I'm writing about Day Two at the end of Day Three, because I got a little much sun yesterday and went comatose as soon as my head hit the pillow (sort of). Just so you know why I'm using the word "yesterday" instead of "today" - although this, too, won't be posted until who knows when.
I got up, got ready, got breakfast (which was absolutely terrible, but that's what you get when your hotel has guests from all over and wants to please all of them), got readier (sunscreen and shades), and then went to the bus stop to get picked up by the tour operator like all the other tourists who want to see all the pretty things without having to interact with a single local while doing so. Except souvenir and ice cream vendors, of course. I hope the three Austrians from Day One took a bus somewhere as well so they could see that, oh goodness, these poor, oh so behind us truly civilized cultures, people on this much too dusty, simply not correctly irrigated island do have proper roads after all, wow. Good for them. Ugh, those three still bug me.
Now, this first bus, which was also open topped, made frequent stops at the larger hotels and resorts and thus took a bunch of us to Sliema. To my surprise, that's pronounced \SLEE-ma\ and not \slee-AY-ma\, as I had thought. As I said, other than identifying some of the influences, I don't understand the Maltese language. In Sleeema, right where the ferry to Valletta docks, across the street from Burger King (their description, not mine) we got onto the actual tour bus. The blue one, for the northern tour. Here's a picture of the route so I don't have to explain it. Yay, laziness.
I had marked points of personal interest in the brochure thingie, but planned on deciding spontaneously if I'd get off, sorry hop off, the bus or not. As the voice of the audio guide explained some of the country's history and I strained to understand her over the intense wind up there on top of the bus and over the fact that the cheap headphones they used didn't really fit in my ears, we made our way first downwards to Valletta and then towards the centre and the western part of the island. I have to say, I'm not usually one who enjoys those audio guides, but this one was actually well done and interesting and made me want to go get five to ten books on Maltese history, culture, and -drumroll- language. Just to give you an idea, here's some of the things you can make out between gusts of wind: Sicilians, the Punic Wars, Phoenicians, the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the knights (Templar?!), Zeus and Odysseus, Islam, St Peter, grandmasters and monks and fishermen, the two World Wars, Alexandria,... and so much more. I mean, how could you not be transfixed and 100% crazy fascinated by this place? I'll be honest: I am sincerely embarrassed by how little I know about the Maltese islands, as the voice in the wall of the bus kept calling them. This place holds such significance; how was I not aware of any of it?
Here's some photos while I try to figure out what this incredible ignorance on my part stems from.
In the end, I got out at only one place: Mdina. Recommended when I posted about coming here on Facebook and the most alluring of stops as described by the brochure.
The first thing I did once off the bus was spending about 20min figuring out why my phone claimed to be out of memory storage, and fixing it - luckily. Then I crossed the bridge over the now dry moat and stepped through the gate into the walled city that used to be the capital back when living on the coast was a bad idea due to regular corsair attacks. See, I forgot to mention pirates in my list up top. Narrow streets, little plazas, an incredible view over, well, everything.
I enjoyed the small details you could find everywhere in Mdina more than anything, so here's some of them.
For the rest of the trip, around more villages and then back to Sliema, I decided not to listen to the guide anymore. Those oldschool earbuds are too big for my ears and therefore don't fit. And what they lack in fitting they make up for in hurting, so I decided to just watch and observe for the rest of the tour. Which was also very enjoyable, although I did feel the curiosity grow with every piece of information the others got and I didn't.
Once back by the ferries and across the street from BK, I got myself a latte (first coffee of the day because the one at breakfast wasn't drinkable) and then boarded the bus that would take us back to our various hotels up the coast so we could end the day as we had started it: isolated in a space of tourists and service personnel, free of the authenticity of a conversation with anyone who doesn't speak the same language as yourself or English.
And the sunburn I discovered when I got back to my room, brought on by spending hours out in the open on the bus' upper level without once refreshing the sunscreen on my face or anywhere else, was the reason I didn't write this until today.
Can't wait to get those five to ten books!