Monday, December 19, 2011

Republic of Malta

I'm so excited about my upcoming trip. Miran and I are first going to make a quick stop in Munich before heading off to spend New Year's in Malta. This will be the 25th country I've visited since moving to Euroland in July 2009.

The Republic of Malta is made up of five islands in total. Malta, Gozo and Comino are the tourist destinations while Cominetto and Filfla are both uninhabited. With a size of 316 sq km (122 sq miles), about twice the size of Washington, DC, Malta is one of the smallest countries in the world. However, the population is around 400,000 so it is also one of the world's most densely populated countries.

Malta is right in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, about half way between Italy and North Africa. It is 80 km (50 miles) south of Sicily, 284 km (176 miles) east of Tunisia and 333 km (207 miles) north of Libya. Its strategic location was very important during WWII. It was said that whoever controlled Malta, controlled the Mediterranean. During the war, Malta survived having over 14,000 bombs dropped on it which made it the most heavily bombed place on earth. In 1942, King George VI awarded Malta with the George Cross which is proudly displayed on the country's flag.

History in Malta goes back some 7,000 years. The islands were first settled in 5200 BC by people arriving from Sicily. Over the centuries the islands have been controlled by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans and the Maltese Knights. In 1814, Malta became a British colony and in 1964 it finally gained independence. Malta joined the EU in 2004 and adopted the Euro in 2008. It is also part of the Schengen Zone which means that there is visa-free travel with most of Europe. However, this also means that many people from North Africa try to illegally enter Malta in order to make it further on to the continent.

Malta's capital is Valletta and there are two official languages: Maltese and English. From what I understand, Maltese sounds something like Arabic mixed with a bit of Italian. Having been a British colony has left its mark on the country. All of the electrical outlets use the funny British three-prong plugs so I can't forget to pack my travel adapters. But the worst part is that everyone drives on the left hand side of the road. Did I mention that the plan is to rent a car?!! So the first time I decide to rent a car since I received my Czech driver's license and I decide to go someplace where they drive on the "wrong" side of the road. Wish me luck!


  1. Christopher, you never stop moving! Congratulations on all of the places you've visited. My first blogging friend in Prague had a girlfriend from Malta. I was always struck by how different that would be to be one of 400,000 rather than one of 310 million. I find that idea a little scary. She never told me that so many bombs fell on Malta though. I hope they didn't wreck all of the historical places. Enjoy! Have a great trip.

  2. Christopher - One third of the world's population drive on what you call the 'wrong' side of the road. It's not 'wrong' but just the opposite of what you are used to. I quite happily drive my right-hand drive car on the 'right' (as in opposite of 'left') side of the road in continental Europe without any problem.

    1. I've driven an automatic transmission, left-hand drive car on the left side of the road in Aruba and Japan. It really wasn't that difficult. However, driving a left-hand manual transmission on the right side really through me for a loop. But by day three I really got comfortable with it.