#3 Berlin, May 22, 1979

Having stayed five days with Gisela and Wolfgang, we now went to stay with Christa and Gunther, our other host couple. Gisela and Christa had met as our guests in Minnesota the year before, but the men had not met. We had a couple of social occasions together, all six of us, and we noticed that even on the second occasion, the men addressed each other using the other’s last name, for example, “Fischer,” apparently a custom in Germany.

One evening we had a social sponsored by Friendship Force which included our two host couples, as well as other Minnesota friends of ours who were staying with their host families.

Christa and Gunther also lived in an apartment house overlooking a lovely park.

Our first outing with them was to the local zoo in beautiful warm weather.

Another day we visited Spandau Citadel, a large fortress-type building where, nearby in a separate building, seven of the Nazi war criminals had been held. Only one remained imprisoned there now, Rudolf Hess, as the other six had been released or had died in prison.

 

 

 

 

 

The Reichstag Building, which formerly housed  their Parliament, was on our tour. This was the building that Hitler was accused of setting on fire during the war in order to blame Communists and grab power.

The following day we visited a Museum with a bust of Nefertiti, from Egypt. And then the beautiful Charlottenburg Palace with many beautiful rooms and gorgeous grounds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And soon it was time to fly back home, having made such lovely friends on “Friendship Force.”

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#2 Berlin, May 18, 1979

We went to East Berlin on the S-Bahn and immediately noticed the contrast with West Berlin. There were many buildings that had not been repaired since the damage in World War II, which ended 34 years ago.

Still, there were also restorations under way, as in the Berliner Dom.

There were long lines. Gisela and Wolfgang had very good friends that lived in East Berlin and they told them how difficult life is——-there is a long line for groceries, car batteries, and

everything of necessity.

Here is Alexanderplatz at the foot of the TV-tower (“Telespargel”),which is also called “The Needle.”

Here was a modern department store, which we entered. We were surprised to see that the merchandize was very limited, both in quantity, and quality. I observed a sea of brown women’s skirts—-all alike.

Still, there was the pretty Neptune Fountain, that people were enjoying.

Gisela’s childhood friend, Jutta and her husband, Alfred lived in a modern apartment building, which we visited. Their apartment was tiny by our standards, and Gisela said that their apartment was
somewhat superior to others since they were both school teachers, who get extra resources. Their son was a student in the police academy, and was not allowed to interact with Gisela and Wolfgang, so had to be absent when they visited.

Gisela said that many shortages persist in East Berlin and so when they come to visit their friends, Jutta and Alfred, they telephone ahead and ask what they should bring. Jutta and Alfred are very grateful when they bring scarce items such as toilet paper, coffee, sugar, etc.

Another outing took us to the Grunewald Hunting Castle and woods. What a pretty walk. Gisela’s father came with us. He had been in World War II and was taken prisoner in Leningrad. He was a prisoner for three years until the war’s end, when the Russians simply released all the prisoners and they had to walk home to Berlin.  Gisela had been six years old when he left for the war, and by the time he returned, she was 12 and didn’t recognize him. He was very ill, but the family nursed him back to health and now he is a rather healthy old man, actually one of the few men his age that we saw. Most had perished in the war.

Now he lives a block away from them in his own apartment, but comes to join them (and us) each day for his main meal at 1:00 PM. After dinner that day he got out his violin (he
plays in three orchestras) and it was my privilege to accompany him on the piano as he played some Schubert for us all. Our Minnesota friends, Judy and Jim Winsor, were also there.

Another day we visited the Emperor Wilhelm I Memorial Tower. From there we had a wonderful view of the city. Wolfgang pointed out a ‘hill’ in the distance that was formed from all the rubble from the bombed city. He related how the women of Berlin rebuilt the city (there were very few men that survived the war) and this hill was formed by what couldn’t be used for rebuilding.

 

 

 

 

 

We also had a view of the Brandenburg Gate.

Then they took us to Kreuzberg, a poor area peopled with Turks, who had come as guest  workers, invited by the West German government since so many men had been killed in the war, causing a shortage of workers.

At the end of the tour, we passed the Olympic Stadium, where in 1936 Jesse Owens excelled at
sprinting and the long jump, much to the consternation of Adolph Hitler, as Owens was an African-American and his four gold metals flew in the face of Hitler’s premise that ‘the Aryan Race’ was superior in every way.

