Bye bye Malta
Farewell little rock
I'm not sure what's going on in Malta? And I've been around long enough as it is. I reached Malta 3 weeks ago. You see plenty of nice expensive vehicles around the country: Maserati, Porsche etc... however Malta is listed in the lower half of the world in regards to their GDP ranking in on a 132nd place worldwide? Infrastructure appears good (unless you're a pedestrian), healthcare is good, education is good...
(mystery solved: GDP per capita ranks Malta as no 30 in the world)
I'm pretty unhappy with the traffic in Malta. I like walking but everyone behind the wheel is acting as if they are in an audition for The Fast and the Furious. Sidewalks are narrow if they exist. Being a tourist near the coastline you probably won't recognize what I just wrote. However if you try to walk a greater distance (120 min) between two points then you'll see how hopeless it can be. And regarding the vehicles it appears to me that people are either racing like a bat out of hell or stuck in traffic.
And then there are the politics. Even those claiming not to be interested in politics know far more than your average earthling. I generally find that to be a good thing. The Maltese are well informed when it comes to politics and nearly everyone votes. However the Maltese campaigns have been intruding on my social media to a degree where I had to block them and switch on my VPN. Quite aggressive! It's almost over though. The Maltese will vote on their new prime minister this Saturday (June 3rd). And in connection to that the Maltese do a very cool thing I think we all can learn from. Because the general election is on Saturday there can be no political campaigning today (Friday) and Saturday. People need to have a few days to clear their minds and contemplate about their choices. I think that is amazing! Joanna from the Malta Independent is a journalist and she said that there will be no politics in the newspapers during these two days. And trust me: there has been plenty!
The busses are largely critisized in Malta. Personally I've had mixed experiences.
I need to clarify something from last weeks entry. There isn't a problem between me and my fiancée. We are doing just fine. That was not what I was writing about last week. The Saga is a lot of work! Probably far more than you can imagine. Quite recently I was working long and hard to achieve something which fell apart due to people I couldn't trust. So that's what got me down last week. I'm better now. However the workload continues. Especially as the social media has been growing and there are far more requests, questions and interviews. I figure that the Saga's social media is quite near to its limit in regards to what I can manage alone along with everything else I need to do. A lot of strategy and tactics on an everyday basis. Not many bright heads to go over it with as I'm pretty much alone when it comes to that stuff. The last 3 African countries are going to be interesting. Libya is more than interesting. Tunisia should be very easy-going and Algeria might deny me a visa for not being a resident in Tunisia. I network a lot. Malta is full of Libyans and I have made a few contacts.
We are currently in the beginning of the Ramadan so if you know any Muslims then now is the time to say "Ramadan Karim" or "Ramadan Mubarak". It's kind of like saying "Merry Christmas". Throughout the month of the Ramadan the muslims fast all day between sunrise and sunset. In the evening they celebrate Iftar and feast. Now, there are those who do it right and then it is good for your body along with many other things. And then there are those who feast all night and sleep all day. Ramadan is a heck of a time to get anything done in Islamic countries. Frequently you find that people go to work late and leave early. Less gets done and everything takes more time than what it otherwise would have. And frankly speaking these warm countries aren't exactly famous for efficiency as it is.
Overlooking the great Harbor of Valletta.
Malta is definitely a warm country around this time of the year. I've found that things really take a lot of time here in Malta. People have remained kind, helpful and curious during my 3 weeks so I guess the Maltese are exactly that. I'd add that they are generally also a little reserved and very proud. And they have a lot of reason to be proud. The Maltese flag is decorated with a representation of the George Cross, awarded to Malta by George VI of the United Kingdom in 1942 for Malta's extraordinary bravery during the hardship of Second World War. Then there is all the history, the culture and the sheer beauty of the country.
I had a chance to drop in on The Knights Hospitallers and learn a little more about the Knights of Malta. The location is set in what used to be the Holy Infirmary and the historical hospital from where the Knights operated. The Knights Hospitallers were known for providing the best medical service available at that time and this brought a lot of injured and sick people to Malta in hope to be healed.
Try hanging out with this fellow all alone in the former mental wards.
Or how about walking here while hearing about how many died from the plaique.
It was kind of creepy in a very interesting way being down in the cellar/dungeon kind of atmosphere all alone. I was there at 10:00am when they opened up and no one else came down there for the first hour. The setting for the museum is where they used to treat the mentally ill. Well worth the visit at only €5.
Site map of the Hypogeum made in October 1907
I haven't been to interested in the megalithic temple complexes located around Malta. I'm very intrigued by their structure and age (5-6,000 years old). However I've had plenty to keep my mind busy with and not enough money nor time to go and explore. Perhaps it will be different if I someday return as a tourist. Sergio and his dad, David, took me up to see it from a distance but we didn't enter as I figured it was mostly just old rocks. However I recently learned that if you want to see the Hypogeum of Ħal-Saflieni then you need to make a reservation more than a month in advance! If that is a psychological trick then it worked. I decided I wanted to see it.
The Hypogeum, photograph by Richard Ellis, before 1910
It is a Neolithic subterranean structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300 – 3000 BC) and nobody knows who built it, what is was for or where the people went? Just a lot of underground mystery and some 7,000 skeletons (which have been removed). It consists of 3 layers and it is beautifully cut into the limestone. It shares some stylistic characteristics with the megalithic temples so there might be a connection there? Nobody knows although it's all from the same period. We do know that these people lived there for about 1,000 years and then abandoned it.
From Wikipedia. You're not permitted to take your camera down there.
The Hypogeum was discovered by accident in 1902 when workers cutting cisterns for a new housing development broke through its roof. How crazy is that? 4 houses had to be removed in order for the archeologists to excavate the site. Imagine that: people had there houses on top of it and knew nothing? That has me wondering how much more we might still have to discover? Think about it: this temple complex was hidden underground for 5,000 years before we discovered it just 100 years ago! Incredible. Only 10 visitors an hour are allowed in for a maximum of 8 hours a day so make your reservation in advance or chance it by reaching the National War Museum at Fort St Elmo early in the morning for a standby ticket before the queue gets too long.
Spinola Bay at night.
Anyway, my thanks go out to all of you who supported me throughout the hardship of last week and the failed tactics of this week. I'm sticking with the strategy but working with a new tactic. Sometimes you need to cut your losses and move on. I have a slight chance of making more progress here in Malta but it's going to be very time consuming. I'm on a ferry to Sicily (Italy) today and will board another ferry onwards to Tunisia on Saturday (tomorrow). Tunisia will soon become country no 129 and we will reduce the number of remaining African countries to 2.
By the way... all of this will make more sense later on. So hang in there ;)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - on the move
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga