In this journal:
white proclaimed “superior race”;
water too blue for your screen;
a 12-story tall stone arch.
long post, if the pictures do not load, please refresh
England’s southern tip
The flight brought me towards Gatwick Airport, and I transited through towards Malta. Before this day, I did not even know how small this country was. The main island, also called Malta, was not much bigger than Easter Island itself! That came as quite a shocking revelation, and that excited me because anything comparable to Easter Island sounded great! My flight approached the island nation as lights started dimming from the west, and I entered this strange micro-country as darkness shrouded the arid Mediterranean land. The airport, despite its tiny size, was pretty well-organized, featuring an impressive viewing platform at the top, complete with arrival and departure information boards. I originally only had the intention of checking it out on my departing flight a few days later, but I discovered that the bus in Malta operates rather, let’s say, inefficiently. For most buses, once an hour was the best they can manage, and some others had the audacity to operate once every 2 hours. That is not public transportation any more: that is scheduled charter!
to the viewing platform
So I had to watch airplanes for a while, which is probably the best way to past time, right above “eating with the guarantee of no weight gain” and “a girl coming to talk while showing genuine interest”. Sadly, Malta is not well known for plane spotting, and I had to watch only a handful narrow body jets take off and land. Then the bus hailed me towards St. Julian’s, a “city” in this tiny country. Malta is almost a city-state, as the entire main island is smaller than Tokyo, with 90% of the half-million population living on it. Thus, there was no boundary of cities here, as one urban area just merges with the next one, making this island nation the densest country in the entire EU. However, Maltese seemed to be very stubborn at calling each place differently, and proudly declared themselves “Valleta born” or “Marsaxlokk raised”. Dude, they are barely 5km apart!
St. Julian’s Bay
However, that later started to make sense, as I realized this tiny city-state has insanely bad traffic. Probably due to the infuriatingly bad public transportation, one out of every 3 Maltese has a car, and let me remind you the furthest you can go on these lands is 30km from one end to the other. This was extremely baffling, and created inexplicably long traffic jams and travel times. From the airport to my hostel’s location, St. Julian, it took me more than an hour, and on a good day, you can practically see it from the observation deck on top of the terminal! Finally, about midnight, I settled into the horrible hostel, but that is another whole can of worms that I do not wish to open. Malta is a beautiful nation, so let’s enjoy it.
my path on Malta
Malta is divided into a few major islands, with the main one sharing the same name as the country, and this place is truly an amazingly historical place. One of the earliest civilizations stood here around 3000BC during the Stone Ages, and now it preserves some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. Later, the Roman Catholic world and Muslim world fought teeth and nail for this place, as this is the first line of defense between the two. After the failed crusades, Knights Hospitaller settled here, and continued the fight, until Napoleon took it over for his little field trip to Egypt. Finally, the British colonized this island, and it did not gain independence until 50 years ago. Now, the island is mostly a tourist destination with major trade powers in the Euro zone. This is Malta’s history, summarized in a 200-word paragraph.
St. Julian Bay
I decided to explore the country for my first day, which was slightly windy but perfectly comfortable. The walkways along the sea were very pleasant, though a bit deserted. Everyone here speaks two languages, English and Maltese, as they are the national languages here. A significant minority also speak Italian and French. However, Maltese is generally more respected amongst locals. Interestingly, this unique language is the only Semitic language in official EU lists. Semitic means roughly ancient Arabic, so one may assume that the Arab world can understand what the Maltese speak, but nope: this language branched out almost 800 years ago from the rest, and now is not mutually intelligible with any form of Arabic. This is just like Icelandic, which no Nordic language can understand because it separated so many years ago from ancient Norse. Additionally, it is also the only standardized form of Semitic language that uses Latin text for writing, so you and I can easily pronounce what is written since they have mostly similar alphabets.
Even though the island is not very big, walking around is still exhausting due to the long shores and hot weather. After walking an hour towards the capital of Valletta, I was practically starving. Luckily, I encountered one of the best Lebanese food my tongue had ever laid on, I held up my round belly, and continued on. Oh wait, don’t forget the ice cream! After another hour, I was finally along the side that faces the little peninsula of the capital, which was once the most fortified knight headquarter.
