Sunday, March 15, 2020

Lockdown in Sicily: First month of WhatsApp group posts

February 19th, 2020

Lockdown in Sicily: First month of WhatsApp group posts

Oh, my lovely neglected friends. It's not for lack of travel pearls that I haven't been posting. More like too much to post, and wanting to capture a moment and its personal significance, as it happened. That's not easy for me. But you know what is easy? Putting it off. Not satisfying, at all. Welcome to MY life, and its little problems.

I started an experiment, a WhatsApp group - a one-sided conversation, because I'm the only one who can post. It suits me to make shorter posts more frequently. You are free to join the group if you're interested. You'll need a WhatsApp account (free and easy to get) and then, with your phone, click this link:

All the photos and text below are from the posts to that WhatsApp group.

I'm on lockdown in Sicily, and I have to say it's odd and really enjoyable. Some of the story is in the posts below. The rest of it I'll tell on another blog post, or never. I have lost all hope of being a reliable blogger. This post is kind of long, sorry. They start well before coronavirus was on my personal radar. That Has Changed. Enjoy!

Today I'm wandering around Marsala, at the most western point of Sicily - while I wait for my van to be repaired. This is an amazing crossroads of Mediterranean history. Founded by the flipping Phoenicians, for a start.

Italy is trying to kill me again. I'm in Selinunte, Sicily, which was a large Greek city 2,500 years ago. They think maybe 30,000 people lived here. Ouch, it hurts so good.

Agrigento: As I was hiking up the hill, away from yesterday's Greek ruins, I saw this one from a distance that I'd missed. Oops. So I went back today on my way out of town. Built around 450 B.C., burnt down a few years later by the Carthaginians (who are they), restored much later by the Romans, collapsed, restored, restored again. And so it goes. A lot can happen in 2,500 years.

From yesterday, the Temple of Concordia viewed from a distance. It's one of the best preserved ancient Greek temples, partly because it was converted into a Christian basilica in the 6th century.

I took the video from the other day, slowed it down, and changed the music to a live recording (low quality) from a few weeks ago in Italy. I love the music and wish I had a better recording. But the whole point of the original post was to easily share something Google made me. Now I'm editing a slideshow video that I would have never made on my own, because I don't like that format, at all. Go figure.

This is the wild-eyed beauty who was playing accordion and singing on the video song. Since I'm only carrying a phone these days for photos, I don't get a chance to take many portraits. I miss them.

I'm Dave Adair, and I approve of this view from my balcony. Ragusa, Sicily. I had no idea what was here, only that I'd heard it was nice. That meant I wasn't prepared for the windy, narrow stone streets on the way, or this view. Some surprises work out better than others.

Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. After swearing to myself that I would prepare my taxes today, I spent the ENTIRE day reading about the coronavirus situation. I wasn't so interested when it was only affecting millions of Chinese a long ways away. But then when it threatens my forever-holiday plans, all of a sudden I'm all over it. Anyway, it's not going away soon and will likely be coming to a movie theater near you. And starring you.

Many tourist-friendly places shut down in winter, so it can be a challenge to find open restaurants. Tonight I walked up steeply, maybe 300 large steps in 10 different staircases to an area with a little more action. Coming back, this Escher-themed house caught my eye. It's really incredible the complexity and beauty of the architecture on these steep hilltop cities. Amazing.

A little fancier architectural style. The sign dates it to the 18th century. I love the arched walkway to the left.

Oh wow, wicked commentary. Come on, just be a lady, how hard can it be? Watch and find out. (Thanks, lovely Lana.)

I came out of the restaurant last night and looked up to see this view. I love how the houses wrap around and cling to this giant rock. As startling as this view is to my eyes, it's not uncommon in Italy for villages big and small to be perched high up on top of a hill or mountain. I doubt any new towns would be started there, but these places were built back in the old days when fortifications and defense were paramount. If you couldn't defend yourself, people would just come and take your stuff. Amazing.

This is "Ragusa Ibla," the old part of town, which was the most developed as of the "big earthquake" in 1693 that locals still refer to. Most of the buildings were destroyed, but not all. The red building on the left is my hotel, which existed prior to the earthquake. The documented history of the area dates to 2,000 B.C., and includes a who's who of that-can't-be-real characters from 6th grade history books: the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Normans, Arabs. Oof, too much history to contemplate, much less really digest.

