Syracuse - Sicily.

Trip Start Sep 15, 2007
Trip End Oct 17, 2007

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Up at 5am to catch the ferry to Sicily this morning. My aunty Julie, uncle Leo and cousin Lillian all got up at the same time and were dressed and ready to take me to the terminal at 5:30! I know I keep saying it but I have to mention how grateful I am for what they have done for me during my stay here. Getting up at 5am on a Sunday morning to take me to the ferry terminal was like getting ready to go to lunch at their favourite restaurant! They were great. We had planned to call home before we left, Julie and Leo were keen to talk to mum and dad as well. I spoke to both my parents fairly quickly before the phone was passed around. Then we were off.

It was not until now that I started to think about my Sicily trip in depth. I mean this ferry was going to drop me off in a new country and Sicily is not exactly the tourist capital of Italy. I had a map of the area I was being dropped off at (Pazzallo - south east Sicily) and I knew I had to somehow get to Syracuse which is the city I had selected as my first stop over, but I was not sure how I was going to do that. The sense of adventure was stirred inside of me however so I looked forward to the next few days for sure.

The ferry trip was fine, I was worried about getting sick so I sat as close to the centre of the vessel as I could to avoid any impending rocking. I needn't have worried as there was little movement and I had a pleasurable time writing the previous day's journal entry on my laptop whilst watching a "brat pack" teen flick on the big screen. Mandy Moore starred in it, an all time classic...not. The ferry port I disembarked at Pazzallo was basically an industrial port. I mean there was nothing there. I was standing on a dock with no buildings, no bus terminal, no shops, nothing. There were two coaches waiting for the passengers who had prearranged day trips to various parts of Sicily but that was obviously not me. My adventure was about to begin!

I noticed a guy with a "Tarago" type van talking to 2 girls and a guy and it looked like they were negotiating a lift to somewhere. I was soon to discover that the 2 girls were from Melbourne! The guy was a German ex-pat that now lived in Gozo so I got into the negotiation and organised to take a ride with them. Seems like the driver was going to take us to the actual town of Pazzallo for 5 Euros each. Ahhh Euros, so these Maltese pounds I have in my wallet wont do hey? Hmmm. Quick stop at an ATM on the way and all was sweet. I got dropped off at the Pazzallo train station with the German guy, his name was Hubert and we waited for a train together. When I say train station by the way, it was a piece of concrete next to some train tracks. There was another girl on the "platform", she was from Spain so the three of us formed a team. A German, a Spaniard and a Maltese/Australian, all speaking a different language. Thankfully Hubert knew enough English for us to work out the timetable and sure enough after about 20 mins a train arrived (single carriage train that is) that we were pretty confident was going to Syracuse. :)

During the journey the three of us chatted as best we could. Hubert intrigued me and I was keen to learn his story. I mean here is an elderly German guy catching a ferry from Malta to Sicily with a backpack on his shoulders. Turns out that he bought an old farm house in Gozo in 1992 and spent the next 13 years slowly doing it up whilst living 6 months in Gozo and then 6 months in Germany whenever he required more money. He retired 2 years ago and had been living full time in Gozo ever since. He looked remarkably well for his age. The fact that he was on the same adventure as me in his 60s (carrying a massive backpack) speaks volumes for him. Hubert was a genuinely happy and content looking man. He was meeting some friends in Messina (very north of Sicily) whereupon they were going to hire a yacht and sail around the volcanic archipelago of seven islands known as the Aeolian Islands. It sounded amazing, and what a great story. I have always enjoyed speaking with elderly people about their past experiences. It reminded me of the time I spoke with my grandfather (mum's dad) years before about the time he worked as a "fireman", which meant he shovelled coal into an open burning furnace for 10 hours a day. Or about the first came he came to Australia from Malta to start a new life with his young family. I am on an adventure on my own for pure enjoyment, Pa was hauling his whole family across the globe to begin anew. Now THAT is an adventure!