There is nothing more Mediterranean than this view, as the blue bobbing waves held up the monotonously yellowish colored cathedrals and spirals. Truly a beautiful sight, as my eyes started to glow of happiness. I took a short ferry across the Sliema bay, and landed on the capital city just a few blocks wide. The very first destination had to be the world-famous Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, donned as probably the most ornate church in the entire world. While the Hospitaller Knights always vowed for poverty ever since their establishment during the 11th century, the Grand Masters during the 17th century decided it was time to give their principal cathedral a little touch of Baroque style so that they can rival the extravagance of Rome. Thus, the church, which was originally decorated very moderately, experienced an astonishing overhaul. Thus, the outside of the church is still very plain, completely in contrast of the insanity going on inside.
meow meow right outside the gates
The church is very different from what you will normally see. Here, besides the main altar, there are nine chapels lined up by the two sides. Barring the one dedicated to Our Lady of Philermos, which the order acquired during the Crusades but later took with them to Russia and now is in Montenegro, all other 8 chapels are dedicated to the 8 Langues of the order, one each. The knights all came from different parts of Europe, so the 8 factions were effectively divided by languages, hence in French, langue. Initially, as King Henry of England decided to fuck his mistress and thus created a different religion called Protestantism, the langues from any Protestant country were eliminated. However, later down the line, when the order desperately needed money, they restored those langues in order to secure more funds.
ornate decoration in a chapel
The symbol of the knights is the eight-pointed cross, seen above among the wall decorations. It symbolizes the 8 langues that comprise this order. The group was initially founded as a charitable organization that took care of the pilgrims coming to the Holy Land at the Amalfitan Hospital in Jerusalem. They militarized after the First Crusade in 1099, and was in charge of protection of the Holy Land. They quickly were kicked out by the Islamic Conquest, and started their life in exile. Firstly, they were based in Rhodes in Greece, and then they were given Malta. They stayed here for nearly 300 years, and turned this little barren limestone rock into a flourishing hub of Mediterranean. Thus, Malta today is full-on Hospitaller Knights, from the eight-pointed cross on its national carrier, to the official religion of Roman Catholicism.
One of the most impressive things they did was during their early rule in Malta. In 1565, Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, the one who pushed the knights out of Rhodes in the first place, started an assault against the stronghold with over 40000 men. The defending 8000 knights barely held their grounds during the first battles, and it was apparent that the order was gonna go on a one-way field trip again. However, facing the destruction of half of his forces during the first days, Grand Master Jean Parisot de Vallete refused to retreat, and insisted to hold the line against the Ottomans. He initially thought the closest ally, Viceroy of Sicily would send help, but even they were scared that if they got defeated, the entire Italy would fall soon after. After long months of drawn out battles, the morale of the Muslim forces diminished, and eventually they retreated when they heard Sicily finally decided to send over some help. At the end, the knights had barely 600 men who could bear arms, and that was the very last time any knight force had a victory against the Islamic powers. The Great Seige of Malta was over, and Vallete’s valor was so outstanding that they named the newly built city after him, thus, here we are, in Valletta.
the marble floor and ceiling painting
The many knights who fought brilliantly and valiantly in later battles had a better place to be buried: right here in the church. The floor here is completely covered with marble pavement, detailed with the masters’ life and death. This is by far the most impressive floor I had ever seen, and it was for a good reason. Every single one was worth a little inspection, and there were hundreds of them!
spooky toot toot!
However, within the next few centuries, the knights quickly reduced to a form of Christian pirates. Due to the lack of funding and lack of crusades, the holy knights started pillaging Muslim settlements and seizing any ship that belonged to caliphates. Later, when situation started getting more dire, they began a horrible practice called “vista“, which allowed them to board any ship and seize anything close to goods that were being shipped to or from any Islamic state, and then proceeding to take over the ship. It was practically pirating by then. Their moral deterioration got them even less sponsors from Europe, and they had to pirate even more, so a vicious cycle began. Before too long, they were only a hollow husk of name compared to their precursors.
The order finally met its doom in 1798 as Napoleon bombarded the city to surrender. The exiled knights continued in Russia but quickly the organization became a mere puppet of the Tsars. Now, except on the land of Malta, very few people around the globe remember, let alone admire, this group of white men. The only places that honor these fallen knights are the chapels of the langues, and let’s examine a few. One of my favorites is The Chapel of the Langue of Provence, featuring the Archangel St. Michael, along with beautiful twin twisted columns on the gilded stone reredos.
