The truth is, I saw a picture on television once, and decided I would come here. One picture, and I was sold. The first thing that strikes me is the heat, the oppressive, dry heat. The kind of heat that doesn’t make you sweat, but rather makes you feel as if you are caked in dirt, baking slowly. I get on a bus and make my way to Valletta, the city I once saw, an image I’ve held in my mind until now. The island of Malta has seemed remote, exotic, but in all truth it’s in the middle – accessible, a blend of European and the Middle East. A land fought for my many empires, a collaboration of culture, art, and architecture.
I slide over the smooth stone pathways, eager to see everything. Each street I pass opens up stunning views of the steeples and fortress proudly occupying the end of the long, narrow city of Valletta. Valletta itself is a fortress, a walked city build on a hill, the sea lapping at it’s strong walls. There’s no bad view here, each long narrow street ends with a perfect image, angels adorn the street corners, stone churches, intricate architecture dazzels every street, rock pools form at the base of this fortress, and people leisurely cool themselves on the black rocks.
The great thing about Malta, is that it’s small, and has a bus service nearly everywhere on the island. It’s just that, the bus literally crawls and stops at every possible place on the island. I’m impatient. I’m trying to get to get another image I have seen on the internet, Popeye Village, and this time I am on a time crunch. I’ve been on a slow bus, inching forward for well over an hour and I can’t stand it anymore. I get out and continue my journey on foot. I walk through cities, past farms, over rock valleys with no other signs of life, consistently applying suncream, until I reach the little road going to the village. Cars kick up dirt as I approach the village and suddenly I realize, it’s a set, not the quaint fishing village I imagined. The movie Popeye was filmed here and it has been commercialized completely.
Frustration creeps up as I reflect on my journey here, but I’m prepared – I brought my swimsuit. I take my pictures, and head back down the hot, dusty, dirt road. I walk literally across the narrow strip of island to a sandy beach and promptly jump in the water, washing away the dirt, the disappointment of things that don’t go my way, and soaking my blistered feet. Basking in the strong Maltese sun, I relax with gratitude that I was able to come here. So many things don’t turn out the way I think they should, but I cherish the experience. I will carry the experience and memory of Malta with me, the heat, beauty, and unique lessons I learn from each place I go.