As the dead of winter wreathed Italy, we turned our gaze further south. As my husband was coming back from a work errand a few weeks ago, he excitedly shared that he saw an advertisement for flights to Malta for 19 Euros. We all stared at him blankly before someone piped up, “Where is Malta?” In a few short hours, we were booked for the following week.
A million years ago, Malta was attached to Sicily geographically. We assumed that because it was only an hour flight from Bari, Italy it would feel very much like Italy. The beauty of Europe is that we were completely mistaken. An hour flight in Europe takes you to a completely different world.
The official languages in Malta are Maltese and English. It felt so luxurious to order meals and purchase books in English for the first time in months. Even though we had the ease of the English language we had the experience of the Maltese culture. Malta, like many parts of the Mediterranean, has a rich history of conquests, and the island is papered with layers of contributors including Greeks, Romans, Normans, Arabs, French and British.
Malta has the oldest free-standing structures on earth. These Megalithic marvels antedate the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge by 1000 years! Even with this antiquity, Malta feels like a country in its adolescence. Malta has only been independent since 1964 and a member of the European Union since 2003. With a population of 430,000 inhabitants, there is a tangible feeling of history but also burgeoning energy that is palatable.
The capital city of Valletta is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. The European Union funds have turned an already statuesque port side jewel into an international destination for superyachts and trade moguls. To see Valletta from the sea is truly something to behold. It was the first time our whole family has gasped simultaneously. Just 30 minutes away, we found ourselves hiking limestone cliffs flocked by Maltese (peregrine) falcons diving into the seemingly endless Mediterranean Sea. The quaint fishing villages with brightly colored wooden vessels riddled the protected crystalline bays.
As we flew away from Malta, the contrast between the lapis blue water and the washed limestone infrastructure left an imprint on our souls. It is a country that feels very hopeful and vibrant and comfortable. How lucky are we to have experienced a place so intimately that we could not accurately locate on a map just two weeks ago?