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Much t-ado in Malta: Part One

I was in Malta for 19 days. I had so much up and down time there it seemed there was no in-between time for writing. Late on January 1st of this Gregorian calendar year of 2024, I left Malta. I flew to IST (the Istanbul, Turkey airport on the European side) and arrived at my hotel at 02:00 (2am). The transport back to IST was at 13:00 (1pm) the next day. My next flight (to Antalya) was not until 19:40 (7:40pm). I intended to use this in-between time to write.

Before I back-track to Malta, let me clear up any confusion you may be feeling right now.

You may recall that two blogs ago I said goodbye to Turkey. The blog was literally called "The Final Last Days of Turkey." That clearly sounds like a final goodbye, right? If you are now wondering, "Ami, why are you in Turkey," you are not alone. I am wondering that too.

You may recall that the first line (from two blogs ago) was: "the best part of my stay in Antalya was what happened after I left." It kind of sounds like Antalya did not suit me, right? It is true. That trip to Antalya did not sit well for me. I fully get it if you are scratching your head and furrowing your brow, asking, "Why then, Ami, are you traveling back to Antalya? " I am also scratching my head and furrowing my brow. I can only hope that more shall be revealed (for both of us).

You may recall that, after Malta, I was thinking I would go to Morocco. Morocco is not ruled out. I may still get there. I hope I do. I still feel excitement thinking of Marrakech. Every time I say or think or write Marrakech, CSNY are singing in my head. They are in my head again, now. You may be hoping I get to Morocco because, since I am bringing you with me, you may be anticipating our time there. You may be wondering if we will ever get there. Let us not lose hope. Marrakech, Morocco, we may see you soon. For now, I know not why, Antalya is calling.

More about the unfolding calling shall be revealed. I promise that, as I know what is going on, I will tell all. First, let me bring you (back) to Malta.

Giulia and Eugen's (and Pina's) 5th floor apartment in St. Paul's Bay (aka: San Pawl il-Baħar) included this balcony view (below). From their balcony, you can see St. Paul's Island (aka: Selmunett).

Looking out from the balcony to St. Paul's Island

After managing five flights of stairs from the apartment to the street, it was a super easy and short hike to the coastal walk that meandered along the Mediterranean Sea.

Looking out from the shore to St. Paul's Island

Giulia and Eugene had left for Italy. Pina (their cat and my reason for being there) had settled in for the day. This was my first solo adventure in Malta.

I had on my Michael Jackson sparkly purple hat. It was the one I got in Antalya to replace the pink sparkly hat I had left in the back seat of the biased tour-guide day-travel-buddy's car. If you do not know what I am referring to, you may want to read the post: Dancing Between Raindrops in Antalya.

I referred (above) to my sparkly purple hat as Michael Jackson because, in Antalya, that is what some shop owners called out as I walked by. The street barkers did not start by calling out "Michael Jackson" to me. They started by calling "Lady."

"Lady, come here," they called. "Lady, look at my things." I had heard this throughout each day on the European side of Istanbul. It was exhausting. I did not want to deal with any more Turkish men calling out: "Lady, buy my stuff" in Antalya or anywhere else. Frankly, I did not want to deal with any more men (from anywhere) demanding my attention for any reason. So I began to ignore them.

While ignoring the line of Antalya street barkers and wearing my new sparkly purple hat, one shop-owner-man called out: "Michael Jackson." As I continued to walk, the line of shop owners called out: "Janet Jackson," then: "La Toya Jackson." Ya gotta give 'em credit; they really tried to get my attention.

Unfortunately (for them) those shop owners did not get my attention or my business. Instead, I got something from them. My new sparkly purple hat did not have an association with Michael Jackson when I purchased it. Within minutes of leaving that store, though, when the other store owners called me all those Jackson names, I got it. I felt it.

Maybe I did not see the association at first because MJ's Fedora was solid black. It was neither purple nor was it sparkly. You can see it for yourself. Here is a live version of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean. (The video - embedded in MJ's name - not only shows the Fedora, but also entertains. This video is freaking awesome. It is here for your utter enjoyment).

