"Leader of the Pack" - text on a Maltese bus.
Travelogue from a holiday in Malta. Sunday 10th September 2006.
Marsaxlokk is a fishing village on Malta's south east coast. It is our destination this Sunday morning, as we enter bus #27 at Valletta's bus terminal.
Don't miss a ride on a Maltese vintage bus. They are wrecks from the fifties - Bedford, Leyland and Plaxton. On many buses are sentences that are either funny or religious (or both).
A ride is usually 20 cents, which must be paid to the driver, and he prefers the exact amount. The ticket is not valid for a change of buses. If you need to change to another bus, you buy a new ticket. Certain routes (express or more than X zones) cost 50 cents.
The driver uses his spurs, and the motor roars furiously. The shock absorbers have retired long ago and everything shakes and rattles. You need a firm grip on something to remain seated.
Most of the way is through urban area, but as we approach the sea there are scorched fields with red soil. Prickly pears grow everywhere, and there are a few green vineyards.
It is a half hour trip. Through history Marsaxlokk's port has been a convenient gateway for invading armies, and today the town has been invaded by tourists and shoppers, because there is a market by the harbour. Even the part of the quay where restaurants usually put tables has been occupied. They sell fish, tuna, shrimps, shellfish, squid, vegetables, live poultry and birds, rabbits, clothes, junk and souvenirs.
We have an awful instant-espresso before we go for a walk in the newer part of the town. As soon as you get away from the harbour, everything seems quiet and sleepy. Back at the harbour I am parked at a café, while Helle dives into the market's temptations.
The market is colourful, but it had been better to visit the town on a quiet day like we did last year. We decide not to stay for lunch. There are far too many tourists, and the bus will probably be crammed later.
In a town (Tarxien) on the way back the bus must wait for a religious procession to pass. The procession is hundreds - maybe thousands - of happy cyclists, and strangely there are almost no women or girls. A local in front of us says it is an annual event. The waiting cars honk impatiently as the last bicycles pass. It is actually strange with all these bicycles, because usually you see but a few.
In Valletta we check if Tonys Sicilian Bar is open. It isn't, so we drop in at a tourist restaurant, Cafe Marquee in St. John Square, and order pasta. We sit comfortably in the shadow. The waiter who fetches food in the kitchen is permanently disorientated and doesn't know, which table ordered what. His female colleague has to take over every time or give him directions.
Evening in Sliema and St. Julians
Siestatime! At four I collect my wits and cross the street to the outdoor café for an espresso. An Asian couple sits at the next table. He is reading a book: 'Facts about Korea'.
Later in the evening we walk to St. Julians' marina. We get a table outside Caffe Raffael with refreshments and watch the boats, the ducks, people and a skinny teenage cat who fools around.
Later we dine. Helle has filled beef rolls, Bragjoli, which is a Maltese speciality. I have cevapcici ("Balkan-meatballs"), which is the restaurant's speciality. With this a sun-spiced red La Valette. We are lazy and take the bus back home
Spinola Bay, St Julian's
A place with atmosphere in St. Julians' marina. The service is kind and helpful. Food is well prepared.
Price level: medium to semi-expensive for Malta.
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