’s Co-Cathedral, than to Grandmaster’s palace, only few reach the end of peninsula to see Fort Saint Elmo. Here and in 16th century the battle of Lepanto Ottoman Empire suffered the greatest loss what initiated it’s downfall.
Coming back to the reality – we are finally getting to the main point of our visit in Valletta. As pensioners we often visit the doctor. Pleasent chill of the waiting room lets us admire drawings evoiking glorious tradition of Maltese healthcare: from the times of Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, whose members while ruling the island organized here one of the best hospitals in Europe till the times of World War I, when Malta was called the Europe nurse (its hospitals provided help to 20 000 wounded people). The medical visit as many things on Malta went really quickly. We still have some time until our evening meeting with friends, so we decide to visit our favourite places in the capital. Barrakka Gardens give us a little cool. An afternoon coffee we drink watching amazing views over Maltese Three Cities, alled also “The Cottonera”. Those three cities: Birgu, Bormla and Isla are located south east from Valletta. Panorama of the Grand Harbour is dominated by the roofs of churches and fortification walls which defended the country during Ottoman invasions. Fort Saint Angelo is the most interesting one. Together with Fort Saint Elmo was the main defence against Ottoman attacks. Today it is one of three extraterritorial properties of the Sovereign Order of Malta. Maltese Knights resided on the island since 16th century. Although Napoleon made them leave the island, remains of their activities are to be seen not only in the capital. We come accross numerous churches, forts and observatory towers everyhwere on the island.
We still have some time so we decide to get to our meeting by water. We take the ferry from Valletta to Silema. We turn around to see how setting sun beautifully illuminates the peninsula. The postcard view with church towers and dome of the Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is well known to all tourists visiting Malta.
Short trip accross Silema ends up in St. Julian’s. Walking the streets we follow changing character of the island. Numerous, typical for Valletta wooden balconies covering building facades disappear. Townhouses become smaller, less decorated. We notice more ceramic figures or reliefs of home patrons right next to house entrances. Once every Maltese house had its own patron. What is more, sometimes above door or on the roofs, one can notice bull’s horns, which are supposed to scare away evil spirits.
Finally we reach Paceville, part of St. Julian’s. Here classical Maltese buildings give way to modern hotel buildings. The neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, discos is the center of Malta’s nightlife. It’s time for dinner – we can choose from divere Maltese cuisine. Currently it is dominated by Italian and British influences. We can choose from pastas, pizzas, seafood, through staks till standard fish and chips. There are also distinctive Maltese dishes, the most famous are beef meatballs and cooked many ways rabbit.
While waiting for our friends we order some wine, Maltese wine. In this warm climate grapes grow nicely and wine production is a must.
We are wondering why Ola and her friends are getting late. Maybe they havent changed the time? Or maybe they looked at the wrong clock? One of Maltese legends says that on two church towers, two clocks should show different times. One correct time for prayers, the other one wrong to confuse Satan. Enjoying good wine in the rays of setting sun, at finally bearable temperature we can wait as long as it takes…
Doesn’t it seem like a perfect day in perfect conditions in retirement? While our pension is still far away and Ola just takes her first steps, we visit the island together getting to know its most interesting attractions.
In our next posts we will tell you about our Maltese wine experiences and will guide you to best beaches on the island.