The Chapel of the Langue of Provence
The Chapel of the Langue of Castille, Leon and Portugal
Next up is the marvelously decorated Chapel of the Langue of Castile, Leon and Portugal, the collective states to the west. It is dedicated to the patron saint of Spain, St. James, and features a painting of him defeating the Moors, by the Italian painter Mattia Preti, who did most of the artworks around the church. Beautiful sculptures also adorn the tombstones of the two grand masters who served the order from these regions.
The Chapel of the Langue of Italy
The most reveling design had to go to the Langue of Italy. The walls are adorned with symbols that represent the region these knights came from. The alternate magisterial coronets and imperial crowns symbolize the country where the Holy Roman Empire sat, and the double headed eagle was the head of the state. The eight-pointed cross is of course the symbol of the knights, and the monogram RC stands for the munificence during the command of Italian Grand Master Raphael Cotoner.
The Chapel of the Langue of Italy
The patron saint of these knights is St. Catherine of Alexandria, so prominent paintings around here feature her debating with the philosophers, her mystic marriage, and eventually her martyrdom. The shiny golden gilds and thousands of layers of carvings were honestly a bit too much to bear, and I had to zone out for a minute and picture a newborn lamb hopping on a grass field in order to zone back in with a fresh pair of eyes.
a tombstone in the Chapel of the Langue of Aragon
Finally, the Langue of Aragon. It was extremely detailed and beautiful, but I bet you are getting tired of those overwhelming Baroque art as well, so I will only feature this lovely altar which buried Nicolao Cotonor, the brother of the one in the Italian Langue. Take a closer look at the two people carrying the altar in the bottom of the picture, and they are one African and one Asian, symbolizing his pride in dominating the “lesser races”. Nicolao fought numerous times against not only the Islamic states, but also many African tribes as well as central-Asian forces. Well, coming from a lesser race, fuck you too Nicolao!
The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist by Caravaggio
In the later-built Oratory, a magnificent painting by the skilled Italian painter Caravaggio adorns the wall. This painting is likely the best representation of his pioneering Tenebrism from chiaroscuro style: the light and the ensuing shadow that underlines the solidity of objects. The masterpiece is widely regarded as one of the most important paintings in Western world. My personal take is similar, as I can clearly feel the ambiance created by the shadow and force in the light. There is no doubt that it can possess a devout Catholic’s soul in the place that honors the death of Saint John. But for me, more importantly, I want to know what the heck was the guy in the prison cell doing.
a fountain in downtown Valletta
There are many more beautiful chapels I want to feature, but my journals have become longer and longer these recent years, so I have to cut my introduction short, and honestly, the only way for one to truly appreciate this beautiful cathedral is to visit it, as no amount of words or pictures can do the beauty justice. I continued to the coasts of the city, where I could appreciate the view from high above, as well as the fortifications that allowed the knights to withstand a battle while outnumbered 8-to-1. On my way out, I found a tranquil square with a garden, featuring a large statue of Great Siege Monument of 1565, honoring the heroes of this battle.
Great Siege Monument of 1565
Slowly, I made my way to the gorgeous Upper Barrakka Gardens, a part of the old fortification built in the 1560s. Elaborated by the Italian Langue in the 1660s, the garden used to be private entertainment grounds for the knights, and it is now one of the most stunning places I had seen. Thousands of flowers bloom eternal, and the arches by the cliffs framed each angle and view of the grand harbor. Fountains adorned the majestic blue sky, while serving as a little background music for the ears, and musicians put on their best costumes for their performances they practiced for years. If Hanging Gardens of Babylon was real, then it must looked like this. I completely lost myself in the small area, gazing into the deep blue sea, as if it was the profoundly wise azul iris of Mother Nature.
