Thursday, May 29, 2008

City of the Dead

I am going to try something different. Perhaps a blog post for each event? That would be easier to do that sifting through 118 pictures at a time. Well, at least everyone knows that I got lots of good pictures. Or not so good. Take your pick. At least a few are informative. First we have a primer on Sicillian food. There is nothing in fact wrong with this orange, no matter how rotten or funky it looks. This is a blood orange, and in real life it really looks like there are blood clots in the fruit. That is what gives it that strange color. The taste is phenomenal. It is like the best orange you have ever had.This is a nespole fruit. We don't have them in America, and actually I think that it would be impossible to trasport them over there in the first place. They are very delicate and not the prettiest fruits in the world. The taste of them is something in between a peach and a pear.Ah, the market. I think that you will be getting a lot of pictures of the market because I simply do so much of my shopping there. This is a shot of one of the fish stalls. Someone managed to catch several swordfish that day, and you can see their heads on the stall with the swords pointing up.Even a super-Italian place like Siracusa has to have a chinese restaurant. I am not going to go there, though. I hear it is awful.
And last in my string of random pictures is Liam. I don't quite know Liam's official title within MCAS. He just seems to be the general ray of sunshine and problem solver. We had a meet and greet sort of thing at the end of last week, and he came with his guitar and harmonica and started playing for us. He was really good at it, and I almost cried when he played Blackbird.

Now the next set of pictures are all from a sea caves expedition that we took on our own, independent of MCAS. It was an amazing day, if a little windy, and the shoreline was magnificent.

Oh, yeah. And I went swimming in the Mediterranean. It was so cold I could barely breathe, and the salt was rather shocking for something so clear and blue.
The pink cylindrical building on the hill is the backside of the Duomo.

If you squint at this picture, you can just make out a few people sunbathing on top of the rock. Just for a size comparison, you know.

Then yesterday we went to a nature preserve called Pantalica. It is also home to a very large bronze age necropolis and anaktoron and a series of byzantine settlements that used the caves originally cut into the rock for tombs as houses.

This is one of the tombs that got turned into a byzantine building. It was actually a church for a very tiny congregation of people scraping an existence off of the mountains.
You can still make out some of the frescoes that adorned the inside of the church. If you need a hint, look in the middle and think something religious. There's also a lot of graffiti in here, a fact that made Professor Metcalfe genuinely angry, although his accent still sounded charming while he was complaining about the youth these days. It was really fun being up there with him and Professor Becker, although I think that for a while I was contemplating cutting off Prof. Metcalfe's legs at the knees so he wouldn't go so darn fast on those almost straight up endless stairs of death.
This is me in another Byzantine house, one that was made to be two stories. The second floor has since collapsed. That is a major problem with limestone. It is very soft, although yesterday it didn't feel that way whenever I ended up sliding on it and flopping down on my butt or hands, and it erodes at an astonishing rate. No one knows the exact number of tombs in Pantalica, although it has been estimated at about 5000. Who knows how many have been lost to the ravages of time and water?
In case my earlier descriptions of the size of this place didn't give you a good idea, here is one picture looking one way down the valley. There is another view just as grandiose in the other direction. See those little dots in the side of that cliff? Tombs. They look like swallow nests.

Here is what the average tomb looks like on the inside when it isn't expanded by the byzantines. Some of them, especially the later ones, are bigger. Some even have multiple rooms and were intended for the entire family. Each time another family member died, another room was added.Here is what the look like from farther out. One of the ones in the hillside looks like it is still sealed up, and only had a test hole drilled into it by archaeologists. This is when we were going up one of the calmer slopes and I thought we had been strung out in an amusing way. Normally when we were going up and down some of the steeper slopes, I didn't take my camera out. I was too afraid of dropping it.And here we are at the top, sitting on the foundation of the Anaktoron or palace, or at least that is what it is called. It is the only building they have been able to find that even indicates the city that they know had to have been up here. The problem is that at that time, everything was made of perishable materials, so it is difficult to find traces. Also, the blocks are recognizably bronze age, but the floor plan is very reminicent of a byzantine farm house. Darn byzantines! And here is the view from the top, out over the entire valley. The photo really does not do the view justice.

This photo comes pretty close to it, though. This is from about halfway back down the mountain. (but of course after you climb up it you have to go back down!) and looking at the river and road that run along the bottom of the valley. The source of the river is very close by, so the river is extraordinarily clear. On the way down we had a chance to see another cave byzantine church. This one had a few more frescoes left on the walls, although they are a bit less recognizable. Maybe one of the saints?This picture demonstrates very well the damage that erosion does to these tombs. This is one that simply fell away from the mountain entirely. Another shot of the mountain peak. You can see a few more tombs in it.
This, my friends, is paradise. We had been hiking at a fast pace for a good four hours. Finally we reached the river. A swim has never felt so good. The river wasn't far from its source, and it was freezing cold, which was exactly what was needed.

1 comment:

MO said...

Allisande, the food is marvelous I am sure. I talked with Mrs. Golder and she has had the blood orange. I must say that the picture looks creepy. I think that I would be more interested in the nespole.
Don't bother with the Chinese food. Is there a fish restaurant near the market? That would be the place to eat.
Tonight June hosted a wonderful goodbye dinner for Maria and me. The question that we came up with for you was about music.
Do you hear a lot of impromtu music? Is it what a tourist would expect? Or is it modern...heaven forbid!
Ah, a harmonica player! It is hard not to be cheered by that. Michael, Robert, and Peter came by school today. They along with Mrs. Gill got to see your latest blog with pictures projected in the lab. Mrs. Gill asked about the tombs. Do you have info on that?
Remember, Prof.Metcalfe is older than you.