Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Syracuse, Sicily and the Archaeological Park

Ok, so I have a confession. When we arrived in the city, and made our way down from the highway to the sea, we were told that we would visit the Archaeological Park on one of our days and, inwardly, I groaned. I'd already "done" my bit with Greek ruins with Valley of the Temples and Segesta so seeing more felt more like a punishment than a treat. I'm happy to report I was wrong. What I learned on this visit is that I had a lot to learn and that each site has a lot to teach me...if I was willing to listen.
 As we entered the Park there was a pathway in front of us and one to the left. To the left is where the arena is located. We had not encountered one of these on our trip yet so it was totally interesting, and horrifying, when we were told about what went on there in ancient times. Do you see the rectangle in the center?
Yes, this little rectangle space...in the center. It use to hold lions. REAL, big lions. In Sicily you are only a few miles of ocean to Africa. Yup...the land of lions. 
Now here is the horrifying part. see the tunnel? That's where the warriors would enter to battle the lions. See the "stands"? That little bit of ground and high walls were all that separated the lions from the warriors...and from the audience! I looked at our guide, totally horrified, and said "Was that safe?!" He grinned and said "Well, the lions almost never got out of the pit!" Seriously? "Almost never"??? Obviously this is one of those times when being a peasant, and thus banished to the highest seats, was a blessing and not a curse. The royalty were right up front! Yes, I'm still horrified.
 I was very happy when we went back to the main pathway and made our way down to the lower level and this lush pathway. The day was very hot so this was a wonderfully shady and cool place to spend a few moments during our tour.
 Thick, tall bamboo gave the area the most wonderful lush, "green" smell as the breeze drifted through the stalks.
 White morning glory and agapanthus also added to the wonderful garden feel of our stroll through all of this greenery.
Of course I found a cat! LOL! The one thing you notice when you are touring another country is that the felines don't look quite like what you see at home. There is a definite exotic air about this one.
 We exited the tunnel and found ourselves at the Ear of Dionysius. Now, I'm claustrophobic. Not to the point where I will freak out but definitely to the point where my skin got clammy and my breathing harder and the panic began to set in...ok, I started to freak out. I dropped back to the back of the group, using my photography as a reason to be the last into the cave. I figured that if I had to bail it was better to be the last in so I could be the first out.
 But I made it IN!!! Ok, so I'm probably prouder of this "feat" than I should be but I am totally proud that I was able to make my way to the BACK of the cave to take this shot! Still one of my favorites.
While I made my way back out of the cave, our guide explained that it is always wet and cool inside the cave and why there is this wonderful moss on the walls. One of the cool things about this cave is that you can stand all the way to the back and whisper and someone can hear you at the front of the cave! Amazing acoustics!
 Back up to the top again and we made a little right into a whole new section of the Park. This is an area where the amphitheater is located and it's still a very active place to hold plays and performances. They put down planks so that people can still sit on the levels without damaging them.
 We were shown one of the side tunnels where they keep the technical tools which they use to control the lights and sound equipment for the performances. In fact, they were preparing to have one that night so a quick look was all we were afforded.
 Back to the main path where we were headed back to the front, and the snack stand, where we could sit in the shade and cool off. We stopped on the way to inquire about these ruins and were told that there use to be many buildings in this spot. That it was quite the little location for socialization.
 To look at these ruins you would never guess just how regal these buildings use to be.
 But, seeing the steps, I couldn't help but imagine those who use to come here and be entertained by the arena or the performances. Who would frequent these side buildings on their day "out" and enjoy this gathering place thousands of years ago. It makes my head spin.
 We made it back up to the front where there is a small souvenir stand and a couple of food vendors. I enjoyed my lemon Italian ice while the breeze helped to cool me down and enjoyed the view of the back of the chapel. Afterwards we made our way across the street to wait for the bus and, while waiting, we could do a bit more souvenir shopping. There I bought a small ceramic plate with lemons hand painted upon it to remind me of this lovely place, my lemon Italian ice and all that I had learned.
 Quick side note here. On the way back to the Villa we passed this very modern cathedral. Our Lady of Tears Shrine is both loved and hated by Sicilians. They love to hate it. It is very amusing how this one building is both revered and despised at the same time.
 This was the end of our lovely stay in Syracuse. We headed out the next morning toward Taormina. Driving through the Italian countryside we were rewarded with views like this one.
I will forever remember the lush countryside, the beautiful views and the amazing people of this area of Sicily. 

Next week I'm going to take a small detour. If you noticed that I was missing last week it is because I was traveling...to Disneyland! So I'm going to share with you a whole bunch of wonderful tips and tricks and, of course, beautiful views of the Disneyland Resort during it's 60th Diamond Anniversary celebration!

In the meantime don't forget to click on the smaller photos so you can see the full size images and come visit me on Facebook or on Instagram! If you do visit, please make sure to say HI!


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