Malta is one of those tourist places that pretty much shuts down in the winter months. Besides the increasingly annoying mid-afternoon “siesta” where most of the shops are closed, many of the tourist destinations are only open until 4:00 PM and sometimes closed on random days like Mondays and Thursdays. It takes time, research and planning if you really want to see something or you face the prospect of showing up to locked gates and vicious-looking guard dogs.
So, one wonders what a tourist is to do when he has exhausted the supply of churches, museums and ancient stone temples there are to see on the islands of Malta. For my travel partner and I the answer, of course, was to go to the movies. For the three weeks we were in Malta, we saw about a half dozen different movies, all of them 1-3 months behind the release schedule that Hollywood carefully plans.
I must confess that the theatres in Malta are very nice, especially the 16-screen cineplex in Paceville, conveniently located just down the road from the largest casino. Most of the theatres had stadium seating and mid-sized screens. Tickets cost 2,60 Maltese Liri (approximately $7) per person. The most annoying thing was that all the theatres used assigned seating, which meant that you didn’t get to choose your own seat. Fortunately, we tended to see movies on weeknights so on 2 occasions were were the only people in the entire theatre. On Friday and Saturday nights the theatres and club districts of Paceville are positively packed with young Maltese, most of them dressed very nicely.
The second most annoying thing about the movie theatres in Malta is that they all have intermissions. Yeah, it was quite a shock. I don’t think I’ve seen an actual intermission period at a movie in the U.S. since I saw E.T. In 1982 in Cody, Wyoming when I was 12 years old. The good thing about the intermissions was it gave everyone a chance to use the restrooms and buy more popcorn, which I suspect is the real reason why such an old practice is still in effect.
The best part of the trip to Malta was the visit to the Hypogeum, an underground stone temple built by humans in 5000 B.C. To 2500 B.C., making it the oldest human-built structure on the planet. Discovered in 1903, while digging a well for a new house in what is now the town of Paola, the Hypogeum has turned out to be one of the most important prehistoric archeological discoveries ever. The entrance fee costs 3 Maltese Liri (about $8) and only 10 people at a time can go on a guided tour. This limitation is in place to protect the fragile nature of the Hypogeum from the modern-day human tourist, one of the most destructive forces in the world. Since the entirety of the Hypogeum is underground (carved out of the rock), it is well-preserved and is now lit up by a series of timed and controlled lights that only come on when the guide and tour group are near. Unfortunately, they do not allow photography but I have taken some photos of some of the artifacts in the local archeology museum.
In hindsight I think that spending an entire three weeks in Malta was a mistake. My comment the day before we left was, “I can’t wait to get off this fucking island”, even if it meant I would be heading to the sub-zero weather of Moscow, Russia. You can easily see most of Malta in two weeks and a good deal of it in a single week if you plan carefully. Maybe I’m jaded because I’m still getting over the cold/flu/virus/whatever I caught there, but I would probably only visit Malta again if it were Summer or Fall and I could figure out what I was allergic to that caused me to sneeze half my brain cells out my nose. Ugh.
But now I’m in Moscow, trying to stay warm, and editing the pictures I took at the Kremlin yesterday. This is my second trip to Russia and I find it equally as fascinating and backwards as I did back in September. Tomorrow I’m going to the “computer and technology market” where millions and millions of dollars worth of illegally copied software is being sold for about 30-60 rubles a disc (about $1-2). It will be interesting to see what I can find.
Posted by Cameron Barrett at January 18, 2003 07:48 PM