Category Archives: Travel blog

Ordering a coffee in Malta

Coffee is one of the greater joys of this life. But it’s important to know the cultural norms of each place to avoid disappointment – I learned it the hard way.

Rule No. 1 is easy: never order a coffee by saying just ‘coffee’. In Portugal, ‘coffee’ means ‘espresso’. In Luxembourg, Lithuania and many other places, it means a regular black coffee, which is a less diluted version of americano. In Malta, by default, ‘coffee’ it means tasteless instant drink. Fair enough, despite being so close to Sicily, this is what local people seem to enjoy. But if you, like me, like the continental style black coffee, espresso lungo is as close as it gets.

Rule No. 2: if you are in a very traditional place and ready for an instant coffee, don’t forget to remind them if you want it without milk. In traditional pubs, coffee or tea is served in a glass and with milk unless instructed otherwise.

Rule No. 3: if you want your coffee after the meal, better order it after you eat and someone comes to clear the plates. In Lithuania, I am used to ordering everything in one go, and it will most likely be assumed that coffee comes after food. As delicious as a meal can be, I prefer to leave with a taste of coffee. Many waiters double-check to confirm that the coffee should be served after the meal. Not here. When I ask for coffee after the meal, they often forget it. When I order everything in one go, I’m left with a cup of coffee to drink on empty stomach.

I don’t blame them – it’s just a very different culture, and I am slowly adapting my habits and informing others how to get what they want. So far ordering the food, waiting for the plates to be cleared and then ordering my espresso lungo seems to be the most efficient way to get it the way I like it.

What other coffee-related cultural practices should I know of?

Valletta allows people to have fun for free, businesses predictably pissed

In anticipation of the opening of the Valletta – European Capital of Culture 2018 programme, the city of Valletta prepared a full list of activities for residents and visitors – local and foreign bands, an acrobat flown around by a giant balloon, interesting characters walking in the crowd, colourful projections and, finally, fireworks. As ugly as Mediterranean winters can be, the day was exceptionally nice, with almost no wind. Predictably, many people chose the main square of Valletta to meet the new year – it is estimated that there were around 85,000 attendees, which is around 13 times the population of Valletta!

Continue reading

Sustainable shopping in Malta at Tiffany’s SWAP

I thought it will be one of these events I click ‘interested’ on and never attend, but I was glad when a notification popped up as I was already in St. Julian’s. Tiffany Malta’s SWAP winter edition was the best shopping experience in Malta and I hope it will be repeated.

If you follow my blog, you probably know that shoppaholism is just about the antonym of me. I’m all for decluttering, reducing, reusing and living sustainably. Over this year I only went shopping for clothes in Malta twice, the other time being at a charity shop in Sliema with my friend. Yet charity shops in Malta are very far in quality from second-hand boutiques in Vilnius or other cities. The choice in local shops is limited, prices are high, and I pretty much have everything I need. But I enjoy supporting events like this, especially because it allows barter. Continue reading

Chocolate festival in Hamrun

I will not touch any chocolate again for at least a week, I thought, coming home from a sweet tooth trap in the South of the island, cheerfully chatting with my companions in Japanese. Friends from other countries told me that the now-annual chocolate festival in Hamrun is something you see once. It’s enough. This being my first year in Malta, I used the opportunity to experience this event, as each of its components sounded fun – sweet treats, festive atmosphere, and participation of diverse communities.

Continue reading

Bucharest: hidden cafes, imposing buildings and bookstore tourism

It’s typical that the best cafes and bars are hidden in courtyards between several apartment blocks, a friend explained as we went for drinks to a trendy bar, complete with trees and a touch of South American fusion in its menu. With many outdoor cafes and bars outside of the tourist area thus hidden, Bucharest’s eclectic facades look somewhat grim. But who stays with the facades anyway? Bucharest invites the viewer to move on and search deeper.

