Hey there, Globetrotters, you'll have to forgive me -- I'm not Rick Steves, Anthony Bordain, or Samantha Brown (though I do fantasize about getting drunk with her in a Chilean disco) -- I'm Will, and I'm sorta new at this traveling the world via computer thing. It's just so "Aquarian." Not at all like getting physically pulled over by the cops in Amsterdam...
To Canada, Brazil, and Mauritius, I apologize if my previous installments of this series were somewhat lame. Life on the road ain't always easy, especially from the comfort of an office chair in Seattle. It's a lot easier to make a place interesting once you've actually been there. For now however, I have the same access to information you do, so I'll try to improve my on the fly travelership in highlighting the coolness of your particular locale. Hordes of people have already done most of the work for me, so I guess I'm just the guy who says "Hey, this place exists. Check it out."
Everyone's gotta be somewhere, so let's saddle up this horse and gallop across the Indian Ocean through Africa into the Mediterranean and stop for lunch in (drum roll)...
From a geographical perspective, Malta is intriguingly placed as three little cornflake-looking islands in-between Libya, Tunisia, and Sicily, and looks to me like a good place for some fun Euro-Afro cross-cultural partying.
When you think "Malta," think "Honey Sweet Haven" -- derived from the Greeks, who noted the island's unique production of honey (thanks to an endemic species of bee living there), and the Phoenicians, who enjoyed the shelter and safety of Malta's many bays and coves.
If you haven't guessed already, I'm a flag-hag, so I'm compelled to tell you that "Count Roger of Sicily" gave the colors of red and white to Malta's flag in 1091. ("Count Someone Else of Somewhere Else" gave red and white to the rest of the world after that.) Malta was a key stronghold during the Crusades, thus influenced by gallant Knights, whose badge was the Amalfi cross -- a symbol of Christian warrior-ness.
Back in the days of lesser enlightenment, Axis powers tried to bomb Malta into starvation and submission with 3000 bombing raids. In the end, Malta was supplied, reinforced, and defended by Allied convoys and the RAF. By May 1943, they had sunk 230 Axis ships in 164 days, the highest Allied sinking rate of the war. Thus the "George Cross" you see in the white hoist (previous photo) is encircled by the motto "For Gallantry," and was awarded to the entire Maltese population for their exceptional bravery. That's a virtue I admire and aspire to, so I thank the UK for recognizing it.
Malta is one of the worlds' smallest and most densely populated countries, made up of many small towns, and can be considered a city-state. So don't get discouraged if you, like me, are also small and dense. Be gallant like the Maltese. Be your own city-state.
Malta, like Brazil, is a very Catholic place. Unlike Brazil, Malta has "Megalithic Temples," the oldest free-standing structures in Europe, constructed from circa 3500 to 2500 BC. In case you forgot, that was a time when the air was still clean and the sex was still dirty.
Pottery found by archeologists at Skorba suggests the presence of stone age hunters or farmers who had arrived from the larger island of Sicily. Early humans at that time are thought to be responsible for the extinction of resident dwarf hippos and dwarf elephants, whose bones have been found in a famous cave called Għar Dalam.
The most probable means by which people came to Malta was by using rafts. The most adventurous means by which to travel there now is to follow their example, and likewise live in a cave upon arrival. Afterward we too shall build huts, grow cereals, raise livestock and worship Venus of Willendorf. Unlike previous inhabitants however, there will be no need to use our bone knives to sacrifice animals in Her honor. We want to do our spiritual best not to fall victim to famine or disease. As New World humans, we're responsible for the reappearance of Atlantis -- potentially the most awe-inspiring Mediterranean nightclub the world has ever seen, or maybe just a theme park where kids can ride around on real live dwarf hippos and elephants resurrected through the miracles of science.
Malta achieved its independence on 21 September 1964 (Independence Day) after intense negotiations with the United Kingdom, but declared itself a republic on 13 December 1974 (Republic Day). In 1980 Malta adopted a very smart policy -- neutrality, becoming the the venue of a summit between US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev (their first face-to-face encounter) in 1989. Malta has since joined the European Union as of 2004.
Other fun stuff:
The islands of the Maltese archipelago were formed from the high points of a land bridge between Sicily and North Africa that became isolated as sea levels rose after the last Ice Age. Visualize. The archipelago lies on the edge of the African tectonic plate where it meets the Eurasian plate for creative liaisons.
Malta has mild winters, warm to hot summers, and around 3000 hours of sunshine a year. Hurray! (Solar power, anyone?)
Malta’s resources include limestone, electronics, textiles, tourists, big budget foreign film production, and a government that invests heavily in education, including college. (What a concept!)
Malta has a long history of providing publicly funded health care. The first hospital recorded in the country was already functioning by 1372. Today, Malta has both a public health care system, known as the government health care service, where health care is free at the point of delivery, and a private health care system. Malta was ranked number five (5) in the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems, compared to the United States (at 37).
Brits make up the largest minority on Malta, many of whom have retired there -- a stroke of luck for Americans, as many Brits speak English.
A 2010 Charities Aid Foundation study found that Maltese were the most generous people in the world, with 83% contributing to charity.
Malta : The Exceptionally Brave, Healthy, and Educated Haven of Sweet Generous Sunshine Honey.