We certainly enjoyed our tours around Berlin with our wonderful host-family.

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#1 Berlin, May 15, 1979

Burt and I flew to Berlin with Friendship Force in May, 1979. We had joined the year before, and had hosted three women from Berlin at our home in Minnesota. Two of the women invited us for a return visit in ’79.

Gisela Fischer, married to Wolfgang, met us at the airport and drove us to their apartment, where we met Wolfgang. When Gisela had visited us the year previous, and when asked about what stood out about her visit, she mentioned, “Ice cubes!” She was amazed at how much ice Americans used. So when we met Wolfgang, he immediately asked what we would like to drink. Since the weather was very warm, I asked for a glass of water. Wolfgang replied, “Carol, I have prepared ice cubes for you. How many do you want, one or two?” These ice cube trays were tiny from their under-the-counter refrigerator and each cube was about 1/4 inch! I said I’d have two, which he put into the glass of water and which, of course, promptly melted! A cultural learning on both sides!

The following day we met their children, Joerg, Martina and Lutz and all seven of us set out by bus to see Berlin.

One of the first landmarks we saw was the “Beerbrush,” a red building along our route.

Other landmarks were the city hall (Rathaus), and then as we reached their main street, Kurfurstendamm with it’s Memorial from World War II, the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church.

 

 

We stopped for lunch at a sidewalk cafe in the lovely warm May weather.

The following day we made another excursion by bus——Gisela and Wolfgang don’t have a car as it is very difficult for them to leave Berlin, given the political climate and the wall around Berlin. And, of course, in the city proper, it’s easier to take public transportation.

Gisela’s and Wolfgang’s apartment was only a block away from the Berlin Wall. Many people had been killed trying to cross the wall from East Berlin to gain their freedom in West Berlin.

We had lunch at the Wannsee, a lovely lake in Berlin. The ‘restaurant’ was a boat on the Wannsee, called “Moby Dick.!

We had many wonderful conversations with this family——bless them, they had all studied English and so could communicate with us. Breakfast was on their balcony in their apartment, leading to many lively conversations about their lives. These wonderful new friends seemed like very old friends right away!

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#6 (final) Siracusa, Sicily, Oct. 2, 2018

We finally had our market lunch today at the Salumeria. One has to put one’s name on ‘la lista’ as there is a long waiting line. We were seated quite quickly, though, and ordered two ‘boards,’ one of smoked fish and one of salumi. The food was wonderful and all the protein was augmented by veggies in various styles, along with a half-liter of wine.

These past two days have been pretty 
windy—-a Sirocco wind from Africa. It certainly cooled things off and also lowered the humidity a lot.  After lunch we walked around the island, looking at the high waves caused by the Sirocco. It was really quite wild and woolly and we did get showered a couple of times.

It’s amazing what a change that wind can make.  The next day all was back to normal with warm temperatures and no wind. We started the day slowly, doing chores and taking our time to proceed. Later we went to have a pomegranate juice, which they press fresh pomegranates to juice. It was very astringent and we were glad that we only shared one glass.

After that we made our morning trip through the market, buying things for the next two days. Oysters were on the list, which we bought. However, Burt, being a diabetic is not ‘allowed’ to eat raw oysters, but he had brought along his
 shucking tools so he made some for me. He also ate two oysters that were roasted in the oven. Our main course was tuna and eggplant.

Sunday we had a perfect weather day and started out with no particular destination in mind. We came upon a lovely ceramic shop (there are many) which we entered. We admired the beautiful large ceramic platters, but we resisted as both of our apartments are getting pretty full and Burt had already bought two. We did strike up a (sort of) conversation with the proprietor, in my butchered 
Italian and
 his few
 words of 
English. He 
invited us to 
go with him
 to have a 
coffee.
  Sebastiano 
locked up 
the store and 
we walked to 
the corner
 where he 
indicated we should 
enter with him. We had planned to have cappuccini anyway so we accepted his kind offer. He asked us where we were staying and when we told him that we stayed in an apartment, he said he was restoring one also and he would show it to us. When it was time to pay, he just made a gesture to the server, meaning “put it on my tab” and we walked about a block to his apartment. He said that next time we came to Siracusa, we should stay in his apartment.

