Sunday, 22 May 2011

Segesta, Sicily

Saturday 14 May 2011. Thomson Destiny docks in Trapani in Sicily and we are up early to undertake the first of three excursions we have booked for the week.

We are doing a half-day trip to see the ancient Greek temple and amphitheatre at Segesta. I'd never heard of it myself, but Fran segesta'd it might be good...

The temple was built around 500BC and has stood since then, untouched by the restorator's hand. Other more well known and larger temples such as The Parthenon have at least been partially reconstructed. This one is just as history has left it. Literally, because it never had a roof.

Apparently the Segestan population felt threatened by a Greek community nearby and (as Greek factions were almost always at war with themselves) asked Athens for help. In order to present themselves in a better light they passed themselves off as a rich community and built the temple to prove it to the emissaries of Athens. Once those emissaries had left, work stopped on the temple...

We climbed up the hill towards it, more and more of it becoming visible as we climbed. 36 doric columns arranged 14 to each side and 6 at front and back would have held up a roof I'm sure. We looked at it, prodded it, walked round it and looked down the hill to the river behind it and waited for one foolhardy show-off to fall down the cliff as he just had to be photographed way past the point of sensible safety...

Then we set off down the tricky but far less steep slope in front of the temple back down to the small village from where a shuttle bus constantly ferried people up and down from the refreshments shop to the remains of the village and the amphitheatre on the opposite hill.

The remains of the village were confined mainly to floors and stumps of walls, but what can you expect from a people who disdain to add a roof...

The amphitheatre was quite impressive though. Apparently it is still in use for its original purpose and ancient Greek tragedies and comedies and dramas are played out (in Italian) within the orchestra. I have to admit I've never attended a Greek comedy, but I suppose it'll be full of jokes like "I married a hydra, thinking at least one head should be beautiful"... Or, "Don't you 'look darling it's Pegasus' me - just you look at the state of my washing!!!" Or having Medusa say, "Are you putting the kettle on, you lazy bugger? What's the matter? Turned to stone?"

There was an excellent view of the main road from Trapani to Palermo snaking its way across the countryside towards the coast on the horizon.

We made our way onto the rather small shuttle bus. Our guide wanted the driver to wait for the rest of our party but the bus was full anyway and she eventually got off with bad grace to wait for them and bring them down on the next trip.

We sat with a young French couple and their very shy young son and he told us they had seen two different tour parties come to blows earlier because they each thought they should have exclusive use of the bus... One wonders whether the driver woke up next morning lying next to a horse's head... or cylinder head...

I managed to sneak a shot of the temple out of the shuttle bus window as we twisted and turned round the hairpin bends descending back to our own coach.

Large versions of the photos: Slowly but surely (more slow than sure at the moment...) the photos from this holiday will be uploaded to Flickr

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