Page 1

WESTERN MEDITERRANEAN ABOARD THE SEACLOUD

TM

TAORMINA, SIRACUSA, CATANIA, ITALY VALETTA, MALTA; CARTHAGE, TUNIS, TUNISA PALMA DE MALLORCA, VALENCIA, MOTRIL, GRANADA, THE ALHAMBRA, SPAIN


W

E

S

T

E

R

N

M

E

ABOARD SEA CLOUD

“Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —Mark Twain

D


WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN

“Make voyages! Attempt them . . . there’s nothing else.” —Tennessee Williams


WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN

CONTENTS 6

Rome, Italy — Airport

7

Taromina, Italy

17

Siracusa and Catania, Italy

27

Aboard Sea Cloud — At Sea

29

Valetta, Malta

39

Sea Cloud — What Makes Her Run

43

Carthage and Tunis, Tunisia

54

Sea Cloud — A Ship Tour

61

Palma De Mallorca, Spain

69

Valencia, Spain

77

Motril to Granada, Spain

84

The Alhambra, Spain


6

WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN Rome Airport We’ve landed in Italy: the first thing I notice is an entire store selling ladies’ gloves! You don’t see anything like that back in Kansas. There’s also a store specializing in stockings. Plus the inevitable Body Shop and Nike stores.


TAORMINA, ITALY Taormina, Italy GPS reading: N 37° 51’ E 015° 18’

What a lovely spot. Our small but cheerful room offers a spacious balcony and a view to the beach. The grounds are layered with gardens, winding pathways, and sitting areas; birds chirp in the trees, gravel crunches under foot, leaves drip dew. Choice of outdoor or glass-enclosed sunroom dining for breakfast, all with a view of the curved beachfront and a few hardy souls taking their morning swim.

7


8

TAORMINA, ITALY

Our local guide, Giaccomo, starts the trip off right. Only an Italian could dress like this and actually look good: blue shirt, tan slacks, brown shoes, navy jacket, brown tie. Top it off with a hat printed with a map of the world. I know it’s a seriously expensive hat, because I saw some handbags in the same designer pattern at the airport in Rome. On anyone else it would look ridiculous, but Giaccomo pulls it off.


TAORMINA, ITALY

The trip brochure was right: enticing boutiques and inviting cafes line the main promenade. Giaccomo walks us through the lush public gardens and narrow cobblestone streets of Taormina, points out plants and lunch spots, and educates us with historical and etymological tidbits: • Recorded Sicilian history begins with the Greeks in about 756 BC (the people here before them—the Sicani and Siculi—were assimilated). • Next came the Byzantines with their fabulous mosaics; then the Muslims, who built waterwheels. Taormina’s main street, Corso Umberto, is 2,200 years old and layered with history: A mosque became the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, which although desanctified in the 1980s because of a lack of historical evidence, is still used today. • Seeds of the carob tree, called karats, are so consistent in size they became the standard for measuring amounts of gold and copper in jewelry. Hence, for example, “24-karat gold.”

9


TAORMINA, ITALY

10

• We’re at 6,000 feet in Taormina; 11,000-foot-high Mt. Etna smolders nearby. Nearly 85% of Sicily is covered with mountains. • The oldest known description of ice cream comes from Taormina. It was made with snow brought down from the mountains, mixed with honey and ricotta. • Sicilian cuisine includes many dishes using breadcrumbs instead of cheese. Specialties are pasta with eggplant, zucchini, and seafood. • A local specialty, marzipan, originated as bread made in the shape of fruit and drizzled with honey as an offering to the goddess of fertility. • Although Sicily was once famous for lemon groves, 70% of her citrus fields are now abandoned. It’s less expensive to import fruit from Spain or Africa than to pay labor, water, and taxes. • The Sicilian language (comprised of words from Arabic and Greek, as well as Italian) has two ways to refer to the past, one present tense, and no way to speak about the future. • Salt (sal) was sold in Sicily in 4,000 BC. Romans used to pay soldiers with a salt “salary,” hence the aphorism “Not worth his salt.”


TAORMINA, ITALY

11


12

TAORMINA, ITALY


TAORMINA, ITALY

13


14

TAORMINA, ITALY


16

TAORMINA, ITALY


SIR ACUS A & C ATANIA, ITALY Siracusa and Catania, Italy GPS Reading: N 37° 07’ E 015° 22’

17


SIR AC US A, ITA LY

19

Some slaves worked as gladiators and made enough money to buy their own freedom. Some non-slaves even chose to be gladiators; the job wasn’t as horrific as it sounds to us today. Only about 10% of the shows involved death for the gladiators. (Hmm…would one know ahead of time whether he was going to be part of the unlucky ten percent?) Gladiators were provided with food, housing, and time to train. And the evening before a show, they enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with their sponsor and his friends, and demonstrated their strength and prowess. The Greek construction style involved huge blocks stacked without concrete. Greek theaters were built in the shape of a semicircle, and were used for viewing plays. Later Roman techniques employed brick “shells” filled with rock and cement. Theaters were oval, for viewing games. The lowest spectator seats from Greek theaters became corridors in the Roman versions. The Roman Empire boasted more than 200 amphitheaters, of which the Roman coliseum was the largest. The amphitheater at Syracuse was built in 475 BC.

Tito once had five thousand animals killed in three gladiatorial shows. The ground was covered with sand to absorb all the blood. More etymological trivia: the word arena derives from the Latin word for sand.


SI R AC US A, ITA LY

20

The Ear of Dionysius is a cave 80 feet high and 200 feet long, with impressive acoustics. The infamous tyrant Dionysius I of Syracuse is said to have confined slaves suspected of plotting against him to this cave, and listened in on their conversations from a small opening at the top. The cave amplifies sound considerably, and does so without creating a recurring echo.


SIR AC US A, ITA LY

21

Siracusa, once a great rival of Athens, is one of Sicily’s most historic cities. Founded by the Greeks in the 8th century BCE and subsequently occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, and Normans, Siracusa has a rich cultural heritage. The city was once surrounded by 27 km of walls, for which five million cubic meters of limestone were quarried. Since the best stone was deep rather than at the surface, slaves tunneled underground to get it, leaving giant columns to support the earth above. Only one column remains standing.


