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10/16 Malta – land of hills and churches

After spending 4 days in Gozo, it was time to take the ferry and head back to Malta for 8 days. (The ferry is free FROM Malta to Gozo but they collect 4.75 Euro from everyone on the way TO Malta.) This turned out to be the worst weather day in a year of traveling.  The rain started while we waited for the bus to get to the ferry, bucketed down on the way to the ferry and while we waited for the ferry, letting up only when we actually rode the ferry.  By the time we landed at the terminal in Cirkewwa on Malta, the downpour returned!

What happens to taxis when it rains?  They disappear!  With no taxis in sight, we huddled under the bus stop with everyone else, complete with suitcase of all sizes and shapes. Since we arranged to meet our AirBnb host at the apartment, I texted to tell him we were waiting for buses to appear.  James was stuck in traffic, too, and said he’d just pick us up so “hang out”!  What a great guy!

We spent 8 days in Melleiha on the west end of Malta. It’s a “real” town – only 3 things listed in Lonely Planet to see and very quiet at night.  We met 2 Americans who live there when we were in Scotland last year at the Whiskey Experience in Edinburgh and enjoyed two dinners with them in Malta. Sorry – no pictures!  They’ve lived in Malta for 3 years so gave us the scoop on what it’s like – inexpensive services and health insurance, inexpensive food, lots of hills to walk, traffic if you choose the wrong time of day to drive ….

Air raid shelter in Melleiha

Malta was heavily bombed during WWII by both the Italians and Germans. They dug air raid shelters all through the islands. This one can be visited in Melleiha. It was damp and chilly and very small.

This is the Grotto of the Madonna. It was at the BOTTOM of 80+ steps.

parish church

The parish church in Melleiha. One day we had a beer at the restaurant next to the church with all the old men waiting for their wives to finish up with Mass. We learned that the 2 parties in Malta each own a “club” on this street where you can buy a beer or wine. Tourists are welcome.

cat street art

If you stand in exactly the right place, you see this piece of art. If you walk down the steps from the top, the art piece is a random collection of paintings on the steps and walls that look like graffiti, but from the bottom it’s lovely.

The hills surprised us in Malta – they are everywhere!  Melleiha has hills and steps connecting different streets on the hills.  One day we walked up 43 flights and down 47 flights, according to our Garmins.  After a little arithmetic and geometry, we figured out one block we walked has about a 13% grade.  If Malta residents don’t have great legs, I’m not sure why!

Malta steps

If you look carefully, you can see the steps down (with plants on them), the cars crossing on the street, more steps down, cars parked for one block in front of the balconies and then another set of steps going UP the other side

80 steps up from the grotto

These are the 80 steps down and, hence, back up from the Grotto . Yes, we counted them!

Mediterranean View

This is the view of the Mediterranean from our Airbnb. You can see how many buildings are clearly DOWN from our apartment.

Malta is fairly cheap as far as Europe goes, including the wine they produce and import. We tried some Malta wine – 4 Euro for a bottle and it was perfectly drinkable.

The bus system covers the island pretty well and we used the bus to get from Melleiha to the capital city of Valletta one day and visit .  Valletta is a port city with lots of cruise ships stopping. The day we went, three cruise ships were in port, crowding everywhere!  One recommendation (We clearly didn’t do it.) is check what cruise ships are around if you’re going to a port!

Inside of St. Paul’s Church of the Shipwreck. This was just one of 3 or 4 churches we checked out in Valletta – all Catholic.

pile of old mattresses

We ended up walking along the port where the cruise ships dock. That’s where we discovered where old cruise ship mattresses go to die.

Another day we took the bus to Mdina, a walled city next to Rabat.  This bus ride took an hour with stops, narrow roads and streets, hills, and traffic to go 11 km.  It’s a beautiful city, though, after we finally arrived.

St. Peter and Paul Church

St. Peter’s and Paul’s Church in Mdina. We passed on paying 5 euro each to visit this one.

panoramic view of Malta

View from the city wall of Mdina

An example of the architecture in Mdina with a few colorful flowers thrown in .

Mosta Round Church

On the way back from Mdina to Melleiha on the bus, we made a 20 minute stop to see the Rotunda Church in Mosta since we’d ridden past it on the bus at least 4 times. It’s round and is copied from the Pantheon in Rome.

WWII bomb

This WWII bomb landed in the Mosta Church as people waited for Mass to start. By some miracle, it didn’t go off and they have it on display in the church.

Sunday, we went to the Melleiha Beach along with the locals and had lunch on the beach.

guy on the beach with a Coke bottle for a pillow

This guy uses a coke bottle to prop his head up so he can see his cell phone.

Ghadira Bay at the bottom of the hill from Melleiha. It’s reportedly the favorite beach for families.  Lots of Brits come to Malta or live on Malta.  The sun was shining this day and lots of the Brits forgot to put on the sunscreen.

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