Upper Barrakka Gardens
don’t mind me, just enjoying the view
Across from the bay was the so-called tri-cities. This just amuses me to no end, since each “city” is barely a few dozen blocks, yet because most Maltese things are relatively small due to limited landmass, everything was blown out of proportions. It is just like when I grew up in China, I would love to call anywhere with a population below 10000 people a village, while in Malta it would be a formal city. I just stood there, high above the rest of the country, enjoying this view of a nice afternoon, sipping some slightly warm tea that I carried all the way from Prague. Silly, isn’t it? We humans can only measure things relative to things that we are familiar with, so some locals here would never be able to understand why I call a 10000 people settlement a village, because we are all creatures limited by our perception, which is so feeble and pathetic.
navy cruiser coming to dock
view over the city
After finishing indulging myself with the gorgeous view, I continued to walk along the hanging walkways along the bay, and promptly got lost in the beautiful myriad of downtown Valletta. The city felt more like an ancient fortress than an active capital, where little streets were lined with lazy shopkeepers puffing smoke, and little cats playing with a child’s toy. I found myself loving the experience, and there was nothing else that I enjoyed more in Malta. It is my first true Mediterranean experience in my life, and that surely explained why so many were deeply in love with this enclosed sea.
pigeons admiring the view too
just a little street
After god knows how long, I eventually reached Lower Barrakka Gardens, the twin brother of the Upper one, offering an equally stunning view of the city. In fact, if you do not take a closer look, there apparently are no difference whatsoever. I sat below one of the arches, and let the wind sculpt my hairstyle, while I quietly watched the ships coming in and out of the Grand Harbor. Besides someone else to come join me for the view, what else can I want in life?
Lower Barrakka Gardens
Monument to Sir Alexander Ball
There was a neoclassical monument built in the garden, and it is dedicated to the first civil administrator of Malta under British rule. Do not be fooled, this monument for Alexander Ball was built in early 19th century, much younger than you would imagine, and was intentionally made in such a Greek Revival style because it was quite hip back then.
Siege Bell War Memorial
After so much walking, it was time to really take a break, especially after the stressful few days spent in Prague before. I decided to go for a little bit of traditional Maltese food: ftira, a form of Maltese pizza. It is like the super unhealthy version of flammkuchen, and I was soooo ready to devour the 5000 calories presented in front of me, so pardon the horrible photo quality. It is basically onion, cheese, meats baked on a thick bread base, and drenched in olive oil. I finished the meal with tears, partially from the insane amount I just ingested, partially from the sheer joy of devouring such delicious cuisine, and partially from the crippling realization that I will never get any girl to like me if I eat like this.
ftira from a brilliant restaurant called Nenu
For the next day, I decided to head to Gozo, the less populated island of the country, and on the way visit the beautiful Comino that everyone said I had to go. Okay then, let’s do it! The ferry terminal on the northwest side looked very close from my place, but it took a solid 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach by bus, especially given that the insanely low frequency of the bus meant that the bus was jam packed with over 60 tourists. It was so bad that most morning buses were completely stuffed and no longer were taking any more passengers, yet I figured out a genius solution: I took the bus all the way back to the departure point and then proceed to take the empty bus there! So to get around in Malta, you not only need patience, but also adaptability. Definitely not for the faint-hearted! Yeah, this is worst than Mexico City on a morning rush!
Finally I found myself the tiny kiosk that sold tickets to Comino, at the large dock situated in the corner of the island. Most people went by tours, so this public transport did not have too many clients. The boat was also on a painfully sluggish once-every-two-hour schedule, so I had to each lunch while waiting for the small transport to arrive. Luckily, despite the wind, it was quite sunny, making it a perfect day to visit the most gorgeous island in this archepelago.
old lady fishing
The waters here were so clean and blue, and I knew it was just the beginning of marvelous water features on this trip. After the murky Amazon expedition earlier during this journey, I was so happy to witness water actually does not contain thousands of mosquitoes, so pure that I could see fish biting an old lady’s bait! Oh man I just wish I am better at water sports, and I would not even hesitate to swim across the channel instead!
