March 16, 2020
October 16 was our third and last night in Palermo. The tour schedule took us for a morning in Erice, a mountainside town East of Palermo, and we spent the afternoon poking around Trapani, visiting an area that produces sea salt before the a visit to a farm that produced olives and made wine.
I’d have preferred to spend an actual afternoon on my/our own in Palermo and had figured out how to get to its fine Marionette Museum and what our tour did in Trapani was disappointing, especially when I realized that we would not return to Palermo before the museum closed.
Tuesday October 16
We were warned that the walk up from the gate was steep and long, so I went on my own. Halfway up I realized that Anita could have done it. She spent her time near the gate but walked into Erice far enough to find a very nice Pinocchio marionette for our granddaughter. The long-nosed liar was a hit with her and the children of a friend of my daughter’s from her University of Toronto undergraduate days, who were at our place when Anita gave it to her. I had checked and adjusted the cords so that Pinocchio moved as he was supposed to.
Sunday October 14 – Valle Dei Templi
Departing Ragusa on Sunday morning our first stop was at the Valle Dei Templi, site of seven temples on a huge 1300 hectare site on a ridge, not in a Valle, near the town of Agrigento.
After the seeing the Valle we bused to Palermo, where we dined with the whole group at our hotel.
Monday October 15 – Monreale Morning, Palermo Afternoon
After breakfast on Monday Roberto delivered us safely uphill to another cliffside place – Monreale. Its beautiful Duomo Di Monreale is world famous for its Norman architecture and the fact that is chock full of spectacular mosaics.
We climbed many stairs from the road to reach the square where the Duomo, dedicated in 1182 to the nativity of Mary.
Palermo Afternoon – The Cathedral and A Historic Palace
We visited Palermo Cathedral and killed time checking out graffiti until our 12:30 appointment at perhaps the #1 attraction in Palermo: Palazzo Conte Federico. The Count’s family can be traced back to Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, one of the truly great figures in history and King of Sicily at four years old in 1198. His descendant loves to race vintage sports cars and the Countess, who guided our group around, is an Austrian swimmer and musician. She was a fascinating guide, explaining some Sicilian customs and superstitions such as the proper direction for a bed and warned us not to make the upward “corno” sign even by accident. This belief apparently predates Christianity.
Two more nights in Palermo left… Visiting Erice and Trapani on Tuesday and on Wednesday we will have a great visit of Cephalu and proceed to Taormina.
October 13 – We Visit Siracusa with the Tour
The Greek theatre, Ear of Dionysius and the Apollo Temple area are shown here. The tour also explored the Piazza Duomo, with which we were very familiar. Our local expert was excellent in describing these sights.
Then we had a lunch break and left for Ragusa, about 2 hours away including a rest stop.
Ragusa-Ibla – The Old Town
Our local expert for Ragusa was again excellent in describing these sights. We visited the Old Town on Friday afternoon and slept in Ragusa.
Why three nights in Siracusa? That island city’s key treasures and its historical importance in the ancient, storied, Greek world (larger than Athens and Corinth in its time).
We (well, mostly I…) like to arrive and have one or two days on our own before joining a guided tour. Siracusa was a perfect choice. We landed at Catania Airport on October 9 and needed to return there to begin the tour. Siracusa was only a one hour bus ride direct from Catania Airport.
Wednesday, October 10
We walked a short distance to the Piazza Duomo, first visiting Santa Lucía alla Badia Church that has a huge painting of the Burial of Saint Lucy by Caravaggio, a painter whose wonderful chiaroscuro work I search for wherever I am.
After visiting St. Lucy’s Church we visited the Duomo itself, a cathedral built on the site of an ancient Greek temple, supported by the temples original columns and full of beautiful art .
We aborted our walk through the Ipogeo, an ancient tunnel that leads to the Fonte Aretusa, because of the smell of urine, we cleansed with gelati at Gelati Bianca in P. Duomo and finished leftover pizza from our late supper on Tuesday. Then we walked north along Via Roma and just off the island to see how we would get to the Paolo Orsi Archaeological Museum on Thursday. The two regular city bus lines weren’t working but we learned we could catch the Hop On Hop Off Bus at Hop 3 (Piazza Archimede), very near our BnB then get off at Hop 12 and the Museo tomorrow.
We ate at a very busy Osteria Mariano, where we enjoyed the atmosphere and the food was good. I enjoy cannelloni so I tucked into one for dessert.
Thursday, October 11
Friday, October 12
On Friday morning we explored Siracusa’s Forte Vigilena and the Papyrus Museum.
