Roots – Malta style

Trish with our taxi driver Chris outside the hospital in Malta where they were both born

Despite being covered in tattoos and only having one tooth – Chris is truly the best taxi driver in Malta. 

We had decided not to take any of the shore excursions in Malta as this was a very special stop for myself and my sister.  She was born there back in the 50’s (not sure if I have permission to disclose the actual year!) while I was just a toddler.  Our father had been stationed there with the Royal Navy.  We had a bunch of old photos and a vague idea of where to go to see special family places. 

We decided that the best thing to do was to hire a taxi for 5 hours.  This was very reasonable for the 4 of us – less than 100 Euros.  The taxi concierge waved Chris over and told us not to be put off by his appearance.  Really he did look a bit like a Maltese Hells Angel.  Battered face, arms like sides of ham covered in tattoos – and that one lonely tooth.  Turns out he was a big teddy bear with a heart bigger than his biceps.  He took charge of the “investigation” and wasted no time driving down the narrow streets regularly stopping to shout for help from passers by.  “Hey Charlie!” he would shout – followed by a long animated conversation in Maltise.  A few blocks later he would wind the window down again – “Hey Charlie!”…. another discussion.  Naively I asked if all the men in Malta were called Charlie.  “Yes” he replied “ or Joey!” 

Other words of wisdom from Chris included the recommendation never to ask a teenager or a young person anything.  If you want to find out something in Malta ask an older person.  The older men were always Charlie and the younger men were Joeys.  True to what Chris had said –  the Joeys knew nothing.

So Grannie came out to help

Things got really interesting when we were trying to find the house where we lived.  All I had was an old photo of myself as a baby and a Maltise lady who was the landlady.  “OK, wait here,” said Chris and with that he knocked on the door.  Before we knew it we were surrounded by about 20 people all from the street, all looking at the photo, passing it around, offering advice.  Maybe it’s this one’s cousin.  No, no – it’s this one’s Aunt.  Let’s get granny out – she is in the back room having a snooze.  No really she wouldn’t want to miss this.  She knows everything.  She’s 92.

Before we knew it we had a small crowd.  The people from next door joined in and they called a passer-by to come over and give their opinion.  The photo was passed from one to another with much excited shouting in Maltise.

And then there were more

Apart from all the “Down Memory Lane” experiences we also spent time down at the harbour famous for its prettily painted fishing boats and quay side markets.  Another must is the walled city of Mdina which has been carefully preserved.  We really only scratched the surface when we were there and truly the island warrants at least a week to enjoy all that it has to offer.

  The Maltese people are so friendly, speak excellent English and as part of the EU are now revitalising their island with new public transit.  Having said that many people, both locals and visitors, are sad to see the end of the famous yellow buses which have been operating in Malta since the 1950’s. 

Goodbye Yellow Bus

Our trip to Malta ended with bear hugs from Chris, new photos of old places to include in the family history and a determination to return to Malta for a longer stay.

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6 responses to “Roots – Malta style

  1. Id-dubbiena (chris) is the king!!!

  2. Dubbiena means fly (the insect). Is Chris nick name in his City. Ur article is the perfect view of the Maltese

  3. andrea dibben

    Dear Leslie,
    May i invite you to nominate Chris for a Star Service Award? You can find details on the Malta Tourism Website http://www.mta.com.mt Through your nomination, you could also win a holiday back to Malta… I’m Chris’ daughter in law and i can tell you that your article made his day : – ) …he’s quite the hero now. I also enjoyed reading about your adventures…and had a good laugh as well. We’d love to meet you if or when you come back to visit Malta….best wishes, Andrea.

    • My pleasure to nominate Chris – he really made our day in Malta. He went above and beyond to help us and in fact entered into our “quest” as if he was one of us – which he became!

    • Hi Andrea – just wondered if you got the email from Shelley Ewing – a friend of mine who will be visiting Malta. She would love to have Chris for the day. Please let me know if there is an email address or phone number where she can reach you. Thanks so much Lesley

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