After returning home from Malta, I talked to a friend who was very interested to hear my impressions of the island. She visited Malta a few years ago and fell in love with the rich culture, history and food so when she asked me to highlight the best thing about Malta and I answered, probably the nature, she was left with a puzzled look on her face. At the same time, with images of wild flowers and beautiful natural vistas still fresh in my mind, I didn’t know what was so strange about what I had said.
Later she explained that her visit to Malta took place one winter month and that the island was pretty barren, which is why, in her mind, nature does not rank very high in her book in terms of wonders of Malta. This stunned me as well because in April, during our stay there, Malta was all about the awakening nature and I could not believe that our impressions would differ to such an extent.
Malta has charming towns, spectacular monuments and rich culture, but its nature is something I felt and enjoyed really strongly, and something that, in my mind, will forever be intertwined with the image of the island. During our visit, the island awarded us with its most beautiful and luxurious natural scenes. From our first bus drive from the airport to Sliema to our final day trip to the island of Gozo, we were everywhere and constantly aware and in awe of the nature’s colors, shapes, sounds and smells. Meadows of bright, colorful flowers covering almost every inch of unpopulated space on the island, natural phenomenons made of stone, instances of Nature showing us how powerful and great it is, these are all images I will forever carry with me as the permanent mental souvenir of Malta.
While driving around the island by bus can sometimes be a frustrating experience, due to crowds, heat and seemingly endless tiny roads to pass by and bus stops to stop at, it also gives you the opportunity to stare out the window and see many faces and peculiarities of the island. One of the things that I enjoyed the most was the sight of wild flowers, meadows and green spaces appearing within and between the island towns. I am not talking about the trimmed, man-made gardens and parks, but about colorful meadows of wild flowers that are present in urbanized areas, where they break the dense, compact urbanization and form wonderful bits of natural scenery among the concrete, but that are at their finest in uninhabited areas (such as at the Hagar Qim and Mnajdra sites), on edges of the island where the rustling grass and sunlit low shrubbery of different textures, hues and colors reign supreme.
One of the days of our stay on the island, we visited Dingli cliffs. They are located on the western coast of Malta and are, at the height of 253 m above sea-level, the highest point of the island. It took us forever to get there, but once we got out of the bus, on the side of a narrow, obviously not much traveled road, without any cars or other vehicles, the sound of waves and the sight of open sea overwhelmed us as we crossed the road and walked along the plain from which spectacular views could be seen – of terraced gardens, the open sea and the small, uninhabited island of Filfe across from us.
Dingli cliffs were stretching into the foggy distance, looking quite monumental and a bit frightening, in combination with strong gusts of wind that whirled our hair and clothes and rose the waves that crushed into the cliffs. In the middle of Mediterranean bushes and spring flowers, there were some benches – just what we needed to sit down, take a moment and stare into the distance and the sights around us, hypnotized.
The fresh air and the wonderful views make us a bit peckish, and after the wind-swept walk in nature, we went looking for a place to eat. There were not many options offered in the middle of this uninhabited area, so the choice was fairly simple – The Cliffs Restaurant and Interpretation Centre, wonderfully placed within the nature that surrounds it, allowed us to enjoy some more views thanks to glass windows that the building was made of. In the interpretation center we learned more about the flora and fauna, while in the restaurant we tasted locally made food, seasoned, garnished and inspired by the plants of the area. This was a way to experience Dingli Cliffs through another sense – that of taste.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit both Gozo and Comino, two neighboring islands that together with Malta comprise the archipelago, so we opted for the bigger one of them – the island of Gozo. We didn’t want to miss the Azure window, maybe the most famous sight of the island, located close to the village of Dwerja. It is a natural arch made of globigerina, the second oldest rock found on the island.
This natural arch is 28 m high and makes a wonderful sight, although, unfortunately, it is in risk of disintegrating and crashing down within a few years. At the Azure window, we witnessed another display of the creativity, force and might of Nature, as the waves were crushing into the arch and breaking down, creating magical patterns of water and foam.
People stood around, many of them taking photos of the sight that was changing from one moment to another, but there were also few who were just sitting down, observing and listening to the play. It was a wonderful show of Nature, luxurious in color and sound, wonderfully uncoordinated and we got the first row seats and the complete contemplative experience.
What we saw, heard and tasted was only a selection of all natural wonders that Malta has to offer and there is no doubt that we will return there and see more of this island blessed by the sea, the sun, the way of life and the wonderful nature. Until then, though, through memories, photographs and stories, we will consider ourselves lucky that we got the chance to experience the beauties of this tiny, rich, fascinating island.