I am stared at by a thousand eyes. In the bow of almost all the fishing boats in Malta's fishing village Marsaxlokk sit the eyes. The eyes of Osiris that literally keep a watchful eye over the fishermen, making sure they return safely to port with the day's catch. It is no wonder that the colorful and unique little luzzo boats have become somewhat of a symbol of Malta. These stable and robust boats have been used in Malta for thousands of years, through the Mediterranean winter storms and under the merciless summer sun. Today, most luzzo boats have been replaced with more efficient fishing vessels around Malta, but here in Marsaxlokk, the luzzo boats have had to continue to simmer out to sea. Every day, all year round. So also this February day when we visited the village.
The fishing village in world history
Marsaxlokk gets its name from the Arabic word "marsa" (meaning harbor) and the Maltese word "xlokk" (meaning sirocco wind). It was here in the naturally sheltered harbor that the Phoenicians first landed on Malta in 1000 BC. and it was also here that Napoleon landed troops during the French invasion at the end of the 18th century. Even in peacetime, the village has received celebrity visits. Gorbachev and Bush had one of their major meetings here on a warship in 1989. Quite simply, quite a lot has happened in this small village of just over 3000 inhabitants. But through all these invasions and historical events, one thing has remained. The fishing.
There is a lot of activity in the harbor this morning. Nets must be cleaned and mended and boats must be pulled ashore. Today's catch has already been sent around to Malta's shops and restaurants, it is only on Sundays that the fishermen sell the fish directly at the village's large fish market. We stroll past all the harbor's restaurants. The menus are being updated with the day's dishes and the ice-filled stands are starting to be filled with the day's catch. There's no rush to open, it's only 12 o'clock.
Lunch in the sun
We settle down at one of the tables in the restaurant La Nostra Padrona in the port. The tables with the bright blue tablecloths are crowded and the atmosphere is convivial. The boats bob calmly a few meters in front of our feet and behind us the city embraces us with its low sand-colored houses with blue windows. In high season the village is packed with bus tourists, but on this February day it is quite quiet. We take off our jackets and enjoy the warm February sun in short sleeves. All the guests are sitting outside today, do you need to sit indoors in Malta at some point during the year when the sun is shining?
The seafood and fish menu is well filled and I have more difficulty than usual deciding what to eat. My husband and I finally decide on one Malfaldine al Tartufo, Zucchini e Gambere – a pasta with truffle, zucchini and shrimp. A choice we did not come to regret. The daughter's salad with burrata, beetroot and pesto didn't go down well either.
Satisfied and satisfied, we walk along the quay, past the small market with honey, souvenirs and aprons. Pass the fishermen who are finishing the day's work. Past the mountains of nets lying drying in the sun. Some of the boats in the harbor look more or less unseaworthy, I hope they are not used for anything other than short transports within the harbor. Not even the Eyes of Osiris could help these boats through a storm.
Fishing with palm leaves
Three dogs are tied to the dock. They pull on the leash and bark impatiently. Husse is preparing his yellow-striped boat for a ride. The master barely has time to release the dogs from the leash, before they run out onto the bridge and daringly jump into the boat, happily wagging their tails. Three Maltese "Boatman" simply, almost like on the Salt Crow.
I read a bit on the other restaurants' menus, but can't find it lamps (also called mahi-mahi or golden mackerel in the rest of the world) on any of the menus today. Lampukin is an interesting fish, as it is a migratory fish that hatches outside Cyprus but then embarks on a long journey through the Mediterranean Sea and across the Atlantic to, among other places, the Gulf of Mexico. During August to December, therefore, large schools of lampuki pass past Malta and the fishermen here in Marsaxlokk still catch the fish in the same way as they have done since Roman times - through "sea umbrellas" made of palm leaves that the fish are tricked into hiding under to protect themselves from the strong sun rays.
Just outside Marsaxlokk lies Peter's Pool - one of Malta's most spectacular bathing cliffs - but the road there turned out to be closed just today. In fact, the road workers blocked the road right in front of us, completely without warning. Maybe it was just as well, because the road really needed a repair. Even if it meant that this time our visit to Malta had to do without a visit to the cliffs. But it is easy to see that road signs and information are not the Maltese's strong point. Neither are road surfaces.
How do I get to Marsaxlokk?
Marsaxlokk is located in the south-east of Malta, approximately 1 mile from Valletta. There are buses (No. 81 and No. 85) that go to Marsaxlokk from the Valletta Bus Square which will take you there in about 30 minutes.
Read more and search for your trip at Malta Public Transport.
Map (opens in Google maps)
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