Mdina, The Silent City

Thursday October 13th 2005.

We did not hear the Slavic youngsters during the night. Whether this can be attributed to our nightcap in the bar or that the kids were indeed silent will remain unclear. We did hear rain and thunder though, but it has stopped now.

We walk to The Strand and board bus no. 65, which will take you South to Mdina for 50 cents. It is an express bus, hence 50 cents and not 20. We are lucky to get seats, because the express trip lasts 70 minutes.

Actually it isn't far as the crow flies, but the bus takes many detours and traffic doesn't flow. We see no fields before we get close to Rabat and Mdina. The fields have stone fences, the soil is reddish and prickly pear cacti grow everywhere.

Mdina is supposedly one of the world's best-preserved medieval cities and is also called "The Silent City". And it does impress you as reserved and private except for a few palace-like buildings.

Most houses have solid stone walls with a door and maybe a small window facing the narrow street. It makes you wonder if they open to the back with maybe a courtyard or a small garden.

Everything looks well kept and most of the city has been newly paved with stones, and in fact they do a lot to restore the original looks by moving electric wires and such.

We see no residents except a few builders, horse carriage drivers and a woman in prayer in the cathedral. However there are many tourists, and there are also flocks of uniformed school children who are probably here to learn about their national heritage.

Mdina's city gate Calendar-clock on the cathedral Door Reserved street in Mdina
Click for larger image

The cathedral is lavish like so many catholic churches and the Knights of St. John had the means to make it something extra. For the most part the floor consists of marble tombstones with coats of arms and epitaphs in Latin.

We consider having lunch in Mdina, but the 3 places we find do not appeal. Bacchus, where the Danish Queen Ingrid once had lunch (guidebooks contain much invaluable information), has an interesting menu but makes a snobbish impression, and we would probably not be comfortable.

The restaurant close to the city gate has tables outside, but the chairs are covered with a layer of (limestone?) dust and the menu doesn't appeal to us. So we put our appetites on standby.

From the impressive city gate there are about 100 metres to the bus terminus and we wait for some 15 minutes for no. 65.

Window in Mdina House in Bastion Square Bastion Square in Mdina Portal in Mdina
Click for larger image

The old Bedford roars its way back to Sliema in sixty minutes. When people want to get off, they pull a string attached to a bell in the ceiling above the chauffeur.

Tony's Bar offers late lunch. Today we try their pasta, but they are better at omelettes.

Evening in Sliema

After the siesta we return to The Strand and drop in at Café Oasis, where we survived the children assault the other day. The sun is setting and the few clouds get pink bellies for a short while.

We go for a long walk along the waterfront and watch the boats and the lights. From time to time a jogger passes with a springy trot. It may be trendy to pretend that the pavement is elastic, but to me it looks silly.

The Chinese restaurant, Peak Oriental Cuisine, recommended by Torben is on the 8th floor above the shopping centre Plaza. The lift is just to the left of the main entrance. On the way up you get a terrific view to Valletta.

Peak Oriental Cuisine

Level 8, The Plaza Complex, Triq Bisazza (ca. 50 m from The Strand).
Tel. 21314861
Closed Mondays.

We were not 100% satisfied. It may be that the chef had an offday, or maybe our expectations were too high, because Torben praised the restaurant highly.
Price level: Medium by Maltese standards.

There are hardly any guests when we enter at 20.30. We order a menu for two and a Marsovin (Chardonnay) + water.

The first dish is a small and crisp spring roll. Being good-natured I'd describe the taste as fragrant. There is also tender and tasty chicken on a small skewer with a curry-like sauce. The next dishes - served simultaneously - are lemon chicken, pork in sweet and sour sauce and beef in black bean sauce.

The lemon chicken and the sweet/sour pork are a bit to the sweet side - I guess you say too much ying and too little yang. The beef however is tender and tasty. The chocolate ice is also good, but the espresso is thin and not tainted with aroma.

Torben, who praised the place, must have had another experience; we are somewhat disappointed even though the service is impeccable.

Helle limps as we walk home. She got a mosquito bite on the foot yesterday and she is prone to violent swelling. During the night noise from the corridor keeps us awake. From 2.30 to 3 the youngsters speak Slavic and play ball (!).

From 3.45 to 4.30 the noise is of British origin - they have been enjoying Malta's nightlife, or maybe they have just arrived. On top of this I pay a few visits to the toilet - it must be the Chinese food, because it goes chop-chop!