Malta Part 2

You may, or may not, have read an article by myself a few months ago about some Maltese tourists who got stuck in the mud in their VW transporter in Drumguish. The gist of the story was that the kindness of William and his friend resulted in them making it to Dalwhinnie in time for a tasting and purchase. They were officially unstuck by a large tractor, however it was Scottish generosity which really got them out.

After chatting to them I had to confess to having never been to Malta. This was something which I rectified last month. Malta is a south European archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea, approximately 80 kilometres south of Sicily. Malta is a popular holiday destination thanks to its warm climate, historical monuments, including nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and beautiful beaches and lagoons.

The warmth of Maltese October sunshine greeted us in Valleta after a delightful Ryanair flight from Edinburgh. Malta itself is a busy old place. The population is now around 500,000 on a pretty small island. We decided to escape the multitudes and ended up staying in Gozo, the island 20 minutes North of Malta via ferry.

Malta is one of the world’s smallest and most densely populated islands in the world. One thing that struck me whilst driving through both islands was the lack of vineyards and olive groves. I had a vision that there would be plenty of Mediterranean vistas of regimented vines interspersed by old olive trees. However, the only plant that seemed to be abundant was a prickly pear that looked more like a cactus than anything else - maybe a good source of Malta Tequilla? They make a palatable jam from the flowers - they taste a bit like watermelon if you can brave the spikes and pick some.

Every restaurant that you visit has a good array of Maltese wines to choose from. This is where my maths falls down. There are 5 million tourists through the airport visiting Malta every year, plus about 1 million visitors off cruise ships, plus 500,000 residents who presumably also partake of the local, very tasty wines. Where on earth are all these wines coming from? I didn’t see much evidence of vineyards. The Maltese wines I tried taste very similar to Sicilian wines. I wonder, I wonder.

Apart from this small seed of doubt, Malta oozes 16th Century charm, and was described by UNESCO as one of the most concentrated historic areas in the world’. A stroll through the centre of any of the old towns will take you past magnificent palaces and churches, cathedrals, and various fascinating museums.

On our last night there we met up with the Maltese that got stuck in Drumguish and they very kindly treated us to a delicious meal in the historic town of M’dina. More hospitable and generous folk you could not wish to find. It seems like Scotland doesn’t have the monopoly on generosity after all.

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