Where to start! Malta was amazing! We just got back from a week-long vacation on Gozo Island, part of the island nation of Malta and enjoyed every second of our time there. Especially since we finally got to see the sun which is basically a mythological being this summer in Germany.
Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea, 50 miles south of Italy, and consists of three islands. Malta is the largest and main island, Comino is the smallest and uninhabited, and Gozo which is where we spent our week. The official languages are Maltese and English since it left the UK in 1964. Prior to the English, everybody and anybody ruled these islands so you can trace history all over the islands to basically every major empire that ever existed! One of my favorite history pieces is that Calypso Cave, which is in the cliffs overlooking Ramla beach, is thought to be the same cave Homer mentioned in The Odyssey where Calypso, the beautiful nymph, kept Odysseus as a `prisoner of love’ for seven years.
So, knowing that, I think the title to this blog makes more sense. To get to our destination we hopped on the train in our town which brought us to the airport and we boarded our 2.5 hour flight to Malta. The airport on the main island was tiny so we deplaned via a staircase and took a bus across the runway. After picking up our luggage and signing for our car we started the real fun. In Malta they drive on the left side of the street, and the driver sits on the left (as in where the front passenger would sit in an American car). To make it even more fun I rented a manual transmission so I was shifting with my left hand. I realize now as I type that it sounds like no big deal but let me tell you, for real I have never experienced such a level of anxiety. None of my driving habits and experiences worked for this vehicle so all I can say is AMEN that I rocked it and only managed a few minor scrapes. Driving around circles and making right hand turns were the two things I feared most if you can believe that!
That being said, I drove us across the main island and onto the ferry. How do you make someone experiencing anxiety driving in a new situation really scared? Have them drive up a ramp onto a boat, packed in with other vehicles like sardines. Oh, and then when its time to get off the ferry lets lower the hydraulic floor that we didn’t realize we were parked on just for extra fun! So I drove off the ramp, through some winding, sparsely paved streets and we made it to our farmhouse rental. (In case you were counting modes of transportation we are at 5)
Natalie, the housekeeper, met me on the street to show me how to get to the house and give me the keys, thankfully so! We walked down an unmarked alley, around a corner, and across from a lot with rabbits and roosters was the entrance to our rental. I was in complete amazement. After such a stressful 12 hours of traveling this oasis was just what I needed and even better than the pictures in the listing.
Upon entering, we walked into an open air courtyard with a bbq, dipping pool, and the entrances to the main house and secondary space. The secondary space would be where my in-laws would stay, and we had the bedrooms upstairs in the main house. We were all very happy to have our own private spaces, and to be so immersed in the local instead of cramped into a busy hotel on the main island.
Almost immediately we were in the pool. When we left Germany that morning it was about 50 degrees F… in Malta it was just about 90! We were all surprised with the landscape of the islands. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting but I do know I was not expecting it to be as dry as it was. The air was humid but the land was as dry as can be. We saw virtually no green, unless you count the cacti. Everything was built with sandstone and there seemed to be a sandy dust everywhere. It was beautiful, but dry. And it was made clear pretty quickly that water was an issue. All the buildings had water collection tanks on the roofs, which didn’t really strike us as odd, but when we turned on the faucets and the shower we realized how much of an issue water must be. Drips was all we got really. The clearest way I can describe the lack of water is that after a trip to the beach I showered off and there was not enough water flow to wash the sand down the drain.
We spent our whole week on Gozo and absolutely loved it. Brock, and therefor we, had a bit of a hard time but we managed and made the best of it. Poor little guy got strep throat two days before we left so he and I were both on antibiotics. He also managed to start cutting one of his two year old molars and in general he is a Pacific North Western kid who just isn’t crazy about the heat.
Most morning we started off with a walk around town to the playgrounds or to the beach. Brock absolutely loved these walks. He would watch the roosters crow and the lizards scurry across the alleyway. I knew he would love playing in the sand and I was right! Not once did he hear me say “keep the sand in the box” and he took full advantage throwing fistfuls of sand into the water and sometimes at me. We went to two beaches multiple times. The first was San Blas Bay, and the second (and much better) was Ramla.
