8 Things you might not know about Malta

If you’re considering a holiday in Malta, you’re on the right track for good food, hot sunshine and endless days of relaxation.

The island has created its own unique cultural identity in the Mediterranean, influenced by nearby countries like Egypt, Italy and Greece, yet remains undeniably Maltese at its heart. Here are eight interesting facts to give you a real taster for this unique country.

One of Malta's former film sets is a theme park today

You’re likely already familiar with the fact that film-makers completely adore Malta.

Its climate and natural beauty, mixed with its tremendous amount of history and antiquity, give it a brilliant appeal to production companies. Modern hits like Gladiator and Troy were partly shot in Malta, as were many of the earlier Game of Thrones episodes.

But when the live-action movie of Popeye starring Robin Williams was filmed in Malta in the 1970s, before CGI, the whole seaside town set was made by hand.

Those wooden houses in their vibrant colours still stand, and when filming concluded, some smart Maltese folks turned Popeye Village into a theme park you can visit today.

Malta's prehistory is truly ancient

You might have taken a summer drive down to Stonehenge, or even experienced the almighty pyramids near Giza in Egypt. However, in Malta, megaliths exist that predate even those ancient feats of engineering.

In fact, there are seven recognised megalithic sites where some of the world’s oldest freestanding stone structures proudly remain today, waiting for your exploration. That includes mysterious stone circles at Skorba and the magnificent angular archways of Tarxien.

The ancient mysteries don’t stop there. The island is home to a cave network known as Ghar-Dalam, or the Caves of Darkness, which are said to be the earliest human habitation on the island.

And across Malta’s island clusters, the bedrock features paths carved into the ground for unknown purposes, but they’re commonly held to have been ancient thoroughfares for carts carrying goods.

Make way for Malta's motorheads

Maltese people love their cars, perhaps as much as our friends in Cuba. Public transport exists in the form of buses, which used to be individually owned and operated vehicles until bus services were nationalised under one organisation in 2011.

Nonetheless, car ownership is preferred, with over 300,000 cars among the population of around 400,000. Of course, Malta isn’t an altogether large country, so traffic limitations have been put in place, such as in Mdina, where you may only drive your car in the city limits if you’re a citizen of the city.

War history buffs have plenty to see here

The Second World War left its mark on Malta, although thankfully nowhere near as destructively as in many other places in the world.

If anything, there’s only more glimpses into the past to see here as a result, with divers often rushing to Malta to make the most of the chance to explore sunken shipwrecks from World War Two.

Similarly, in the village of Mosta, the magnificent Mosta Dome church exists, and it houses a bomb that fell from World War Two that didn’t detonate on impact.

Because of that, both the beautiful church and the surrounding community was spared, and the decommissioned bomb remains on display in the church even today.

The eyes have it

While you’re enjoying your time by Malta’s many coastlines, you’ll likely notice a few things about the traditional fishing boats bobbing in the bay.

Firstly, they’re superbly painted with bright colours and secondly, each little boat has eyes painted on the front. While amusing in its own right, it’s a tradition stemming from the Phoenican era. Those are the Eyes of Osiris, said to keep watch over sailors at sea.

The sweetest name

The truth behind Malta’s name has been lost to history, but the most commonly accepted thought on the matter is that the Greeks named the island cluster.

The name of Malta can be traced back to an old Greek word for honey, which alludes to the uniquely flavoured honey produced by a species of bees that lives solely in Malta.

A courageous nation

We already touched on the relics left over in Malta from World War II.

But the entire country received the St George’s Cross for its valour during that time of conflict, which is a point of pride to the Maltese that extended even beyond its independence from the UK. The flag of Malta still bears the motif of the St George’s Cross even today.

Gozo is an island of myths

Gozo is close to the major Maltese island you’ll likely be holidaying in, and is worth a visit, especially if you’re a fan of legends and folklore. In ancient times, the great scholar Homer suggested that the sea deity Calypso imprisoned Odysseus here for a time, tying the island directly to the stories of bygone eras.

If that’s not enough, take a look around at the tremendous natural beauty, the limestone arches by the shore and the ancient structures left behind here.

It’ll soon become clear why Gozo was named as such – the name translates into Maltese as the island that belonged to giants, who seemingly created all these fantastical sights.

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