Manoeuvering Maltese roads is bad enough. Our driving skills come close to those of our Italian and Arab neighbours. But what’s even worse is being stuck in a Maltese rush hour jam near Valletta in the vicinity of a karozzin.
Yesterday morning the juxtaposition of old and new rankled. A karozzin driver gabbling into an iPhone, yanking the lead on the horse with his free hand, creates a domino effect of crazy manoeuvres by irate cars with dents, their occupants half-gawping, half running over the entrepreneur and his beast.
I have yet to meet a local who has owned up to having been in a karozzin when sober. In Malta, karozzin drivers’ street cred is almost at a par with our ‘allegedly’ rude bus drivers. It’s a reputation that has been built over some fifty years’ of tourism. Go to Valletta, Mdina, or Rabat, in Gozo, and you will find some naive tourist trying to negotiate a way out of being almost press-ganged into ‘having a ride with the cabbie’ or a ‘tour round the harbour’ or whatever comes out of the cabbies’ mouths. Poet-laureates these guys aren’t. They’re safeguarded as a component of Malta’s tourism, and yet they’re often seen hassling tourists or anyone with fair hair; their horses generally look world weary; and their ‘guiding capabilities’ leave much to be desired from the snippets you hear as they trundle by.
I don’t want to stereotype and tar them all with the same brush. I know every country has its ‘tourism’ artefacts, its ‘living souvenirs’. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing quaint about the karozzin. Vienna has its Fiakr – open horse-drawn carriages – that are polished to the hilt and driven by well-turned out men in uniform. A totally different experience, if costly (but our equivalent can be too). Fiakr can pass being described as ‘romantic’; a word that hardly trips off the tongue in relation to Malta’s karozzin, although I know many wedding organisers do add karozzin to the list of bride and groom transport.
So what makes tourists jump into a karozzin in Malta, get fleeced, and then return home to flood Flickr with their pictures?
Or have I got this all wrong?
Photo: courtesy of Kevin Archaeo
Dee Vradenbueg says
I have never been to Malta..would love to go.But I live in Houston Texas and I have one of these carriages..imagine the in all places Texas…They are really neat..I love these carriages
Alex Grech says
Kylie, thank you for your comment – it’s been a while since someone called me ‘dear’. Joking apart, what’s great about Malta Inside Out is that we write personal pieces, as opposed to ‘tourism speak’. So there’s plenty of room for divergent opinions. Simply to put what you write into context.
1. Yes, I do live here, and though I haven’t been on a Karozzin, have witnessed a lot of rudeness from cabbies to tourists.
2. I am not alone in my views. Check out this article on the Times – you may find the comments thread of interest: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20090723/local/karozzini-fight-adt-to-retain-valletta-business
3. As it happens, I do know something about heritage and museums – I set up Heritage Malta. So I guess I do have some knowledge and first hand experience in running museums and rehabilitating word class heritage that was endangered (like the Hypogeum.
4. Yes, there is a lot of good in Maltese traditions and culture – as this site is constantly highlighting – but the whole cabby thing needs looking into for a variety of reasons – including pricing, abuse, smartness, health and welfare of horses among other.
Yes dear you do have it all wrong!!! Is it possible that you find nothing good in traditions? No, our karozzin might not be like the Fiakr, but you can’t compare one with the other. I have travelled a lot and have definatley met some much more rude people than the odd ones we have over here. I’m sorry to say but you have not experienced my beloved Malta if you have not gone on our buses, on our karozzin! Did you have time to visit our world heritage museums? Did you spend some time on our lovely beaches? Do do you choose to write on the few negative aspects when there is much more to say and do on every country that one visits?????
Bah humbug. I think I’ve been in one twice, and would do so again, and you have met me…so does that count?? The first time (admittedly before we moved here) was was pure heaven. It lasted over half an hour and it was the first time in the her life that my then two year old sat still and quiet for one minute, let alone thirty. Absolutely worth every cent.