Saying “Ciao” to Sebastiano and moving along to the shore, we stopped for a granita. This is a sherbet-like drink (or eat it with a spoon) that is a specialty of the area. Burt ordered a blood- orange granita which we shared while sitting in the MOST wonderful place on earth. The weather was perfect—-temperature, beautiful sunshine, no wind, sitting under wonderful trees with the lovely Mediterranean in front of us.

On the way back home to our apartment, we again admired the many gorgeous streets that make up Ortygia.

Then it was time to prepare pranso, which today included octopus. They’re not 
hard to
clean, 
which Burt 
did, and
 elaborately prepared three of them with special cooking.

Our last day in Siracusa was spent taking a bus to Noto, which is declared to be the prettiest baroque village in Italy. In 1693 there was an earthquake in Noto that destroyed the whole village. Reduced to rubble, the town fathers selected three architects to rebuild the village. Since they had a clean slate, they really let go—-the results are staggering.

We took a bus (an hour’s drive) to Noto from Siracusa. When we arrived, we followed the crowd up 
the Corso Immanuel to see the results of the 17th Century planning. It was colosal! At first we thought the first church that we came to was the Cathedral, but it turned out it was just an ‘also ran.’ The Real Cathedral was just down the street and was huge and beautiful! All the buildings were out of pretty beige stone; all of the Baroque period, built about 1700.

More palaces, more churches, more municipal buildings—-it went on for about six blocks. I’ll bet those architects had a ball doing this. Somebody had made flower petal pictures on the landing in front of the cathedral.  We came to one palazzo that had the most amazing struts under the balconies.

Finally we were worn out and needed gelato. The guide book said that the best gelato in all of Italy is in Noto. Burt got ‘Fruiti di Bosco’ (fruit of the forest) and I got Pistachio. And yes, it was awfully good!

The next day was going 
home day. We had arranged for Alberto,
 our landlady’s son, to 
drive us to the Catania
 Airport at 7:00 AM. He was right on time and got us to the airport earlier than we needed to be there——how nice!

 

 

On the way Alberto pointed out Mt. Etna, the volcano that goes off now and again on the island of Sicily. Since it was kind of shrouded in mist and
clouds, it reminded us of viewing Mt. Fuji in Japan last
 May.

We’re home now, and enjoying reviewing the great time we had on this wonderful trip.
Carol and Burt

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#5 Siracusa, Sicily, Sept. 28, 2018

Sundays we have pranso at the Antica Locanda. Not only do they have sublime food, but it’s such a local Sunday place to eat. We had Fish Soup and Pasta Nero di Seppia, along with a good white wine from Mt. Etna.

We even dressed up a bit! By now they know us, and the waitress that we have reaches for the camera to take our picture. She knows what we want!

On Monday we heard some commotion up by the Apollo Temple, so we walked up there tofind out what was going on. It turned out to be a young people’s demonstration. The sign says,” Hotel Institute Fights for their Rights.”

 

 

 

From there we headed to the market to buy fixings for pranso.  We bought Lambuche, which is mahi-mahi and we bought cleaned sardines, which Burt made into ‘stuffed sardines.’ That and a nice heirloom tomato salad with bread made us feel well fed. The wine was some frizzante white wine that they sell in the market that we like.

We spent much of the rest of the day watching Burt’s computer, looking at eight episodes of a series on Amazon Prime, called “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisley.”

On Tuesday, Sept. 25th we got an email from my sister, Jeanne, wishing us a “Happy Anniversary!” It was three years (!) since the day Burt and I met at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert—-sitting next to each other. We had celebrated it the last two years, but it escaped our memory this year, so luckily Jeanne reminded us.

It worked out beautifully, though, as we had plans to go to Catania, by bus, that day to take in the Bellini opera, “Adelson e Salvini.” Bellini was born in Catania in 1801 and the city fathers have celebrated that by constructing a wonderful Opera Theatre, that is all red plush and gilt. It was inaugurated in 1910 with Bellini’s most famous opera, “Norma.”

We took a taxi from the bus depot to our hotel. Catania is very different from Siracusa——boodles of 19th Century elaborate buildings are everywhere. The hotel was well-located in centro.

We unpacked, then used the iPhone to direct us (by walking) to Da Antonio, a trattoria that got high marks in the Lonely Planet. I don’t know if something went wrong, or if it really was further than I thought, but it seemed to me we kind of walked in circles, but by asking directions about four times, we finallyfound it.