The boat hailed me across the tiny 3-km wide sea separating the two islands, and I made landfall on the most iconic Maltese feature aptly named Blue Lagoon, a large area of shallow cyan water surrounded by rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. There was no denying that this is where I would love to sit down and sip pineapple juice till the end of my days, if there were no 300 tourists around crowding out almost everything. Sadly, the tranquil bay gets filled with shiploads of day-trippers every day at 9 a.m. sharp, and there was not one single inch of available space that was not trembling due to the massive influx of people. I am not that big of a fan for squeezing through hundreds just to find a tiny spot to lie down, since that is basically my entire education and childhood in China.
crowding even on the gangway
As a result, I decided to take a walk to the other side of the island, which would take less than 20 minutes. Once I left the crowded lagoon area, my ears finally could hear something other than Carly B blasting from a speaker. The limestone base of the island made it a bad place for vegetation, but a great environment for karst landscapes. The sea water erodes the soft soluble limestone for years, carving out the most magnificent structures Mother Mature could craft. Large holes could be drilled through a little island, and huge cliffs usually accompanied stone arches. That was absolutely degrees better than the stuffy beach for me!
the view I own
As I approached St. Mary’s Tower, the only prominent structure on the island, I sat by a large cliff over 50 meters tall. After my adventure on Pulpit Rock in Norway, this was really not that big of a deal any more. I basked in the warm sun, and gazed over the turquoise waters. This is absolutely gorgeous! Sometimes I find out that part of the reason why I am so single is because nobody else would dare to fly around the globe for months just to end up sitting on a precarious cliff overlooking some waves and call it a day. Not one girl I have met possesses this level of insanity, and maybe I am destined to be alone. But hey, I love doing exactly that, so that is the price I pay: perpetual solitude!
look at the water!
selfie? for me, it is normal photo now
As I approached the tower, I passed by a tiny community. The only one on the island, in fact, and it was deserted, because there were only 3 people on the island now, after the fourth one passed away a few years back. I could hear their pet peacocks’ calling, but I could not locate those feathery friends. Living here must be a great dream: sunshine, peacocks, peace and quiet, as well as a marvelous bay… I also passed by an isolation hospital, abandoned of course. It was originally constructed by the Brits who used this place as a treatment locale for soldiers who got infectious diseases during battles. Now it sat idle, completely devoid of any sign of life, so maybe the tropical diseases had finally killed off its final host, the hospital…
St. Mary’s Tower
I was the last person to be admitted into the tower that day, as the old lady in charge “did not want to do it any more today”. The tower was built during the 17th century by the knights, serving as a signal tower as well as a primary line of defense against marauding Turks and corsairs, and its strategic location meant great views on top of the tower. However, I guess you must be sick of the stupid island views by now, so I will spare you the pain. Now it is a guard tower against illegal smuggling, as well as poaching.
oh man I want a yacht
On the way back, I passed a few party boats, and saw a handful of party bois do cliff jumping. I wish I am white and blonde so I can be a party boi, but well, not everyone can be born into that, and I guess the good’ol me just had to hurry along. I caught the last boat heading towards the island of Gozo, and began my 2 day adventure on the secondary island of Malta, where people say Maltese life truly comes to light.
Gozo bus terminal
If the public transport in Malta main island was atrocious, then the transport here in Gozo must be the final testament set forth by god himself. Some routes run as infrequently as thrice a day, and it took me a solid 2 hours from the port village of Mgarr to the capital of Victoria, which used to be called Rabat. I quickly took off from the bus station once I arrived, eager to explore the famous Citadel, or in Maltese: Iċ-Ċittadella. People told me if I thought Malta island was gorgeous, then Gozo was gonna blow my fucking mind. Well, my mind was ready, let’s bring out the mind blowing beauty!
The Citadel was originally built by the Romans as an acropolis, and later was used by people from around Gozo as a shelter from frequent pirate raids. Thus, a settlement started beside the now-castle, because it was the easiest to hike up the hill and hide, and before long it was the de-facto capital. Later, the Ottomans sacked the place in 16th century, and a major upgrade to the north side carried out later. Now, it is the most important tourist site of the Island, and the unobstructed view was simply spectacular.
Cathedral of the Assumption
The cathedral was converted from an old Roman temple worshiping Juno, and was later destroyed, reconstructed, and destroyed multiple times. The final version now is built in the 17th century, and feature a serene trompe-l’œil style dome painting. However, I had gotten quite tired of churches by this point of long haul traveling, so I did not inspect closer. The entire area now is converted into a compound of museums, souvenir shops, conference venues, and cafes, but the major feel of the place was kept intact. I headed down the steep streets, and began my bus ride to the northern town of Marsalforn.
