The Malta Independent 15 November 2018, Thursday

The forgotten garden of Malta

Camilla Appelgren Tuesday, 11 September 2018, 07:54 Last update: about 3 months ago

Malta’s beauty always gets to me whenever I show people the breathtaking scenery of the island’s coasts.

Last weekend I met up with two travel bloggers, to show them what I consider to be the essential sites to visit in Malta. I took them to Mdina, San Anton gardens, and showed them the view at Popeye’s village before they left to spend a few days in Gozo.

I found myself taking alternative routes to the different destinations. Not because they were shortcuts, but because they were less littered and less filled with traffic. This couple are, if you ask me, the perfect tourists. They told me they avoid commercial things and seek to spend their money at museums and small local shops as well as buying local produce. They are also zero-plastic and zero-waste lifestylers, and I was amazed to see how well they achieved this without knowing the island.

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They drank the tap water and added plenty of lemon to remove the aftertaste. Yes, the tap water is drinkable but simply has that weird aftertaste. They also had a small food container with them where they could store the leftovers in it in order not to waste food. They only travelled with public transport and instead of staying at big hotels, they stayed with families for a much lower price, and as such got to see Malta’s real way of life.

With this in mind, I felt ashamed that our roads were covered in litter, and by the road rage experienced by people stuck in traffic - or shall I say creating the traffic? We aren’t really just stuck there, we are part of it and the sooner we realize that the better. So I detoured to try to show them the other side of Malta, the Malta that could be and the Malta I wish it to be.

There are plenty of people who express the same sentiment in my Malta cleanup group. They feel helpless while seeing the downfall of their neighbourhood, covered in litter, and I always tell them not to be. My argument has always been that they should be proud that we are many that care, especially in the group itself. Yet, I myself felt the same when showing the couple around.

I can no longer justify asking my own friends to come visit me. My friends wouldn’t want to go abroad to find overbuilt areas, fish slime in the sea and litter everywhere. They would visit Malta to discover what tourist brochures feature - crystal blue sea, historical buildings and island life, but instead would be met with the opposite. I don’t want to see their disappointment.

This change for the worse has escalated over the past couple of years but so did the number of people fighting for the environment. I, however, see more and more people packing their bags to leave, and of the people I knew during my first couple of years here, there are very few left. They didn’t leave Malta because they didn’t have a job or weren’t well paid. They left because they couldn’t stand the lack of greenery and the litter, as well as the lack of willingness to sort it out at government level.

Do we understand the extent of this unnecessary loss? Malta invested in these people and could have benefitted from them. Instead of sorting out our waste management and city maintenance issues, we concentrate on building more to get more people to relocate to a country with broken base. The more we build, the more waste issues we will have and no one seem to be keen on solving the core issue. Do we want one time visitors that have a bad experience and come here to see how badly we care for our country? Or should we instead attract tourists like the couple I met, caring for Malta, having a good experience and also see us caring for the country we live in?

When I took them to see San Anton gardens they had a lovely experience, seeing trees from all around the world and enjoying the shade they provide. We kept on walking until we came to a small patch with no trees and the extreme heat hit us. The couple read the sign out loud, “Maltese countryside”. That was the only patch visited where no photograph was taken that day. It looked like a forgotten garden - dry and heat struck. They said lightheartedly, “Maybe Malta should care about their own garden in the way they care for the others here…”.

Yes, maybe we should. Let’s make Malta a garden to be proud of and keep all our streets as clean as the ones in Mdina. We deserve it.  

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