In the video, you can see that Michael's Fedora-styled hat is solid black (no purple, no sparkle). He also wore that infamous sparkly silver glove. So, yeah... my sparkly Fedora-style hat may be like a Michael Jackson mash-up.

I do not know how these things work. What I know is that a line of shop owners in Antalya saw some magical connection between MJ and me. I can only assume it was the hat. And because they saw it, I saw it. So now, I am owning it. I have a Michael Jackson sparkly purple hat.

Back to my walk in Malta.

The first people I met were a drunken couple. I had on my Michael Jackson sparkly purple hat and (unlike in the photo above) I was smiling.

What was not to smile about? The day was new, the sun was (sort of) shining, I was on an island, and I was briskly walking alongside the Mediterranean Sea. I was... bright. I believe the drunken couple were attracted to my brightness.

"Look at you," they said, in an exuberant tone, "you are happy." And then they said something I had also noticed. "No one else is smiling." That was true. People around Malta, generally, did not smile. And then they said: "No one else will drink with us."

They offered me alcohol from their thermos. It was maybe 13:00 (1pm). I do not really remember the time. I do remember thinking the day was way too young for alcohol.

"No thank you," I said.

"You need to get drunk," the woman said, "and laid."

This (above) was the beginning of a conversation I wish I had avoided. For the rest of my walk I kept my smile to myself.

When I got back to Giulia and Eugene's (and Pina's) apartment, I noticed Giulia's solid black (waterproof) hat. It would be perfect for rainy days. It would be perfect for keeping the sun out. It would be, I thought, perfect for blending in.

I took a picture of me wearing Giulia's hat and sent it to her with this text: "I'm kind of in love with your hat!"

I followed that text with another: "If it's not weird or creepy, may I wear it while I'm here?"

Then, I took a picture of me in my sparkly purple hat with a text that said: "As much as I'm kind of in love with mine, I fear it will blow away (as you saw happen last night)."

It was true. While Giulia and I had walked the night before, a gust of wind had blown my Michael Jackson hat off my head. I had to chase it down. Giulia's hat would be perfect for staying on my head.

Giulia texted back: "Oh, please do!!" I was completely pleased with that response. There is so much I love about this woman.

Not too long into my stay (with Pina) in Malta, I met Bob. I was walking from the waterfront, up stairs toward the sidewalk. A man was walking my way on the sidewalk. We arrived at the same spot at the same time. He offered to let me go first in (what Bob later referred to as) a gentlemanly gesture. Come to find out, Bob had troubled knees and let me go first because he figured I was faster than him.

Bob, it turns out, was in Malta for a three month stay in an apartment around the corner from where I was staying for two weeks. After walking together and going into the same grocery store, we decided to have a glass of wine together later that night.

I wanted to be home with Pina, so Bob agreed to brave the five flights of stairs to get to my place. We made this plan directly after Bob bought a bottle of wine (at the grocery store that we had stopped at, together, around the corner from our apartments). Bob had the brilliant idea for me to carry the bottle of wine up and refrigerate it for later. Later, when Bob came over, we opened the wine and sat down with our glasses. Unfortunately, Bob spilled his glass of wine onto the notebook Giulia had left for me. Fortunately, the pages with all the helpful information she had written did not get wet.

Over the course of a few days, I learned that Bob was from Britain, had been fairly nomadic since his divorce, was now looking for a place to call home, was thinking he may have found his homey spot, and was planning to move to a small village in Scotland.

I learned that Bob enjoyed being by the water, in the water, and on the water, and so, he enjoyed Malta. Like me, I learned that Bob is not much of a tourist, and would rather stay in one place for a while, get to know it, and live more like a local. That explained his three-month stay in Malta.

I learned that Bob had been quite sporty, though he did not act out his sporty wants while I was hanging out with him, because his knee was bothering him.

I learned that, whenever Bob's knee started bothering him while he walked in Malta, he stopped for tea... or wine. Bob and I spent time together every day, walking along the Malta coast, stopping for tea, having a glass of wine. He even joined me when I hung out with Serra.