The Cattedrale di San Giovanni Battista, (St John the Baptist.) It was rebuilt on this site after the original one in the old town was destroyed in "the big earthquake of 1693." Started in 1694, then expanded starting 1718. I guess this is the main church in town, but there are MANY more to choose from if this doesn't suit you.

The moon looks down on Ragusa, Sicily. Oh, man. Maybe I would get used to these views, given time. I don't think so. I went on a crazy walk yesterday. I'm trying to figure out the best way to share the story...

I went on a nice field trip two days ago, to an ancient catacomb - a burial site inside a cave. The Grotta Delle Trabacche dates to the 4th century. A.D. and was discovered in 18th century. The cave was carved out of the soft rock, and inside there are maybe 50 body-sized "tombs" carved into the rock. Fascinating little place, and nice to be there on my own.

It was a short walk into this beautiful valley.

The first view from the entryway.

Tombs in the ground, more in the walls.

And two large structures with columns, also carved from the stone.

There's a large opening inside these fancier structures.

Not all the tombs were adult-sized. Some looked like the size of a child or even a baby.

Now, I think a 1,500 year old tomb is damn groovy, and pretty old. But the oldest "undisputed intentional burial site" is 130,000 years old. Ouch, that makes my head hurt.

The walk back. If you don't think stone walls are beautiful, I'm not sure we can be friends.

Lockdown in Ragusa, Sicily, Italy. I went for a short wander at 9 pm to see what's up.

Nothing is up! Everything is closed, and people are indoors. The almost full moon isn't bothered.

The church just near my hotel.

And this is my room and balcony. Nice place to be quarantined! I'm free to walk around or hike, can't drive except for groceries, emergencies, or to leave the country, and I have no complaints. I'll write a proper blog post soon. Or maybe never. Brace yourselves, friends, we're just getting started on this coronavirus stuff. Enjoy yourselves, even in the midst of it! ❤

Uh oh. The BBC is reporting that Italy is closing ALL restaurants. Since I'm in a hotel room with no kitchen, maybe I have to cook in my van in the parking lot? That might work. BBC: "Italy is to close all shops except food stores and pharmacies in Europe's toughest lockdown yet as virus deaths and cases continue to mount.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said bars, restaurants, hairdressers and non-essential company departments would also close. Home delivery would be allowed."

I woke up on the night, my head spinning with the torrent of breaking news about the coronavirus. Plunging stock market, NBA season suspended, Tom Hanks infected, flights banned from most of Europe to the US, and maybe most importantly in this moment to me: all restaurants in Italy closing. I asked at the hotel reception about their plans, and he said the restaurant closes completely tomorrow, and the hotel too. I'm nodding my head, and then, wait, what? The hotel is closing?! "Yes, but you can stay here if you want." He says there are also many food delivery places. Hey hey hey, things are looking up! There will be no staff at the hotel, only cleaning, but not every day. Good enough for now. (Photo from my last hike before lockdown.)

Lockdown update, Ragusa, Sicily. That's my hotel on the left, where I'm now the only person in the building. One customer, no staff. I like quiet, but dang, this is quiet!

My van looks a little lonely. Hotel is to the far left.

All restaurants are closed, but this guy cooks for his wife and two kids, and is willing to feed me. I'm grateful for that! I had my last breakfast today at my hotel, but the hotel restaurant is shut now. I need to go to the grocery store to buy some food for breakfast/lunch, or just eat one meal a day. Strange and fascinating times. I really need to write a proper blog post. Smooch, peeps!

A walking tour from "my restaurant" (I'm the only one there, every night) to my hotel. First up, kitty cat looking a little scary.

Massive hill, with a massive building perched on top. And at the very bottom of the hill, ballroom sized chambers carved into the rock from old quarries.

Oh, this architecture makes my head spin. I gaze at it, day after day, trying to somehow take it all in. And day after day, I fail.

A little round stairway leads upstairs, and a little round stairway leads downstairs, under the arch. Italy is trying to kill me.

Nearer my hotel, stone buildings above stone sidewalks next to stone streets. For someone with rocks in their head, this is paradise. If you grow up with this, it may not seem special. Is it? Really??

From my balcony. How could it be special? It's been like this for 500 years! Ok, so why does my heart skip a beat?

(The End)