“This is no carnival” our waitress exclaimed, pointing her head to a dressed-up couple in embroidered, Venetian style dresses whilst serving us our drinks.
We ourselves had given up the search for the carnival and had settled on searching for a late Sunday afternoon Aperol-buzz instead. After a Friday with impressive dance performances but disappointingly no parade along the streets and now this Sunday with the scheduled parade along the streets nowhere to be seen, we decided to stop searching and let the carnival come to us.
It turned out, that our waitress was from Brazil and if there are people who know how to carnival, it’s the Brazilians! Immensely impressed by the dance performances we saw Friday afternoon, we were disappointed that none of this dancing was done in the streets, as advertised by the tourist office. We saw lots of colourful paper-mâché figures waiting to be utilised and only a couple of wagons with deafening music had been spotted. It was like a potentially great show waiting to happen.
The carnival was supposed to be the big finale of the week, that had also featured the celebration of St. Paul’s Shipwreck Day, so we had great expectations.
The Quest for the Parade
It was after yet another couple of hours, searching for some organised partying, that we had given up and ordered some Aperol instead. It was when we stopped searching that the carnival began. Not because a dance suddenly started, but because we could acknowledge, that this was a party for all ages and for all nationalities.
Tourists like us were strolling up and down the street looking for a carnival, while children were parading in costumes worthy of a Venetian ball. Families got together to have a good time, fit Italian looking mothers with tight jeans, high heeled boots and black sunglasses promenaded around with baby strollers, and the elderly looked at the commotion with equal part scepticism and fascination.
We struck up a conversation with one of the seniors, Chinni, who had been born and bred in Valletta – and still lived there of course. Although smaller than 1/80 of neighbouring Sicily, making the island the fifth smallest country in Europe, many Maltese stay within a few kilometres of their birthplace.
Chinni told us about the time when he helped making the floats for the parade and explained how both originality, the use of colours as well as moving parts (besides the wheels!) give points. The float given the most point is awarded “King Carnival” and has the honour of being the first float in next years procession.
We had a good chat with Chinni, laughing at the kids playing and ended up being on the front row to the Carnival parade with the big, colourful floats – some with moving parts (2 points!) and dancers.
Sometimes you just have to stop running after everything, and everything comes to you.
If you’re visiting Malta – on the fringe of Europe but in the heart of its history and want to discover more, go to the ancient town of Mdina, featured in Game of Thrones, and visit the cool Fortifications Centre museum in Valletta. It’s free!