Liz's Journal - Sicily

Page 36

3 June- 20 June 2004

We arrived at Favignana on the third day of June, trying to find shelter from a storm. We anchored outside the harbour, there was no space for us inside. It soon became apparent that we were dragging at an alarming rate onto some nasty looking volcanic rock.

We got hold of a boat via VHF and found out that where they were it was sheltered from the swell. We were about to leave when we saw a space open up on the public wharf so we decided to tie up instead. The swell was big and it proved difficult getting lines ashore, the wind subsided slightly but the swell was causing damage.

By nightfall we were very tired and I thankfully got to go to sleep, mom and dad however had to stay up most of the night, it soon became apparent why. During the night we lost a fender because its line chafed through and burst another, we were pressed onto the wharf so hard, we snapped an inch thick line which gave the boat a serious jerk when it let go and we ripped a fair lead (the thing which the rope goes through to stop chafe) clear off the deck. Dad at this time was on the dock sorting out lines when he heard a loud thwack, and then cling clang clunk as the aluminium fair lead skimmed along the dock missing his head by millimeters.

By morning the wind had died down but the swells were still a problem and dad refused to get off the boat, so as always it was me that had to go walk around town and find out where everything was. By that afternoon we had moved around to the sheltered side of the wharf and the difference was amazing, that night we all slept well.

While in Favignana we decided to hire a motorbike and go sightseeing. The island is approximately 5 km long and 2 km wide so it was no problem when I took over driving from mom. It was supposed to only be for a few minutes while we were traveling along a side road but mom said she felt so comfortable that she just let me drive the whole trip. It was great fun although it was scary when I was driving through a long tunnel. I had my sunglasses on and could not take them off because I had a helmet on with the visor down and no strap for my glasses to hang around my neck. When we turned around at the end of the island and I new the tunnel was coming up I lifted my visor and put my sunglasses on the tip of my nose so I could see over them. Back at the boat dad was fixing a new fair lead onto the deck, when he was finished I went for a drive with dad, he drove most of the time.


Syracuse is one of those towns where you can spend days wandering the streets of the old town.

I spent my time in Syracuse on my rollerblades. In the mornings I would go to the open-air market situated opposite Apollo's Temple, to get bread and some odd fruit and vegetables that would be eaten throughout the course of the day.

The people at the market became my friends and quite often I would stop at a stall and find the assistant already opening a brown paper bag ready to put in the certain fruit that I always buy from them. It is advised that you walk through the entire market once before you buy anything as green beans to name just one things are sold for E 0.75 per kilo at one stall, but directly opposite the same thing is sold for E 2.00 a kilo. Two things make this market stick out from any other I have visited, the first the fact that the vendors' shout, (actually scream would be more appropriate) out the price of their produce. One guy in particular shouted out about the price of his fish just as I was walking by and I don't think my hearing has been the same since. The other thing that really annoys the vendors as well as tourists who are not used to this culture, and me in particular, is that you cannot choose what tomatoes you want, all you do is point and say un kilo (one kilo).

When you get home you will often find that a few of the tomatoes are bruised, green, not the right size or have some strange growth on them making you hesitate wondering, if what is in your hand is really a tomato. In a kilo of tomatoes you will probably end up throwing two or three out, but then again you can't complain as the whole bag only cost you fourteen cents. Another thing that happens is that a lot of your purchases briefly touch the scale and before you can check the weight of your six kiwis you are charged for a kilo, but don't be upset as even a kilo will only cost you twenty cents. I think for now I have said enough about the market although I could probably write a small book titled "Street market do's and don'ts in Sicily, by Liz Brasler' but I haven't the time and I doubt you have either so I'd best be getting on.

As well as visiting the market, we were dragged around the rest of the town on a sightseeing trip by none other than... Mom.

Yes, mom, my darling mother has somehow got not one bee but a whole hive in her bonnet about seeing ancient stuff.

As much as I don't like to admit defeat this is an instance where I must. The architecture surrounding the old city was amazing, and to think that a lot of it had been built BC (Before Cranes) I have no idea how they managed it. Of course a lot of the newer buildings, churches for example were built AD.

