The Republic of Malta is a sovereign island country, currently referred to as a city-state. The United Nations, ESPON and EU Commission state that "the whole territory of Malta constitutes a single urban region." It seems true. The whole of Malta felt very urban.
Malta also has a Catholic feel to it. Although the Constitution of Malta guarantees freedom of conscience and religious worship, the state religion is Catholicism.
Giulia had said that, in Malta, "Jesus gets Christmas and Mary gets the rest of the year." This became more and more evident as I walked around my neighborhood and beyond.
Some religious ornamentation was built onto the wall, as this sculpted picture (below) had been...
So many signs of Christianity and the Christmas season...
Some signs of Christmas were depicted inside window seat sills (as in the pictures below)...
Some portrayed history...
There were self-standing monuments that housed statues of Mary and Jesus...
And of course, there were churches...
I was intrigued by the floor of this church.
Some churches were large, some very small. The church (in the video below) packed a whole lot of ornate into a tiny package...
There were statues (below).
I wonder if the sculptor of this dude knew a bird would land exactly where it did. It kind of looks like that finger was sculpted for just that purpose, doesn't it?
And there was a lot of bling. I do like me some bling...
As Christmas drew near, so too did a local band playing Christmas carols, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Claus, inside their sleigh, waving to the few people on the street. Pina and I viewed the little parade from our 5th story balcony. Please join us...
Did I tell you that Serra left for Istanbul a couple of days early? She was hoping to stay at least an extra day, so she seemed quite disappointed about having to leave early. I am sorry she had to leave early as well. Without Serra and her sight-seeing ways, I reverted back to walking my hood.
Buġibba is in St. Paul's Bay. The area was an easy walk from my home-base, and was quite active with restaurants, etc. One of my favorite haunts in Buġibba Square was the Malta Chocolate Factory. There, I tried a very delicious dark chocolate mocha latte.
A night or two after seeing the parade from my balcony, Bob and I walked and ate dinner in Buġibba. The restaurant we ate at was called Ta' Pawla Mother Earth. You probably can see why I wanted to eat there.
While eating, the little Christmas parade passed our restaurant, so I got a look-see up-close...
You may have noticed in the videos (above) that each street had its own set of festive lights. This proved true not only in St. Paul's Bay. It was true everywhere I went on Malta and Gozo alike.
I found St. Paul's Bay very quiet. That is perfect for me. There were other, more touristy parts of Malta and Gozo, with lots more people and activity, day and night. At night, with the holiday lights lit up, the feel was very festive.
In the pictures (below) you will (hopefully) get a feel for the variety of the streets, crowds, and lights around the island(s).
The dinner with Bob (mentioned somewhere above) was the beginning of the end of our time together. During our conversation, it became clear to me that Bob and I were not on the same page regarding politics, religion, spirituality, compassion, peace, and equity. Usually, differences of opinions are just that and need not end a relationship. We also had different communication styles, though, so it was difficult to address differences in a way that felt balanced and satisfying (at least, to me). I took a break from seeing Bob and carried on, on my own.
On Sunday (Christmas Eve day) I went to the open (fish) market in Marsaxlokk.
Bus rides in Malta took time. Often they were crowded. Often, I met people while on the bus. On this Sunday, I met some friendly person or group of people every time I rode the bus. I met people on the way to Marsaxlokk. I met people from Marsaxlokk to Valetta. I met people from Valetta to St. Paul's Bay.
Each time I met someone (or a group of people, or a couple), we had deep, meaningful conversations or conversations that were just plain kind and fun. Sometimes we exchanged WhatsApp information. I have so many phone numbers on my WhatsApp account of people I can not place.
When I got off the bus in Marsaxlokk, I needed a bathroom. There was a line for the toilet at the corner coffee shop. I got in line. The older couple in front of me were from Malta. She was born and raised on Malta. He was originally from Italy.
I love hearing the Maltese language. It is a mix of Arabic, Italian, and British English. Mostly, it sounds to me like Italian, and like I am listening to Mario and Luigi - the Mario Brothers.