22

C ATANIA, ITALY

An example of the area’s richly layered history: Ortigia’s Duomo has evolved from a pagan temple to a Christian church to a Muslim mosque, and, finally, to a unique example of Sicilian Baroque religious architecture. The Duomo houses a shrine to St. Lucia, the patron saint of Siracusa. Lucia was killed in 1039—her body was shipped to Istanbul, and then relocated to Venice in 1204. “There are just too many coincidences,” Giaccomo explains. “St. Lucia’s name refers to light, and she was martyred in Siracusa, known as the City of Light. St. Lucia’s eyes were stabbed out, so she could not see. Her birthday was on December 30, the shortest day of the year on the old calendar, so there was the least light.” Venice eventually returned a part of St. Lucia’s arm to its rightful home at Siracusa—it rests here in the chapel, along with other relics.


C ATANIA, ITALY

23


C ATANIA, ITALY

24

Mt. Etna’s four main craters are active; more than 500 minor ones are dormant. Despite the fact that Mt. Etna’s lava destroyed the town of Mascali in 1928 (it was subsequently rebuilt nearer to the sea), the locals don’t fret about volcanic activity. “When it comes, we talk about it,” they explain. It came; we were treated to a wonderful nighttime view of a glowing stream of lava flowing halfway down Mt. Etna as we cast off from Catania.

RON KURTZ


C ATANIA, ITALY

25


26

C ATANIA, ITALY

“From what Destiny doth write, there is neither refuge nor flight.” — Sinbad the Seaman, 1001 Nights


SE A CLOUD

The Sea Cloud Monday at Sea Oh boy; this is even better than I had expected! She’s an elegant 360-foot, four-masted barque, with a snow-white hull, endless mahogany brightwork, and polished bronze fittings. The brochure in our cabin says it all: “Sea Cloud’s unique charm and charisma remain true to the romantic spirit in which she was conceived more than 70 years ago. To sail aboard her is not only to occupy a museum-quality heirloom, but to relive the splendor and gracious lifestyle of cruising in the grand tradition.” Built at a time when the greatest attention was paid to detail and fine craftsmanship, Sea Cloud is decorated with original oil paintings, antique furniture, rich wood paneling, and gold, brass and bronze fixtures. Original staterooms are beautifully appointed in their own style, each with a private marble bath with either a tub or a shower. The latest technical equipment includes radar, satellite navigational aids, and satellite communications. A journey aboard Sea Cloud, which carries only 64 passengers, is an intimate experience on one of the most elegant and luxurious vessels afloat..

27


28

SE A CLOUD


VALET TA, M ALTA Valetta, Malta Harbor entrance: N 35° 53’ E 014° 30’

Situated 56 miles south of Sicily is the island nation of Malta. The capital, Valetta, was founded by the Knights of St. John, who arrived in 1530 and built a fortified city to defend against anticipated attacks by the Ottoman Turks. Malta melds ancient and contemporary: The island is an unparalleled archaeological treasure trove, yet a billboard for iPods was among the first things we saw. The Maltese Islands are strategically positioned in the channel between the eastern and western basins of the Mediterranean. Or, between southern Europe and North Africa. Or, between western Europe and the Middle East. No matter; however you look at it, they’re strategic. “Merhba!” Welcome! Our guide, Fabrizia, is well educated and admirably objective: “I’m not going to impose these ideas on you; you can believe them or not,” she observes, walking us through the prehistoric Tarxien (“Big Stone”) temple complex, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The remains of four distinct temples—the oldest built 5,600 years ago—lie here. Sacrificial altars, oracular chambers, and other structures in this megalithic complex are adorned with symmetrical spirals and domestic animals carved in relief. “Archaeologists theorize that Malta’s first inhabitants arrived more than 7,000 years ago from Sicily. They lived in caves for 2,000 years, then began to build temples out of huge stone slabs, averaging 20 tons in weight.” Construction methods include rolling the slabs on stone spheres, as well as building earth ramps next to vertical stone slabs in order to position horizontal cross-pieces on top of them. Wooden levers, props, and possibly ropes were also used. These are the same techniques believed to have been employed to construct the pyramids in Egypt—more than 1,000 years later. Malta’s enigmatic “cart ruts”—probably used for transportation of construction blocks from quarries to temple sites—are another possible explanation for these prehistoric feats of engineering. The ruts are found throughout Malta.

29


30

VALET TA, M ALTA


VALET TA, M ALTA

Malta’s archaeological museum is housed in the Auberge de Provence, one of the first buildings to be erected in Valletta after the Great Siege, and once a residence of the knights. Inside are excellent displays of temple site models, pottery, tools, carvings, altar blocks, and a reconstructed tomb. Implements made of flint, obsidian, and animal bone were found in several sites, yet Malta has no local obsidian or flint. Also, the temples were embellished with ochre, but ochre is not found on the island. Research suggests the obsidian, flint, and ochre were all brought from Sicily. My favorite piece in the museum is the exquisite 5,000-year-old “Sleeping Lady,” a four-and-a-half-inch long representation of a voluptuous female figure lying on her side on a couch. The artful proportions, as well as the detail of the figure’s delicate fingers and pleated skirt, suggest that a talented sculptor took great care with this figurine. Malta is now a nation of about 400,000 people, living within 122 square miles. That’s more than 3,000 people per square mile, compared with 50 people per square mile in the U.S., and makes Malta one of the most densely populated countries in the world. The people are “very Catholic; there is no divorce in Malta,” well educated, and have a high literacy rate. Education through university level is free, as is health-care. Falcons are still used to hunt rabbits. “We eat ten kilos of rabbit per person per year here in Malta,” Fabrizia announces. Fish, escargot, and sweets made from dates and figs are also popular. “You see all the flat roofs? They are used to dry our clothes, and for barbecues.” Shops are open from 9 to 1, closed for lunch, then open again from 4 to 7 p.m. Malta is best known for production of door knockers, which are hardly an economic mainstay. Wages are low; the average salary is 900

31


VALET TA, M ALTA

Euros/month (about US $14,000/year). But Malta loses industry to northern Africa, where salaries are even lower. Aside from tourism, Malta doesn’t have much of an economic base. There is one factory— jointly owned by French, Italian, and American concerns—which produces one million silicon chips/day, and accounts for 53% of Malta’s exports. Fabrizia enthused, “Dubai is planning to develop an ‘IT City,’ which will employ five thousand people.”

