Trip Start Sep 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  ,
Monday, February 6, 2006

Ah, Palermo!! I was bummed when I got to Palermo for a minute cause I realized I wasn't awake for the train crossing across the Meditterranean. How does a train cross such a distance? There isn't a bridge and as far as I knew there isn't a tunnel. I guess you'll have to wait to find out cause I surely did! Anyway!
So I got into Palermo, on the Western side of Sicily, in the morning. Consulting my guide I quickly found a room on a main road. Palermo is an historic town with classical architecture influenced by it's sacking numerous times from a myriad of conquerers. Unfortunately in the early part of the 20th Century there was a big earthquake and apparently during WWII it had the hell bombed out of it. Amazingly the buildings are still stunning, if slightly grimy looking. I walked around to some churches which were every bit as impressive as anything in Rome or India or Thailand! Truly phenomenal interiors. I felt funny in one church cause I walked in and there was a priest in a confessional with the curtain open looking so incredibly bored and resigned to the current state of his parish that I felt self-conscious about entering 'his' space. But I did anyway. After lunch-well let me interject here for a second cause I gotta tell you about many of my meals. Now in Rome I had no problem cause there most people spoke decent English, but being this far in the South they don't feel the need to accomodate me as much so communicating was a bit more difficult. It came down to me pointing to a basic dish and letting them garnish and spiff it up. That usually entailed alot more sauce and a glass of wine(poor me!) At any rate, after every meal I felt so, so, how should I say it? european! So feeling very european I worked my way over to a church catacombs where a bucnch of mummified people lay in state for you to see. Arriving I paid my 1.50 to the Father and went down. Ok, a bunch of musty shrivelled dead people. Yuck, but interesting thinking that a bunch of people, indeed whole families paid for their space in the walls. There were people all over, some even propped up against walls, some behind glass like the little kids. One of them had been embalmed by a doctor who did such a great job, she looked simply like she was taking a nap. Unfortunately he died and took his embalming secrets with him so she is the only one.
While I was walking around there was a woman I made a comment to and she, upon hearing my American accent stared chatting with me about the mummies. It turns out she is from Pittsburgh, PA. and her husband is a doctor specializing in transplants and he is working in Palermo for a few months to teach the Sicilian doctors. They are both from Lithuania though! Cool, huh? Unfortunately, I did not write down her name and it was a month ago so sorry! Well, she invited me for coffee and dessert at a cafe. A friend of hers was meeting her and so I joined them. His English was bad, but well enough to carry on a conversation. We had delicious pastries and a few solo cafes. then we walked around a bit as he gave us some more interesting history about Palermo which all Sicilians are fiercely proud of, sacking and all. I made my farewells and went to bed.
The next morning I took to the train to work my way over to some islands to the North of Sicily. To do that I had to take the train a few hours then a ferry over there. I had had no problems so far finding rooms so I wasn't too worried. The train ride was nice, but I started feeling sick. Cold sick. Achy, stuffed up., but nothing really bad. I go to the port town and it was all cloudy, but I got a ferry anyway over to an island called Vulcano. there are sulfur pits and an active volcano there. I got over to the island and it was VERY quiet. Some guys repairing a house but that was about it. Noone else. I walked around a bit and saw some steaming hills and lots of yellowy sulfur pits, but I couldn't find a room cause everyone was shut down for Winter, which was I guess a good thing cause I wouldn't have been able to get anything to eat so I would've starved. SO I had to take the ferry back to the main land. At that point I decided to take the train to Catania at the base of Mt. Etna the next day. But before that I had to get a room and by now I was feeling really crappy. I got off the boat, so to speak, and went right over to a hotel across the street. I thought it was a tad expensive ($50), but the man said I wouldn't find anything close by in the area as nice and I was feeling like I was about to fall over so I took it. As it turns out it is some sort of fancy organic hotel and it had organic sheets and rooms with air purifiers and deionizers and get this, it had a switch which turned off all electric fields around the room! How cool was is that? The front desk guy was so great he brought me juice and oranges and then even went out and got me some cold medicine! really great service which was completely welcomed, appreciated, and needed. I slept all night in sheets cleaned with, of course, organic detergent. I awoke the next morning fresh as a rose from my Mom's garden, but the weather wasn't keeping up with my mood and was still rainy. But it let up after a while and I caught the bus to the train to catania and Mt. Etna! To be continued...
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