We had a lovely pranso
—-we did like the
 trattoria. We started 
with a beautiful bottle of
 white wine from the Mt.
Etna region along with a 
big platAnti-pasto at Da Antonioe of Sicilian 
antipasto, which we
shared. We followed 
that with one serving of 
pasta (huge!) which we
 shared. It was Orchette with Clams and Cream of Pumpkinorchiette
 with clams, in a cream of pumpkin sauce.

From there we went to the Bellini theatre to see if we could pick up our reserved tickets, but nothing was open yet. So on the way home, we stopped for gelato—actually Burt had granita, more of a sherbet, which is really popular here.

 

 

We dressed up a bit and returned to the Bellini for a 5:30 PM performance. The theatre was as we had hoped—-it seats 1200 people in the familiar horseshoe pattern with boxes going up four levels. There were very few tourists there—-mainly locals with gray hair, like at home. It wasn’t air- conditioned so was a bit warm, but many women had brought fans to use—-it helped when a woman seated in front of us fanned herself (and us!)

The orchestra was wonderful and the acoustics of the orchestra were outstanding. There was one aria duet with the tenor soloist and a trumpet that was just heart wrenching. It sounded as though the trumpet was right next to us. The chorus was very good; the soloists were good, but, of course, this isn’t the Met. There were no programs—-kind of a low-budget operation as one would expect——Catania is not a big city.

It was over by 8:30 PM—-we walked back to the hotel, having enjoyed our Anniversary Celebration!!

The next morning we had our nice croissant 
(pistachio) and cappuccini, then went to the market. It was HUGE and quite different from Siracusa—not nearly as much seafood, although I understand they have a separate fish market. Burt bought a rack of castrated lamb (small) and a slice of standing rib horse meat. We also bought a Pakistani mango, some carrots and some rosemary (hard to find here).

 

 

Then we took our luggage (one small suitcase and a carry bag) to the Bellini Museum. It
was in the house in which he was born and raised. There were pictures, statues, opera original scores, and his death mask! Also
five piano fortes used by his musical family.

Then a taxi to the bus depot, through the rain. We arrived at 10:30 but the bus schedules seem a little loose here—-there was supposed to be a bus at 10:30 but nothing happened.

We had return tickets that we had bought the day before on coming to Catania. The 11:00 bus finally arrived at 11:30 as it was pretty bad weather by then. I was first on the bus, giving my ticket to the driver. He said, “Oh, No! This is for yesterday!” You have to use your return ticket the day you buy it. “What do I have to do, buy another ticket? Can you sell me one?” “No, you’ll have to go (a block away) to the ticket office and buy one.” So Burt waited and would try to get the bus to wait (already late) while I ran down the street and across to the office. I quickly bought two more tickets and ran back, in the rain, and the bus had not left! Yay! We got on in time! Actually in spite of being a half hour late in arriving, the bus didn’t leave for several more minutes after I returned—schedules are LOOSE, as I noted.

When we arrived in Siracusa, we stopped on the way home at the grocery store. We bought several of bottles of different drinks, along with a bottle of olive oil and some other things. After we checked out, Burt opened our suitcase to put some of the bottles in—-the others went in the carry bag. When he went out the door, the bells rang—-apparently something wasn’t charged properly? The man came and looked it all over and said to go. Then when we went through the door again, nothing rang. I don’t know what that was all about.

Home (?—-well it seems like home after a month) at last. A successful outing.

Last night Burt and I walked to the puppet theatre, bought two tickets, and waited for the show to begin. The theatre had about 82 seats—-we were seated in a top corner where Burt had to crick his neck to keep from hitting the brick arch that went over his head. Still, we could certainly see well.

I’m having lots of 6th grade fun with their word for puppets, which is ‘pupi’ pronounced ‘poopy.’ The show was operatic in style with only Italian dialogue, but one could follow the story of a man in full armor trying to ‘get the girl.’ It involved lots of fighting, even cutting off somebody’s head! It lasted about 45 minutes—-
there were four puppeteers that took a bow after the show.

We walked home in the light, enjoying all the people who are out for their passeggiata.
The weather really turned the last few days. We’re having a sirocco wind from Africa. It
really cooled things off and dried things out! Our laundry dried in a few minutes, unlike earlier, when it was hot and very humid. I see it is forecast to go back to sunny and hot.