RON KURTZ

32


VALET TA, M ALTA

33

Maltese is the nation’s official language, but English is widely spoken. Fabrizia pointed out that Maltese is the only extant language that includes words from ancient Phoenician, and that it contains many similarities to Italian, Spanish, and French: Thank you is grazzi (similar to Italian); Good morning is bon jour, as in French; and good evening is similar to Spanish. Vegetable is haxix (pronounced “hashish”).

Malta’s National Museum of Archaeology provided this timeline of monumental construction projects: 3600 BC

Ggantija Temples, Malta

2530 BC

Great Pyramid, Egypt

2200 BC

Stonehenge, Great Britain

1700 BC

Palace of Knossos, Crete

600 BC 214 BC 70 AD

Acropolis of Athens, Greece Great Wall, China Coliseum of Rome, Italy

563 AD

Hagia Sofia, Turkey

725 AD

City of Copan, Honduras

1100 AD

Ahu and statues, Easter Island

1163 AD

Notre Dame Cathedral, France

1300 AD

Great Zimbabwe

1506 AD

Basilica of St. Peter, Vatican

1632 AD

Taj Mahal, India


34

VALET TA, M ALTA

Another link with Sicily: According to Fabrizia, “The Maltese drive like Sicilians. �A popular aphorism is, He likes to drive where there is shade. In other words, the Maltese people drive wherever the heck they feel like driving, without regard to lanes or signage or traffic flow. Fortunately, our bus driver was very capable! These famous Maltese buses are from the 50s, and the bodies do not show signs of any serious collisions.


VALET TA, M ALTA

35

Malta’s History • 218 BC: Malta became part of the Roman Empire during the 2nd Punic (or “Hannibalic”) War. • 60 AD: shipwreck of St. John the Apostle. • 9th - 12th century: Arabic period. • Subsequently ruled by French, Germans, Castilians (1283), and Aragonese (1410). • 1530: Knights of St. John (from Rhodes) were given Malta in hopes they would protect it from Turks, who were expected to invade. • 1565: the Maltese won the Great Siege, in which they were attacked by 40,000 Turks, by poisoning the Turks’ water supply. • 1798: Napoleon wanted Malta very badly so he could control the Mediterranean. His armies attacked and expelled the Knights of St. John. • The French began to steal from the Maltese Church, so the Maltese revolted. • 1800: Nelson took Malta from Napoleon. The Brits wanted to return Malta to the Knights, but the Maltese preferred to become British subjects. • 1919: Self-government granted. • 1964: Malta gained its independence after 164 years of British rule.


36

VALET TA, M ALTA

The Knights of St. John built St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta in the 16th century. Its interior is floridly decorated with gilded limestone, colorful frescoed ceilings, and a monumental painting of St. John the Baptist by Caravaggio. The floor of the main room covers the tombs of 430 knights—each commemorated with a mosaic-like pattern of inlaid Italian marble and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan—about four by six feet in size, and decorated with detailed images of trees and cherubs; laughing skeletons and skulls; crowns, scepters, shields, and cannons; elephants, lions, and griffons; flowers and flames. It is arguably the most beautiful pavement in the world; one of the most ornate tombs is marked by a mosaic patterned with 640 pieces of stone.


VALET TA, M ALTA

The Knights of St. John, based in Malta, were a wealthy, aristocratic, Catholic military order with a history dating to the first Crusade early in the 12th century. These men came from eight European “countries”— Aragon and Castile (in what is now Spain); Auvergne, Provence and “France;” Bavaria; England; and Italy. They donated their fortunes to the order (bought their way in) and took vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. But Fabrizia explained that they also had many children and suffered from venereal diseases, so there is some question about the sanctity of their vows. When the Knights were granted sovereignty over the island of Malta in 1530, the only cost was a single coin—a Maltese falcon—that was to be paid annually to the King of Spain, as a representative of the Holy Roman Emperor. (Dashiell Hammett’s book, The Maltese Falcon, is based on this historical fact.)

37


38

VALET TA, M ALTA


SE A CLOUD At Sea Wednesday 1030 hrs: N 36° 42’ E12° 44’ Engine room tour today: We descend into the depths of a warren of immaculate, interconnected chambers. There are consoles and canisters, hoses and pipes, ladders, wires, polished brass fittings, and big metal boxes with labels like Reintjes and Geprüft. I counted six control panels and 45 dials in the first compartment alone. Very impressive, until the chief engineer confides, in a voice barely audible over the roar of the engines, “Very little of this works. The computer has taken over.” We learn that the original electric engines were chosen because they were quiet enough not to disturb passengers, but today the ship runs on two 8-cylinder, 1,000 horsepower diesel engines. The ship uses 3.5 tons of fuel a day, and has a capacity of 380 tons of fuel. When she’s under sail all the way, Sea Cloud can cross the Atlantic in 14 -16 days. Sea Cloud runs a reverse osmosis filter to convert sea water to fresh water; eight tons of seawater are required to make one ton of drinking water. The ship’s total water capacity is 600 tons. There’s also an onboard sewage treatment facility, which works just like the ones on land.

