Just before walking into Valletta from the airport, I had done my due diligence and confirmed that that essential chain of providers of sustenance to wary travellers had also made its services available to pilgrims in Malta.
But, this being Easter Sunday, all Lidls were closed.
Instead, walking through the center of a small settlement between the airport and Valetta, I came across a bakery selling delicious pastries which seemingly hadn’t made up their mind up as to whether they were Indian, eastern Mediterranean, or their own unique expression of flavour.
I sat down on the steps of the next door house, from where I could watch the drama unfold at the heavily attended religious service across the street, where participants were commemorating the death of their spiritual guide.
Then, the bells started to chime, heavy fireworks were ignited, and, eventually, a procession left the house of worship, a number of carriers lifting their born-again god through the entrance of the building, under a subdued applause from the congregated masses.
Malta is small; just over half a million people, four times the size of Manhattan. But, a country with history disproportionally large for its size.
Malta is home to some of the oldest free-standing stone structures in the world, megalithic prehistoric temples that predate the pyramids, as well as grooves that resemble cart ruts, cut in stone, which some associate with a lost highly advanced civilisation. (That said, the temples in Malta are predated by some 6000 years by the ruins in Göbekli Tepe in Turkey.)
The island also has, supposedly, a cave in which St. Paul took refuge, and another cave in which Odysseus was imprisoned for 7 years.
But many more made the islands their temporary home.
There’s the long history of the Knights Hospitaller, who settled on the island, preferring the climate of the islands to the colder weather up north. The church, the ‘Rotunda’ in Gozo is the worlds third highest unsupported dome, and is the spiritual seat of the Knights of Malta.
Maltese is a semitic language, originating with Phoenicians and Carthaginians. Turks raided the islands on a number of occasions, and in the mid 16th century enslaved the full population of Gozo, some 5000 people. Who were the forefathers of the current Gozitans? Maltese? Turks? Something else?
Eventually, Napoleon captured the islands in 1798, but control was handed to the British in 1814, them adding the country to their string of colonies the world over.
Only in 1964 did Malta regain its independence. But, control of the island is still murky; Investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was murdered for her work investigating corruption in the country.
Then there’s the odd ‘Popeye village’, a fake town constructed as the set for the 1980 Popeye movie with Robin Williams.
The island is very cat-friendly. Signs warning drivers of cat-crossings remind you to make sure you drive carefully. Cats hang out around supermarket exists, knowing that shoppers occasionally will buy them cat food.