After taking care of necessary (and frequent) bio needs, I walked across the street to the open (fish) market. The market meandered, so I meandered. I walked and walked and bought. I purchased salmon and swordfish caught that morning. I purchased a variety of vegetables, a variety of cheeses, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, fresh herb butter. I purchased souvenir T-shirts for Ash and Beto and a silk scarf for myself. (I totally broke my rule of not purchasing more things).
At one point, the church bells began to ring across the street. It was fantastic. Come, join me...
When my arms were full and the market was closing, I looked for the busses. Returning from Marsaxlokk to St. Paul's Bay, I learned that I needed to change busses in Valetta. I decided, while in Valetta anyway, I would stay in Valetta for a while. I had bags of food and gifts, though, so I figured I would stay no longer than an hour or so. First, I looked for a bathroom. (I did say that this was a frequent occurrence). Next, I looked for where I might unload my bags.
I may have told you that I am kind of in love with Indian food. I had seen a "Mr. Vindaloo's" sign on one of the booths at the Christmas Market when Serra and I had been there. Mr. Vindaloo's had, as everything was that day, been closed. This day, however, it was open. Mr. Vindaloo was behind the counter inside the booth.
I do not really know the name of the person behind the counter. It could have been Mr. Vindaloo. Ima go with that, just for fun.
I asked Mr. Vindaloo if I could stash my bags in his booth. I am happy to tell you that he unequivocally said "yes." Mr. Vindaloo took my heavy bags and stashed them in his booth. Then I picked out my dinner. I got onion bhaji and an entree with half vegetable korma and half chicken masala.
I took my boxed food and unburdened-self to the serpent-mermen fountain. I hoisted myself up onto the ledge, sat, watched the crowd go by, and savored Mr. Vindaloo's Indian food.
I brought my leftovers-in-a-box back to Mr. Vindaloo, who added the box to my bags. Then I walked around the Market.
I coveted one of the vendors' wares. She made brightly colored, uniquely beaded and wire wrapped hand-made earrings. She was lovely. Her earrings were extraordinary. I did not have or want to spend € 40 or more though. I was firmly placed back into my rule of no-more-stuff. I told her I hoped everyone would wear her earrings so that I could see them all over the world. It was not monetary payment but she seemed to like that.
Busking on the bridge from the amusement park to the battlements, was an African musician playing a Kora (videos below). The music took me over. I started dancing, though I moved more on the inside than outwardly. The crowd did not seem receptive to flash dancing and I did not want to be more visible than the busker.
Even though mine was an inner dance, the music and dance dropped me into the Universal Flow. The world became beautiful and cohesive. I looked at everything around me, fitting together and grooving, and I was in the groove. Sometimes I forget that all it takes to touch ecstatic joy is some good music and dancing.
I made my way back to Mr. Vindaloo's booth in the allotted one-hour time-period, just before he closed. I got my bags and box of leftovers, made my way to the very last bus stop, and headed home to St. Paul's Bay and the awaiting fluffy purring Pina.
I did not realize until I had time alone how stressful it was for me to be a tourist, rushing to get lots in (while with Serra) and trying to be ok with the multitude of difference of opinions and mismatched communication styles (that I had been experiencing with Bob). I thoroughly enjoyed my day, doing one thing at-a-time, following my will without compromise, and rekindling my autonomy and bliss.
On Sunday night, Christmas eve, I took a walk near home, along the water. I was surprised that the streets were empty and quiet. Then I saw where all the people were. The little St. Paul's Church was filled.
The singing was festive, though it lacked what I would call cheerfulness. I left the crowd at St. Paul's church to continue my walk on the empty waterfront sidewalk.
Not too far along, I realized my heart was sinking and that I felt lonely. I realized that it felt good to be around people, and that the further I walked away from them, the more my heart sank into loneliness. So I turned myself around and went back to where the people were. When my heart felt full, I walked home and cuddled up with Pina.
At some point, I went back to St. Paul's church to capture what it looked like in the light of day. It was empty, as it was every day I had passed it before Christmas Eve.
Malta is a relatively small spot on the planet. Yet, I have more to tell! I will pause for now.
Look for Much t-ado in Malta: Part Three, coming right up...