39


SE A CLOUD

40

Sea Cloud is “80 percent timber,� which more than stretches maritime regulations for passenger ships. Regulations are becoming stricter, and some will effectively ground Sea Cloud. After that, who knows what will become of her? Perhaps a private consortium will purchase and maintain the vessel. Any takers? Sea Cloud Registry: Malta Gross tonnage: 2,532 Length: 360 feet Beam: 50 feet Draft: 17 feet


SE A CLOUD

CHARLES DARRELL

CHARLES DARRELL

41


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

Carthage and Tunis, Tunisia In port: N 36° 48’ E 10° 18’ The Phoenician Princess Dido, who fled to North Africa after her brother Pygmalion murdered her husband, founded Carthage in the 9th century BCE. Although unlucky in love, Dido was quite clever. When a local nomadic chief promised her “as much land as she could cover with a bull’s hide,” she cut the hide into one thin, continuous strip and encircled a lovely seaside hill at Byrsa. Carthage grew to become a wealthy superpower, ruling hundreds of other cities in the Mediterranean and rivaling the Roman Empire for dominance in the 5th century BCE. Rome was understandably envious, and waged a series of three Punic Wars, in which they gained control of the city. One hundred years later, Augustus Caesar rebuilt Carthage; it eventually became the third largest city of the Roman Empire. Carthage passed into Byzantine hands in 533, was Christian until the late 6th century, and was destroyed again in 692, never to be rebuilt. Nearby, the city of Tunis evolved slowly but steadily, growing into the most important center of Arabic learning and culture in North Africa. With the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, Tunis came under the indirect rule of the Turkish sultans, who were pressured out by the Spaniards after the siege of Malta in the16th century. In 1881the French took over, controlling most of northern Africa for the next 70 years. Tunisia gained independence in 1956, and has had a stormy time of it, flirting with collectivization in the 60s, suffering weak fiscal leadership in the 70s, and surviving a sputtering economy in the 80s. The situation changed again due to the infamous “Arab Spring.”

43


44

C ARTHAGE & T UNIS, TUNISIA


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

RON KURTZ

The circle, horizontal bar, and triangle figure represents the goddess Tanit, and adorns many of the stelae at the Tophet.

45


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

Our guide, Tarek, observed that Carthage contained “activity” monuments, such as the hippodrome (for horse racing), an amphitheater for gladiatorial fights (with a capacity of 40,000), and a theater for comic and tragic shows (capacity 12,000). Apparently then, as now, theater was not as popular as the fights. Better preserved are the “hygiene” monuments: the baths, a huge public latrine, and a brothel. The ruins of an open-air sacrificial area referred to as the Tophet or Sanctuaire Punique, lie near the old Punic port in Carthage. Phoenicians are believed to have practiced human sacrifice in an attempt to pacify the gods during times of instability and turmoil. The Carthaginians were no exception, and sacrificed children to the sun god Baal Hammon and the moon goddess Tanit for many centuries. At Tophet, we saw stelae—stone monuments— associated with children’s graves, which were decorated with incised geometric figures, amphorae, and depictions of Tanit, goddess of the fertility and fecundity. Excavation is far from complete, and archaeologists believe there are as many as 20,000 urns here containing the charred bones of sacrificial children. The five-level site is flanked by modern homes; I can hardly imagine what it must be like living amidst so much history. Nearby is another amazing archaeological site, the Antonine Baths. Once the third largest complex of baths in the entire Roman Empire, the crumbling ruins are now surrounded by lush palm groves. The main pool here was as large as a modernday Olympic pool, and there were also a multiple caldaria, frigidaria, and tepidaria— temperature-controlled pools and rooms “to prevent any thermic shock,” as Tarek put it. All Carthaginian citizens (except slaves) used the baths, and it was not unusual to spend as much as half a day here, relaxing and philosophizing with friends. Not much remains of the upper level, but we roam among the extensive ruins of the lower level, including thick support walls, aqueducts, tall white marble columns, ornate Corinthian capitals, and arched doorways. The keystone technique for building arches is said to have originated here. Also, stone floors of the upper

47


48

C ARTHAGE & T UNIS, TUNISIA

level were apparently heated, although I didn’t quite understand the methodology. The whole complex was fed by a 122-kilometer-long aqueduct, which brought water down from a natural spring at a .29° incline. Because of varying topography, the aqueduct was seven meters high in some places, and buried beneath the ground in others—quite a feat of engineering. Tarek explained to us that most Tunisians are Sunni Muslims, and, although there are no Tunisian Christians, “French and Italian Christians are living among us.” Less than one percent of Tunisians are Jewish. The north coast of Africa receives more than 1200 mm of rainfall each year, compared with less than 200 mm per year in the southern part of the country, which consists of sand dunes, a few oases, and too many camels to count. As for politics, “We have presidential elections, but we know in advance the outcome. It is very similar to your system.” School is compulsory for children between the ages of six and fifteen. After that, they may choose to attend high school (ages 15 to19), take a national exam, and attend university. All levels of school are free for all students. The national language in Tunisia is Arabic. At age nine, students begin to study French (which was once the official second language), and at twelve they begin studying English. German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese are all electives. “We learn other languages because we need them.” Tunisia has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. There is a constant influx of people from Morocco and the sub-Saharan countries looking for work. Tunisians tend to emmigrate to the rich Gulf States to find work. More than one million Libyans—one third of the population—visit Tunisia each year. Most come for healthcare, but some come for tourism as well.On to Sidi Bou Said, a quaint, well-maintained village with whitewashed buildings, blue doors and balconies with “jealousy windows” (which allow a woman


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

to see outside without revealing her presence) and scarlet bougainvillea. We climb the steep Rue Habib Thameur, pausing at tourist stalls to view a wild mélange of ceramics, jewelry, mirrors, delicate tea sets and hefty hookahs, leather sandals, luggage, plush stuffed camel toys, filigree bird cages, inlaid boxes, framed snakes and spiders, puppets, caftans, horses and camels carved from olivewood, drums, masks, bright scarves, and copper plates. Along the way, street vendors ply us with tastes of local sweets made from dates, and tight, elegant bouquets wafting the heady scent of jasmine. One man offers Betsy, “Five euro for one postcard. OK, one euro. OK, five cards for one euro. I will trade you for your hat.” At the top of the hill we settle in for sweet mint tea and a well deserved rest as a merchant shows our group his woven silk carpets with traditional designs in cream, red, yellow, green, and brown. “In Tunisia we don’t use needle, and we don’t use children,” he asserts, explaining the high quality of his offerings. “Kilims are

