When I’ve stayed in Malta, I’m actually based in Gozo, specifically in the village of Xlendi where my family and I had apartments. This has always made sightseeing in Malta proper (Gozo is the country’s second island) awkward as hell; we would take two early buses to the ferry, cross to Malta, at least one and often two more buses to get anywhere. Going back to Gozo, same routine. You’d end up on a bus during rush hour crowded with schoolchildren breathing in exhaust, literally fainting from it, all for a few hours of shopping in Valletta.
The last time I visited with my father and stepmother we couldn’t bear the thought of it so we stayed for several days right before our departure in the village of Marsaxlokk. Our thinking was that, Xlendi being far to the northwest, we should stay somewhere in the southeast, and it was more convenient to the Luqa airport.
We stayed in a guesthouse with a great view of the harbour, fishing boats, and market along the shoreline, and on our first morning in Marsaxlokk, Dad noticed a massive flag down the street. He knew it wasn’t the Maltese flag; I figured out right away that it was the Labour Party flag likely flying over its kazin. I also pointed out to Dad that the Nationalist kazin, with its own flags, was right across the square from us.
Kazin just means club and both the Partit Laburista (Labour) and Partit Nazzjonalista (Nationalists) have them all over Malta and Gozo. There’s nothing to much to explain, really – they’re bars run by political parties. There’s booze, free snacks, sometimes a pool table, copies of the party-affiliated newspaper, and portraits of politicians on the walls. Of course, I love them.
Dad and I decided that it would be a very good idea indeed if we spent that afternoon on a kazin crawl, rating the political parties based on our experiences.
There were good and bad points about each. The Centru Laburista was brighter and the servers friendlier, snacks tastier. The Nationalist kazin was a bit too dark and grungy, the service cold if polite. They were quite generous with food, though – a dinner plate of bread, meat, cheese, and olives. Nationalist glasses of Cisk (Maltese lager) were cheaper.
I know that partisan kazins would never fly in Canada because of the political culture but it’s a damn shame. Sometimes it’s tough to get a handful of party members to a coffee meeting or a pub night once a month, let alone having Liberal and Conservative clubs in towns of 3,000 people. The Maltese are more politically engaged, and it’s a small country where it never gets cold, still I can’t help but think it would be an excellent amount of fun to drink a glass of red wine, surrounded by portraits of Canadian Liberal prime ministers.