The Maltese islands
The Republic of Malta consists of a total of 21 islands, the three best known being Malta, Gozo (Ghawdex) and Comino. Malta is the largest island followed by Gozo. In the middle of both is Comino, the smallest of the three islands with the beautiful and well-known blue grotto. To read about Gozo follow here.
Malta is rather small but crowded with tourists during main season. But even during low season a lot is going on in Malta, because it is a popular destination for a semester abroad among students and offers great English language courses. The official language is English and almost all locals understand and speak English, even though they often speak Arabic among each other.
Valletta – the capital
Malta’s capital is Valletta (il-Belt Valletta) – with less than 6000 inhabitants. 2.3 million visitors are coming to these Island every year that is full of bars, restaurants and has a great atmosphere. The city is surrounded by a great defensive wall and is the southernmost capital of Europe which hosted the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018.
When I arrived at the airport and asked for the train to Valletta, people started to laugh. “We don´t have trains here, only busses”. I should have known about that…. This might be the price you pay if you do not get any informations about a place before stepping into the plane – and I will do better next time. The public bus system in Malta and Gozo is great. A weekly bus ticket is absolutely worthwhile if you like to discover all of the Island. You get a bus ticket for one week for 6,50 € and you can get on and off as often as you like to. In both cities, Malta and Gozo, buses drive till late and are quite punctual.
As an alternative to taking the public transport, I tried hitchhiking in Gozo and Malta. I really like hitchhiking but it felt never as easy as at the Maltese Islands. Easy peasy and really safe even for a solo traveller. I could not even finish smoking my cigarette when the first car stopped already to give me a ride – and I had not even stretched out my arm at that time. My friend Tibout, who made his way to Rabat a few hours later, was just as lucky as me. The people in Gozo and Malta are happy about the little chat that comes about during the trip together.
Couchsurfing in Malta
Like always, I wanted to try out Couchsurfing in Malta. It is just the best way to get an insight view into the local way of living. Warren, who hosted me for two nights, was such a great guy. As I travelled in December – one of the coldest month in Malta – the flats were quite chilly. Most houses in Malta do not have a proper heating system as it is absolutely unnecessary and use electronic heaters instead. During the “cold” month of December, temperatures at night can drop to 10 degrees. Warren showed me around and we spend the evenings in his favourite bar. I really liked that bar, as it had a familiar atmosphere and great live music.
Malta loves cats. They really take car for their cats and love feeding them. There is not even one starving stray cat in Malta. By now, Malta is famous for its many cat villages all around the city. The cat villages are full with toys and shelter for the cats and even have Christmas decoration in December. 30 cats live in the most popular cat village in St. Julius.
But you will see cats not only at the cat villages in Malta. You see them pretty much everywhere and they all look great: well-fed with a healthy fur and happy. I have observed many fisherman that shared their catch with the cats happily.
Abandoned building: Mystic ruin
As I mentioned in the post of Gozo already, there are several abandoned buildings on both Islands, Gozo and Malta. In Malta, I visited the former nightclub „Mystic“ in Is-Swieqi (bus no. 13) ,at the end of Triq (street) il-Pedidalwett, which is abandoned since several years. The building is a bit tricky to find as all you can see from the outside is a wall that seems like a usual garden fence. You need to climb over this fence to get inside. The climb is easy and you get payed of by a fairy tale house for yourself.
I explored the place by myself and was a bit scared to step inside of the old building in the beginning. My eyes had to get used to the dark and I barely perceived anything. I felt brave enough to keep going once my eyes got used to the darkness and discovered beautiful spiral staircases, walls with crystal-glass mosaic, an enormous stone bath, a huge chimney and endless passageways. Time seems to stay still in this place. Barely any graffiti or vandalism is to find here.
The name of the place – mystic – really fits to the mystical and fairylike atmosphere. It had to be a beautiful and extravagant club at some point. By now, nature took over and created a magical garden. Flowers growing out of the windows, birds are chirping and it feels like another world. Somehow a bit like Alice in wonderland – or Alice in mystic land. The day I discovered the ruin, the sky was grey and cloudy, the air crisp and the wind strong and loud. I loved the sound of the moving leaves, the benches dancing in the wind giving the place an even more bewitched character.
Later that day I caught up with a travel mate which I invited to the ruin. He was struggling as well to find the place but was really impressed once he overcome his fear of trespassing. We chilled all day in the old discotheque, enjoyed the view and waited for sunset.
Whenever it is possible, I find the perfect spot to watch the sunset and say goodbye to a wonderful day. Therefore, I told my friend that we could not leave before the sun has set as I wanted to see it from the top. When the sun set, we finally climbed up to the top of the building. Once darkness surrounded us, we could observe the lights of the town in front of us.
Food & beer
Food is a super important topic for sure! I absolutely loved the typical Pastizzi. A savoury pie filled with mushrooms, peas or spinache and ricotta, which you can buy pretty much everywhere in Malta and Gozo. Warren, my host, showed me one of his favourite Pastizzerias in Rabat: Crystal Palace in Triq San Pawl. A perfect place for budget travellers and for everyone, who likes to get an insight-view into the Maltese way of living. This cafe is full of locals. Old men waiting in line for the hot food, sitting at the wooden tables and reading their newspaper, drinking coffee with milk and eating one, two or even three of the hot Pastizzis that get served fresh and hot directly out of the oven. The place is simple and tasty. Not a fancy place but a typical Maltese Pastizzeria. Instead of coffee you can for sure also drink the typical beer of Malta: Cisk.
Weather change in Malta in december
It can get pretty stormy in Malta. December is the month of the storms. It does not get super cold, just windy and it might rain all day long. But do not hesitate to visit Malta in December. The storms have their own charm and the wind clears your mind. To witness the power of nature is such a great experience – do not miss it! I loved it so much to see the change of the coastline. The soft sea turns into a wild and powerful ocean, a calm and warm breeze becomes fast and furious. Unfortunately, I have videos of the storm only and still need some time to find out how to attach them to the post. Baby steps.