49


50

C ARTHAGE & T UNIS, TUNISIA

used under the tent, to keep heat of the sand from coming through.” Our host is a persistent communicator: “Your wife, she is so cute, sir,” he says. “She spoils you at home, yes? Is she a good cook?” When mint tea is inadvertently spilled on the carpet, he is graciously unconcerned: “It’s no problem. The camels slobber on it all the time.” Well, that isn’t an exact quote, but it’s close. A few minutes later, he is still selling: “This one is larger. It is for your daughter, sir. You pay only $5,500 instead of $6,000; you get a bigger discount than this American man sitting here. Would you like the big one or the small one?” And again: “In Tunisia, the women decide, and the men pay. You can have this for only


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

$3,000 if you send my son a pair of 501 jeans, because Americans are very kind. You decide, ma’am. He is three years old. Remember, 501.� The weather is unseasonably warm, but the restaurant we had lunch at is wonderfully cool, expansive, and elegant. After a beautiful plate of composed salads, we thought we were finished, but the service had only just begun. Out came a plate of golden couscous, topped with a large, tender, juicy lamb shank. Dessert was an ice cream-like confection made from figs, honey, and mascarpone.

51


52

C ARTHAGE & T UNIS, TUNISIA The Palace of the Beys (kings), built in the 13th century, was expanded and renovated in the 19th, and now houses the Bardo Museum, with the finest collection of Roman mosaics in the world. Hundreds of intricate designs adorn the walls and floors. Priceless art on the floors? Well, yes; they ran out of room on the walls. Since the mosaics are all made of natural stone—no painted on colors or laminates were used—and many were originally designed as floors, it works out fine. These pieces, some as much as thirty feet long, attest to the wealth and grandeur of Tunisia’s Roman era. We see Neptune, King of the Sea; Diana, the proud huntress; and Ulysses resisting the call of the Sirens. There are wild beasts and fanciful sea creatures, bountiful harvests and bathing beauties. The mosaics were commissioned by prosperous Tunisians to cover their floors, like carpets. Dining rooms were the most beautiful—and the most decorated—rooms in Roman-style villas, opening onto gardens with fountains and plants.


C ARTHAGE & TUNIS, TUNISIA

53


54

SE A CLOUD At Sea 0900 hrs: N 30° 33’ W 000° 33’


SE A CLOUD

55


SE A CLOUD

56

Sea Cloud at Sea The immense sea shows her whitecaps today. Our crew has hoisted the sails, and all around are blue and white, sea and sail and sky. The officers look crisp in their uniforms, and—although the Mediterranean swells are relentless—the passengers look very relaxed. Temperatures are in the 70s, and there’s a cool breeze. We are reading, sunning, and writing postcards; in the background are the gentle murmur of voices, the clink of china, and the restless sea. Anjelika provides historical information about the creative force behind Sea Cloud, Marjorie Merriweather Post. Married to financier EF Hutton, and sole heir to her father CW Post’s fortune, Marjorie was not one to cut corners. She spent two years collecting the elegant furnishings for Sea Cloud, laying them out in chalked-in areas of a Brooklyn warehouse designed to represent each stateroom. The ship was employed worldwide for entertaining celebrities and dignitaries, as well as for showing off Post products. After Post acquired Birdseye Foods, Marjorie installed a large freezer, loaded two tons of product on board, and proudly introduced restaurateurs in many countries to the wonders of frozen food. Because of her high profile, and with the 1932 Lindberg kidnapping fresh in her mind, Marjorie happily and successfully ran Post from onboard Sea Cloud, with daughter Dina close at her side. This evening we enjoy a tour of the original staterooms, which are larger and more luxurious than the ones that were later added above deck. These spacious, elegant interiors include fireplaces (no longer working), wood paneling, marble bathrooms with gold fixtures, and original oil paintings. Even the hallway is impressive, with a spiral stairway, sitting area, display of china, and small bureaus.


SE A CLOUD

57


58

SE A CLOUD


SE A CLOUD

59


PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN Palma de Mallorca, Spain 1000 hrs, near Palma de Mallorca: N 39° 6’E 03° 17’

61


62

PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN

The Carthaginians controlled the Balearic Islands, of which Mallorca is the largest, as early as 700 BC. Subsequently, the Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Moors, and Turkish pirates gained control. After the discovery of America in 1492, the Atlantic coast of Spain grew in importance as a trade route, and the importance of the Balearics diminished. The Spanish attempted several times to gain control of the islands, and finally succeeded in the 18th century. Palma looks a bit like Miami Beach as we pull into the port, but there are immediate distinctions: Massive and ancient Moorish walls ring the harbor, a huge, multi-spired golden cathedral crowns the hill, and a nearby castle resembles a mini-Alhambra. I am absolutely charmed! Over the years, Mallorca has been home to the rich and famous—and infamous. It is considered to be the probable home of the foul tempered, one-eyed giant, Cyclops. Frederic Chopin and George Sand stayed in Valldemossa during the winter of 1838-39. And our guide said Michael Douglas maintains a home in Palma. I’m keeping my eyes peeled. The vibrant and cosmopolitan streets of Palma are lined with palms and pine trees, flowering hibiscus and oleander, and punctuated with public art—including sculptures by Calder and Miró. Gothic architecture contrasts with more modern plaster-faced buildings in pink and peach, amber and pale gold, sporting tiny balconies and green shuttered windows. Although Spanish and Castilian are the official languages, English is widely spoken. “English is like a bridge for other cultures,” our guide remarks. “We communicate with the


PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN

Japanese in English. Yes, it is very useful. I have to remind you that here in Mallorca we are in a matriarchal country. The women have a lot of power. The president is a woman.” La Lonja has hardly changed since it was built in 1426. The cool Gothic interior is supported by palm-like columns that twist up to a vaulted ceiling, opening like a fan of leaves. La Almudaina, the “Royal Palace,” was constructed over the remains of the Muslim Alcazar, residence of the early kings. Most of the palace is neo-Gothic, but the façade was rebuilt in Renaissance style.