Ami (wearing Giulia's hat) and Bob (with a glass of wine) having lunch in Gozo with Serra (who took the picture)

You may recall that I met Serra in the security line upon arrival to Malta. Serra had shared that she was in Malta for the first time, for one week, visiting a friend. Between private time with her friend and flying back to Istanbul, Serra and I spent a few days together exploring Malta.

Serra liked doing touristy things. Though I am not comfortable traveling like a tourist, I willingly did touristy things with her.

Bob and I took a bus to meet Serra in Sliema. From there, we all took a bus back (up north) to catch a ferry to the island of Gozo. In Gozo, we got on a hop on-hop off tour bus.

You may have noticed in the photo (above) that we have on earbuds. The pre-recorded guided tour was interspersed with history, music, and silence. Sometimes what was being said matched what we were seeing. Sometimes not. Sometimes, I think, the earbuds were not working. I did not get much from that tour. For us, it was a fairly short tour.

The reason our tour of Gozo was short was because we got a late start to the day, and therefore, a late start on the tour bus. Though the ferry ran from Malta to Gozo and back every hour on the hour for 24 hours a day 7 days a week, the buses back in Malta were time limited. Serra was staying further south than St. Paul's Bay (where Bob and I were staying). There were late buses to St. Paul's Bay, but not to areas of Malta further south. We needed to plan wisely, to get back to Malta for Serra to catch her last bus home. And the buses took an extensive amount of time to get from one point to another, so by the time we got to the ferry in the first place, it was fairly late in the day.

I found it interesting that though the capitol of Gozo is Victoria most people call it Rabat. This became more interesting to me when I learned that the capitol of Malta is Valetta, though it used to be Mdina, which is attached to (another) Rabat. All this Rabat made me wonder. I researched Rabat via my dear advisor Wikipedia. I was thinking I might learn that Rabat means capitol. It does not.

I had heard that Victoria was a destination spot not to be missed. We missed it. I do not think Serra, Bob, and I did more than get off the tour bus to have lunch (photo far above). I do not remember in which town we got off to have lunch. It could very well have been Victoria, though we did not explore the part not to be missed. I remember I ate freshly caught red snapper for lunch. I remember enjoying it, though it was not remarkable enough for me to remember it being remarkable. I remember thinking that eating fish on an island was the right thing to do.

The next day, Serra and I toured without Bob. Bob's knee was bothering him, so he did what he called a pivot. I was glad for the pivot because I wanted alone time with Serra.

Again, I took a bus to meet Serra in Sliema. She wanted to do another hop on-hop off bus tour, of southern Malta. We agreed to meet early.

Did I tell you that, in Malta, they drive on the left side of the road? It was very confusing for my Americanized brain. I think it was confusing for my Turkish friend Serra, too. She had borrowed her friend's car to meet me. For whatever reason (maybe partly at least because of the different driving pattern) she arrived a bit later than was expected. Since we had extra time before the next tour bus, we decided to walk for a bit in Sliema and have coffee.

I was pleasantly surprised to see a Ben & Jerry's sign. Of course I had to check out the shop. I looked inside to find a sweets shop done up to the T in Victorian style decor. There was no ice cream (Ben & Jerry's or any other variety) to be had (because it was off season) but there were coffees and sweets a plenty.

Serra and Ami having cappuccino in the sweetest shop ever

Every detail of this little sweet shop was extraordinary. Check out the bathroom door (in the following video).

Then, we joined the hop on-hop off bus tour from Sliema along the southern route of Malta. Come, hop on...

I do not remember the details of a lot of our tour that day. I think our first hop-off was the capitol city of Valetta.

In the center of Valetta was the Christmas market and amusement park rides, which, on that cloudy and chilly day, were closed. In the center of the park was a most intriguing fountain (that you can see in the video below).

Serra was very much into photo shoots. So, here I am (below), throwing you the peace sign, in front of the magnificent three-serpent-mermen fountain.

All over Malta there are battlements. Here, in Valetta, we walked up one of them where we could see a different view of the amusement park...

...and did another photo shoot...

We hopped back on the tour bus.

On the tour bus, passing a horse and buggy while leaving Valetta

I do not remember which towns we passed through and which towns we hopped off to explore. I have a mish-mash of photos and memories.

The following are some places and memorable moments that we drove by...

