Entering a Land of Twisty Streets and Unhealthy Snacking

Climbing the hills of Sliema

Ryanair seems to thrive on moods of spontaneity. At least, they benefited from my random booking of a trip to Malta with my good friend, Tay. Back when the sun was missing from Berlin for six months, we decided the necessity of beaches and warm weather was far more than slightly needed. Fast forward to this past week and I realized: we had no clue what we were doing in Malta. Flights and hotels were booked and paid for, but beyond that: Nothing.

There’s something overwhelmingly exciting about traveling in this way. Traversing to the unknown with few plans and a lust for adventure has worked out so far, hasn’t it?

Peaking over the edge into Valletta

Thursday night, we departed Berlin at around 8pm, and arrived in Malta at 10:30pm. I was reminded forcibly at how much I dislike Ryanair for flights that exceed 2 hours… and my neck did not thank me. Beyond the usual complaints, however, I was beyond excited. Our sleep that night lasted maybe 1 minute with how excited I was explore this new country.

Smells like New Zealand
Smells like New Zealand

Malta awaited us once we awoke. Tay had found a cafe, Mint, that supposedly served New Zealand style food. Granted, we were not in New Zealand – but the focus on healthy foods and delicious homemade smells convinced me that in fact, I was very ready for this cuisine. One chicken quesadilla later, and the island beckoned. We wandered around the suburb of Sliema, and eventually transversed over to Valletta, the capital of Malta.

Fun fact: Game of Thrones has filmed several times in Malta, including scenes from a brothel in Kings Landing, and the enchanting Azure Window from Khal Drogo and Khaleesi’s wedding in the first season.

Side Streets of Valletta
Side Streets of Valletta

You can imagine how excited I was. Valletta practically screamed Kings Landing. Little side streets turned into winding hills with unexpected vantage points, often interrupted by stray cats and stairways to abandoned balconies. Our meanderings were interrupted occasionally by pastries and often by water breaks. How could it not? We may not have found many of the Game of Thrones filming locations, but that itch for old city secrets was thoroughly scratched. Of course, that’s not the full story. In our attempt to find a little beach outlet, we found ourself accidentally sneaking into the Excelsior’s Yacht Club and borrowing some towels for their own private beach. A few hours later… we made our way to find delicious local Maltese food. If you can’t find octopus stew made with tomatoes, walnuts, paprika and shallots something mouth-watering, you probably shouldn’t be reading this blog. Rolling into bed at around midnight, I was thrilled. One day of adventure and I already felt the tingle and thrill of travel settling back into my bones: who knew what Gozo would bring.

The Azure Window
The Azure Window

Gozo, the second island of Malta, is one of the more beautiful places that I have visited in my lifetime. Even though in this blog and in my life, I have only dedicated one day to it: I can say with confidence, I would spend another week only there. After a quick breakfast and exceedingly long bus ride followed by a hop and skip via ferry: we were there. Gozo. Home of the Azure Window. In the midst of asking for directions, we suddenly were hitchhiking with a former New Yorker across the island and trading talk on the American presidential race. All of my doubts melted away once I saw the window. Thirty minutes of rising concern in the car with a stranger were worth it if only for this moment. Salt deposits glittered white and enticing on cavernous rocks, as the sea rushed in and out and the water glittered in the sunlight.

More delicious than previously expected...
More delicious than previously expected…

We could have stayed there for hours. I could have sat and simply watched the ocean all day. It’s probably better we didn’t. We hopped on a bus to Ramla Bay, one of the better known beaches on Gozo. After a couple dips in the Mediterranean and a few hours spent lazing with books and shrimp salad – it seemed only right to head to the city. Victoria is nothing like Valletta. There’s something unique about its obvious British influence intertwined with distinct traits that can only be Maltese. The streets were lined with pastry shops where a pea pastizzi was only 30 cents. Heaven. On. Earth.

It was time to head back all too soon. Our journey back was long, and as it rounded 10pm and we were just reaching the hotel, I thought I would have some regrets. I ran across my memories, trying to justify some small measure of annoyance towards the long bus rides. Somehow I couldn’t. Even waking up at 3 in the morning on Sunday and eating horrific airport food for breakfast couldn’t dim the crystal clear haze of happiness that will be Malta.

Will I be back? Hell Yes. When? Let me just check those fares…

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