Thursday, May 22, 2008

I died for beauty, or at least my feet did!

Okay. Here is the finishe post, and yet not quite finished. I do not mean for the linked text to be links. This is a little bug with Blogger, and it is going to take me a while to fix it. Just don't click on them, although I think that they will take you nowhere. Here's the sum of my first week in Sicily. Now that the second is almost done, maybe I should get working on that. *dies*This fountain is in the center of the piazza de Archimede, or at least I think that's how it is spelled. It has nothing to do with Archimedes, actually. It was put there in the 20's in place of a church, much to the annoyance of the religious powers in the city. It is made of concrete, but it is still quite beautiful. I walk past it every day. This is a shot of my school in the early afternoon. Yes, my school. It is in a converted residence that was evidently quite grand at one time. It is not all semi-ancient grandeur. The classrooms are modern with perfectly lovely balconies with french doors that look out onto the street.The current vogue for afternoon sports it seems is a variation on water polo called canoe polo. Guys play it by paddling around in kayaks and slapping at the ball with their oars or with their hands if they can manage to touch it without getting their hands taken off by someone else's oar. That kind of physical stuff is not really my thing. That is why I prefer to watch the good looking boys play while eating a cup of gelatto. That stuff is the best in the world. If I could bring some back to the states with me I would in a heartbeat.I love Ortigia because it is impossible for me to get lost. You are never far from the ocean. If you lose your way, all you need to do is find your way out to the coast and follow it. It is only an hour's walk all the way around, and eventually you will get to a place you recognize.The sea is so clear it is supernatural. I went swimming in it a couple of days ago, and I was thoroughly surprised by the salt. Even when you are pretty far out, you can still see the bottom.And here is another shot from the coast looking back towards the city.
More shots of the city...This is a shot of the Duomo or cathedral for Siracusa. It is one of the if not the oldest building in the city. It was originally built by the Greeks on top of a bronze age settlement as a temple in honor of Athena. It got taken over by the romans and kept as a temple, was converted to a byzantine church, a mosque when the Arabs took over Siracusa, and then finally into a Roman Catholic church. It has extensive catacombs under it and is the place where they keep the only known relics of Saint Lucy: a jawbone and a pinky. This is a shot looking across the Piazza Duomo towards one of the government buildings.This is a shot of the arithusa fountain. It is connected to one of the myths that involves Apollo chasing a nymph. This particular one was named Arithusa. She called out to Artemis, and she turned her into a freshwater spring beside the sea. Quite recently, as far as these things go, there was a miracle in Siracusa. A statue of the madonna cried human tears for three days. It was scientifically proven as an actual miracle and a gigantic church was built to house the miraculous statue, the Madonna de Lacrime. This is the church. People joke about the incongruous architecture and call it a lemon juicer. We went in search of it and eventually found it and the statue. Despite the funky shape, it is a rather beautiful church. It had a rosary garden outside with statues for each mystery. Bri and I are both at least christian, but Alli, who tagged along with us, had absolutely no background in any of the biblical stories. She just was along for the walk, not the church. She was rather confused about what the statues were supposed to represent, so I started explaining them to her. She liked the one about the Visitation so much that she wanted to take a picture with the statues, so here it is.This is the statue for the nativity. We went to the Archaeological park as a group. The Archaeological park is really Siracusa's attempt at preserving some of the ridiculously amazing ruins from Greek and Roman times. All of the preserved areas are clustered around a gigantic quarry called something to the effect of the paradise quarry in Italian. Right now it really does look like paradise, although a rather hot and tropical paradise. When it was actually a quarry, however, it was probably something much more akin to hell. It was a limestone quarry that was entirely underground. Prisoners of war and political prisoners were forced to work and live down there in the dark. The size of the hole they made is certainly impressive. After the quarry was no longer in use, it collapsed in on itself around the pillars that were meant to hold it up. There were actually people living over the quarry, and on top of one of the pillars that is still standing, you can still make out the ruins of a farmhouse. That must have been shocking to wake up to. When it was still being used as a prison, there was a tyrant named Dionysus ( although I am not sure if that is the way his name was spelled). There is a legend that he used to have himself lowered down into this excellent acoustic cave so he could listen in on the conversations of the workers. Therefore, it is called the ear of Dionysus. Nearby there is an altar, and it is actually the largest one ever found. It is approximately the size of a football field, and there is an account of 450 bulls being sacrificed to Zeus on it all at the same time.Also nearby is a Greek amphitheatre. It is complete enough that plays are still performed in it. Every year an old greek tragedy is produced. This year it is the Orestia. It is going on now. That is why so much of it is covered up with the bleachers. You can still get something of an idea of what it looks like, however.

Behind the theatre there is a nice rocky hillside, and after the theatre fell into disuse, the hillside got converted into a series of tombs. As you can see, they are quite posh in their appearance. They've got couches and everything. Definitely an elite place to be buried.
We tried out the comfort level ourselves. This one is actually about four feet off the ground, so it was quite a thing to get up here in the first place.
For those who did not have enough money to get buried in one of the tombs, there was a possibility to instead leave behind a terra cotta plaque in commemoration of the deceased. These were set into little niches in the wall. The plaques are long gone, but the niches are still there.

When the Romans came in, they weren't quite so into theatre as the greeks were. Instead, they liked to sponsor gladiator games. This is where they took place, a little ways past the altar. The hole in the center was a place from which to generate special effects and would have normally been covered by a trap door.

1 comment:

MO said...

We're ready to pack and join you! My goodness it is beautiful there.
I am so glad to see Ortigia...quite unusual. You look wonderful, too. How is your class going? Maybe you can get some shots of the dig site. Thank you, thank you for sharing.