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What does Malta matter? It’s the question we’ve been asking ourselves as hundreds of eager poker players, three of whom qualified with partypoker, pack their shorts and t-shirts, and head to the tiny country situated in the Mediterranean Sea.

And tiny is no exaggeration. The three Maltese islands have an area of a piddly 122 square miles – compared to Greater London’s 607 miles. Can somewhere so small have much to offer poker players and travellers alike? So what does Malta matter?

The Maltese are about half as happy as Brits

The 2013 World Happiness Report – yes there is such a thing – looked at dozens of factors, which we will not bore you with, to create a league table of a people’s happiness. From the 156 countries studied, Togo ranked rock bottom with Malta in 48th place, pitting them against the likes of Guatemala and Poland.

According to report, Brits, if you can believe it, are the 22nd happiest people in the world. We are, however, more glum than both the Irish (18) and the Americans (17). The Danes are said to be the happiest people on the planet, but, taking into account Denmark’s long, dark and desolate winters,we have no idea how.

I’m strong to the finich, ’cause I eats me spinach

We haven’t quite lost the plot and are actually quoting Popeye the Sailor Man. Why, you ask?

In 1980, Walt Disney headed to the aptly named Anchor Bay and created a multi-coloured village to be used in the filming of Popeye. The Popeye Village, once the late Robin Williams and the rest of the crew finished filming, remained intact and is now used as a family day out hotspot.

You’d think living in a place where a Popeye Village exists would be a sole factor in increasing a nation’s happiness, wouldn’t you?

Teeny, Tiny, Comino

One of the Malta’s three islands, Comino, is so tiny you can stuff it into your shirt pocket. Well maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it’s only 1.4 square miles and, other than four permanent residents, is virtually uninhabited.

Comino has a single 95-room hotel and is most famous for the white sandy bay and rich marine life of the picturesque Blue Lagoon.

Malta on the silver screen

In addition to Disney filming Popeye in Malta, other blockbusters including Gladiator, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, zombie thriller World War Z, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Troy were all, to some extent, used the serene setting. In particular, Troy’s production led it to Comino and the Blue Lagoon.

Malta is also the birthplace of Jon Cassar, who is the director of “24″. Who knew Malta has so much claim to Hollywood fame?

Coolest name for some buildings, ever

Anyone interested in architecture needs to head to Malta. The oldest free-standing structures in the world, it is claimed, call Malta home. These buildings, dated between 3,600BC and 700BC, also have what is almost certainly the coolest name ever given to a structure. Step forward and take a bow, The Megalithic Temples of Malta.

With its numerous sites to behold, majestic landscape and Popeye’s legend dotted about the islands like a leopard’s coat, we think Malta matters. Even if its people are twice as sad as us, which is hard to comprehend keeping in mind pleasant year round weather.

Have you ever been to Malta? How did you find it? What did you discover? Let us know in the comments box below.

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