looking up the cathedral
After another inexplicably long bus ride, I was finally in the little seaside fishing town of Marsalforn, where my hostel was located. I only had one night here on the island, so I decided for a nice little place outside the hectic Victoria. However, it took me a solid 7 hours to get from my place on the main island to this place, covering barely 20km of distance. In Shanghai, that would be 30 minutes of metro; in Los Angeles, that would be 50 minutes by car; and in Stockholm, it will be 1 hour by tram. In Malta, it took me a whole fucking day! A simple comparison: on Easter Island, I covered the same distance on foot faster than that!
houses built into the limestone
I settled down, and took a little walk along the coast, so I could visit the famous Salt Pans to the west of town. The practice of extracting salt dated way back to the Roman times, and the process is still in use now, and it is surprisingly simple. Carve grids into the soft stones by the ocean, and then pour ocean water into the grids. Wait a few months and voila~! You have your salt ready for sale! It was basically what Salar de Uyuni has been doing naturally for thousands of years, and it was a great trade for lazy folks like me.
the salt pans
However, I was not there mainly to see sea water dry up on rocks, but for the beautiful sunset. For me, the sunset is a ritual. For every day that I am able to watch one, I sit, stand, lie down, or whatever the fuck I felt like I should do at that time, and think back on the day, asking myself if I did enough to make myself a better person, or the world a better place. What I can improve, and what I can correct. Most importantly, I ask myself: am I enjoying my time? For this sunset, I sat down by the grids of white salt, and stared to the sky of the west. Large waves crashed underneath the rocks, spraying a mist of tears to my eyes, forming little rainbows on my retina. Was I having fun in this life? I sure did.
the sun never sets in a soul eternal
Marsalforn at night
I slowly walked back to town, and the lights had already illuminated the handful of streets at dusk. Wind slowly blew over the pages of restaurants’ menus sitting idly on the shelves, as the main tourist season was still months away. A man saw me passing by, and was even too lazy to tout his food offerings in the back. Besides the chirping crickets hidden somewhere in the bushes, the town was silent. Just my lonely set of footsteps echoing in the equally lonely streets, while the waves brushed against the rocky shore of the village, bobbing the small fishing boats anchored around the bay. I got a little bit chilly, and saw a nice local restaurant, so it was time for another course of traditional Maltese food: rabbit stew.
The strange food tradition was brought about when the British administrators were here, and they hunted rabbits for sport. The locals wanted to imitate those ones higher up, just like the Chulitas in Bolivia, so they started eating rabbits marinated in red wine and herbs, and the tradition stuck even after the tea-suckling colonizers left. It was certainly a welcoming feature for my screaming stomach, so I inhaled the offering within seconds.
village of Nadur
After bidding a few Germans in the desolate hostel farewell, I continued to explore the island. I thought to myself: well, the island is practically smaller than my backyard, so why not walk around for shits and giggles? And that was the beginning of a long, hot walk under the sun that I totally did not regret, like, at all. Definitely was the best choice I made, absolutely! I arrived in the little village of Nadur 2 hours later, and continued down the hills towards one of the most famous beaches in Malta, the red-sand Ramla Bay.
rest in peace
I passed by a new cemetery on a little hill, and found a family mourning for their deceased son. I joined them for a little bit of solemn silence, and paid my respects. After the teary-eyed family left, it was just me, standing in a field of flowers, looking at the tombstones of families, most of them freshly erected. Suddenly, tears flooded to my eyes: I don’t want to be buried alone. I don’t! It may be fun on the road as a vagabond, but truly, sometimes I look at the future, as muddled as a field of visual static, and I just panic, and fear. I have no one. No family, no friends, no lover, and not even myself. If I ever encounter anything, I would surely be buried in an unmarked grave alone, and that terrifies me, to the very core.
I arrived in the little beach with shock in my eyes, but the red sand quickly ameliorated my trembling heart. It was quite windy, and not the perfect day for a swim. Very few people were here by the bay, so I sat down and enjoyed a little bit of snacks. The road giveth, and the road taketh. It is ok. I chose the path; I walk it till the very end.
A bit of more walk up the hill later, I arrived at an unassuming hole in the ground. This is commonly believed as the cave in which the nymph Calypso, whose name originated from ancient Greek of καλύπτω (to hide), enchanted the hero Odysseus for seven years, hoping that he would be her husband forever. The island named by Homer in his Odyssey, Ogygia, is very likely referring to Gozo. However, now, the cave had collapsed onto itself and was no longer accessible. Too bad! I wished someone there could want me as a perpetual husband!