So many coastal battlements and defensive walls

So many kinds of baklava

So many boats, ships and military vessels

At one point, we got off to eat and look for a destination point that Serra wanted to see. We did not find a place to eat until after we had walked for quite some time. We did find the destination point, though we did not end up going in. Instead, we explored something that caught my eye on the other side of the destination-spot-that-we-did-not-see.

I do not know what to call it. It was kind of a memorial cemetery. I do not think it was a cemetery, though. I think it was an area for family memorials (sans bodies). I will attempt to describe it. Maybe you know what it is and can give a name to it for the rest of us.

What we saw was outdoors in an enclosed gated area. It sort of looked like something you would find outside a church, though I have never seen anything like it outside of a church. There was a tall stone wall, with family memorials lined up in sections along the wall. There were a lot more sectioned family memorials, away from the wall, in an open area, lined up in rows, with walking paths between the rows (like a graveyard).

This not-a-graveyard, it seemed, was a small part of the much larger "destination point" that we had come to see. When we arrived to said destination point, we learned that there was an entrance fee. There was a big ta-do about needing a reservation and where to go to get one. We did not have the time nor the inclination to follow through on the confusing directions to gain entrance to whatever it was we thought we had wanted to see. At least some of the paid portion of the place was also outdoors, on the other side of the wall. From what we could see, it looked like a large park. Was it a park? Was it a graveyard? Was it something to do with a church? I do not know. What I know is that we remained in the free, family memorial section for quite some time, because it was stunning.

The whatever-it-was stunned me, for sure. It had sectioned off square areas of families. Each section had plaques, statues, and/or pictures of deceased family members. Included on the plaque, statue, or picture were the person's birth date and their age at death. Some pictures were large and were displayed on large easels. Some pictures were vintage-looking, some modern. There was also memorabilia in some sections - what I imagine to be favorite items - and plants and flowers that looked like they were being tended to. Now that I am describing the place, it is striking me like a super simple version of a graveyard full of Día de los Muertos ofrendas.

After leaving the massive amount of deceased people we had just met, we found a restaurant serving Turkish food. Serra was delighted. I was not as impressed with their food as she was, though, as Serra said, "We're not in Turkey."

We hopped back on the tour bus.

At another point in the tour, heading toward our last two destination hop-off points, we saw what I am calling "Magic Clouds."

I would say we hopped off to explore but really, what we did was basically a photo shoot with the gorgeous Mediterranean Sea and the Magic Clouds.

Because Serra's camera (well, anyone's camera, really) was better than mine, most of our pictures were taken on Serra's phone camera. These (below) are the pictures Serra sent me. She did not send me the pictures with her in them. That might have been awesome for you to see. Serra's pictures looked quite model-like. Mine are... just me.


Stunned by Magic Clouds

What to do during a photo shoot... tree pose

I believe the following two pictures were taken by me on my camera. The Magic Clouds were my favorite happening of the day. I wanted to stay and look at them until we could not see them anymore. We did not do that, though I certainly tried to capture the moment forever...

Our last hop off point was in Qrendi to see Ħaġar Qim, one of Gozo and Malta's seven megalithic temples. We did not pay to go into the actual (outdoor) temple. Instead, we explored around the outskirts of the site...

Ami atop a wall, ever impressed by the clouds

It was cold, and we decided to go inside the visitors center. While inside, we watched a seven-minute 4D film about Ħaġar Qim. I also looked around the museum. One of the most intriguing things of the day was reading that what had been thought to be Goddess Statues may very well have been statues of beings that were asexual.

I also got to cuddle up with a little purr-ball of a kitten hiding behind the docent's desk. "I just found her," he said, "Would you like to take her with you?" Unfortunately, for so many reasons, I had to say, "No."

There was more t-ado in Malta. So much more. For now, I will hit the pause button.

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Ami Ji Schmid
Ami Ji Schmid

Me and Joni 💓. Peace is so good.


Love this shot

Ami Ji Schmid
Ami Ji Schmid

Right?! Magic Clouds...


Ami's looked at clouds from both sides now, embraces being in the now, tours life's illusions learning how to marvel in the Magic! You look great dancing on the shores of Malta! Peace💓

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