236 – Saturday 12th December 2015: Corpses and Puppets
We caught the now familiar bus into the centre. We must be becoming local as there was little need to recourse to the map and by accident we found ourselves in the cafe of yesterday – the phones auto connected to the wifi!
We walked up Corso Vittoria Emanuele and James shopped for enough e vape juice to keep him going for about 3 months. We poked our noses into the Cathedral again, which we had visited with the Aged P’s … it had not changed … still much more attractive on the outside.
We walked past the church of San Giovanni degli Eremiti. A bit too pricey for us to go in, but I reckon we saw the best of it from outside. It was built in 1132 and is set in a small citrus garden.
San Giovanni degli Eremiti: The Arab influence is clearly visible in the shape of red domes and cubic forms.
We also balked at the EUR9 each to go into the Capelle Palatine … I know it is supposed to be one of the main sites in Palermo, but we had seen and enjoyed the mosaics of Monreale cathedral and looking at the images in the guide book, the design at the Capelle look very similar.
We continued walking up to the Catacomb dei Cappuccini. I’d read a bit about this … catacombs with the corpses still there. We had really enjoyed the catacomb tour in Siracusa where the guide explained about the history and rituals. Stupidly we expected a similar level of information. It is a cynical money making exercise. Most of the corpses have name tags and dates, are dressed, some have embalmed skin and hair. They were segregated into men, women, virgins (!), children and professionals. Some were on shelves, but a lot were wired up and hanging in niches. Some faces were distorted into an Edvard Munch like Scream. Gruesome. No information about anything:
- Why were they here? We knew from the Siracusa catacombs that Christians started using out of town cemeteries in the 4th century.
- Why were some up right and others on shelves?
- Why segregated?
- What was the embalming process?
This car was as battered on all side. The interior was just as full, leaving small person shaped gap in the driving seat.
Amazing attention to detail.
Punch and Judy represented in the overseas section
Leaving here, we walked to the puppet street we had seen two days ago to attend the 6.30 pm. show. Time for a glass of wine and as they brought so many snacks out, we did not need supper later!
The square in front of the Teatro Massimo was buzzing with street performers and a procession … put on for us whilst we enjoyed our wine.
The performance was brilliant. No other words for it. A small theatre with a high stage, so all could see. One man did all the voices, hardly changing his tone, but you know which puppet was talking by their movement. Movement of the main arm was by a pole, and there were some double jointed arm movements! Other movements were using the more familiar strings. The story line is that of the Crusades; Christians defeating the Arabs. There was a puppet who smoked a cigar and blew real smoke. A maiden burnt at the stake. Swashbuckling sword and sabre fights, where limbs and a head flew off. Just brilliant. Really brilliant.
You probably picked up that we walked a lot today. James had very sore feet. I have not yet told him, that we may have done about 15km on hard pavements!
237 – Sunday 13th December 2015: Brucoli – the Centre of the Universe
With Maddy arriving on Tuesday, we needed to be near Catania airport, so it was another flit across the middle of Sicily on the motorway. We are getting quite familiar with this route. We stopped off to do our Christmas shopping at the Outlet Centre. How times have changed … what use have we of designer brands? We came away empty handed.
Excellent views of a now gently smoking Etna as we approach Catania
Closer to Catania, we saw what I initially thought was black smoke, but then it moved … flew. A flock of birds doing the most amazing formations. They swarmed up and down and across. I was driving and so fascinated, I could have added to the Sicilian road stats, had James not reminded me to keep my eyes on the road!
I only knew what it was as I had seen video footage of the birds over the Somerset Levels
Our desination was Brucoli – not even in the guide book and the internet described it as a small and quiet fishing village. How wrong!
J here – as we turned down another very small road to identify our overnight parking, I was a little nervous of the passing places…. it got narrower – has our reader heard this before ? Around one bend – and we were faced with another motorhome coming in our direction – absolutely no millimetres to pass. K gave me directions from the road behind – to retrace my centimetres and allow the other van to pass by – he was in a rush and countered each of K’s moves with – the Sicilian Defence ! All you avid chess players will know that this defence is actually an aggressive attack ! I’m no Grand Master but my dilemma was apparent – following K’s moves – or being outflanked by Boris Karlovski ! (Apologies – I cannot think of the 1970s well known Russian Grand Master who had that legendary battle with his American opponent…). Either way, I was going to be stuffed, so I retreated my pawn en passant to a gateway – Boris shot past without as much as a “Grazi” He would have been truly “Prego’d” if `i was 50 years younger ! (Was it Fischer the American chess Master – Bobby)?
We retreated to a nice sandy parking – Tim (who with Karen was parked there) helped us navigate a steep step and directed us to the best view – looking out across the bay to Etna and Catania – see K’s photos…..
Intros all around and chats – and Tim made what was to become the quote of the evening “We’re off to the bar !”. Could we resist ? Fat dogs and lino – again, Amelia/Thomas O’Reilly ? First bar – wine – ok an innocuous start – good. We also had Arancini – Sicilian dumpling/roll filled sometimes with rice, cheese or other delicacy – no need for dinner later… Second bar – did not stock wine – Aperol for `k and beer for moi – still innocuous…. We had by now met Natale, Francisco and Gaedano – all local friends with wonderful stories and very good English. Gaedano had gone (Tim said) to light his Christmas tree. We supped – and Gaedano appeared into the bar- wearing his Christmas tree – see photo ! Then Tim said “How about some Sambucca ?” (The fat dog perked up). We supped again and chatted….. Then back to the first bar for – you guessed it – Sambucca ! Innoculous ? Inoculated ? Innoculosis ? Something like that…. We eventually strolled back to our Vardonnay… Slept for England and Ireland – a great start to our stay in Brucoli….
The view from the door. Yes, that is Etna still smoking in the background. On the right you can just make out the Blackpool / Brucoli Illuminations: Tim’s tinselled, decorated and lit up Christmas Tree.
238 – Monday 14th December 2015:
Leisurely start. Tried running along the coast, only to be blocked by a large and locked gate. Nothing for it but to head up the looooong hill up out of the town. James tells me it is good training! We pottered and replenished our wine supplies. Sat on the beach and read and pottered some more. We eventually made it out for a walk along the coast, for a little way, clambering over rocks. The path was between the sea and the bottom of some rather nice villas. We had assumed that the villas were unoccupied in the winter, but barking dogs proved otherwise. A German Shepard on the way out and three Dobermans, who really looked as if they would hurl themselves off their property walls at us. Security is obviously taken seriously here, and yet Tim and Karen don’t lock their motorcycle etc.
Later Tim and Karen popped over for a wee drink before supper. Supper became cheese and biscuits … too late and too pickled to cook the planned risotto!
Looking across to the town of Brucoli
Nestling amongst the fishing boats
Wild orchids growing on a common along the coast