Exploring & Escapades

bits & pieces of my travels

Category: Malta

Marsaxlokk

Marsaxlokk is Malta’s fishing village. The place people will tell you to go to see the “real” Malta, the “old” Malta. The Malta of small, colorful fishing boats tied up with thick rope in the harbor, and the one with rows upon rows of market stalls and the cacophony of the fresh catch exchange. The Malta of old, tanned men on balconies and on lounge chairs, returned from the sea. Of old villas, renewed with new life, but not without their character. Of sea salt and sea breeze and sea smells. 

Chaos, not calm, compared to the rest of the island. A beautiful, complicated, classic chaos. 

Valletta

Valletta was unexpected, all of it. The sun. The sky. The scenes. The set of a movie, literally several. It was a mesh of histories, of colors. Flowers set on a backdrop of sandy stone. Streets as steep as they are narrow. Walkable.

Sitting on the terrace drinking wine, feeling warm in February. Unexpected and lovely. 

Sliema

Soft sunrise over Sliema Bay. Valletta slowly illuminated. From darkness to light; from our balcony.

The ideal place to sit and sip a green tea, to start the day. 

Malta Film

Somewhere on the coast of north-western Malta. Somewhere wild and quiet, away from tourists and locals alike. A large cliff and larger patch of land. I don’t even know what to call it; I don’t have an exact location.

It’s empty now, but several years ago, it was full of extras and crew. Equipment. Everything you could need for days of filming an iconic scene. This patch of land was where Daenerys emerged from the fire with her newly hatched dragons at the end of GoT Season 1. Now untouched and left to be. Our guide showed us exactly where she stood. He was there.

That was the official last stop on our Malta GoT tour; since we weren’t too far off, we were taken a little further north to the abandoned Pop Eye Village set for the view. Nothing to do with Game of Thrones, but mesmerizing in it’s own way.

The water was the most vibrant blue. 

Mdina

Mdina, Malta. The old city. Film set. Life set for hundreds of years. The streets are narrow and winding, doors are green, walls are thick. 

Another stop on our Game of Thrones tour, but deeper than GoT. It’s the road that Arya Stark ran down, chasing cats; it’s also the road that Maltese women poured fire into from the safety of their balconies, hundreds of years ago to thwart invaders. 

Past & present, equally rich. 

San Anton Palace & St. Dominic’s Convent

Malta, Game of Thrones.

First stop, San Anton Palace and Gardens. Residence of the President of Malta, film set for Game of Thrones Season 1. A stunning urban jungle paradise, beyond  even the film references. Life in the gardens originates, quite literally, from all over the world; it is custom for a visiting foreign leader to bring a flower, tree, or even animal to the garden as a gift. The gardens themselves were opened to the public in the early 1800s, but they were originaly planted long before that. Some of the trees are over three hundred years old.

Second stop, St. Dominic’s Convent, a fascinating monastery, almost always closed to the public. It’s most recognizable now as the garden where Ned Stark confronted Cersei Lannister about the linneage of her children in Season 1 of GoT. But locally, it’s known for a statue of the Madonna that allegedly “cried” real tears of blood during a service. The statue is still on display. Fed up with pilgrimmage crowds, the residents of the convent limited the hours. Now, the place is one of Malta’s best kept secrets.

I’m not a big tour person; this GoT tour, though, was a highlight of our trip – it brought us to places like these, hidden from the main stream, brimming with their own secret history. I learned so, so much – about film, geography, politics, Malta. Very, very much recommend. 

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