I have been to Malta before. I first went there in 1996 and liked it so much that I returned the following year. Both times I stayed at the Mellieha Bay hotel in the north of the island. These were family holidays with two teenage children, beaches, swimming pools, banana boat death rides and Popeye Village.
I liked it so much that I have always wanted to go back. I have repeatedly told Kim that Malta is special and that I am certain she would like it as much as I did. Late last year the opportunity arose and I was able to find a combination of cheap flights and a hotel deal at Mellieha Bay for just £200 for four nights and five full days! A bargain not to be missed.
During the gloomy winter months I continued to try and convince Kim that she was going to really, really enjoy Malta but as the departure date grew closer I began to worry that she might not be so blown away with the place as I had been previously…
Malta is a small country stranded in the Mediterranean Sea part way between Europe and Africa, it is close to Italy but it is not Italian, for a long time it was part of the British Empire but it is not British, it has an African influenced language but it is not African.
It is the tenth smallest country in the World and the fifth smallest in Europe after Vatican City, Monaco, San Marino and Liechtenstein. At only three hundred and sixteen square kilometres it is smaller than England’s smallest county and there are only twenty counties (out of 3,144) in the whole of the USA smaller than the total land area of Malta. Because of its tiny dimensions it is the seventh most densely populated country in the World and the overcrowding gets worse in the Summer because it is one of Europe’s most popular holiday destinations.
Malta is placed thirty-ninth in the Human Development Index which means that it is the top fifty or most highly developed countries. The Index ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income. It is rated twelfth out of thirty in the European Happiness Index, which may not sound very impressive but is three places above the United Kingdom. Denmark, Norway and Switzerland are all walking on sunshine, having placed first, second and third respectively in the happiness index. The Central African Republic, Benin and Togo are the least happy nations according to the report as they ranked in the bottom three places.
Malta has three UNESCO World Heritage Sites which is a small total compared to Italy which has the most in the World with fifty but please bear in mind that tiny Malta is only .1% of the size of its next door neighbour! To be honest with you I was not that bothered about visiting the megalithic temples but I was looking forward to visiting Valletta, the city of the Knights of St John.
Being in the Mediterranean the country has always participated in the Blue Flag Beach scheme. The Blue Flag beach award was originally conceived in France in 1985 where the first coastal municipalities were awarded the Blue Flag on the basis of criteria covering standards relating to sewage treatment and bathing water quality.
Two years later, 1987 was the ‘European Year of the Environment’ and the concept of the Blue Flag was developed as a European initiative by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe to include other areas of environmental management, such as waste disposal and coastal planning and protection and in that first year two hundred and forty four beaches from ten countries were awarded the new Blue Flag status.
Malta has nine Blue Flag beaches but it only has two hundred and fifty kilometres of coastline and applying a test of ratio of blue flag beaches to length of coast line then Malta would easily slip into the top ten countries in the World which are included in the scheme. We were going to be staying at Mellieha which is one of the nine.
So before departure we made our plans – there is a lot to see in Malta. Three full days of sightseeing seemed like a good idea, a day in Valletta, a ferry ride to Gozo and a bus ride to the ancient capital of Mdina in the rocky interior of the island. I was confident that we were going to enjoy it.