Our sixth day was meant for relaxing and sunbathing and I’m including it in this post just because we visited a lovely building on our way back from the beach. As I already wrote in the first day, you get to the beach by bus and while traveling you can admire the scenery. During this admiring my eagle eye noticed a beautiful castle, nested in high cliffs, just outside the road from Budgibba to Melieha.
You can reach it for no more than 10 minutes walking, during which you pass some villas and a small church. There was some kind of mass during our visit, so we just passed it, but the door was open and we could have a sneak peek at the ritual. The whole sight was quite surreal since there it was- a small church, behind it just the sea and the only sound was the calm voice of the priest. While we were still passing it the mass ended and the people poured outside the building, dressed in their finest clothes, hairs done, young, old and kids.
The castle, as I later found out, is called Selmun Palace. It looks like a castle, but it’s purpose was nothing alike. It was supposed to look like a fortress so the Ottomans wouldn’t attack it. It’s built in the 18 century and was used by the Maltese knights as a place to rest and hunt rabbits. Later it was taken by an order, saving christian captives from the Ottoman attacks on the island, and was turned into boarding house. The palace is an impressive building, but unfortunately, closed for visitors. I was really disappointed of that fact, but apparently the locals were just know starting to find out that tourists love their old buildings and historical past.
The next day was planed for a visit to a village, whose name I had a really hard time remembering -Marsaxlokk and it’s famous Sunday fish market. The travel was again by bus, this time quite long, since the village is on the south side of the island, as far from our hotel as can be. The trip was divided in two parts-first one to the capital town Valetta and the second one-to the village. That is the standard way for many routes here, since Valetta is the center of all transport lines. The trip was a little nightmare, apparently everyone on the island had decided to visit the market and the bus was filled with passengers.
You get off at the end of the village and after no more than two minutes by foot you are on the market. Imagine my surprise when instead of fishes we were greeted by ugly stalls, selling clothes and utensils…The crowd was rather dense and we almost gave up of the damn fishes, when one by one shy fish merchants started to come out. It turned out that the real market was in the center of the village, but thanks to the hundreds of tourists it became not only for fish, but for all kind of garbage. Nevertheless, I have to mention that the souvenirs here were cheaper than everywhere else on the island.
There were all kind of fishes and sea creatures and I didn’t know more than two of them 🙂 After all, it was an interesting experience and I truly recommend it. Beside the marine fauna, the locals were selling olives, sheep cheese with black pepper, made especially in Malta, many kinds of spices and capers of all sizes. Apparently the island is rich on capers because the price was really good and I couldn’t help myself to buy some.
Marsaxlokk is also famous for it’s typical coloured fishing boats. They say that this colouring is left from ancient Phoenician times and the main reason is their believe in superstitions. The colour and design are carried from one generation to another and has never been changed. Fishermen decorates the bow of the boat with eyes, like a charm, to protect them from bad weather and stormy sea.
The village is small and there aren’t many opportunities to wander, but the choices for a place to eat are quite enough. Every restaurant offers local fresh fish and it would be a crime not to taste it. I ate one, which kind will be forever a mystery to me since I didn’t understand what the waitress called it at all. I’m certain that if you go on any other day than Sunday, the atmosphere would be a lot nicer and calmer and you would be able to enjoy your meal to the fullest, without someone pushing your chair every five minutes 🙂
Anyway, the meal was lovely and not expensive at all, so after those much needed rest we decided to go to the local beach. There was almost no sand but to make up for this loss there were many locals making a picnic. But not the way we make picnics, these people were professionals – they had tents, bags of spices,vinegar, olive oil and all kind of unknown kitchen machinery that I have never seen before.
Like the days before, our enthusiasm of staying in one place for hours disappeared quickly and we decided to make a not planed detour to the last part of the island where we haven’t been – the Blue Grotto caves. The trip turned out quite something … First, we had to take a bus back to Valetta and then to the caves. The place is really wild, you can get to the caves only by boat and there is no village or people living nearby. However, we get to the bus station in Valetta and there is a painted map, bigger than me, showing every bus route on the island and encouraging us that not one, but two buses go to the caves.
Splendid, we got to the terminal and we started to wait… The first one came, we ask – Do you go to the Blue Grotto?, answer- No, you have to transfer. We thought for a second and decided that there’s no point and we will wait for the next one. It came, we got the same answer and started to panic. But why, the map says otherwise… Never mind, the tourist season hasn’t started, this routes are operated only in the season… Angry, but determined to get to this caves we get on the bus, together with another lost couple. We traveled calm and peacefully until, at some point, the driver yelled “Last stop, everyone get off, you have to transfer”. We were in the middle of nowhere, in some really small village where there’s no living soul anywhere. The bus schedule was claiming that another one will come in 20 minutes and we decided to go to the next stop, at least not to stay in one place. Surprise, the other couple is behind us. So, we walked calmly on the road, cars whooshed around us, one taxi even blew it’s horn for us. I thought to myself, what a rude man, but the other couple started to give in. It turned out that the driver knew that there is no bus and there will be lost tourists like us. He wanted 10 euro to get us to the cliffs and the other couple asked if we wanted to split. We did, of course, after all it was hot as hell. The trip took no more than ten minutes and the driver had the time of his live shouting and whistling to the tourists, walking beside the road: No bus! No bus!
We arrived at the caves and found out that the boat service is due to end in half an hour, such luck for us. The tour itself takes around 40 minutes and you visit seven of the caves. The boat is a simple fishermen’s one, painted traditional and you must wear life vests. The caves are magnificently beautiful, one of the most gorgeous places on Malta. The swinging and the bumping on the waves was hard, but every minute was worth it. I couldn’t make a lot of photos so make sure to visit if you are on the island.
Fun fact- the little bay, where the boats starts the tour is the place to swim for the teens from the nearby towns and villages. There were so many of them that the boats were almost pushing them to make them move and make a way.
It turned out that there is some kind of bus from the caves to Valettaafter all and we get it on our way back. It took us more than an hour and a half, since it was circling through half of the island and finally we managed to get our hotel quite exhausted. We had to get our luggage ready and to visit the jewel of Malta- the capital Valetta ….