I walked back up hill to the town of Xagħra, just half an hour from the cave. The beautiful windmill caught my eye. Called Ta’Kola, this is one of the very few surviving traditional Maltese windmills. Built in the 1700s, it served as the primary method to grind grains until the World Wars! Later, I went to the square of the town looking for a meal, as the long walks had exhausted my stubby legs. Luckily, I did not have to go too far for a great view and food.
always up for a nice stew
by the sqaure
While I was enjoying my meal and admiring the beautiful church perched at the middle of the square, a loud hum of engine broke the peace. A whole squadron of classic cars blasted by my table, and parked right by the “no parking” signs, as if they owned the place. However, I did not mind too much, as it drastically improved the beauty of this lazy town on the Tuesday afternoon. Just look at that Alpha Romeo, and that Jaguar!!!
one day, I want to be THIS rich
even cakes taste better now~!
After the marvelous lunch, the walk continued, all the way to the other side of the town to a UNESCO heritage site: Ġgantija temples. These neolithic structures are one of the oldest religious buildings ever built by human kind, second only to the Turkish ruin of Göbekli Tepe. They were built for fertility worship of some sort, and had four chambers surrounded by huge rocks towering over 2 stories high. It was absolutely impressive that people on this barren island could manage this even before the Egyptians had the idea of pyramids. Yes, these temples are over 5500 years old!
main temple altar
Local Gozitan mythology believes that once a giantess gave birth to a son after copulating with a common man (a brave one I assume) and eating lots of beans, and she built the entire thing with the newborn on her shoulder. Yeah, why beans, I have no fucking clue. On the side of more believable story, the temple went through years of abandonment and eventually was cleared in 1827 by a British governor because he was pretty bored on an afternoon. During the next 100 years of negligence, lots of crucial information was lost, and now it sits under heavy protection, where thousands of steel bars support the 10-ton rocks. Funnily, lots of people put down their names while visiting the site during 19th century, leaving a footprint on the ancient rocks.
G.J.Chappelle, be ashamed of yourself
fields around Ta’Pinu
Last stop for my Gozo adventure was the church called Ta’Pinu, which sounds awfully like an Easter Island name. It was originally a tiny chapel, but when it was supposed to be demolished in 16th century, the workers’ first strikes broke their arms, so it was seen as an omen of holy powers. Later, many miracles happened to people who prayed here, and it was finally built into a proper church in 1932, in a neo-romanesque style. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI preached here, and this place is a very important destination for pilgrims. For me, however, I was just here for the views. It was truly an open country, and the fields around were the inspiration of a higher power for me.
I walked around the browning fields, eventually reached the isolated village of Għarb (meaning west in Arabic), where apparently everyone had dozed off to an afternoon siesta. I sat down by the bus stop, beside an old man and a young boy. They stared at me as if they had just seen Jesus Christ’s earwax, and asked me a lot of questions. Where I was from, why was I here, etc. When asked why I was sitting down there at the bench, I just silently replied, to myself more than to them:
“Waiting for the bus of love, except, it never has a schedule, and maybe, I have already missed it.”
I sighed, and we three just sat there in silence, gazing at the quiet town slowly falling asleep.
Finally, after seemingly forever, I boarded the bus back to the terminal, and then to the port village of Mgarr, where a large ferry boat would carry me back to the main island, so I could catch another bus back to St. Julians. It only took me 4 hours this time, so I have to say it was a great improvement, except the average speed would still be laughed at by fucking tortoises.
Malta Island, Again
For my final full day in Malta, I decided to go hit up the popular spots before they all disappear. I missed the famous Azul Window on Gozo because it collapsed due to centuries of erosion by the fierce waves in 2017. It had stood for thousands of years and collapsed just 1 year before my arrival, what wizardry is that!?? So I first visited the archaeological site of Ħaġar Qim, another one of the Maltese Megalithic Temples. It had an impressive wall made of enormous slabs of rocks, and was also built in 3500-ish B.C. People have found out that the main altar, and all the doorways leading up to it, point to a specific direction that is very close to the point of sunrise at summer solstice. The two stone slabs beside the main entrance also fits perfectly for the sunrise of the two equinoxes. Some others, however, believed it was just a mere coincidence.
