PC601 Arriving in Sicily
From War to Wine
- I didn't really plan to come to Sicily, but when I bought a flight to Tunisia it wasn't sure if one has to have an onward ticket, so I bought a ferry ticket to Sicily. After 11 weeks in Tunisia I hadn't been lucky enough to find any work project, so I decided to use this ferry ticket. Tunisia wasn't really working for me; it's not such an interesting place to begin with and then the unpredictable violence of the revolution had made things complicated.
Will I Make It Through Riot Torn Streets To The Boat ?
- I just asked for a small wine and they brought me a caraf for €1.50 .. Result.

- well last night I didn't think I was going to be able to get the boat. A street demonstration had attracted hooligan type element so it ended up with them coming a few blocks upto our area pursued by police who fired rounds and rounds of teargas. We were locked in the cyber café and I came out to riot torn streets with a car on fire. So after picking up my bags I had to trudge through the riot torn streets and I was already late, and taxis were scared of coming to the area. Anyway it was safe by then to walk on the street so I did manage to get a taxi at 300% normal price and then I was on the boat.

- Ater 14 hours at 11am I was walking on the streets of Palermo not great, but more historic than Tunis. A lot of 800 year old palaces and cathedral like buildings. The prices are 3 times those in Tunisia so I couldn't go in anything or stay in a hotel in Palermo so I caught a train for 1 hour to the campsite at Pollina. €8/night, but camping in February is cold.

Mon - Cefalu

- Hitched to Cefalu (Ce is pronounced "che" in Italian. LUCKY - Got a ride with the managers of the waste management company strangely I had heard them on the BBC 3 months ago talking about their new project to move garbage by donkey and give up half their trucking fleet.

- Walked around the old town, realised I 'd left my passport at the campsite reception. Some very old cathedral based on some prehistoric or ancient Greek temple judging by the size of the base stones. Then climbed the Rocca for a view of the surrounding area.

- UNLUCKY - Train back to Pollina. Bloody hell not only is the coastal part of Pollina 12Km from the main village bizarrely even tho the train goes thro the village the damm station is 3.5Km further, so got soaked walking back in the rain.

- eating tropianne croissant stuffed with meat

Tue - visited hilltop villages of Pollina and Castelbuono
- hitching and walking .. good views, but not amazing.
- The way it works here in Sicily is that villages have a high mountain part and a beach part. Pollina village is 12Km up a steep hill, with one school bus per day. So I walked a 2Km hitch another 2Km hitch, walk, and a final 3Km hitch right into the village.
- It's a hilltop village, which has probably been occupied since the time of the Greeks, still nothing amazing.. just views. AfteR lunch I walked down the hill back to the junction and was able to get a hitch all the way to Castelbuono with the primary school teacher. Of course now it was siesta time so everythimg was shut. I waited for castle to open, but it was disappointing as most rooms were closed. People were interested in the carvings of the Baroque chapel, but I wasn't.

- Now to get back to Pollena coast, but there are no buses. I tried to hitch down to the coast. No luck, but after 30 minutes the Cefalu bus passed, then I got a hitch along the coast to the camping with a local youth.

Wed - Big Hitch East to Catania
- I was thinking of going West to Trapani, but there is a Couchsurfing English Conversation Club meetup in Catania on Thursdays so I decided to come all the way east across the island. Easiest way was to hitch.

- Thanks to all the people who gave me rides yesterday : Guiseppe, the Priest, the Gardener, the Enna Road repair guys, the boys from Palermo and the Catania police who stopped the bus for me ..Hitching was difficult cos all the junctions were autostrada to autostrada and it's illegal to walk on the autostrada.. arrived at hostel at 6pm ... still quicker than the route by train.

Thu - Tourist in Catania - When did the war finish ?
- Walked around the historic streets.. As ever in Sicily you are supposed to admire the Baroque churches, but what I noticed most was all the half smashed up graffitti-d buildings. When did the war finish ? OK volcano eruptions are responsible for some of the grime, but it seems this society has some serious anger issues and people don't feel their own city, that's why they vandalise it .. I guess the rich have stolen all the money and do the minimum to help the poor.

- One special thing about Cantania is you are supposed to see the snow covered Etna Volcano from everywhere in the city, but it was cloudy so you couldn't.

- There were some ancient Roman/Greek structures forlornly between some buildings. The fortess musem was OK. Since it was lunchtime before I started I got caught out by siesta and most other places were closed

Thu evening - CLEM
- I always like to go to CLEMs (Culture and Language Exchange Meeting) as I can meet a lot of local people who speak English so I can help people with their English and get a quick insight into their culture. In other countries foreigners are rare so the people are enthusiatic cos aswell as speaking English to each other they can really practice their English by asking questions. But this was different it was NOT like the normal CLEM meeting where people are "all over me", looking at my travel photos and asking questions. No this was like a combination of 2 meetings with 3 parts. It was an English language club for foreigners with all Americans from the nearby airbase and other foreigners sitting in one room and talking to each other, whilst in the other room a majority of locals enjoyed the food and wine and spoke Italian to each other and a minority around the teacher from Ireland were a more normal CLEM meeting.

