I always get asked why I love Malta so much – I never know where to start or how to describe it, no words I can think of could justify the feeling I get when I think of Malta, I can only ever feel this sense of love for it in the deepest parts of my heart. I have always had this love for it, since I was a little girl, I guess because my parents brought me up to know my background and our culture and to be proud of it. That love grew even more when I went to Malta with mum when I was younger. I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s a sense of pride, being proud of my roots. Whatever it is, I can never seem to find the right words, or enough words to describe it. So I kept a small note book of the little things that I came across whilst I was there. Here they are;
The way the sun rises each day – a big bright vibrant round orange circle of sun. It won’t even be up all the way and straight away you can feel the warmth of it on your skin.
No matter where you look whilst driving, you can always see the ocean. Wherever you don’t see the ocean, you see old houses in narrowed streets where not even the smallest car can fit; old houses that you wonder how old they really are, what stories they have to tell.
Visiting old villages where your grandparents grew up. Standing at the door of their house, picturing them playing in the streets around you when they were younger.
If you looked Malta up in the dictionary, there would be a picture of limestone. What makes Malta? Limestone. All the old architectures, like old castles or palaces, even the oldest balcony; right down to the rocky wall alongside a road. Malta is literally a rock.
Every landmark that you come across has a story. Malta is rich with history. For such a small island, it has more history than any place in the world. From ancient times to when the knights of Malta ruled, and the biggest of world wars.
The grand harbour in Valletta and Valletta’s waterfront, Fort Chambray in Ghajnsielem, Fort Rinella & Fort St Angelo & Elmo, the blue grotto in Zurrieq, Rotunda of Mosta, towers like the Red tower in Melliha, the old capital city of Mdina, Ramla bay with sand so red, the magical blue lagoon in Comino, the hypogeum and old military prison in Paola, the catacombs in Rabat, the grandmaster’s palace from the time of the Kinghts of Malta, numerous public war shelters which connect to private war shelters, Dingli cliffs, Fungus rock, Ninu & Xerri’s caves in Xargha and my favourite the Azure window in Dwejra.
Other amazing landmarks like Fifla, is-Salvatur, multiple ancient temples like the Tarxien or Ggantija temples, ancient ruins, famous churches like Ta’ Pinu … All with stories, myths or complete mysteries that will never cease to amaze me.
The Maltese people are always smiling, always willing to stop and help, always relaxed, and always enjoying life. Best example is when I saw old Maltese women, by the boat houses near the beach, in their bikinis, playing bingo.
The siestas; spending the morning shopping, eating lunch. After lunch, everything stops. Sleep. And then life starts again. The day doesn’t end.
Being able to go to the beach at 5pm or later – the sun still being out and the beach only being 5 minutes away. In Malta it’s never too late to go to the beach. Finding secluded, secret swimming spots.
There is never a dull day, there is always an event, a festa (feast day) or something happening which makes me feel proud to be Maltese. There is so much culture which I hope that it is something that never fades.
The karrozin (horse and carriage) something that I hope never disappears also. Being stuck behind one of these in your car definitely doesn’t happen in Australia – something that gives me that feeling that “I am Maltese”.
The farmers and fields in Gozo; nothing put a smile on my face the most than seeing really tanned Maltese out in the middle of a field, picking tomatoes, potatoes, melons, etc. The peacefulness of it all, breathing in the fresh air. The smell of rich soil. Another sense of proudness.
The night life; Wednesday nights being ‘the night’ to go out and it being as packed as what it would be on a Saturday night in Sydney. The night life being so much more than anywhere I have ever been. I can’t find the words to describe. The strip of clubs in Paceville. Numero Uno & Gianpula. La Grotta, the one and only night club in Gozo, hanging off a cliff, literally in a cave.
Malta’s architecture… Places that are older than anywhere in the world… Large stone temples which are older than the pyramids in Egypt. Statues from as old as Roman times right through to the medieval times. French, Spanish and British influences… Even with all these outer influences, it still makes Malta unique. It’s what makes Malta and this is where my love for her grows fonder. The churches, farm houses, villas… Limestone houses with balconies and matching coloured doors and each house with a unique name. Each door with traditional rustic over-sized door knobs. Did you know when someone passed away, they would remove the door knobs as a sign of respect to the person who lived there? I loved finding out little things like this, that make up the culture of Malta. My culture.
I love seeing rows and rows of balconies, staring at them in detail, comparing one with the other trying to depict which era they came from with all their different yet similar looks. I love seeing emblems on some of the houses, with the year they were built and a coat of arms of the surname of the family living there or even the Australian coat of arms. And my favourite out of all is seeing balconies draped in bright colourful flowers of pink, orange & purple.
Late afternoon strolls along Marsascala promenade, Marsaxlokk, Senglea, Sliema, St Julians – any waterfront where there are lines and lines of traditional Maltese fishing boats “il-luzzu”. Seeing all the bright colours, all different sizes, especially when it gets dark and the moon light is hitting them, silhouetting and shadowing the water.
The Maltese cuisine.. Rabbit stew, octopus stew, pastries, prickly pears, pastizzi, bigilla, gbejniet, Maltese sausage, tomato paste on Maltese bread… The food; no matter where you go, the food is always fresh, always tastes amazing, always local. Whether it’s out in a restaurant or pub – or a day spent with your family, the food in Malta = amazing.
Family – a sense and understanding of why I am who I am. A better understanding of who my parents are and where they come from. Finding out things that they could never tell me. Finding back generations upon generations. Finding a love you thought never existed.
Meeting people I never knew existed but were a very big part of my parents’ lives. How they knew me before even meeting me, saying that I am a photocopy of mum or dad. Hearing stories about them from when they were younger and what they got up to.
Malta is so unique. A small hidden treasure in the heart of the Mediterranean. There are no highways or motorways, no trains. Everything is so close. You can never get lost! And if you did, it would still be the best experience ever.
The little things that make Malta, like honking your horn when approaching a tight intersection, how everyone knows everyone, the church bells playing Ave Maria or waking up to the church bells, the way villages light up at night during their feast week, Malta being so small that you can see 3 different villages setting off fireworks simultaneously, the adventurous car rides through the most narrowest of roads (which are 2 way), hearing the language being spoken makes my heart smile, even more when I hear the many different dialects the Maltese language has. Or when I hear children speaking it, it melts my heart.
Sitting on Nanna’s roof after the hottest day, feeling the warm breeze move through my hair. Peaceful. Band playing in the piazza. Dogs barking. Sheep baaing. Sitting on the roof in the dark. Looking up at the stars, thinking of Nannu, and then staring at the house that he built with his own two hands. The sound of church bells again. Quad bikes. Then nothing. Stillness. No sound. Quiet.
The way each day ends with a sunset that colours the sky with a gradient that looks as if it can be eaten, like fairy floss. Pinks, purples, blues, oranges, yellows. The Mediterranean sun, even though is the same sun everywhere else, the way it hits your skin, the way it looks, everything about it in Malta, it’s just so much more beautiful.
The way some nights the moon would be so low, big and round, a red/orange colour – as if it was close enough to touch. When I would see it like this, I would be in absolute awe. When I saw the moon like this I felt it a love so deep, like the moon was my heart and the size of it is my love for Malta.
© Copyright Charmaine Cassar 2013