Approximately 1 hour later I was at Syracuse. Hubert turned to me, grasped my hand and said "Andrew, pleasure, good luck with your journey". All I could do was smile and wish him the same. Hubert lifted my spirits and gave me a strong sense of warmth inside. Hard to explain. Travelling on your own makes you more inclined to speak with strangers, probably for companionship, maybe just to simply have someone to speak to. I was glad I had met a German man called Hubert today. I walked out of the train station, picked a direction that I thought pointed towards the town centre and walked.

I spent about 90 minutes walking the streets. I had enough information from my guide book to get around. Basically Syracuse is split into two distinct areas. The old city (Ortygia) which was situated on a sort of island (had a bridge connection to the main land) and the new city which sprawled away from the harbour. It was Ortygia that I was most interested in and very excited about exploring so a I found a suitable hotel just on the edge of the new city and checked in for 2 nights. After dumping my stuff and having a shower I set out to do a bit of preliminary exploring. I walked to Ortygia and wandered the streets for a while. Oh I called mum whilst walking as I did not get a good chance to talk with her this morning. She mentioned that I should not look anyone directly in the eye and to avoid the Mafia at all costs. Important safety tips there mum, thanks. Avoid the it.

Being Sunday most things were closed and the city was very quiet which gave me some time to just look around at my own pace and get my bearings. I got a pizza and coke from a café, took a seat and just relaxed. It was great. By this stage it was around 2:30 in the afternoon and I was getting tired after such an early start and the adventure getting here. Unfortunately I got incredibly lost walking back to my motel, and I mean lost. I did not pay attention to where it was and started to get a little concerned. I wandered around for well over an hour before I finally started to recognise some things and was relieved to get back and have an afternoon snooze.

Despite finding my way back to my hotel I was still none the wiser about where things were in relation to it. The best way to solve it was to put on my running gear and run myself around until I got my bearings, and it worked a treat. I had a great run for around 45 minutes, took in a lot of sights and really sorted out where everything was (old and new city). This old guy on the street jumped out in front of me and pretended to dribble a soccer ball in and around me. I think he thought I was some sort of football player or something. It was cool, I pretended to be Francesco Totti for a day, waved, smiled and continued on. Sicily seems to have the same fixation with the automobile as Malta. They are absolutely everywhere and driving is not for the feint hearted here either. Oh and they drive on the right had side of the road (Malta and Australia are the left if you are wondering...). I don't know how a country makes a decision on which side of the road its inhabitants drive upon but it seemed odd that Malta and Sicily chose different sides. Anyway I had to keep my wits about me constantly whilst walking and jogging. As in Malta a zebra crossing has no meaning whatsoever. Even if you are half way across the street on a zebra crossing, the on coming cars wont stop. I am not exaggerating. It was treacherous!

After the run I settled in for the Premier League highlights in my room before getting dressed and heading out for Ortygia. My travel guide book raved about the old city at night and mentioned that especially on Sundays all the locals venture out for dinner, gelato and mingling and it was spot on. The place was beautiful at night. Old buildings, cobble stone streets, outdoor cafes and restaurants and people everywhere. I loved it! I had a beautiful bowl of pasta, put on my iPod and walked the streets. I walked for about an hour just taking it all in, as well as getting a collection of really good night photos. Ortygia is amazing, a very romantic place, says the guy walking around on his own! :)

One thing I noticed was that everyone was dressed very well. I had only packed a pair of jeans and a few t-shirts for Sicily as I wanted to only take my laptop backpack with me so I was a little underdone. Believe me, you could dress up as much as you wanted for this place and fit in. I picked up some gelato on the way back to the hotel very content with a great day. I could not wait to set out in the morning and see everything Syarcuse had on offer. I planned to catch a train to Catania early on Tuesday morning so had to get everything done tomorrow that I could here.

So far I have avoided the Mafia...well I think I have, hard to say, the guy I bought the gelato off looked a bit suss. Don't worry mum, I wont buy from him again.
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