Across Continents

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Reflections on Malta

I felt quite tearful. I’d wandered into Valletta for the very last time, found one of the few street cafes still open. It was getting dark. A final coffee. Suddenly it was time to leave, to swap warm and friendly Malta for the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, onwards to eastern Turkey and the Georgian border. Ready to move on, to push into the ’Stans, I told myself. New experiences beckoned, but that didn’t make the departure any easier.

In five short weeks I found myself becoming very settled on the island. There are as many cultural similarities with the UK as there are differences, giving Malta a very distinct national identity, and at the same time, a real sense of Englishness. A unique language – a blend of Arabic, Italian, even some English phrases – and staunchly Roman Catholic, the older generations at least. But then there’s an English language national newspaper – ’The Times’ – that both ressembles, even feels like, its UK namesake.

You could as easily juxtapose Heritage Malta with English Heritage. So many other subtle similarities, much more indicative of shared cultural values than simply driving on the left, or the usual High Street names in Valletta. And an enviable properness. Receipts for absolutely everything. You could be sure that if you did actually succeed in finding a drugs dealer, which I doubt, he’d insist on issuing you with one. Just wouldn’t be right to do otherwise. And he’d be very polite about it.

[The author very much appreciates being made so welcome at the family run Ramplas Hostel –www.maltahostelaccomodation.com – a big thank you to Yvonne, Simone, Frieda, Elaine, Keith, and fellow English guests Adrian, Colin and Conor]

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