Jonica by Josep Maria Subirachs

63


64

PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN

I didn’t quite understand the concept of “patrimony,” in Mallorca, but I think it referred to something like “national treasures.” On our “patrimonial tour,” our guide Manuel explained that the government contributed funds for the renovation of private patios, with the stipulation that the patios must be protected with open, ironwork gates rather than solid doors, so the public could enjoy their beauty. “We live from the tourists, so we make it beautiful for them. The patios open. You marry your neighbor to be able to expand your house. The ground floor room is for servants; the first floor, with more light, is for the landlord. Sometimes the small studio is for an 18-year-old boy, who needs it for intimacy.” Manuel also provided a long explanation of the existential meaning of the colors blue, red, yellow, and white.


PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN

Recycling centers were a common site.

65


66

PAL M A DE M ALLORC A, SPAIN

“How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterwards.” —Spanish proverb


WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN

67


68

WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN


VALENCIA Valencia Towards Valencia, 0930 hrs: N 39° 19’ E 000° 09’ The Romans founded Valencia more than 21 centuries ago, in 138 BCE. It was situated a few miles in from the sea to protect against invasions. The city was conquered in 711 by the Arabs, who stayed for more than 500 years and whose influence is still felt today. In 1238, the King of Aragon captured the city for the Christians, and it grew to become home to more than 300,000 people in the 15th century. (London and Paris, at that time, each had populations of fewer than 100,000.) Following three hundred years of prosperity, Valencia’s fortunes failed after America was discovered, and Atlantic-facing Seville grew in importance. The expulsion of Moors in the early 17th century dealt the city another blow. In the 18th century, the silk industry revived the city, and it prospered despite the fact that Valencians managed to align themselves with the losing side in a long string of wars. Today, Valencia’s population is about 800,000. “It is a small city; you cannot get lost,” Violetta explains. Like many American cities, Valencia attracts many illegal aliens. Most come from Africa or Eastern Europe—without passports, so it is difficult to deport them. The streets were fairly quiet the afternoon we were there, and our search for a slice of pizza met with questionable success. Jose explained that at 3:00 on a Sunday, most people were at home, eating with their families. “To eat you have to sit down … relax … and enjoy.” As for the slice of pizza, “We do not have too much takeaway.” Aside from being home to the largest covered market in Europe, and rice, oranges and clementines (which are shipped worldwide), this charming city did not have much to distinguish itself to the rest of the world until the City of Arts and Sciences was constructed (the planetarium and science center opened in 2000). It now draws many visitors, and Valencia is prospering with the increased tourism. Valencia was the first European city to host the 32nd America’s Cup event in more than 150 years, and the government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to give the city, especially the waterfront, a facelift.

69


70

VALENCIA

Valencia was plagued by flooding of the Turia River, which ran through it, until the river was rerouted. The old riverbed, which bisects the city, is now a 14-kilometer, peoplefriendly park, the Turia Gardens, providing grassy picnic areas, formal gardens, playgrounds, and soccer fields. The Silk Exchange (la Lonja de la Seda), an elegant 15th century secular Gothic structure, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was erected as a commodities exchange center for silk, wool, spices, and gold, and has an inscription running around the top of the walls of the main hall reminding viewers of the critical importance of honesty in all their dealings. The graceful “palm-tree” columns remind me of the ones in Palma de Mallorca’s la Lonja. Money from the Exchange was used by Queen Isabella to finance Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the New World. La Catedral de Valencia, the city’s magnificent 13th century cathedral, was originally a Roman temple, then the city’s main mosque; it was rebuilt as a Christian church. The facade—now quite baroque— was redesigned in the 18th century. The interior is an odd combination of gilded rococo (the side chapels) and restored Gothic (the central area). The cathedral houses two original Goyas—including the nightmareinducing exorcism masterpiece—and several fascinating shrines. Behind the main altar sits a glass-enclosed shrine containing the actual severed left forearm arm of the city’s patron saint, St. Vincent. Famous for his evangelism, St. Vincent ended his days tied between two windmills—and stretched to death. The mummified relic rests on a silver brocade pillow, and still has rings on its (his?) fingers.

RON KURTZ


VALENCIA

71

The Chapel of the Holy Grail contains … yes, that Holy Grail. The Grail is a simple brown agate cup resting on an elaborate jeweled-encrusted golden stand. The Grail has been dated, appropriately enough, to the 1st century BCE, but the bejeweled stand is from the 15th century. There is a long and complicated history behind the location of the Grail, which was in the care of multiple monks and kings until it was brought to Valencia in 1437. In the 9th century, the Arabs constructed a series of eight canals to distribute water throughout the community. Eleven hundred years later (now), Europe’s oldest tribunal occurs every Thursday at noon outside the cathedral’s Door of the Apostles. The eightman Tribunal de las Aguas (Water Court) convenes to resolve any conflicts arising about the misuse of water, although they are presented with an issue only five or six times a year. They conduct oral trials, without any documents, and with no provision for right of appeal. Valencia is also famous for Las Fallas, the world’s second largest festival (after Brazil’s Carnival), held each year on St. Joseph’s Day (March 19). The festival features hundreds of gigantic papier-mâché sculptures, many with a social message. The festival culminates when all the sculptures are burned at midnight, amidst noisy and spectacular revelry. “We in Valencia are a bit mad about gunpowder!”


72

VALENCIA


VALENCIA

Valencia-born architect Santiago Calatrava designed the magnificent City of Arts and Sciences, exceptional even in this city known for grand architecture (including “the most beautiful post office in all of Spain”). Calatrava, who lives in Zurich with his wife and children, but maintains a studio in Valencia, studied art, architecture, and engineering. He is well known as the architect who designed the 2001 addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum (his first United States work) and who won the contract to design the New York World Trade Center site’s new transit hub. Welcome to Venus! one member of our group remarked as we arrived at the 87-acre City of Arts and Sciences complex, and indeed, its parabolic arches, sweeping curves, and organically inspired forms do seem otherworldly. Reminds me of the Jetsons. The largest building, a hands-on science museum, is reminiscent of the skeleton of a dinosaur, or perhaps of a dragon (which was the symbol of Valencia until the 18th century, when it was switched to a bat). The planetarium looks like a giant eyeball, and can open and close like a real eyelid. The opera house is graced with a “structurally impossible floating feather” above the main structure. There’s also a dramatic aquarium, the largest in Europe, which houses exhibits of every oceanic habitat. And the underground parking garage, with a capacity for 800 cars and 40 buses, is topped by a lushly planted promenade.

