Having spent a few more days in Malta, I’m growing to like it more every day. Despite me being greeted on more than one occasion by a local stating “welcome to the rock,” I find that Malta is in no way rough and hard. On the contrary, it is soft and relaxed. The people are very friendly indeed. After seeing the spectuacular 4500 year-old Hal Saflieni Hypogeum [the only prehistoric underground temple in the world], we began our search for the Tarxien Temples. While searching for this Neolithic site among the many identical streets in the town with the same name, a local went out of her way to point us in the right direction given that there was no signage to be found. She stayed with us until we arrived. We thanked her, went in, and my friend Adrian [see prior blog post] began reading the descriptions of each pile of rocks [I mean temple] in his best David Attenborough voice.
A large percentage of Maltese guys are short with dark features and grape-stomping legs. Many of them are balding or shaved-headed. And they all have EU passports. Needless to say, I fit right in. After all, my people [the Sicilians] were the first to colonize Malta around 5200 B.C.E. That is also when they began their quest for the perfect espresso. I have taken on that quest [and the quest continues].
Culturally, Malta feels Sicilian-Greek in terms of the food, personal interaction, body language, etc. Having been part of the British Commonwealth brought with it an extra ‘u’ in many words and, of course, beer. Consequently, in Malta there exists a noticeable beer culture rather than a wine-centered culture. Aesthetically, however, Malta looks decidedly North African, as many of the towns [including the old capital of Medina] could very well be in Tunisia, with their limestone construction and old city walls [ i.e. in Valetta, the capital city]. The bus system, while extremely cheap [47 Euro cents for a trip practically anywhere on the island], resembles something one would find in a South American capital city, complete with religious icons that surround the driver. Add to all of this a Semitic language, the ubiquitous presence of English and the use of the Euro, and Malta embodies a unique mix of cultures and traditions in the region – like a missing link in the evolution of the modern Mediterranean state.