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Door Odette Loukovskaja-Cartwright

EDUSCHOOLSONTOUR

The European Schools are private – authority sponsored schools providing nursery, primary and secondary education in multiple languages. They are established to provide education  for children of personnel of the European Institutions and leading to the European Baccalaureate. Students are often given the opportunity to visit other member states to further cultural and linguistic awareness. 26 pupils from Brussels recently took part in a visit to Malta. Odette Loukovskaya-Cartwright, a 6th year student reports back for EU Reporter

Aangekomen in het hotel zijn we meteen naar bed gegaan, om de volgende ochtend om 09 uur wakker te worden. We werden wakker door zonlicht dat door de ramen naar binnen viel. We hadden 's nachts niet gezien dat we eigenlijk in een hotel zaten op minder dan 00 meter van de zee. Toen ik op ons balkon stond, zag ik de turkooizen zee zich kilometers ver in de verte uitstrekken, en wat leek op de hele mannelijke oudere bevolking van de stad die op zijn gemak bezig was met vissen. Ongeveer eens in de 20 minuten hoorden we een opgewonden kreet, toen weer een van de vissen die in het ondiepe water in de zon aan het luieren was, werd gevangen. We werden hartelijk ontvangen door het hotel, vooral door de hotelmanager, Tony.

Het hotel was zeer meegaand voor ons, iets heel verrassend gezien het feit dat we een groep van 26 tieners waren die vrijwel zeker de rust en de andere gasten zouden verstoren. We kregen echter elke dag een lunchpakket en kregen alleen maar vriendelijkheid en hulp. Die eerste dag op Malta gingen we naar een klein vissersdorpje, Marsaxlokk. Tijdens de 20 minuten durende busrit op weg daarheen, kon ik enkele van de bijzondere kenmerken van het Maltese landschap waarnemen waaraan ik de komende week zou wennen. Het eerste wat me opviel was dat er helemaal geen hoge gebouwen waren. De architectuur en stijl van de gebouwen deden me zelfs denken aan een kleine stad in Marokko, en dit was de eerste keer dat ik zoiets in Europa zag.

The second thing I noticed was how British everything was. The street signs were predominantly in English, as were the little cafe signs and advertisement billboards. At the zebra crossings, the belisha beacons were an exact copy of those in London. Throughout the week I think I met more British people than Maltese, and all Maltese people I did meet spoke perfect English! Marsaxlokk was a sleepy little village so close to the sea that some parts of it were quite literally in it. We walked through a little market which sold souvenirs, cheap sunglasses, “I Love Malta” t-shirts, little magnets and other paraphernalia. What looked like thousands of little boats rocked in the harbour which formed a semi-circle around the entire village. Interestingly enough, the majority of them were named after  Beatles songs, like “Hey Jude” and “Here Comes The Sun”. Most of Malta’s fish supply comes from Marsaxlokk, and its busy trade was demonstrated by the abundance of fish skeletons which littered almost every imaginable surface close to the harbour. Once we had crunched through this, we came across a little bay in which sat five or six little picturesque cafes, where we relaxed for a few hours and then headed for Valletta. In Valletta we first visited the fort of St. Elmo, and saw the “Maltaexperience”, a film about the history of the island and its inhabitants. We then made our way to the centre, where we took a guided tour round St. John’s Co-Cathedral. The interior of this cathedral was stunning. It was extremly ornate, and decorated in the height of the Baroque period. The cathedral houses several works of art, the most famous being De onthoofding van Johannes de Doper, door Caravaggio, in 1608 speciaal voor de kerk geschilderd.
On the second day, we visited the Ta’Qali Crafts Village, where we saw glass-blowing first hand and also silver jewellery being made in the traditional Maltese style. The glass ornaments, deftly pinched and pulled into shape by the wizened old glassblowers were beautiful. Every animal and object you can think of had been made from glass, and in the main shop where you could buy these ornaments you were surrounded by bright green elephants and blue turtles. Perhaps the most impressive of these ornaments was a horse-drawn carriage made out of clear and pink glass, every detail skillfully crafted, from the horses’ dainty hooves to the tiny candle-holders on either side of the carriage, the whole creation being no bigger than a rabbit. After this we went to Ghadira Bay, where we were able to swim in the sea. Although at this time in March the sea wasn’t particularly warm, it was still warmer than anything you may find on the coast of Belgium. The sea was so clear that you could see all the little fish darting around in between your feet, and the little crabs which would scuttle away on your approach. After an afternoon of lazing around in the sun we returned to the hotel to nurse our sunburn and sleep.
On the third day we visited Mdina, the ancient capital of Malta. It is called the “Silent City”, because no cars were allowed in there, except for weddings, funerals, and those of the inhabitants, of which there are around 300. Mdina’s buildings are mainly old palaces, and so most of the inhabitants are of old noble blood. After making our way through the little narrow winding streets, built as a sort of defence if the city would be invaded, we came to the city walls. Mdina being built on one of the tallest hills inMalta, from the walls we were able to look out upon most of the country. We spent the day in Mdina, as we were allowed free time by our teacher, and I and some other friends found a little square in which there was one cafe and a tourist shop. After avoiding being kidnapped by the over-zealous tourist shop owner, we sat for an entire afternoon on bean bags provided especially for us, sipping cold Coke after cold Coke, tanning and watching the inhabitants go about their lives. We spent the fourth day on the island of Gozo.
We first visited an ancient prehistoric temple, where we were given a full 2-hour tour by an enthusiastic tour-guide. After this we made our way to a vineyard, run by two old ladies who gave us a wine-tasting and also some Maltese specialities, such as a special kind of sweet tomato paste and a type of olives unique to Gozo. In the evening we were able to visit Paceville, the “party town” ofMalta. Accosted on all sides by people handing out “buy one get one free” vouchers for cocktails and drinks,  walking through Paceville at night is not for the faint-hearted. The heavy pounding of bass and flashing neon lights capture the exhilirating atmostphere of Paceville, and contrast sharply with the lazy, sun-bleached “day mode”. Overall, the trip was extremely enriching by way of experience and culture, and we all learnt a lot about Maltese customs and history. The people were all extremely helpful and friendly, and there was not one yob or trouble-maker that we saw during our stay there. The island was clean, peaceful, sunny, and everything we could have asked for for a school trip. Being exposed to Malta’s mix of cultures was an extremely interesting experience, and one that I would definitely repeat again.

Anna van Densky

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