We walked for miles to visit the Paolo Orisi archeological museum, which takes the form of a flat pointed triangle with a central glass atrium.

If you ever visit this museum I suggest you follow the signs and visit the exhibits clockwise, which would make more sense to you than it did to us as we did it anticlockwise which, was moms idea (must have something to do with the hive)

Section "A" Pre-History (we did this last, go figure)

Sicily's Hyblean Mountains form the backbone of the province and harvests the richest archeological finds. Most of the artifacts in this museum were found there.

The biggest land animal, the African Elephant has an average height of ten feet, its Sicilian ancestors the Dwarf Elephant measures an amazing three feet, making it slightly smaller than a St. Bernard.

The Stentinello Culture is an Algerian civilization. It is characterized by fortified villages shown on numerous unglazed pottery artifacts. It is dated in the Neolithic period.

Through a twisted maze of glass case passages you can glimpse at what life must have been like in the Bronze Age. Brown painted pottery are shown in every case and large exhibits show carved door slabs from rock cut tombs, some of which have the bones of people still in them.

To an archeologist every tiny piece of pottery and every other ancient artifact hold an entire story. The Pottery for example reveals early trading with Egypt, Aegean and has Minoan Mycenaean Influences.

At the end of the Bronze Age, Sicily seemed to have been inhabited by the Sicels who are thought to have migrated here from the Italian Peninsula 1700BC and whose culture remained virtually unchanged until the arrival of the Greeks.

Section B Greek Colonization

This period begins in the middle of the 8th century when colonists from Corinth, Rhodes, and Crete arrived on the island as well as the Chalcides civilization.

At the entrance to this exhibit, you will find a headless marble statue of the Greek goddess Venus. The statue may appear normal at first, but on closer inspection you can see that the hands and feet of the goddess are very masculine. The sculptor must have copied his own while creating the statue.

Section C Sub Colonies and Hellenized Centers

This section ends our journey and is filled with many statues such as Kore holding a dove 570 - 560 BC and a horse and rider which is seen on many pottery artifacts and dates back to the sixth century BC

A bronze statue known as the Ephebus of Mendolito from Adrano dates four hundred and sixty years BC.

I must apologize for the lack of information but all the sign boards in and around the museum are in Italian and it gets a bit confusing. For example AD stands for after death while AC in Italian stands for Antes Cristo (Before Christ). A bit confusing don't you think, plus the fact that we did the whole museum back wards so... AD came before BC but BC is written AC so, AD came before AC but AC is actually BC which comes before AD.

Confused, GOOD!

The beautiful island of Ortigia is joined to the main island by two bridges. Lawns, papyrus plants and palm trees surround the remains of the Temple of Apollo. It is the earliest peripteral Doric temple in Sicily, built of local limestone in the late 7C BC.

The Temple of Athena, 480 BC has a golden shield on the front that reflects rays of the sun, and was a landmark for sailors. Marble statues of St Peter and Paul flank the steps. Under Byzantium it became a Christian church and the arches were cut in the wall of the Greek sanctuary. The Normans raised the roof height and added side chapels. Twelve columns with their architrave and triglyphs punctuate the medieval north wall of the church, their cornice replaced by Islamic battlements.

The Font Arethusa, a famous fountain of the Hellenic World is located in the middle of a turning circle for all to admire.

Myth relates that when Arethusa a water nymph was bathing in the River Alpheus near Olympia the river god fell in love with her. To escape from him she plunged into the Ionian Sea and is supposed to have reappeared here. (In the middle of a traffic circle? She obviously listened to her husband and didn't ask for directions.)

Right next to the boat is the Syracuse Aquarium and wanting to see as many sights in Syracuse as possible I paid my E 2.60 and went inside. Maybe I have been spoilt by the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town, but this Aquarium was nothing, it consisted of a hundred foot long straight passage way to the exit with tanks on either side holding a few eels, turtles, two clown fish, some piranhas, an angel fish, artificially coloured coral (probably yellow No.5) and one or two other fish, not very impressive.

All in all I really enjoyed Syracuse and would happily go back anytime. The rest of Sicily that we passed was an industrial zone full of construction, demolition and poverty, but Syracuse stood out of the crowd and upheld its standards.