Then we got on the Interbus, which goes to the airport, but getting off near the Catania train station, close to our hotel, instead. We were in good time to meet our tour director and a few of our fellow tourists before supper. I explored the centre of Catania very thoroughly – looking for a lens cover I’d lost. No decent photo shops to be found. Guess the Samsungs and iPhones have taken over…
We knew beforehand that Saturday we would return to Siracusa with our tour and this time visit its amazing Greek Theatre, the massive Ear of Dionsyius Cave and the bits left of the Temple of Apollo before continuing to the picturesque hilled town of Ragusa. All this the subjects of Sicily and Malta.3 – coming soon.
“So,” I’m going through a set of challenging wine-making instructions for a high quality Negroamaro (juice plus skins – a first for me).
I had to edit and translate them into hand-written, clear Binglish (Bob-friendly English) and decided to come to grips with the spelling and pronunciation of the following additive:
The incredibly helpful and generous person I buy my juice from, Joe, has as much fun pronouncing it as I do, but he sure knows how to make wine!
This quick email to my neighbour sent at 7:45 a.m. today:
Why? So that it will kink as little as possible.
Whatever happened to plain old rubber??
Things are good here. Just sharing a few tidbits from the past week…
My son had minor surgery this week and on Thursday we brought over about 20 lbs of Trini-style homemade soup at 212 degrees Fahrenheit for a shared lunch – plus significant leftovers. My contribution to that project was making sure it was safely transported from our perch in the NW GTA to their place near the lakeshore.
Good news: Fixed our 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid’s key fob issue by inserting a tiny square of three postit notes over the nipple that presses against the +ve face of the cell to make sure that it is firmly seated in its cradle.
“Bad” news: That $200 control panel I installed last year on our, then 3-year-old, Kenmore dishwasher already shows a crack in the plastic over the Start button.
I know, in the grand, global scale, the bad news hardly qualifies as bad, or even as news! Now, if we both had worked for Sears Canada…
My Tai Chi routine, which I modify by replacing “breathing in the Chi” with Tibetan Buddhist Tonglen meditation (breathing in suffering, breathing out healing) has a calming effect. I’ve already noticed a tiny, but significant, shift in the direction of a more, gentle peaceful world. Those Doomsday Clock scientists are clearly out of touch. 😜
With Remembrance Day in Canada tomorrow (and the Doomsday Clock at 2.5 seconds to midnight) I’m reposting this famous song with my 2015 words, more faithful to Hans Leip’s 1915 poem:
This video, Lili Marlen 1915-2015, is my new, and lyrically different, English version of the hugely iconic song, originally recorded in German by Lale Andersen in 1939. Her recording was much loved by soldiers from both sides in World War II and became the sign-off song for Radio Belgrade in German-occupied Yugoslavia.
The song was originally a 1915 poem written by Hans Leip, a teacher who was conscripted into the German Imperial Army. It was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze. It was so loved by soldiers from both sides that Andersen recorded it in English in 1942. Soldiers relate deeply to this wistful, iconic song.
The version I offer here tries to be faithful to the original German lyric, though I have modified it slightly for poetic and other reasons. It is quite different from Vera Lynn’s English version and, I think, has a better resonance with what Hans Leip originally wrote 100 years ago. This version also tries to completely express a broader set of the subtle complexities associated with precarious, long-distance, wartime relationships.
I didn’t start out to write yet another version of this piece, already done by stars like Vera Lynn and Marlene Dietrich. It just happened. Here’s how…
I sing songs in different languages and just wanted to know the meaning of the German words. A patient in a local hospital sang it for me in German while I accompanied her on the guitar… M’s performance moved me very much and I wanted somehow to honour what she had felt. I had trouble finding a literal translation, and entering it whole left Google Translate, and me, thoroughly confused. After a long time “parsing” each individual word the stuff started to make sense and making it rhyme accidentally became part of the process. Listening to the German performance by Marlene Dietrich was very helpful, as I had not yet found Lale Anderson. Happy with the result, I recorded it and asked Corley Padgett (Flicker: hornedfrog4life) if she would let me use her superb, copyrighted photo as background for the lyrics. Corley immediately agreed to help, and the rest, as they say, is history.
And, speaking of history, 2015 is the 100th Anniversary of the writing of the poem.
Inspired by Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, near the end of Chapter One.
Unlike yours truly who, in 1966, recklessly delegated my cycle maintenance, Pirsig worked on his own bike with devotion and found great peace of mind in doing it. Unlike many in his time, he did not shun technology per se, though he knew it was being misused. For him, Buddha resides everywhere for those who pay attention and paying attention to doing a good job of anything requires an enlightened peace of mind.
Persig’s book has been called “the most read philosophy book ever.” Perhaps this is true if we insist on a cover-to-cover read. I enjoyed it very much when I read it for the first time in 2015, studying it intensely. Touching and engaging (as is Persig’s life story) Zen is a work of genius when one considers the dryness and difficulty of traditional philosophy texts.