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October 5th, 2008

Rob and I lingered in Palermo to see the main art gallery, but it was closed for renovation for a year. You see, this area of the city was carpet bombed in World War 2, and they are repairing it in a timely fashion. We caught a train to Agrigento, and then bus to its seaside neighbour town of San Leone, wedged between which is the Magna Grecian Valle dei Templi. San Leone has the feel of Rosebud, Tootgarook or Sorrento. This, of course, is not extremely surprising of itself. It is however aided by the army of Eucalypts and Wattles across Sicily. We found Marco at the camping park (a fine tip for travellers: much cheaper than hostels and occasionally nicer), utterly failed in our quest to reach the sand beach (sand to the left, rocks to the right), and after a characteristically Sicilian sardine pasta, bedded down for the night. We left our rustic cabin the next day to see the ruins, consisting of temples, a gymnasium and a museum. After the first two temples we stumbled almost accidentally upon the gymnasium, which is seemingly oft overlooked, and we had it to ourselves, to liberate as many almonds and pomegranates from the surrounding trees as we liked. Had we a plastic bag, it would be prickly pears too. We returned to the other three temples at sundown, when many a fine photo was to be had and when the only other souls were security guards telling us to leave.

Next our bold trio headed to Taormina, the much hyped mountain town between Catania and Messina. One highlight of Sicilia has been the train trips, and while from Agrigento through the centre of the island to Catania the land was agriculturalised (spell checker tells me I invented that word) enough that one doesn’t expect The Man With No Name to ride over the hill, this was a particularly picturesque journey. Taormina, on the other hand, while appearing picturesque after dark while lugging baggage from sea level up a steep winding mountain road, is in fact fairly crap in the light of day. The views over the coast are nice but not astounding, the ancient Greek theatre is far from worth the 6 Euro admission, and the town is just another rural Italian town. This may be a harsh view, given that much amusement was found here in a font of holy water inside the duomo that doubled as a spawning pool for mosquito larvae. However, I feel the knowledge that I will soon be flying home, and that I have now completed what personal journey was necessary on this trip is precipitating a sense of travel weariness. I shall like to move on in the morning. Almost back to Roma and thus back to work.
N.B. This is the second entry posted today. Check the other. There was a backlog. Galleries are also sorted.

Following the disappointment of Taormina, we left. We left in such a rush (though our bohemian amico Marco was most annoyingly not in a rush) that I left my bottle opener there. This is the bottle opener that Gwen gave me, that has been in my wallet for many years non-stop, has been around the world 2.5 times, and has opened many dozens of beers. It has acted as a spoon, a knife, and a punch. I will miss you bottle opener, but the Euro power adapter I accidentally stole from San Leone will keep me warm at night. Figuratively, I guess.

Once the train got off the ferry (which in of itself is awesome), the following dialogue was started by the young Napolitano in our carriage:

“Ahhhhh, siamo in Italia!”



“Ma…. Sicilia e’ Italia…”

“Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Dang. Even people from the garbage city look down on Sicily. Even the nun was laughing.

At random we had booked to stay in some town the guide books barely document called Salerno for one night, with option on a second, due to its proximity to yet more ruins and its place at the very end of the Amalfi Coast. It was a revelation to find that while there are few sites of note, the town is gorgeous; the historical centre a perfect maze of arches and alleys and charming little shops, and the modern city not without appeal as many such are. It is maybe more pleasant than Padova, and has a beach to boot. Our hostel was a hole, but we could get into the HI one for the next night, in a 16th century convent in the old city. If I were not so young, energetic and full of passion I would take a mental note to consider it a place to retire to. The first night in Salerno was rounded out with a true treat: watching the lost classic Incubus, the Shatner classic filmed entirely in Esperanto. That’s good Shatner.

What’s that Lou Rawls? You think you can do Summertime? It seems you can not.
Ahem. Random mp3 upstarts aside, we shall move on. No! One more: why authorised a Kid Rock comeback? With a song written about and thieving from a song which isn’t even his? Now, we can move on.

And thus, I move on with this: Italian children are spoilt rotten. “What’s that little Giovani? You like medieval stuff? Then let’s drive down the road to the local castle. What’s that? You like ancient ruins? Let’s drive, oh, anywhere.” Today, for me, bought the best example of this: Paestum. This is ruined but complete Greek and Roman city. Not a few huts, not some random stones, a city. With no signs that say not to touch and fences to keep you out of only the delicate sites. Imagine being able to run around a full ruined city as a kid! I can, because it was quite top-shelf as an adult. The city has a whole residential district, with ancient alleys, ancient roads with visible cartwheel ruts, remnants of floor mosaics, ancient rain-catcher well apparatuses, a forum (we’ll take ‘ancient’ as read from here out), an arena, a political meeting area, a swimming pool, and three largely intact Doric temples. The first, dedicated to Ceres, was later defiled as a Christian church and then made into a shed (I kid you not. Probably medieval lawnmowers next to medieval BMXs and medieval chop-chop). The next, to Apollo, can only be described as Majestic. It has most of its internal structure intact, unlike most which retain only the façade columns. It is epic, one of the most striking sights these eyes have ever seen. Next to it is the temple to Hera. It is best described as follows: you have a 7.5 standing next to a 10. If only the 7.5 were about, you’d be thrilled to take her home, but with that 10 standing there you fail to appreciate her too much.

The next, and final, update won’t be until I get back. Tomorrow I leave for Rome and a return to academia.

This just in: my paper to Phys. Rev. Lett. has been seemingly accepted, and I am in the final running for the Mexico job. Good times indeed.

This lunar cycle

April 2015
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