Musings on Malta

A passionate traveller who loves visiting new countries, Shoba Nandyala recently visited Malta and Cyprus along with her sister Rani, her niece Haritha, and friends Indira Subbarami Reddy, Nandini, and Bhuvaneswar. Read all about her terrific trip!

We began our trip in Malta, a small island in the central Mediterranean Sea located off the African coast, where we were welcomed by a stunning panoramic view of the Grand Harbor. Located in the massively fortified tri-cities of L’Isla, Malta has long been the exotic filming location for many Hollywood movies and TV series, including the extremely popular Game of Thrones. We walked through the walled city of Mdina, awestruck by its unique mixture of medieval and Baroque architecture with narrow streets, winding alleyways, and squares; domed cathedrals, and colourful wooden balconies.

We then took the 20-minute ferry ride to the island of Gozo, the capital of Rabat. Towering high above the capital sits a majestic fortified town known as the Citadella. We explored the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the megalithic Ġgantija Temple. The prehistoric temple was constructed with a huge block of limestone on a cloverleaf-shaped floor plan. We spent a day at the crafts village in Ta’Qali on the outskirts of Attard, where we watched Maltese artisans skilfully craft handiwork of silver filigree jewellery, pottery, and lace. We also observed them using the difficult technique of glass-blowing to create beautiful art.

This was followed by another educational experience at the 16th century Casa Rocca Piccola. This privately owned home of an aristocratic Maltese family was converted into a bomb shelter during World War II. The Republic Square is one of the most photographed piazzas in Valletta, and was filled with open-air cafés where we stopped for a leisurely lunch. Then we headed to the magnificent Grandmaster Palazzo. Inside the palazzo, we walked through the famous Council Chamber, which was spectacularly adorned with well-preserved priceless tapestries that are over 300 years old.

Our final destination in Malta was the fascinating Blue Grotto. The boatmen steered us through the seven cave formations that were created from centuries of pounding of waves. As for the water, it was a stunning spectacle! The bluest of waters surrounded us and filled us with a sense of calm.

We then travelled to Cyprus for four days, where we first went on a day trip to Paphos, the mystical birthplace of the goddess Aphrodite. We explored ancient ruins of Roman villas in the Paphos Archaeological Park. Next on the list was Famagusta, on the east coast of Turkish-ruled Cyprus, with its miles of pale sand and clear turquoise sea. This was followed by the Castle of Limassol, where Richard, the Lionheart of England married Berengaria of Navarre in 1191. Here we got a glimpse of some amazing medieval pottery and Byzantine silver.

I can’t talk about my trip without mentioning the delicious food on which we feasted. The traditional Maltese food is rustic, and based on the seasons. Some of my favourites were Aljotta (fish soup with plenty of garlic, herbs, and tomatoes); Lampuka (fish pie); Stuffat tal-Qarnit (octopus stew); Pixxispad (grilled swordfish); and the national dish, Stuffat tal-Fenek (rabbit stew).

Malta is truly unique, with tons to see and explore. We felt like we stepped into a bubble where time stood still, and we had a delightful taste of authentic island life!    – Shoba Nandyala