diagram explaining the sun rays’ direction
entrance carved out of a slab
The height of the altars and the findings of animal remains also signal a possible animal sacrifice practice. Many slabs also feature swirl carvings, and even more have drilled holes, possibly for counting something. There are also quite a few mysterious statuettes buried around the compound, and one is named “Venus of Malta”. They have wide hips, and are fully dressed, but without a head, appearing almost asexual, contradicting many scholars’ belief that the place is somewhat also a fertility-related place of worship. Now, it is shielded by a large tent to prevent further degradation by the weather.
main area of Ħaġar Qim
Right underneath the cliffs next to the compound, I found a nice rock arch around the side, and decided why not go there to have my picnic lunch? I crawled through the steep decline, scrambling around the rubble of the battle between the land and the sea, and finally reached this exclusive spot. After sitting down, I took out a few snacks, and munched with a smile. I wish one day someone can do this with me, but if nobody can be this awesomely dedicated to a nice lunch spot, then fuck it. I will just have to do with solo!
a tranquil bay
From there, I walked along the cliffs and reached the area of Blue Grotto, probably the most prominent natural feature of the islands. It is an enormous arch that was formed by eroding waves, and I was hoping for a boat ride to the little area underneath, but apparently the island life dictated that no activities shall be commenced after 3pm. However, the view from the platform after climbing for hours was definitely worth it!
Finally, my days here on the Maltese island came to an end. I celebrated another great leg of my trip with more calories, and dozed off for the last slumber in this beautiful city nation. I let the slow waves of the bay crash into my dreams, and retreated back to the somber sea even slower than their steps in…
Sliema in the morning
I boarded the earliest bus from Sliema bus terminal, and headed straight for the airport. After getting my boarding pass, I took a quick elevator up to the very first glimpse I caught for Malta, on the airport viewing deck, and watched the small jets take off and land. It was quite a strange nation indeed, Malta, as I could never believe that crossing an island as small as this one would take a full day before experiencing it first hand. However, the main island of Malta was jam-packed of fun places, such as the beautiful capital of Valletta, the most stunning Co-Cathedral, and the magnificent Blue Grotto, as well as the ancient ruins of Ħaġar Qim. Then Comino offered the cyan water and an open sky, mwa! Lovely! Gozo, however, is my favorite, as it embodies the Maltese spirit perfectly, from the sparsely populated villages, so charming that one might never want to leave, to the valleys and bays pure and undisturbed, like a maiden deep in a sweet dream. No matter which island you go, you are not going to find a spot that is not worthy of your camera storage. Every time I am reminded of this place, I cannot help myself but say “Ahhhhhh!” Because it is a place that deserves a bit of talk, and a lot of appreciation.
my air-taxi is here!
I finally boarded my Finnair A319 for Helsinki, and landed for a quick transit bound for Fukuoka. Of course, as someone who was reincarnated from a starving Irish hedgehog, I could not board my flight to Japan without sucking in a free meal offered in the lounge. Then, I found out the flight to Fukuoka was practically a ghost flight, as everyone owned a row in this empty A330, so I gladly took a nap lying down, and then 4 more. Interestingly, at Fukuoka airport, the Korean Air staff was not very confused by my strange routing to go from one Japanese city to another via Korea, probably one of the most illegal routing one can have, but hey, I am not complaining since I had been dreading this moment for months! What if they straight up cancel my tickets and I had to walk to Osaka? Ugh. I shudder just at the thought.
This small Japanese airport mostly handled domestic flights, so almost all international flights were bound for the neighboring Korea. Thus, up in the photo above, there were two Korean Air flights leaving around the same time, except the smaller plane was heading to Busan just 20 minutes away. I was also surprised that they would offer a meal for the 1-hour flight to Seoul, and I was caught off guard since I had already inhaled another meal at the airport. As I munched down the 8th meal for this leg, a realization came to me: this would be the beginning of the last and final Voyager journey. The fourth one would then take me from Asia to Chile yet again, and put me onto the Greek island of Crete, as well as the Polish capital, Warsaw. Everything began as if it was a few moments ago, so how the heck did I end up almost finishing the trip already!? Time is a thief, and I felt like I had been robbed. Hurry up, Young, enjoy the meal, and enjoy the youth seeping away from your hands.
I munched on, and marched on.