Saturday, February 13, 2010

Market fresh

A major revelation for me after all of this travelling has been in the differences in eating habits across the world. In many parts of the world you can't find a supermarket because there are none, in large part because people are only interested in fresh foods not processed foods. And if you are going after fresh foods, large supermarket chains will not cut the mustard so the day markets are where people pick up the goods for dinner. Sicily is no exception. More fresh veggies, fruit, fish (including monster swordfish layed up on the butcher's block), cheese and breads than you can shake an olive branch at. Jammed packed with shoppers and noisy from the competing yells offering rock bottom deals on olives, spices, and artichokes it is not just a shopping trip but a life experience.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The motherland

Not satisfied being limited by train travel, a car rental was in order to get ourselves around the island of Sicily.  A night or two in Palermo on the north coast gave us a chance to fill our bellies before heading south through the mountains to the south coast.  Yeah sure, the Sicilian cities of Palermo and Sciacca are nice but the real beauty of the land lines in the rolling hills covered in olive, orange, and lemon trees as well as the obligatory vineyards.  The small villages perched atop magnificent granite peaks overlooking the valley and farmlands you pass through while cutting through the center of this beautiful island are really the heart of Sicily.  Many of them well known such as Corleone and Caltabellotta as birthplace and home to infamous mafioso families.  You might even be able to gauge the likelihood of crooked noses in each village by the number of bullet holes and shotgun spray blasts in the signs 'welcoming' you to each village... some of them hardly legible from all of the scars.  Despite, or possibly because of, our collision with a white-out blizzard crossing the mountains and a forced crossing of a roadway washed out by a major landslide I recommend a road trip as the necessary way to travel Sicily to get the most accurate flavor of this land... ahhhh adventure...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Put that train where?

The next leg of the journey was more of a marathon than a sprint at 11 hours from Napoli to Palermo, Sicily. Naturally a bit of a nap was in order... it also gave us a chance to rest our vino soaked livers. So I was a bit confused when I woke up halfway through our trip and realize that our train was indoors and everyone was gone. With the train doors open I jump out only to realize our train had been loaded onto a freighter ship. Apparently the Sicilians have no need for bridges, they prefer the old fashioned method of crossing open water via boat... and that even goes for trains trying to cross open water.  So if you ever train it to Sicily, enjoy the ride.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hot lava

Pompeii is not just a historic ruin, it is an entire mind blowing historic ruin city.  It is massive by any globe trekkers measure. We lucked out by visiting it in mid-winter when there were only a handful of the 3M visitors per year that visit the site, and strangely on the same day that Leonardo DiCaprio and Bar Refaeli were visiting.  All of the construction is in amazingly good condition for being two millennia old.  Walking the streets of Pompeii and peering inside the shops at the serving counters, indoor pools, beds in the brothels, rooms with well preserved frescos really gives you the ability to put yourself back in the time when the city was alive.  The sense of immersion really makes a visit to this site an impressive experience.

Friday, February 5, 2010

History around every corner

The really cool aspect of Rome is that every corner you turn you bump into a piece of history older than the USA itself... be several centuries. The aqueducts still remain and cut through the city like veins invariably leading you to some awesome historic treasures. The wine is still cheap and the pizza comes by the kilo, not the slice. The best advice is to ditch the map and get yourself lost in the backstreets and happen upon some lesser known churches, archaeological sites, and pizza joints with cheap wine and good eats. It is next to impossible to have a bad time in this city, avoid learning something new in each mile you walk, or find yourself with a bad plate of food... and that is really what makes this city so great.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Venice is grunge

The weather is terrible and the lighting for photography is worse. So even though I usually do not condone the over use of HDR, I am bored as hell and folks seem to enjoy it. Here is Venice in down and dirty grungy grunge HDR.