San Blas was somewhat a gem. We parked at the end of a quiet street and walked down a paved walkway towards the bay. On our right was a cliff and to the left were gardens blooming with lemon and pomegranate trees. All of a sudden it was a steeper walk than we cared for. I actually broke my big toe trying to creep along while holding Brock on my hip. We got to the bottom and immediately decided we would pay the guy for a ride in his truck back up.
The beach was small, and somewhat rocky but absolutely beautiful. The sand was so soft I can only compare it to silk, and the water was crystal clear. We set up in a corner of the bay by ourselves and enjoyed family time.
The second beach, Ramla, was much larger and known as the best beach in Malta. It was the same silky red sand as at San Blas but without the rocks. We made a couple trips here and each time loved every second. Fil and his dad walked out around the rock cliffs to fish one time. They didn’t catch anything but found a drastically different landscape.
Brock had a hard time getting sand on his face while napping, but he still loved it.
Oh, and at the end of the beach where the rocks started Fil took some pictures underwater:
We did not go crazy with touring like we usually do. This time we wanted to really kick back… and Brock kind of made us relax also. But one day Fil and his Dad went out on a fishing trip and Me and Christy checked out the largest town on the island, Victoria Rabat. We wandered the markets perusing the local made lace, vegetables and catches of the day and made our way up to the Citadella.
It was not what we expected at all. Neither of us expected there to be an active town within the walls. Most of the shops were closed when we went through but it was clear that this was not just an old fort, it was still a very active part of the community.
Outside of the Citadella the town was decorated for a celebration. Lights were strung across the street and VERY decorative statues were erected every few feet.
The boys did not catch the tuna they were hoping for, but had a great time on the Mediterranean and brought back some spot tailed sea bream that we enjoyed for dinner.
One of the last places we had to check out before leaving was on the far side of Gozo, and is known as the Azure Window. In simple terms it is a rock feature on the coast, but was really stunning as we caught it at sunset.
Just behind the window is another cool feature called the Inland Sea. As you can imagine, it is a little sea shut off from the main waters that you can access through a natural cave/tunnel in the rock. We didn’t take the small boats through as it was getting dark but it was cool to see. I was amused that people seemed to be camping there and treated it like Lake George in NY for example. It was funny to me since it was about a 30 second walk from the Mediterranean.
Hands down, Brock’s favorite day on vacation was our last. We got on the ferry, rode it to the Main Island and then drove to the Malta National Aquarium. Brock had the time of his life. There was a little tank by the entrance that he was completely captivated by while we purchased our tickets. I asked Brock if he wanted to see more fishes and he RAN through the entrance gate ready to go! The aquarium was very small, but we enjoyed it a lot since Brock was having so much fun. The only thing that frightened him was the ray. He was fine with it until it swept up along the glass where he was standing. Immediately he jumped back and kept his distance. To make his day even better, in addition to the normal fun of an airport, this one had a piano in the gate area and we were lucky enough to have two very talented performers tickle the ivory while we waited. Brock clapped after each song.
We were very impressed with Gozo, and so glad we decided to spend the whole week there. I loved hearing the roosters crow all day, except for siesta when everyone, rooster and human quieted down and napped. The island was a very interesting mix of Italian and Middle Eastern art and architecture with very personal touches on each house. It would have been nice if Brock wasn’t sick, but what can you do. We enjoyed delicious, and very inexpensive food, quiet beaches, loved our Airbnb, and enjoyed our sunset walks through the island gardens to put Brock to sleep.
If you are in Europe, go to Gozo… and if you are in the states and can swing the trip we highly recommend it. With a toddler we could not do a lot of the main things the Island has to offer like snorkeling and diving the shipwrecks and coral reefs, but we enjoyed every second and would not change a thing. It was a major buzzkill to leave the beautiful warm sun of the island to return to a barely 60 degree summer in Germany.
Oh, and one more picture for you. This is what happens when you travel. 110V to 220V to 230V… all that to charge our iPad.