Continue reading

Building Friendships event in Msida

The first day of September was rich in intercultural events: Appogg (the governmental youth agency) and UNHCR Malta brought several communities together to share food and traditional music in Msida, targeting mostly families in their Building Friendships event, and Spark15, a young migrants’ NGO, publicized a contemporary music and games event in Valletta. It was a tough choice, but Msida and Valletta being relatively close, I expected to make it to both. The first one was attractive for the opportunity to meet organized diaspora communities in Malta. The second one promised an energetic and youthful vibe.

Msida, home of Malta’s junior college, is a well-connected town by the sea. With the event taking place opposite the church, there was a good chance that passers-by would spot it and spontaneously decide to join. The center of the square was kept free for folk dancing performances, and several food stalls were arranged in a semicircle, offering Palestinian/ Levantine, Bangladeshi, Ghanaian, Maltese and Somali food, with face-painting and drums workshops in between. Continue reading

Manoel Island – the overrated entertainment hub

Believe it or not, it took me half a year to go and explore Manoel Island, which is off the coast of Gzira town and is known for parties and events. In winter especially, it looked like the best parties take place at Funky Monkey, expats′s go-to bar on the island. On the other hand, I also knew the island as an obscure development project, whereby a company, MIDI PLC, is building commercial venues in exchange for restoration of the island’s historical quarantine and other heritage areas. The agreement was signed in 2000 by the ruling PN administration at the time – the political party that tried to win elections this year promising greater transparency than the incumbent government. However, a part of the contract with the developer reportedly went missing. According to Eurostat, three in five Maltese men and a third of women have not read a book over the past year, probably because news look like detective novels or thrillers. As the plan for the island contains a hotel, a luxury casino, and a shopping area, some NGOs fear emergence of the second, but less ambitious, Dubai, while the company promises that most of the space will be accessible to the public.

The island is connected to Gzira by a narrow bridge, which is a road without a sidewalk (not surprising in Malta). The first thing one notices upon entering is the famous Duck Village.

Continue reading

Comino: when beauty and comfort go separate ways (but only 15 min apart)

Between the main inhabited islands of the Maltese archipelago lies a not-at-all hidden gem, the island of Comino. It has only three permanent residents and serves as a bird sanctuary. It is also known as a habitat for various reptiles. As such, it is not overdeveloped like the island of Malta, and tenting, heavily restricted on Malta, is popular here. Despite these advantages, it′s not the land that attracts hordes of tourists to the island. Like a cumin seed from which its name is said to be derived, it adds delightful flavor to the archipelago experience.

Tourists looking at the rocks through their smartphone screens

I finally went there after visiting Malta on vacation and having moved to live here this year. I was told that May is the best time to go, and it′s best to skip the high season, but I missed that chance this year. I can see why people were giving me this piece of advice. The Blue Lagoon, the most famous place on Comino, with sea so magically blue that it could serve as an endless artistic inspiration, was littered with noisy party boats, pedestrian paths full of vendors selling stuff, so and reminded me of Sharm el-Sheikh a bit. Continue reading

Vacations in Lithuania and ‘the storm of the decade’

Come to Lithuania in June, they said. Chill and swim in a lake, they said. So I expected to have very chill vacations, looking scruffy and eating garden-grown veggies. But then my friend and comrade Sandra put me in a designer dress for a photoshoot for her magazine, Verslo pietūs. Focusing on success stories, her magazine has become home for my latest travel articles before I embarked on my new Mediterranean adventure.

This team is fantastic, and I always learn a lot just by hanging out with them. At the same time it was a learning experience to see what areas of Vilnius are suitable for taking photos when the sky is cloudy. Our photographer chose the area near the White Bridge, which offers green spaces as well as urban landscapes.

Continue reading

The dangers of NOT being a happy camper while living abroad

One day I was browsing the Expats Malta Facebook group, when a discussion about pros and cons of living in Malta caught my eye. The group is too active for me to find it again, but basically (<- that′s a strongly beloved word among the locals) it was a flood of reactions to a British person criticizing healthcare, streets, and people′s attitudes in Malta. Soon enough she was told to go back to her country.

It inspired me to draw this comic. Continue reading