Valletta Harbor, Malta: Today we boarded the MS Artemis, sister ship to the MS Athena we sailed on some years ago. It can handle 48 passengers and we have over 40 aboard, plus the crew which is from Croatia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovakia, India, and Indonesia. There may have been a Serb in the mix, too.
Most of these guys - all guys, no women - are not far from home. We will sail up the western shore of the Adriatic Sea, and their homes - most of them - are on its eastern shore. Not, of course, true for the Asians who work in the "hotel" side of the ship - food prep, dining service, and room stewards.
It turns out Croatians are a seafaring people, our captain and his next couple of guys are from there. Some years ago the ship we sailed to Antarctica had a Croatian crew.
A fun fact: Valletta has a bunch of electric taxis that can zip you around its hilly streets. They are truly just big golf carts - no meters - but it got the job done, took us from atop the hill down to sea level and along the harbor promenade to the ship terminal. Perhaps other cities should consider it as they're quiet and non-polluting.
Valletta is not the historical capital of Malta, but was built on a greenfield site by the Knights of St. John Hospitaller, aka Knights of Malta. They built it as a fortification/headquarters city to defend the main harbor of Malta. It is the largest protected harbor in the Mediterranean and, as such, much desired by various occupying powers - most recently the British. Those who don't know their World War II history were reminded Malta was heavily bombed by the Axis powers.
We got a language lesson this morning, about Maltese language and culture. Maltese is an amalgam of Arabic grammar, Italian, Arabic and English vocabulary, written in Roman characters by a Christian people. There was no effort to teach us Maltese, as our lecturer said even Maltese kids don't speak it much, preferring English.