I must admit, I knew next to nothing about Malta before the impulse and opportunity to travel there came up. The only cultural reference I had was the movie and book "The Maltese Falcon", but aside that the whole story takes place in Hollywood, I was intrigued.
Now that I've been, I can only say it's downright weird. Not in a bad way, either.
It's a tiny island- about the size of Queens- and the most densely populated country in Europe. There are Neolithic temple ruins everywhere. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what's a ruin and what's just an abandoned building since it's all built with the same yellow limestone. Malta was an important strategic military ground for thousands of years, and has been occupied by pretty much everyone in the past 6000 years. All the confluence of cultures is apparent in the people, the food, the architecture and art. Phoenicians, Romans, Greeks, Sicilians, the Knights of St John by order of the Pope, French and British have all ruled and left their mark on the islands, and there is a strong African and MidEastern influence as well. Everyone speaks Maltese, and I didn't encounter a single person who didn't speak perfect English as well.
I don't think I saw one freestanding house on the entire island. It's pretty crowded, and nothing that so much resembles a park is to be found anywhere. 6000 years of civilization and that island is treeless and devoid of any sort of natural landscape.
Valletta, the capital, rises out of the sea surrounded by astoundingly huge city walls. It's on a steeply hilly peninsula with narrow streets, making it seem even more claustrophobic.
Oooh, and the food. Mostly Italian. Lots of seafood. They had these delicious little empanada sorts of nibbles called pastizzi, which are filled with either cheese or peas. They do wonders to get you up the steep hills there.
And I did briefly encounter a falcon of sorts: