Monday, October 22, 2012

Segesta and Erice

Sorry about the radio silence – I didn’t have time to post the next night – we have three early mornings in a row, and I haven’t been able to catch up. So, I wrote some posts on the road, and will upload when I get a chance.

So. Segesta. We piled into the bus (there are about 32 of us on this tour) and drove out to Segesta. You walk up a hill (they say “30 wide steps,” but you should just think “hill”) and there’s a pretty nice specimen of a Doric temple up there. 

Well preserved, too. I mean, ok, sure, you can tell which column has been totally replaced, and you can see some bits of the frieze-level that don’t quite have the age of the rest, but, mostly, it’s in pretty spiffy condition. There’s no art on it, though, and it doesn’t look like there ever was any. (Our local tour guide, one Giorgio, told us something about this. I can’t say I was entirely paying attention. Tours now have a deal where they hand out wireless receivers to everyone, and put the guides on a mic, so you can hear what your guide is saying without him having to shout. The added bonus of these devices is that you don’t have to stand there in a group in front of your guide – you can just walk around the sights as much as you want, as long you stay within wireless range. The downside of the aforesaid added bonus is that you can walk around the sight and pay attention to whatever you want, while pretty much ignoring what your tour guide is saying. That’s what went on here. The guide was rattling on about something I didn’t care about – (telling us all the different parts of a Doric temple, a fact I’m pretty much on top of, so I ignored him. I was only half paying attention when I realized he had moved on to the topic of why there wasn’t any art on this thing.) I think the point was that the city of Segesta was at war with another city at the time, and ran out of money to complete the temple. Austerity measures, I guess.

Then we left the temple, walked back down the hill, and managed to run into the little shop at the bottom for some gelato before getting back into the tour bus, Two factoids related to that sentence: (1) I brought my folding walking stick for this trip, and got to test it out here. I’m happy to report that it definitely helps with my standard problem of being slow going downhill over uneven surfaces. The lack of depth perception makes me very cautious when I don’t know how far down the next step should be, and the stick makes that problem go away. Yay, stick! (2) I’ve had gelato twice a day each day of this trip. Yay, gelato!

We then went off to Erice. It’s a little village on another hill. Actually, the whole damn village is sloped. It’s old – Giorgio said something about it being re-discovered in the 1960s. (I’m not entirely sure what it dates back to – but it’s one of those places with a medieval church built near the site of an old Roman temple.) Erice, as far as I’m concerned, was all about the view. We walked up Erice (really, that’s the best way to describe it – you walk up the streets of the city itself) and could then either hang out for an hour or so shopping (at many places that appeared to sell All Things Sicily) or continue to the castle at the top of Erice for a look at the view. I had my knee brace on and was feeling pretty good, so I joined the trek up to the castle. Here is a photo I got for my trouble. I think it was worth the walk.

We then had lunch in the town square (a tasty little pasta with meat sauce) and then went to Maria’s pastry shop. (Maria has a last name, which I forget, but if you google something like “Maria Sicily Marzipan,” you’ll get it.) She’s apparently world-reknowned for her little almond pastries. We split into two groups (on account of her kitchen not being big enough to hold us all) and half of us got a how-to-make-and-paint-marzipan-fruits demonstration, while the other half got an eat-some-marzipan-fruits-and-almond-pastries session, and then we switched so we each got both. Conclusion: almond pastry thingies are tasty. Interesting aside: Maria spoke only Italian, so our (main) guide was translating for her. At one point, Maria was trying to say something to a guy in our group, and, while speaking in Italian, she was also making signs with her hands. I’m learning ASL, and it looked to me like she signed “friend” and “different” or “not” – our guide told us that Maria commented that she thought this guy in our group looked like Mitt Romney. I figured I must have been wrong in applying American signs to a (hearing) Italian woman, but our guide then said that Maria couldn’t remember the name of Romney, so had instead said that the guy in our group “looked like the man who is not friends with Obama.” So, there it is: American sign language – not exclusively American.

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