- Airline #37 for me Sep 21, 2023
- Off to country #54 Sep 21, 2023
Till that evening with Tim and Christine about a year ago, I knew very little about Malta. I had an idea that it was an island south of Italy and I knew the name of the capital. Later I got to learn about the flag and also that the breed of our first dog Princess – Maltese – originated from that island. I do not know anybody else other than Tim and Christine who has spent some time in that island.
After hearing the stories of the island from them, Sharmila and I had put it in our list of countries to visit.
We are headed there now!!
- Tantalizingly close!! Sep 21, 2023
The Air Malta plane had just cleared the clouds and started straightening out when I got up from my dozing off. Sharmila was still sleeping. I picked the magazine up (yes! they still have the airplane magazine!) and started leafing thru the pages. Rather desultorily, I might add.
And then this page hit me! I woke up with a start! Had it not been for the inconvenience of taking my glasses off, I might have even rubbed my eyes to make sure I was not dreaming.
In an instant, I was taken back to the those days of stealing Horlicks from the jar in the kitchen when mom would not be around! It was meant for my baby brother. But my dearest baby brother be danged, the Horlicks had a taste like no other thing I had tasted. Ever. And it was not just the taste. It was that texture of the malt grain as it soaked up the saliva from the tongue and coagulated in the mouth. I can still feel it.
Some of my friends from those years in Bengal might remember the ad where different personalities (including Moon Moon Sen) were expounding on why they have Horlicks – “Ami keno khai?” when a cute kid interjects with the sweetest reason – “Ami to emni emni khai”
For crying out loud, the airline was serving Horlicks! There was no mom or baby brother to cry foul! This was going to be my day.
Moment the air hostess came asking for our drinks, I (who could barely conceal his inner child exuberance) put on an extra nice tone and asked in a matter of fact way – “Do you have the hot Horlicks?” pointing to that magazine page. As much as I had the calm exterior, inside me, I was chafing my hands, going “Muaaahaaahaaa!”
“No!”, she informed me.
“What? You have it in your magazine”, my completely unprepared self blurted out.
“Sorry, sir! What else can I get you?”
I had no ability to think. I was on a brain freeze. Like a robot, I went for my go to drink… “Red wine, please!”
“Sure, sir!” She went away wondering what kind of idiot drinks red wine at ten in the morning.
Apparently somebody who has been thwarted from his beloved Horlicks after 45 years!
- Entered airspace over Sicily Sep 21, 2023
- This reminds me of the French flag Sep 21, 2023
- It is a special day in Malta Sep 21, 2023
One thing about this island I had learnt from Tim and Christine was how it has been ruled by so many different folks. Given the location in the Mediterranean Sea, a very short distance away from Europe and Africa, this island has had very strategic implications from a military as well as a trade point of view.
Over the centuries, they have been ruled by the Phoenicians, the Romans, the Greeks (Byzantines), the Arabs (Adhlabids), the Italians (Normans), the Germans (Swabians), the Aragonese, the Spanish, the Order of St. John, the French and then the British. Somehow the Ottomans could not ever conquer them.
When I was talking to the hotel gentleman about airport transport, I found out that we are actually going to land up amidst their Independence Day festivities. Malta finally became free on Sep 21, 1964!
- Airport #160 – Malta International Airport Sep 21, 2023
- View into the Mediterranean Sea from the room Sep 21, 2023
- Ft. St. Angelo at night as seen from Valetta waterfront Sep 21, 2023
- Valetta – really cool downtown Sep 21, 2023
Every single street is packed with folks eating dinner or drinking. There is just some small space left to walk along either side. And these streets go up and down about 5-6 stories. The tables are set up on the inclined streets! Every other server is from Nepal or India. The whole area is seeping in energy. We tried out the local buses today. Very efficient, I must say!
- This the coolest thing ever Sep 21, 2023
Found this in Valetta. Never seen this or heard of this in any other country. After all the climbing up and down the streets I just did, I need access to this minister, just about now!!! I did not find any suggestion box around the ministry, but I was going to suggest that it might be more to the point to have the minister’s parking spot a few hundred yards away from his /her office so that he/she can stay active!!
Jokes apart, have you seen anything like this?
- Today’s plan of action – explore the island of Gozo Sep 22, 2023
- That was a lot of traffic between the two islands Sep 22, 2023
First, I was wondering why all those cars and trucks were lined up there without moving. Then I realized – all of them were also waiting for the boat like me. About 100-150 vehicles got on to our ferry. And there are about 40 ferry crossings every day between Malta and Gozo. That is a lot of traffic between the two islands once you realize that Malta is only 17 miles by 9 miles and Gozo is even smaller at 9 miles by 4.5 miles.
I did not realize this but Malta is the fourth most densely populated sovereign country in the world!
