Malta

The Silent City

Peter and I spent two of our days in Malta doing day trips from Valletta. Though painfully slow, infrequent and sometimes unpredictable, the Maltese bus system is easy to navigate. Our first day trip was to Malta’s sister island, Gozo. Specifically, we wanted to visit the Citadel in Victoria.

It is a very long journey to Gozo from Valletta beginning with a 1.5 hour long bus journey (Route 41) to Cirkewwa (ferry terminal) followed by a very windy 20-minute ferry ride to the island of Gozo. From the Gozo ferry terminal (Mgarr), we rode another bus for about 15 minutes and alighted at the Victoria main bus station. Including wait times for buses, wait times for eventually cancelled buses and wait times for ferries, we spent nearly 5.5 hours travelling to and from Gozo. It was too much travel time for what we travelled to Gozo to see.

We visited Gozo, unknowingly, on the final day of a week-long celebration known as “Victoria Festa – Saint George”, translated in English as Feast of St. George. A very loud band was playing just off the main square in front of St. George’s Basilica and people were stumbling around the confetti littered streets. It was like Oktoberfest without the tents and themed attire.

We passed the party and walked further up the hill to the Citadel. The Citadel is an impressive structure perched on a hill. The historic centre of Victoria is seen looking south from the Citadel.

Rural and dry land is seen looking north from the Citadel. We even spotted a couple of extremely small vineyards.

The Citadel offers very little to do other than walking around it. There is a cafe on one of the balconies but it was not open during our visit. After the lengthy journey from Valletta, it would have been nice to enjoy a glass of wine at the cafe. Two glasses of wine is probably the island’s entire grape harvest for the year.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we left the Citadel. We attempted to catch a glimpse of the band on our way back to the main bus station but it the music was too loud and there were too many people crammed into the small space that I just could not deal with it. I hit sensory overload and had to flee the scene.

We took the bus back to the Gozo ferry terminal. As we approached the terminal, I saw a church off in the distance that I wanted to see in person so we alighted the bus and then backtracked to the lookout so that I could get a photo.

On our walk down the hill to the ferry terminal, we came across another church just off of the main road.

I spent 20 minutes Googling to find the names of the churches pictured above and found multiple names for each of the churches and I cannot figure out which of the names are accurate so the churches will go nameless.

From the second nameless church, we walked further down the hill and caught the ferry that was just about to depart to the main island of Malta. We alighted the ferry on Malta and walked to the bus terminal and waited for our bus. Then we waited some more. We watched buses with departure times after our bus’s scheduled departure time come and go. We eventually concluded that our bus had been cancelled without notification. After waiting nearly 30 minutes or our cancelled bus, a man appeared and told us that our bus had indeed been cancelled and the next bus would arrive in about an hour. We opted for a different bus route which eventually got us back to Valletta. It was a long day.

If I could do our Gozo day trip day over again, I wouldn’t go to Gozo. I would take the bus to the Malta ferry terminal and then I would take the ferry to Malta’s other sister island, Comino, and spend the day at the Blue Lagoon.

Our second day trip was to explore the medieval city of Mdina (known as the “Silent City”) and visit the Blue Grotto located on the southern shore of the island.

Wanting nothing more than to spend more time on a bus, we did just that! We rode the bus from Valletta to Mdina.

Protip: Purchase your bus tickets from the driver instead of waiting in the lengthy queues at the Valletta bus station kiosk.

I do not remember how long the bus journey was from Valletta to Mdina; let’s say it was one hour because we never spent less than one hour on any of the bus routes we took.

Mdina is a small fortified city located in the northeast of Malta. We needed no more than 45 minutes to explore Mdina and if we would have known this, we would have planned our visit better so that we were back to the bus stop to catch the next hourly bus. Instead we took our time walking around the walled city.

In addition to walking around the city, Peter decided that we would do the most touristy thing on the planet and go the Malta Experience. The Malta Experience is movie about the history of Malta and it is played by actors dressed in medieval clothing. The Malta Experience is the top rated show in Mdina, mostly in part because it is the only show in Mdina. It is not hard to find the ticket office, just keep an eye out for the fair maidens roaming the narrow alleyways and they’ll take care of you!

The only upside to the Mdina Experience was escaping the heat for 20 minutes. I swear the temperature increased 20 degrees after entering the main gate of Mdina. Walled cities are neat but damn, the lack of breeze can choke a person to death.

After the thrilling film about the history of Malta, we roamed some more and finally found the main attraction of Mdina, the flower wall.

Mdina is known for hand-blown glass so we popped into a shop on our way back to the bus station and purchased a glass olive oil dispenser.  Our final stop of the day was to the Blue Grotto located on the south shore of the island.

There was one taxi in the taxi rank but the driver was nowhere to be found. We stood at the taxi for what felt like an eternity and eventually a local noticed us and consequently woke the taxi driver up from her nap on a nearby bench.

We arrived at the Blue Grotto marina and had a short wait before boarding a small boat like the ones pictured below.

The journey to the Blue Grotto from the marina was approximately 10 minutes. The driver took us into several caves. The color variation of the water was pretty incredible.

The photos below are the raw images taken with an iPhone 8.

The color varied based on cave, water depth and sunlight. At times, the water was electric aqua and other times, a deep blue color.

Here’s a short video of us hanging around in a cave.

Our Blue Grotto tour was about 45 minutes long, including the short drive to and from the marina. Unlike our trip to Gozo, I’d say that the trip to the Blue Grotto was worth it. As a bonus we arrived at the Blue Grotto bus station 30 seconds before the bus arrived. It would have been a real pain in the ass if we would have missed that bus because there were no taxis near the marina and it is in a remote location so our only option would have been to wait an hour for the next bus.

In closing, I am happy that we visited Malta but we would not visit Malta again. It lacks substance, if you will. There is not much to see or do there so a holiday in Malta must be treated like a beach vacation and beach vacations are not exciting when the beaches are rocky and when you have to haul all of your beach stuff on lengthy bus journeys. Greece is where it is at as far as Mediterranean islands go.

Or maybe the way to visit Malta is via super yacht or sailboat…

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