Most of the cities in Europe have undergrounds bahn (trains) or tram systems but Malta still relies on buses and taxis for public transportation. I learned that there used to be Malta railway line and tramway in the past. I visited the archipelago a few weeks ago and saw only bus and ferries as the primary means to explore the gorgeous Maltese islands. Here is a personal account from there while I was traveling from Cirkewwa to Tal Pieta.
How easy is it to travel in Malta?
Well let me answer this first. The bus stops are easily accessible and it is easy to work around your itinerary by using the services of respective bus numbers. Malta may not have the most convenient undergrounds trains but it has good buses with frequent services. The arrival and departure of the buses is not as punctual as in Scandinavian countries but you will not be disappointed. In my 3 days stay, I found buses for every other place that I wanted to see. If you are not sure where to catch your first bus, just head to Valletta bus station. Most of the buses start and end here. I really liked the fact that the bus drivers in Malta close the bus door once they feel the bus is full to its maximum capacity. They are approachable and helpful too.
I also used Bolt taxi service to travel to and from the airport to my hotel apartment. For the rest of the trip, I relied on the bus. And I faced no issue of any kinds. For trips to Gozo and Comino Islands, one has to travel till the northernmost part of Malta, i.e. Ċirkewwa harbour. And for this one has to spend a considerable amount of time in the bus. Personally, I traveled there twice, one day for Gozo island and second day for Comino. On the second day, I met an aged Maltese woman, Melita. She joined me on the seat next to me and we took a liking for each other with friendly gestures and smiles. No doubt, the ride for the next forty minutes turned out to be a memorable experience from Malta. I bet she had one of the most infectious smiles.
Are you a local? I was quick to ask her.
“Yes, I am, she replied. I have lived in Malta for 64 years and I will happily die here.” With her affectionate smiles, I could read her face that she was curious about me too. But before she asked me a couple of questions, the first thing she asked me was, “Did you like my country Malta?”
And then we chatted like old acquaintances.
How many days you have been here? What all did you see? You look like an Asian. Where are you from?
I was happy to meet someone like me, who loved asking questions, one after another. I was quick to respond that I was absolutely impressed with Malta. I was there for only 3 days but I had realized that Malta needed atleast a week or a fortnight.
I have seen Gozo and Comino in two days and kept the last day for Valletta. I am from India. I also added, I will have to come again to Malta. Next time, I will bring my husband along.
I think she liked my last line.
Aah, you are married. You don’t look like one but you are too brave to be traveling alone.
I blushed and told her, its been 8 years now. My husband could’t come along for he had some official engagements and I am here in Europe for a 6 week long trip. I added that I am here with a friend and pointed out to Laxmi who was sitting on the other side.
She waved to my friend and heaved a sign of relief. She was happy that I had company and I was not all by myself.
Two girls exploring Europe. Wow, I like it. You girls are making the most of it. It is difficult for me to think about it because I have always traveled with my husband and she pointed out to the man who was sitting in the row behind us. He must have been 70 years old, bald and had a wide smile on his face.
Before I could ask her more, she initiated herself , do you want to ask me anything about Malta? My stop will arrive after 30 minutes, until then I can help you if you need.
I wasn’t prepared but I asked her to share some of her favorite things, what all she loves to cook and some general information about Malta.
As she talked, I make quick mental notes. She talked about food, her cooking, festivals celebrated by villages, the bomb that fell in the cathedral, how beautiful Valletta is and oldest civilization of Malta. I really loved the fact that she was so passionate about her country and wanted me to know about it well.
- Do you know what Maltese eat? They love some great rabbit meat, Maltese breads and Pastizzi.
- A lot of people think that Malta is an island but it not alone. Some people know it as an archipelago of three islands, Gozo, Comino and Malta but its five – Malta, Gozo, Comino, Comminotto, and Filflawith. Only 3 are habitable – Malta, Gozo, and Comino.
- The country is very-very old. The civilizations have been there since the early Neolithic period of 5000 BC. Megalithic Monuments are the world UNESCO heritage sites.
- Maltese are the descendants of ancient Carthaginians and Phoenicians. While it has been part of the Roman empire, later it has also been under the British rule.
- For a long time, it was also under the Arab rule. The impact was such that that Maltese language was sprinkled with Arabic elements. After that came the ruler of Sicily and he defeated the Arabs. There was a small period when Napolean also conquered Malta.
- Malta has been through 11 foreign rules. In 1964, it finally became independent of British rule.
- It is believed that Malta is derived from the word “Melite” meaning “sweet honey” as special kind of bees are found here which produce a unique kind of honey.
- The locals believe that the first inhabited caves were found in Malta. The Megalithic Temples are also claimed to be the oldest free standing structures of the world.
- Valletta is one of the tiniest capitals. It is home to gorgeous architecture. Also it is identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has more than 200 historic monuments.
- Do you know that one can visit a new church everyday and still keep a count round the year. Malta has 365 different churches and more.
- The village feasts of Malta are very unique. One single village or a group of villages host gala feasts every Sunday. The months of celebration are between June to September. These feasts are big affair and they are done in honor of the town’s patron saint. The decorations are lovely. I did have a chance to see one of the decorated villages.
- Just before getting down, the lady also showed me the dome church and told me why it was called the Miracle church. The Church of the Assumption of Our Lady in Mosta was hit by two bombs during World War II. The mass was going. It could have been devastating but the bombs only fell on the ground. They did not explode. No one knows why. Later they were diffused and dropped in the sea. A replica of it is placed in the church.
- Maltese boats are very colorfully decorated. A pair of eyes are painted on either sides. It is believed that they are Eyes of Osiris and they protect the boats from evil eyes.
These bits and pieces made me extremely curious and I actually googled more information about the village feasts and the church that escaped the bomb. Just before alighting the bus, she also pointed out to the house on the other side and said, ” Its my house. You are more than welcome any time. I make delicious rabbit meat.” I told her I would come next time.
Her “Goodbye” was as charming as her “Hello”. I waved her good wishes and waited for my turn to get down. This bus ride had really been amazing. This sweet and not-so-short conversation added more warmth to my memories from Malta and I am going to cherish it for long. I wish I had clicked a selfie with her.
Have you had any similar heartwarming and knowledge sharing conversations with locals? Do share in the comment box.