73


74

VALENCIA


VALENCIA

75


76

GR ANADA


GR ANADA

Motril to Granada, Spain Motril 0830 hrs: N 36° 43’ W 003° 31’

This area has a milder climate than the rest of the Mediterranean because of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and is a prosperous agricultural area. They are known especially for cherimoya (also called custard apple) and avocado. The area was once covered with pine, oak, and holly, with terraced farming initiated by the Moors. But use of wood for fuel—for hundreds of years—and the abandonment of terracing have left the hills almost entirely deforested. There are still mulberry trees: the silk industry flourished here in the Middle Ages. From our guide: “Sugar beets and tobacco are now our most important crops. Tourism has become more important than agriculture. The ski resorts have been big since 1996. There has also been a lot of investment in real estate recently.” The prehistoric settlement at Granada was known as Ilbyr. Romans later colonized, and renamed the city Illibris. Arabs, arriving in the 8th century, provided its current name (probably derived from their word for pomegranate). Granada was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians, in 1492. Mudéjars were Muslims who were allowed to remain in Christian countries. Part of the reason the mosques were destroyed was to prevent these remaining Muslims from returning to their religion. The Christians needed a workforce to build cathedrals, and many of the Mudéjars were skilled craftsmen who needed work, therefore they were allowed to ramain. There were also Mudéjars in Mexico and Bolivia.

77


GR ANADA

78

Our guide explained a little about Moriscos and their forced conversion from Muslim to Christianity, but I didn’t catch it all, so picked this up from Wikipedia: “From the late 1400s to the early 1600s Moors (Iberian Muslims) were given the choice to either convert from Islam to Catholicism or leave Iberia. The Moriscos were expelled by the decree of 1610 from Spain to North Africa after being persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. Prior to their forced conversions, the Moriscos were known as Mudéjars, and were allowed to practice Islam among Christians with certain restrictions.”


GR ANADA

79

Granada’s oldest city walls date from Iberian times; the most recent are from the early 1300s! The city’s narrow streets reflect its history. Some are so tight that “if two donkeys meet, they cannot get through.” People started to get cars in Spain in the 50s, and many now drive small Smart Cars, in order to navigate the narrow streets. There were also plenty of “streets that go nowhere”—dead ends. We were surprised by the number of motor scooters speeding up steep streets and around tight corners. Several times as we were walking I heard the engine of an approaching vehicle, but, because of the circuitous configuration of the streets, I wasn’t sure which direction I should be looking to avoid an unfortunately close encounter. Nicolas said there are many accidents here because of the way young people drive, but we all emerged unscathed. The entrances to homes were often marked with a sign saying “Cármen” this or “Cármen” that. Who was Carmen? And did she really live in all these houses? Nicolas explained that cármen refers to the


80

GR ANADA

The Ruta del Veleta in Granada where I enjoyed the meal so much I asked our waiter for a couple of recipes. Here they are: Tomato Appetizer Parboil a whole tomato. Cool, remove skin, cut off the top. Remove seeds and fill with cooked tuna. Carefully place the tuna-filled tomato upside-down in a pool of salmorejo. Garnish with a skewer of hard-boiled quail’s egg, cheese cubes, etc. Salmorejo

Make this just like gazpacho, but don’t use any vegetables except tomato: combine tomato, a bit of garlic, vinegar, oil, a little water, and bread. Note: you can easily find more specific recipes for salmorejo on the Web, where I learned: 1. The bread should be dry, crustless, and cubed. 2. Let the bread soak for at least twenty minutes with the other ingredients, then blend (in a blender) until smooth. 3. Chill overnight. 4. Adjust thickness, if needed, by adding ice water. Dessert First, make egg custard in a tray (I think he meant in a shallow pan). Let it settle (cool). Cut into squares, dredge in flour, and quickly fry each square in hot oil. Put on serving plate and pour on a sauce made of Grand Marnier or Courvoisier (I think it was reduced about half). Garnish with thin strips of orange peel.


GR ANADA

81

Arab word for grapes or vineyards; grape vines were often used to provide shade. On the hill across from the Alhambra is the Albaicin area, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded cármenes (inner gardens). Spanish poet, painter, and composer Federico Garcia Lorca lived in the countryside outside the Alhambra; his residence has since been engulfed by the city. He was murdered at the age of 38 by Franco’s forces at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. From Wikipedia: Garcia Lorca “distilled his theories on artistic creation and performance in a famous lecture entitled ‘Play and Theory of the Duende’ … in which he argued that great art depends upon a vivid awareness of death, connection with a nation’s soil, and an acknowledgment of the limitations of reason.” Several of our group walked from the Alhambra Palace Hotel over to the Alhambra grounds this evening. The grounds were artistically lighted, and strolling from light to darker areas was a dramatic way to experience the majestic architecture. This evening excursion was a trip highlight for me. We also enjoyed an exhibit of ancient Alhambra vases, of which only a dozen remain. These giant ceramic jars—some more than four feet tall—had domestic, funerary, and architectural functions. Decorated with geometric and animal designs, Islamic text, rich glazes, and metallic gilding, they were once gifts of the Nasrid sultans. Some later became Christian relics, associated with the story of the Wedding at Canaan, in which Jesus turned water into wine.


GR ANADA

82

From the Alhambra, we saw the entrances to caves on Sacromonte Hill in the distance. For centuries, as many as 15% of Andalusians have lived in caves dug into the earth, which is soft enough to be easily excavated, but strong enough to support multi-roomed dwellings. This isn’t as strange as it sounds. In fact, our guide Nicolas admitted (somewhat hesitantly) to being a cave dweller. He says the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. In fact, there are very few disadvantages, aside from low social status. Caves are ecologically-sound housing, and now incorporate electricity, plumbing, Internet connections, and other modern conveniences. And, since they maintain a fairly constant temperature of around 20° (68°F), they’re a great way to stay cool in southern Spain, where summertime temperatures sometimes reach 40° (104°F). In addition to houses, there are cave restaurants, cave hotels, and even a cave disco.