- Mediterranean water colors Sep 22, 2023
- See those numerous yellowish blobs in the water? Sep 22, 2023
- Comino Island Sep 22, 2023
The sheer face of the walls rising up from the waters is mind blowing. To give you an idea, the St. Mary’s Tower that you can see is about 4 stories tall. The island used to produce a lot of cumin at one time and hence the name. The current population of the whole island is a whopping 2!! A priest and a policeman. Who commute to work to Malta island everyday!
- The famous Blue Lagoon of Comino Island Sep 22, 2023
- Gozo island Sep 22, 2023
- Streets in Victoria (or as the Maltese call it – Rabat) Sep 22, 2023
- Cittadella, Gozo Sep 22, 2023
- View from the top of the Cittadella Sep 22, 2023
- St. George’s Basilica Sep 22, 2023
- Sharmila checking out Indian cotton clothes Sep 22, 2023
- Some wine at Pjazza San Gorg Sep 22, 2023
- The Salt Pans of Zebbug Sep 22, 2023
- Check out the overhang of the sandstone Sep 22, 2023
- The White Knoll of Gozo Sep 22, 2023
- Tas-Salvatur in Gozo Sep 22, 2023
This must remind you of The Redeemer in Rio. Michael, our cab driver, told us the story how this mountain Tal-Merzuq was once feared to be a volcanic one. To set this in context, Mt. Etna is just next door in Sicily. The locals built this statue of The Risen Jesus to keep the volcano at peace.
Years later, seismologists concluded that this mountain does not have a volcanic basis!
- Lunch by the Mediterranean Sea in Marsalforn Sep 22, 2023
- To give you an idea of the color of the Mediterranean here Sep 22, 2023
- Wind erosion Sep 22, 2023
- The Red Sands of Ramla Beach Sep 22, 2023
- Victoria Gate in Valetta Sep 22, 2023
- The sheer size of the walls and the size of the sheer walls can be daunting Sep 22, 2023
- Ft. St. Angelo seen from Valetta waterfront – this time during daytime Sep 22, 2023
- What is it about Indian food and the islands? Sep 22, 2023
We continued with our streak of finding some of the best Indian food we have ever eaten in the small islands! Remember Indian Summer in Nevis? Or SJ Curry Club in Turks and Caicos? Or Tandoori Heights in Curacao?
We hit another jackpot with Saffron in the island of Malta. Barely a few hundred yards away from our hotel, we were super impressed with the food. So much so that we went back the next day for dinner again. The food was very tasty and and was neither oily nor left us with that overeaten feeling.
We met the owners the second night – Piyali Sarkar – from Maniktala, Kolkata – and her husband!
The norm is to post the picture of the food before eating it. I just wanted to show you how much we enjoyed it!
- Finally, some relaxation with a glass of wine by the pool Sep 22, 2023
- Today, we are going to explore the island of Malta Sep 23, 2023
- Ceramic factory in Ta’Qali Crafts Village Sep 23, 2023
- And a glassware craftsman busy at work Sep 23, 2023
- This is a small fraction of the huge collection of ceramic art in the village Sep 23, 2023
- Now we have to wait for this to be shipped to our house Sep 23, 2023
- This is what happens if you take me shopping for art Sep 23, 2023
- We reached Mdina – the old capital of Malta Sep 23, 2023
- Another view of the streets of Mdina Sep 23, 2023
- The old city center of Mdina Sep 23, 2023
- View from the city Sep 23, 2023
- I have not seen this in a very very long time Sep 23, 2023
- Dusk in Valetta Sep 23, 2023
- Streets at different levels in Valetta Sep 23, 2023
- Valetta streets are always festive Sep 23, 2023
- Long walk back to the hotel Sep 23, 2023
- View on the walk Sep 23, 2023
- Vibrant St. Giljan Sep 23, 2023
- That was a lot of energy Sep 23, 2023
- Morning Walk Sep 24, 2023
- Hard Beaches Sep 24, 2023
- Finally, a Maltese in Malta! Sep 24, 2023
- View from our breakfast table Sep 24, 2023
- So, what was Plan A? Sep 24, 2023
- That statue caught my eye Sep 24, 2023
On our walk back, this statue got my attention. Mostly because I thought it was wearing the traditional Indian dhoti! Pulled up closer to check out who it was. It said “Sri Chinmoy” !! I do not know him – but the plaque read:
Dreamer of World Peace
Ambassador of Peace for Malta
Founder of the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run”
- Addio, Malta!! Sep 24, 2023
- She got her stuff, I got mine Sep 24, 2023
The one regret I have from this trip is that I did not get a chance to take a picture of the local cactus with the prickly pears on them. I wanted to stop a couple of times to take the pictures but never quite managed to. Michael, our driver in Gozo had told us that the pears are called “Bajtra” in the local language. They eat it. There is also a liquor that is made from it.
What do you know? I picked up a bottle of Bajtra liquor from the airport!! Of course, that means for the first time I will have to check in my suitcase this trip in the last leg from Paris to Atlanta. But I think it will be totally worth it.
- The Sun is always redder on the other side Sep 24, 2023