A Holiday in Malta
When we talked about where to spend our autumn holiday Cyprus was suggested; Larnaca of course, we're done with Paphos. But then Helle happened to say "Malta" and I logged on to the Internet.
Soon the trip was ordered for the week October 8th - 15th 2005. Our friend Torben, who has lived in Malta for some years, suggested some good restaurants in Sliema, and this proved very useful later.
Malta lies almost a 100 km South of Sicily. The tiny archipelago has had a turbulent past due to its strategic importance, but is now a republic and member of the EU. With a population of 400000 it has the highest population density in Europe (1250 per square kilometre), and 1.2 million tourists visit the country every year, so on average every fifth person is a tourist. The currency is "lira" and 1 Lm equalled € 2.35 or 2.73 USD in October 2005.
We stayed in Sliema, Malta's biggest city; however the cities around Valletta have grown and met and are now one big urban area.
Saturday October 8th
Malta Here We Come
We take the early train from Aalborg to Copenhagen Airport at 7.25. A later train would have done nicely, because takeoff to Malta is at 15.20, but considering the frequent delays caused by abandoned luggage and fear of bombs, we dare not take the chance. Yesterday Copenhagen's main train station was paralysed for no less than 6 hours because of a suspicious knapsack.
We arrive at Kastrup Airport right on time, and here we meet Lars Nørkjær. He is a former member of the chess club and a former top water skier. He is going to Malta too, where he will participate in the World Championship for mini racing cars (floor models). He expects not to leave the hotel for as much as 9 days!
We touch ground in Luqa Airport 18.50 with 15 minutes delay, find an ATM and buy an 8.25 Lm ticket for a taxi to Sliema. Taxi prices from the airport are fixed and can be seen at Taxi prices in Malta. The chauffeur is a kind old man who tells us that Sliema is a nice place, and the taxi is a kind old Mercedes with a sign saying "Taxi no. 2". No seatbelts. The traffic is dense and through the open windows we sniff the warm evening air and the exhaust fumes. The sun has set, but it looks as if we drive through urban area all the way.
Hotel Metropole is in Sir Adrian Dingli Street ("Triq Sir Adrian Dingli" in Maltese) not far from Tower Road (Triq it Torri), which follows the waterfront on the peninsula's Northern side and across the tip to the Southern side, The Strand. Sliema is Malta's biggest city with 25000 inhabitants, but is physically one with Valletta and St. Julians.
The hotel has seen better days, and the room is worn. The beds are ok, but the room is far from soundproof and there is little space. The toilet is like a slot machine: you must pull many times to win a flush. Despite this I am surprised there is no sign asking you to save water (like in Cyprus), and I wonder if the desalination plants have sufficient capacity - 400,000 Maltese and 100,000 tourists do use a bit of water...
An Evening Stroll and Supper at Piccolo Padre
We go out for dinner at half past eight. Just on the corner of Sir Adrian Dingli Street and Tower Road is Vino Veritas, which according to Torben is an ok pasta restaurant, but it is full. We may get a table if we return at ten, says the waiter, but "may" is not good enough. It is a good thing about Malta that everybody speaks English. The island's English past and the fact that they drive in the wrong side of the road is probably the reason why most tourists are English. There are also many German tourists and probably for no particular reason except the island's pleasant climate and attractions.
St. Julians' Tower
The Knights of St. John built St. Julians' Tower in the 16th century. Sliema wasn't built back then, and if the guards saw something suspicious they would light a bonfire that could be seen in Valletta.
We walk along the waterfront on Tower Road. By St. Julians' Tower is an out-door restaurant, but I think it is a bit cold to sit outside, so we turn around and drift towards St. Julians in search of Piccolo Padre, which according to Torben is an ok restaurant.
While families in Denmark watch "Who Wants to Become a Millionaire?" or "Guess whatever", Maltese families go for an evening stroll on Tower Road where they meet friends and neighbours and chat while the children play. The pavement is broad and well equipped with benches, and the trees have light-bulb necklaces. Nice.
We find Piccolo Padre in an old tower. It is a pizzeria and things are very busy. Most guests are locals, many with children. There is an outside balcony with sea view, but here all tables are occupied. We get bruschette followed by pasta and accompanied by water and an anonymous red local wine. The wine neither offends nor makes the angels sing. We are billed 12.15 Lm.
194/5 Main Street, St. Julians. Tel. 21344875.
If you come from Sliema on Tower Road the restaurant is just before a sharp bend where a sign tells you that you have passed into St. Julians. It is mostly pizza and pasta. A pizza is typically 2.65 to 3 Lm. A bottle of the house wine 3.1 Lm, but you can get better and more expensive wines. Honest food and kind service.
Price level: cheap.
Piccolo Padre's website.
We go home. In the hotel's pool bar on the roof we have a semi sweet Löwenbrau, while an electronic organ does its best to get rid of us. It succeeds - we are very tired and go to bed.