Hiding from the world
I visited Malta for the first time in 2012 and I immediately fell in love with the country. Between the sheer serenity of the landscape, the most chilled out people I’ve ever had the pleasure to come across and the consistently great weather, there’s an amazing sense of peace with oneself straight from the very moment you land here.
Coming from the continent and having lived in the UK for the last 8 years, large proportion of which has been focused on education and work, coming to Malta feels like I left Europe far behind. Malta, over the course of its history, had many different cultural influences, Phoenicians, Romans, Normans, Spaniards, Italians, Brits and many more. Malta’s turbulent history, barely noticeable today in attitudes, creates a strongly unique mix of architecture, food, language and culture. Simply walking through the narrow streets of Valletta or getting lost in The Silent City, feels like being part of a sophisticated film production.
The first time I visited Malta, I stayed in Sliema. It’s ridden by pale (or otherwise severely sun-burnt) tourists attempting to grab every sun ray available on the island. Sliema has a great selection of shops, restaurants, clubs and other fun stuff, all largely resembling a much cleaner version of London in the middle, with traditional architecture surrounding the modern centre. Not being particularly interesting in a shopping excursion, I have spent little time in the immediate vicinity of my accommodation. Later, a very good friend of mine living in Malta, showed me much better places to stay, away from the hordes of tourists with much better facilities, better food and greater beer selection (although less wi-fi spots).
Having exploration running in my blood, I very quickly decided that I must see the capital of this beautiful island. A busy one indeed, the main streets of Valletta felt busier than the rush hour in Covent Garden, probably due to extremely narrow streets and nowhere to escape. As a Londoner, I usually attempt to evade the crowds. Fortunately, on my subsequent visit (off-season) Valletta was a pleasure to visit. There’s some pretty good food to be had over there too, if you go off the beaten track.
I like to draw inspiration from Malta. There’s very little distractions here, apart from the beautiful scenery. Being a slow place in life it acts as a retreat, where it is very easy to hide, disappear and gain strenght, find ideas, give your life some thought. It feels a little bit like you are looking at yourself from a third person’s perspective. You gain an amazing clarity of vision.
People think I’m extrovert, because of the industry I’m in. It promotes being loud, outspoken, it likes to party. I have always enjoyed retreating into places of solitude, where uninfluenced by others I can embrace the quietness and stillness. Enjoy the silence before the storm. I enjoy the storms too, sometimes way too much, but I discovered that balance is necessary, as to face a great power, requires good preparation.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Travelling through this little island it is definitely worth taking the road less travelled, skipping the metaphysical value of the poem. Malta is a tiny island with a phenomenal coastline. It’s easy to lose yourself in the beautiful sunsets of the Mediterranean Sea, amplified by the sound of the waves and delicate feeling of the evening breeze on your skin. Most of the interesting places, which aren’t swarmed by tourists, don’t even have public transportation access — you’ll need a car. Although Malta is becoming an increasingly popular mountain biking destination. It’s more than worth clocking in a sunset at the remote cliffs, maybe even have a picnic if you can bear the heat. I would strongly advise a UV filter as part of your picnic.
The single thing I learnt about travelling around different places, is that there is no one right way of doing things. Each culture, each society, each community goes about their life in a unique way. Happiness is not a destination, it’s a way of life. It appears to be a lot easier to embrace this philosophy when the sun is beaming over 300 days out of the year. Even the taxis take advantage of the good weather in Malta.
Horse & carriage definitely appears to be a rather large attraction in the narrow streets of The Silent City, where you can explore the city in the most dignified manner. There’s a large amount of ‘taxis’ queuing up right next to the main gate to Mdina. You simply jump off the bus coming from the capital Valletta and jump straight into a muscle powered cab. Don’t forget to make a selfie.
Each time it is time to leave Malta, I feel like I’m leaving a familiar place behind one more time.
On the next visit I must try rock climbing on this beautiful coast. Such beautiful scenery does wonders for the soul.