After a great ride out of Valetta and around the seemingly endless curves and chicanes of Malta’s winding, wrong-sided driving roads, admiring the scenic and contemporary vibe of Valetta’s emerging St. Julian’s district night-life, we eventually landed at the marina-side, Dolce Vita Restaurant. It sits on the 4th floor above a yacht lined narrow marina, looking out toward the deep Mediterranean Sea.
Almost without hesitation we began the task of de-cyphering the abundantly replete wine list of this terrific Sicilian restaurant. After looking helplessly at words and varietals that may as well have been written in Basque, or, Swahili, I unceremoniously slid the wine list over to Louie, my host and trusted producer of PRIQLY and announced that I give up. But, just a few minutes later we were sipping on a delightful limited production Maltese Methode Champenoise Sparkler, ordering an assortment of appetizers. The evening was slipping into convivial conversation about how some Maltese accents can pass for the most authentic sounding Jamaican accent ever. Laughter and further ruminations on the unique culture of Malta led us into a wonderful dinner of tiny fish, crispy fish cakes which were awesome, divine Calamari and a tasty Tuna Tartare….Then, there was dinner! Local fish served with a super red wine called Primus, based on Syrah and Chewbacca. Wait, no, not Chewbacca, I mean Gellewza, an indigenous grape found in Malta.
Before I knew it, our evening had slipped into night-time and we were off on a quick 30-minute tour of Malta’s night-life district by car. Curve after curve we drove past new construction of offices, boutique hotels and restaurants. It seems that Malta is a place of Mediterranean real estate madness just 120 miles from Libya. Yes, that Libya.
Just three years after my first visit to this beautiful island it had changed dramatically. Foreign investment, off-shore online gambling and a bustling tourist business threaten to put Malta on the International must-see list! Complex, unique, beautiful, exotic weird and wonderful seem to sum up this mixed bag of cultures and time, all in a country only 55 years old.
Earlier that same day I had walked alone around the ramparts of Valetta, a walled fortress of a city that hovers as guardian of the deep water bay that sits before it. A city-scape of sandstone walls, buttresses and fortifications dwarfing the strategic entrance into the marvelous harbor which hosts countless cruise-ships and private Super-Duper-Mega-monster Yachts from places anywhere imaginable. Its central city pedestrian streets are paved with limestone and sandstone and are flanked by all manner of shops, government buildings and restaurants. Truly a great small city to explore. Seeing the cannonade at the edge of the fortress brought back memories of the historical events that transpired here. The Big Three meetings of the Conference of Malta from WWII between Churchill, Stalin and FDR, and the Malta Summit of 1989 with President George Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev collaborating to end the Cold war. The place is redolent of import and history. It’s beautiful too. A magnificent new giant fountain welcomes all visitors to Valetta’s gateway. Tourists a running all about an the languages are as foreign as it gets.
Speaking of language, Malta has its own language, conveniently called: Malti. The easy sounding name does nothing to describe the challenge of this language. It sounds like a cross between Arabic, Italian, Russian, Portuguese and Dokrathi. And just forget about driving here. You can’t. Why? Because you can’t read any of the signs. Really, you can’t. So even if someone gave you directions you could not remember the name of anything and you could not pronounce the words. Just ask anything in English though, they all speak it. But the signs, nope! They are in Malti.
Everyone I meet in Malta is polite - exceedingly so. Everyone is calm, pleasant and genteel. It kind of makes you feel like: what do they know that I don’t? And they look right at you and almost through you in such a way that you might think they already know what you are going to say or ask before you do. They just have that serenity thing going on.
What an industrious people. I think the nation is born entrepreneur and ready to work. Its a small place with lots of people, so, everyone wants to be the cream that rises, if you know what I mean. But, that industriousness is kind of double edged. Financial opportunity is limited but growing since Malta has certain business-friendly tax advantageous. They are trying to keep their brightest and best on the island this way. There are only about 500,000 but it looks like 2 million. Because there are no tall buildings. It's low-rise and it goes for miles, so the eye gets fooled into thinking that this is little Sao Paolo or something. But, gladly, it’s not.
This was a good day. All 8 hours of it, as I learned some new stuff such as:
Malta has no straight roads, no freeways, no tolls. Carry Dramamine.
There is no parking in Valetta. None at all. Just pay and go to a garage.
It has lots of water, everywhere. Yes, it’s an island but it has bays and inlets everywhere.
Maltese people are genuinely polite and welcoming people.
Rabbit might be the favorite local dish.
Valetta is Europe’s first planned city.
Gladiator, Troy and Game of Thrones have been filmed here.
The world’s oldest structure is not Stonehenge or the Pyramids. Its Hagir Qim on Malta.
Valetta has some strange sculptures.