Yesterday for pranso Burt cooked the horse meat piece of standing rib that we bought in Catania. He cut it up and stewed it and we ate it over pasta. It was excellent, but I’m not sure one could ever tell the difference between it and grass-bed beef. It’s very lean.

We were planning to go to Noto today, but decided, instead to go on Monday, even though that’s our last day here. The forecast is for full sunshine then, and warm weather, unlike today, which is overcast and windy. I’ll get this out instead.

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#4 Siracusa, Sicily, Sept. 23, 2018

Our morning on Tuesday was taken up with going to the Paolo Orsi Museum. This man dug up a bunch of grave goods in 1910, with which they made a museum. I saw this museum when I was here 12 years ago, but didn’t remember much, except it was long and arduous. This time, I really didn’t like the museum, as I 
thought it had too 
many examples of 
each thing.  Just
because you have it doesn’t mean it should ALL be displayed. It did go on and on until we decided we should take a break with a cappuccino. I didn’t see a coffee shop,
although they all have them, so I asked a staff member. She said, “We only have a vending machine and it’s downstairs next to the women’s toilet.” In Italy??? We did see many enjoyable objects, and maybe I was just crabby that morning——? All of these things were from 5000 BC to the Roman era, about 300 AD.

 

When finished, we went next door to a very modern
church (built in 1994). The interior was quite spectacular, too, but not really ‘finished.’ They probably
ran out of money.

 

 

 

 

Home to pranso, which was a blood-orange salad, along with potatoes, and the liver and kidney from the milk-fed lamb that we had had the day before.

 

 

 

 

 

The next day our outing was to the Basilica of Santa Lucia, one of the early places where Christians were buried. Apparently they couldn’t be buried within the city limits of the Roman city (Ortygia) but this church, on the mainland, was outside of the city limits. The church was built on top of a Norman older church, with a few columns and the portal from that church.  
It was dedicated to Santa Lucia—-a statue of her was sculpted by Tedeschi (same man as painted the frescos displayed in the Poppi Castle near Partina) which was in the front of the church. It was said that the marble in this statue perspired for three consecutive days in 1735.

 

The eight- sided Sepolcro is next door, which was being restored.  A copy of “The Burial of St. Lucia” was in the Sepolcro.

The chandelier looked like Murano glass to me—-from Venice?

 

 

 

We took a tour of the catacombs where early Christians were buried. These catacombs were also used for refuge from bombs in World War II.

 

 

For the first time we
got discounted tickets for being ‘seniors;’ usually this has been only offered to EU seniors.

Some observations:
*The people here are awfully polite. For example, when forming a line for checkout at the grocery store, two different people invited me to go ahead of them while I was waiting for Burt. There is also very little horn-honking even though the narrow streets are loaded with cars.

*Many people in Syracusa have pet dogs, but the dogs on Ortygia are almost all small dogs while the ones on the mainland are much bigger. Burt enjoys them all!

*As in Japan, most of the houses have small balconies but we never see people sitting on them. It seems they are mostly used for hanging laundry, or storage.

*Food, and the high quality of it, is paramount here. In the market there is endless discussion between the buyer and the vendor. All of the produce is so fresh looking and tasting.

One of the nicest things to do as we begin our walk-about in the morning is to stop for a cappuccino. On the way, Burt usually makes a new friend—-he’s really a dog-lover.

Just observing the beautiful medieval streets
in Ortygia is so lovely——there is still quite a bit of reconstruction/restoration going on, which is good to see.

Sometimes visiting a small obscure museum is very satisfying, which we did this morning. The Museum of Papyrus was one such. It also, again, gave a chance to preserve a pretty monastery in which it is housed. Papyrus still grows around Siracusa. It was imported from Egypt eons ago, and was
used as early as the 10th C for making papyrus in Siracusa. It is also used to make boats.

Moving on to the Guidecca, which is the old Jewish quarter where they lived before being ousted in 1492, we visited a ‘miqwe,’ which is an old Jewish ritual bath. We had quite a challenge getting down and up all the steep steps, but we made it! The bath was from ancient times, but on top of that a medieval small church was built, under a present day church.  A medieval skeleton reminded all of their mortality!

There were long corridors also used for a bomb shelter during
World War
II.

Calling it quits for our Museuming for that day, we went back home, stopping at the market to buy some things. One thing that they had that they hadn’t had before were fresh mandarin oranges. We bought four of them to have for a salad on a later day.