- I expected the normal crowd of people wanting to talk about my experience in the Tunisian revolution and desert. Instead people mostly ignored me, thinking "who is that scruffy guy ? he looks like he just came out the desert". It was only the Irish teacher and her students who were friendly.

- It was a long walk from downtown for me. It also struck me as particularly expensive €8 entry included a plate of snacks and wine, but after that it was €5 per drink. In Tunisia I never spent more than €2 in a restaurant.

Fri - Acireale Carnivale - rained off
- I had to spend a lot of time on the internet doing a lot of planning. Then it was a rainy day. I decided to go to Acireale for it famous carnivale. I don't like late nights so I aimed for opening at 4.30pm. The manager at the hostel gave me completely wrong advice ..she sd "oh, you take the train, the bus is too slow", so first I walked 1.5Km to the station then when I arrived at Acireale station "where's the town" It seems it's a Sician tradition to put the train stations 2Km out of town. The bus would have got me from town centre to town centre . Then when I arrived there was no buzzing carnivale it was pretty much rained off. I walked from the town down down the old steps through was is now a nature reserve to the fishing port and then 3Km back along the road in the dark.

- Back in Catania I went to the old sulphur works Art Centre, but it was also closed. Then took the Metro back to the hotel.. No that was a fuckup, first the train went the rong way and when I got back to the station I found or some reason the metro was not going onto the port area, so I had to walk the 1.5Km to the port. -

Sat - Syracuse
- An English guy had organised a CS meeting in Syracuse, so I spent the entire morning trying to find cheap accommodation or a CS hosting. So I didn't get the bus until 3pm. Then when I arrived I walked around for 2 hours as the cheap B & B wasn't where it said it was on the webpage.
- There is this strange imperialism of English coming into Italian language whereby English are used often wrongly when a perfectly good Italian word exists. "Bed and Breakfast" is ubiquitous as is drinkeria !

- I started at the catacombs and the Sanctuary a huge modern round church. The tourist office should have been there, but it had closed 3 years earlier and moved to old town, when I got to that office a sign said it had moved to the Municipality Building, when I got there it was closed.

- In the end I had to walk all the way back to the station and check in a ripoff place called the LOL Hostel. The price on the web was €20 for a bed in a 12 bed room, which is more than I have ever paid before even in Japan I once paid $24 for a hotel room. Then they said we only have the €21 Euro beds, the 12 room can't have been full as there weren't many people at the hostel. In a bed and breakfast in other towns you pay €20, but here the guy handed me a packet of sheets and told me to make my own bed and in the morning they provided the food for breakfast, but you had to make it yourself and wash-up afterwards, and you have pay extra to access the I internet computers.
- Bed and breakfast prices in an 8 bed dorm, and you have to make your own bed, and washup after breakfast ! Get real !
... Until that hostel gets some competition I would advise people not to visit Syracusa. The island old town is a little amazing, but even in February it's a tourist trap. Some people do it on a daytrip from Catania.

Sat - CS Meetup
- So I went back to old town for the CS meetup. There was a German couple, David the podcaster, Salvedori and Leonardo... We walked around and then the locals took us to one of their favourite restaurants .

- The owner gave us the local menu not the tourist menu. The English guy never turned up.

Sun - Tourist in Siracuse

- After wasting yesterday trying to find a hotel I had to go back to old town to be a tourist. Wow the tourist office was open even though it was Sunday.

- Firstly the bus got completely jammed cos of bad Sicilian driving.

- First I passed an ancient temple built by the Greeks.. It's amazing something is still standing after 2500 years.

- But is more amazing is the inside of the cathedral. Once you get in through all the crowds of tour groups, you can see the huge huge columns as this cathredral is actually built onto an existing ancient Greek temple.

- The buildings of the old town were "same old, same old" so a bit boring. I went on to the Sunday market where I got ripped off buying pizza.

- Then I went up to the archaeological site, it used to be €6, but now it's €10 and the museum is closed on Sundays anyway, so I started By walking around the outside parts. I figure the high prices are a way of controlling the numbers of damaging tourists, so I never went in.

Bus Problem 1 - No Rural Transport On Sunday in Sicily

- Instead of staying at the crappy expensive hostel again I decided to move to camp at Noto (the youth hostel there is closed for reconstruction). But "no sir, there no trains on Sunday", OK I'll take the bus ... But then I find there are no buses on Sunday afternoon.

- So I walked to the end of town and started to hitch ..didn't work so found a campsite.

Mon - Bus Problem 2- you have to drive to the bus
- So Monday morning I am camped outside Syracusa near to the road to Noto. So instead of going back to town, I went to the bus stop on the highway, got a hitch, but after 3 Km as I got down the bus passed ... So I waited 1 hour for the next. But when it came it didn't stop. Apparently if you are in the countryside they expect you to drive to the centre of town in order to get the bus

- Then 2 young dope smoking guys saved the day they picked me up by the time we reached Avola they overtook the bus so I took it the last 12Km to Noto.

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