National Geographic : 1969 Jun
Fantasies spring to life when carnival erupts in Valletta. During a parade along Kingsway, a cigar-chomping pony prances on a children's float entitled "Wild West Centaurs." Laugh ing youngsters at right, sporting noisemakers and polka-dot diving costumes, watch for wily underwater creatures from a float called "Hunting for Sea Horses." The four-day pre-Lenten The Gozitans have retained the hardihood of their ancestors; the antique virtues of frugal living, honesty, and courage are part of their everyday life. Sitting over a coffee in It-Tokk, Victoria's marketplace, I remarked on this to the parish priest of St. Augustine's Church. "Of course," he said, "my people are stead fast and enduring-their life demands it." Half a dozen of his people, with healthy brown faces and shy humorous eyes, were around us listening with smiling curiosity to our conversation, for most spoke only Mal tese. When my wife and I got up to leave, one of them shook my hand and haltingly pro duced his only English words: "Goodbye! Good health! Come back!" It was not, I felt, just a conventional formula. 878 Any regret I may have had for leaving behind the simplicity of Gozo I soon forgot in my pleasure at walking again through Val letta's narrow streets and climbing its broad flights of steps (pages 854-5). I admired the profusion of balconies and the wrought-iron and brass half gates outside the front doors of the houses. In the past, when goats pro vided Valletta with milk and were driven down the streets in flocks, the half gates al lowed the residents to open their main front doors for light and air without letting the goats in to eat the furnishings. "I'd like to have seen all the goats walking up and down the city's steps," I said to Alfred Privitera. It was evening, and once again he and I were sitting in his little bar.