As it was, the next day Burt was cooking Pasta Norma for our pranso while I was taking a shower. Well, the lights went out; we determined that our neighbors had electricity so we texted our landlady. It appears that when we put the oven on in conjunction with the hot water heater for the shower and the A/C, it overloaded. At 6:00 Hilde came with a man who fixed the circuit breakers back to normal. Now we know not to use the oven with other appliances running—-just like in Partina.

I mistakenly thought Hilde said we had used cumulatively too much electricity, which irritated me. Burt put me straight —-she meant we had used too many appliances at once. That I certainly can deal with! I sent her a note of apology for being so unpleasant about it, and will type up instructions in English for future renters——all of these things are workable, provided one knows about them. Burt finished cooking the Pasta Norma on the gas burners, and so with the mandarin orange salad and a couple glasses of wine, all was tranquil.

Saturday we planned to go out of town to Noto, a gem of a baroque village that was all rebuilt after an earthquake in 1693. When we got to the bus, the schedule that we had didn’t apply—- even though it said the bus went on this schedule ‘every day.’ So we walked back to the market and then home.

At the bus depot area, I photoed a statue of a horse, identical to a tiny one that I photoed 
in the Paolo Orsi Museum. The tiny one was a stylized bronze horse found in the grave of a child and has now become the symbol for the Paolo Orsi Museum. It is from the 8th C. BC.

Later that day it rained pitchforks while we had pranso at a little restaurant in the market.  Burt ordered Fish Soup, which turned out to be colossal. We were glad we hadn’t gone to Noto when it rained so hard.

We shared Pulpo (Octopus) Salad for a starter; then finished with an Amaro cordial.
Stay Tuned!

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#3 Siracusa, Sicily, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018

On our nightly passeggiata we encountered this little boy playing splendid accordion for money in the street. We really enjoy the street musicians.

The next day we walked to the other side of Ortegia, to the blue, blue, Mediterranean, where we observed a father and daughter doing some snorkeling in the clear water. It’s amazing how clean the water is in this busy place.

Pushing on, we visited the Galleria Regionale di Palazzo Bellomo, a wonderful art museum with art displayed in a most beautiful old palace. There was a plethora of medieval paintings and sculptures.

 

On the way back to our apartment Burt stopped in a wine shop and bought a special bottle of Sicilian frappato wine for our pranso, which was Eggplant Parmesan (with special Viola eggplant) and a starter of octopus. And yes, the wine was very good, as was the eggplant Parmesan and the octopus.

Thursday I had a shiatsu treatment right in my neighborhood, a service that Claire had found for me on the internet. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping so I thought this might help. She really gave me a good ‘going-over,’ much more vigorously than the one I had at home some time ago. Still, I think it was effective. She said she had studied in New York long time ago, and now teaches shiatsu all over Italy.

We made a trip to the little grocery store in our neighborhood to get a few utilitarian things like garbage bags and kleenex. Burt also bought a nice bottle of local wine there.

On the way home I photoed another lovely Ortegia street—-this town is so beautiful!

Friday morning we made our usual trip to the market. We were looking for sea urchins, which we had seen them cleaning about a are available every day. Aren’t they gorgeous?  We had seen them a week ago, but not since. Well, there they were. Goodness, cleaning sea urchins is slavery—-I’m glad I don’t have to do it. First one has to cut them apart, trying not to get stuck with all their spines; then, with a tiny spoon, remove the orange gonads from the shell. In a cookbook, they also explained what they have to do to harvest them, which is another
saga. Anyway, we bought two tiny plastic cups of them, and Burt made a heavenly pasta with them later in the day for pranso. We also bought zucchini blossoms, which usually are for sale and look so pretty!

After dropping our groceries at home, we headed for a museum in honor of Archimedes. He was a famous mathematician and scientist in the 200 BC era, from Siracusa. He solved many of science’s mathematical riddles, and also invented offensive and defensive weapons of war. For example, he made a mirror that would reflect and concentrate the sun’s rays, which would set Roman ships on fire. Still, after a couple of years, Rome managed to conquer Siracusa and during the fighting Archimedes was killed.

This museum was new since I was here 12 years ago. Many things have been added since then——about that time the town fathers apparently realized that if they repaired some of the old buildings on Ortegia, it could lead to a booming tourism business. Twelve years ago there was a huge amount of remodeling/building going on—-there still is quite a bit to be seen (and heard!) and yes there are many more tourists here now than were here twelve years ago.