84

TH E A L H A M B R A The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens The Alhambra, a compound of palaces and gardens standing on a hill in Granada, is the finest example of a medieval Arab palace in the world, and receives more than two million visitors each year. It is surrounded by two kilometers of walls, dating from the 13th century, and the richly wooded Generalife Gardens. Mariana’s observation, that the Alhambra must be experienced, apart from photographs and notes, is well taken; nevertheless, here are a few observations: The name Alhambra derives from an Arabic root that means “crimson castle,” perhaps due to the golden color of the towers and walls. A more poetic etymology is suggested by Moslem scholars, who describe the construction of the Alhambra “by the light of torches,” the reflections of which gave the walls a reddish color. Originally built for military purposes, the Alhambra was an alcazaba (fortress), an alcázar (palace), and a small medina (fortified city) all in one. We strolled among elm and horse chestnut trees, sycamore and cypress, in the pleasant Generalife Gardens. Mexican Cypress that were planted in the 1500s grow here—they’re the oldest New World trees in Europe. “The grounds used to be even shadier. People came here for a Sunday walk and picnic, and to drink the good water of the Alhambra.” Water is brought from the mountains via an efficient system of aqueducts built in the 1200s, and still functioning today. The pathways are some 30 feet wide, edged by picturesque three- to four-foothigh walls of stacked stone. There’s still a productive kitchen garden, which was maintained for many years by caretakers who sold the produce to augment their incomes. Since 1931, the gardens have been tended by employees, who have not done such a good job of maintaining the gardens’ original character.

Azulejos are multicolored ceramic tiles. Nicolas explained that the intricate, fractallike geometric designs of patterns within patterns represent a search for perfection.


THE A L HA M B R A

85


86

TH E A L H A M B R A

The Alhambra’s gardens remind me of ones in our Mediterranean climate at home in California: orange trees, magnolia, crepe myrtle and bamboo, acanthus, agapanthus, viburnum, pink and yellow roses, draping wisteria, scarlet bougainvillea, indigo morning glory. It’s early November, but leaves are just beginning to turn: ginkgo to gold and pomegranate to rosy orange. Jasmine grows everywhere, and I catch whiffs of its sweet scent as we wander. Nicolas explains that the scent is an integral part of the gardens, and that jasmine pollen has been found in soil samples dating back to the 1300s. Paths weave between formal hedges, beneath oleander tunnels, or between hundred-foot-high cypress; stone-patterned walkways echo the geometric designs on ceramic tiles inside the Alhambra. An aura of grace and abundance extend even to the Alhambra’s restrooms. They are spotless, with gleaming marble walls and floors, what must be the most abundant, rushing flush in all of Europe, blast-furnace-like blow dryers for our hands, and a light orange scent throughout. Lush gardens, intricate pattern, birdsong, fragrance, breeze, running water from everpresent aqueducts and fountains, gentle ripples


THE A L HA M B R A

on reflecting pools … all combine to create an expansive, placid atmosphere. Even the exit signs are elegantly carved into white marble. No wonder Granada has been a magnet for artists for many years, especially for the 19th century Romantics. Hans Christian Anderson and Queen Isabella II visited in 1862. Federico Garcia Lorca spent much of his life here, and Washington Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra from a room inside. How was he able to score the accommodations? Almost unbelievably, the Alhambra was abandoned and fell into disrepair in the 1800s, occupied by thieves and beggars, “defiled by bats,” used as barracks and later partially destroyed by Napoleon’s troops. In 1870 it was declared a national monument, and restoration began. Because the much of the decoration is richly ornate inscribed Islamic poetry, Nicolas referred to the Alhambra as “speaking

87


88

TH E A L H A M B R A architecture.� The poetry, written in first person, refers directly to what we are seeing and experiencing, as well as incorporating eloquent metaphoric language. For example, the sultan is referred to as a source of light or enlightenment, blessed by god, represented by the sun or the full moon. The letters themselves, which were once gilded gold against a dark blue background, seemed to be lighted. The brilliantly polished white marble floors (I wanted to skate across them in my socks in the worst way!) reflect light upward to illuminate the ornate underside of arches. The palaces also had a secular function, as home for the king, father of a family and of a nation, who follows the rule of god in governing both. The king’s government was legitimized only by the fact that he followed the will of god; he was not free to rule according to his own whims.

Nicolas suggested the 1995 Tunisian film Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces, directed by Ferid Boughedir, for a good depiction of the way baths were used socially.


THE A L HA M B R A

89


90

TH E A L H A M B R A


THE A L HA M B R A

91


92

TH E A L H A M B R A


THE A L HA M B R A

93


94

WESTERN MEDITERR ANE AN

Happy Traveling to You!

Laurie McAndish King and Jim Shubin, the authors and photographers.

Laurie McAndish King—Award-winning travel writer and photographer—has been published in Smithsonian magazine, National Geographic affiliate iExplore.com, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, Travelers’ Tales’ The Best Women’s Travel Writing, and many other venues. www.LaurieMcAndishKing.com James Shubin—Publisher, Award winning Book Designer, & Photographer—has been designing and producing custom travel books since 2005. He has also taught collegelevel design and photography, and is the owner and principal of a San Francisco advertising/design studio and book publishing company. www.ShubinDesign.com/books Destination Insights—This book is available at www.DestinationInsights.com

We learned much of the information in this journal from local tour guides, the ship’s crew, signage at museums, and various books and brochures we came across. We have not confirmed accuracy. All photographs are by Jim Shubin and Laurie McAndish King, except where other credits are indicated. info@destinationinsights.com © 2013 Laurie McAndish King and Jim Shubin All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the authors or the publisher, Destination Insights.


Western Mediterranean  

Sail the western Med aboard the "Sea Cloud". Explore Taormina, Siracusa, Catania in Italy, See Valetta in Malta, Carthage and Tunis in Tunis...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you