After the dismal failure of Tunis, it was on to happier locales. And this was the happiest of them all. Malta!
Malta is a tiny collection of islands south of Sicily and north of Tunisia. We had no idea it was even there, until our cruise itinerary said we were stopping for a visit. My knowledge of Malta up to that point was that presumably Maltese dogs were from there. Ironically, they're really not, but that's another post for another time.
HISTORY OF MALTA (feel free to skip if you care not): Malta has a wild, complicated past of invasions and enslavements and all sorts of drama. One important bit: in the 1500's, the Grand Masters—a group of knights charged with protecting Jerusalem to make a safe passage for Christian pilgrims—were attacked by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) and expelled from the Holy Land. I'm not sure what else the Grand Masters were about, but they were a big deal. Anyway—so the King of Spain came to the rescue, and gave them the islands of Malta, in exchange for a yearly rent of one Maltese falcon. The Knights moved in and, because they were Catholic leaders, they built cathedrals all around the island. And they loved their new home, which was very safe due to the fact that the islands are mostly cliffs—which made it hard to invade.
Why am I saying all this? To explain the fact that Malta is very pretty.
The Maltese people are really cool—their language is a hybrid of Arabic and Italian, and they all speak multiple languages. And they have a very relaxed, island way of living life.
Correction: They are relaxed except when they drive. For our tour, we chose to skip the boring buses and instead joined a group traversing the island in "Jeeps," as the brochure said. When we arrived, we were shoved into the back of a Suzuki Samurai with bench seats running along the sides and told to hang on. Bumpity bumpity zoom zoom zoom, we careened around corners with no guard rails while out guide chattered away about what we would be looking at, if we weren't so scared our eyes were closed.
But we made it safe and sound to the top of the cliffs. And it was worth it!
That cliff in the middle of the image? That's, like, a couple hundred feet high. Big.
This is a different lagoon—the water was SO blue around the island.
Speaking of lagoons: Malta has been the location of several movie productions, a fact that our guide excitedly explained in great detail. Major Hollywood movies have been filmed in Malta! And a few of the sets are still standing! Did we want to see a real Hollywood movie set?!? Before we could say "Not really," we were whisked away in the Suzukis to see the island's pride and joy:
...the set from "Popeye," starring Robin Williams.
And...then we left.
Malta is covered in Catholic churches, which have a peculiar feature.
Notice there are two clocks on the front? Each tell a different time, neither of which were correct. They did this to fool The Devil, so he wouldn't know what time they were holding mass. Here's another one:
Poor Satan must have been so confused, wandering around not knowing what time it was. I just noticed: on both photos, the left clocks tell almost the same time. How weird.
The capital city, Valletta, looks very similar to San Francisco, with hills and row houses and such. It's cute. The city has a huuuuuge series of walls surrounding it:
Please hold on to your guts for this next photo:
See the tiny dot at the top center? That's a person. It makes my stomach hurt just looking at it.
All in all, Malta is lovely. Shopping is cheap, the Euro goes a long way, and everything was beautiful. I am so totally going back. Before I leave this post, if I may add one more photo:
...from the "Dan Sucking In His Gut" collection, this time so you can see the cliffs without me blocking the view.