Later in the day Burt cooked a splendid pranso with starters of snail, anchovy bruschetta and fried zucchini blossoms, followed by the sea urchin pasta and the Grillo white local wine.

Friday evening it was raining—-first we’ve had, so it was welcome to cool things off. Highs have been about 87 and very humid—-it doesn’t really cool off a lot at night—- perhaps a low of about 70°—-luckily our apartment has A/ C. Ortegia looks even more exotic at night—-what a pretty place.

Our morning market trip was followed by a long walk to the tip of the island to see the 13th C. Castello Maniace.  My goodness, how they had restored it since I was here 12 years ago. It had almost no 13th C. character left! Still the views of the Mediterranean were lovely.

We had been congratulating ourselves on picking such a great apartment—-the location right next to the market; the spaces so generous—-however, the one blight was the bathroom. The water pressure was so bad—-we took many showers with just a dribble of tepid water coming out of the shower. Ironically, the shower was very high tech with water designed to come out of several places, placing the showeree in a stream of water—-theoretically, that is, but with low pressure, we were lucky to get showered at all. One day while I was showering, Burt reached to turn on the light in the living room and to our surprise, the (wrong) switch that he threw turned out to be the switch for a motor that ran
the water. Immediately the water pressure was great! So after two weeks of low pressure, we now have all the hot water and water pressure that we desire!

Sunday morning we made a walk to the grocery store and just outside the store, we noticed a cannabis vending machine —-something that we hadn’t noticed before! How times change!

 

 

 

 

We joined many Sicilian families having 
dinner in a restaurant on Sunday—-our 
favorite, called Antica Locanda, where
 we had had couscous earlier. We had 
lovely seafood pasta with a seafood
starter. When we got home we broke open a bottle of Moscato to accompany some great oven-roasted ricotta for dessert.

This morning we did some big- time sight-seeing. We took a taxi to the mainland (I guess it’s no longer against my backpacker religion!) and visited the Archeological Park.  We bought a combo-ticket for all the outdoor things to see for today, and also for the Archeological Museum of Paolo Orsi, who, in 1910 dug up a bunch of old graves and collected the grave goods in this museum. I remember visiting this museum 12 years ago, and finding it exhausting from the sheer number of displays. Therefore we will see these things over two days—-the outdoor things one day, and the museum the following day.

First up was the Roman Amphitheater built in the 2nd C. AD. It was used for gladiatorial combats and horse races. Unfortunately in the 10th C the Spaniards used many of the stones to build Siracusa’s defensive walls.

Next to it was an altar to Heron II where they could kill 450 oxen at one time. Actually it was not clear exactly where the monolithic altar was and one couldn’t enter the area. What did they do with the oxen? Give them to the poor people?

We moved on to the ‘Ear of Dionysius,’ an 80-foot high grotto extending back into the cliffside. This made for wonderful acoustics, which it was said, were used by Dionysius to listen in on his 7000 prisoners which he took in 413 BC in a war between Athens and Siracusa. Luckily we experienced the acoustics when a tour guide burst into “Santa Lucia,” in good operatic form.

The big deal at this park was next—-it is the 5th C. BC Greek Theatre. It holds 16,000 people and was cut right out of the rocky hillside, rather than constructing the seats with cut stones. Some of the tragedies of Aeschylus were
performed here in his presence about 460 BC when the theatre was new. Each spring they present Greek Theater here—-in Greek? in Sicilian? in Italian? Who knows?

Taxiing back to our area and going through the market, as usual, rounded out our morning. Burt had readied the milk-fed half-
a-lamb (with potatoes,
onions, herbs, etc.) that 
we bought yesterday before we went out this morning. On coming home, he got that into the oven and opened a bottle of Consumano Syrah. Interestingly this brand of wine (we’ve had several bottles) has glass stoppers, rather than cork or screw tops. How can they get those to seal? But seal, they do.

The wine industry in Sicily is interesting. For centuries they have been raising ‘ordinary’ grapes here, from which wine they exported in bulk to northern Italy to augment their ‘fancy’ wines. Now, however, they have started making their own ‘fine’ wines and this is one of the brands.

What a lovely dinner, as always, but this one was special. We 
saved the liver and kidney that came attached to the lamb for tomorrow’s dinner! We’re enjoying Sicily!

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