I went to Malta for five nights over the Easter holiday and have subsequently shifted through the 200+ photos from the trip trying to determine what might be worth sharing with my family or possibly posting about.  Although I know next to nothing about automobiles, I am an appreciator of classic vehicular aesthetics, and so writing about the buses in Malta is an imperative – I’ve never come back from a holiday with 10+ pictures of buses before, but this was exceptional.

The Boy and I stayed in Qawra on the northern part of the island, which we quickly discovered was not as happenin’ as more central areas like Saint Julian’s Bay, Sliema/Paceville, or even Valletta, the capital.  Fortunately, the bus service was cheap, accessible, and charming (for the most part).

The buses in Malta are, in a word, supercool.  They reminded me of the Weinermobile, as they are painted mustard yellow and hotdog orange and have excellent chrome detailing.  We took six or seven different buses during our stay there and while they ranged in vintage, every one displayed prominent Catholic iconography on the interior, which was actually more appealing than it sounds.  Several of the older buses featured a thrilling hop-on door that didn’t close, so we could see the countryside whizzing past as we barreled down the exceptionally well-maintained roads:

Excitement!

I think it’s the only bus service I’ve been on where the driver will make change; we would try to hand in exact fare in Euros, but more than once received change back from little black bowls of rattling coins glued onto a board to the driver’s left-hand-side.  Nearly every driver we had was very tourist-friendly, and would willingly chat to us in English and advise us of which stop we wanted.

On one particular night out, we caught the last bus from Saint Julian’s Bay back to Qawra and, as the last passengers, the driver gave us a tour and dropped us directly in front of our hotel instead of at the bus stop down the road.  Thanks to this obvious high note, we had elevated expectations of bus service for the rest of our vacation.  The low note came in the form of the bus driver we scored on our second-to-last day, when we traveled to the port to catch a ferry to Gozo, an adjacent island.  This bus driver actually did not stop when I jumped on the bus, and continued to speed away as my boyfriend sprinted along the side trying to grab the handrail.  It was all very exciting and train-bandit-like, until the Boy flung himself onboard and I collapsed into a seat and the driver, for no evident reason but spite, decided to slam on the brakes and toss my boyfriend into the gearshift.

Given that nothing was ultimately injured but our dignity, I found this hilarious.  We settled in behind the driver (this became my preferred seat, so I could anxiously holler at them about where we were trying to go).  As such, I was in the privileged position of staring at the back of his neck, where I was greeted with this:

With incredulity, I witnessed him not only light up and smoke a cigarette, but proceed to simultaneously text message the entire journey.  In a country as obstinately Catholic as Malta (I toured more churches in five days than I have set foot in the last ten years), Treble-Six was a shocker.  While he casually endangered all our lives, I tried to get a pic of his smoking and texting, but this was the best I could do.  I kind of loved him, the big jerk.

At any rate, public transport in a foreign country is nearly always an eye-opener.  I recall screaming down the highway in Mexico at 100 mph in a taxi, my friend and I mute and clutching hands in the backseat, and Kadinsky and I discovering that the underground in Brussels is so relaxed that ticket-purchasing was apparently a personal choice rather than a requirement.  Please feel free to share your own foreign travel experiences – I know you’ve got them…

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