I took a bus from Tabarka to Ain Draham, winding up, up to the hills through cork oak forests. The trees had been harvested of their cork bark, leaving the rust colored trunks bare naked, up to the first branches. The French built Ain Draham as a break from the hot summers—the air was nice and crisp. It stormed that night like crazy. At first lots of lightening with only rumbling thunder; then wind, rain and hail. I had to hold the balcony door in my room shut for awhile. Even then, lots of water came in through the cracks.
The next day I took a louage to Jendouba, spending the rest of the day interacting with the town. The following day I hired a taxi to take me to Bulla Regia and Chemtou—two amazing Roman sites. Bulla Regia was a Roman city (1st and 2nd C. AD) constructed under ground to escape the heat. Large Roman villas had mosaic floors, courtyards with columns, built by slave labor out of stone, below ground.
These Romans got rich on wheat, hereabouts, and lived well. The buildings are pretty much intact.
Chemtou is where they quarried golden marble. It was prized because of the (imperial) gold color. The quarries can be seen—big bites taken out of the hills.
Lunch was in my room—a good bottle of Magon wine (I found a cork puller at the supermarket), cheese, good French bread and grapes.
Some cultural things—the greeting here in Tunisia is four kisses on the cheeks—right, left, right, left and they have special words they say after each kiss. Both men and women do it. The coffee shops seem to be full of men all day long. One wonders what the unemployment rate is. No women participate in these cafes, except me. The women here wear very pointy-toed feminine shoes, and I wear big, black clodhoppers for comfortable walking. Sometimes I see them looking at my shoes—I imagine they think they are terrible.
I know that the tourist season is mainly in the summer months, but in this town, Jendouba, I have only seen one small group of tourists (speaking Spanish) and no other backpackers. That’s good—a more ‘natural’ setting—and that’s bad—nobody to talk to and a definite lack of hostels.
By the way, my niece, Laura Christensen, checked out ‘Dirtie Gertie from Bizerte’ on the web. It seems it was a WWII marching song with over 200 verses, most of which were unprintable, apparently, but she did send me words and music for about 4 verses.
I took the train back to Tunis from Jendouba—rolling brown (now harvested) hills of huge wheatfields, also sheep, goats, and cattle. The farms are mechanized with big tractors which were disking some of the newly ploughed ground.
I had dinner last night in the Dar Hamouda Pacha restaurant—yet another converted lovely old palace in the medina. On the outside these look, well, close to like slums. On the inside—WOW! All big courtyards with beautiful tiled walls and floors, nooks and crannies off the main dining room all cushioned and carpeted. On walking in you feel like you’ve stepped through the looking glass.
I’m back at the same hostel in Tunis. I have booked a ticket to go to Berlin tomorrow (Friday) to visit my friend, Gisela Fischer, who is battling cancer. It will be great to see Gisela and Wolfgang again—we first met in ’78 and have vacationed together many times since then. So you probably won’t hear from me for a couple of weeks until I resume my doings in Tunisia. Stay tuned—