Sicily is an absolutely marvelous place. We spent two days driving on a charter bus down the coast of Italy (stopping at some sites along the way) to the very tiptoe of the boot where Sicily almost touches the mainland. I will never forget my first sight of Sicily - after driving all day, it's well past sunset, and we come down out of the mountains and we know we're getting close to the sea but we don't know just how close until we come around a bend, still at quite an altitude, so we can see a long way, but we don't need to, because Sicily is right there, practically at our feet. I knew that Sicily was only two miles away from the mainland but knowing is never a substitute for actually seeing. We crossed over by ferry the next morning (driving the bus on board) and started driving down the coast.
Syracuse was described by Cicero as the most beautiful city in Sicily, and even though it's a bit of a dump today, I can see what he meant. It was one of the many colonies founded by the Greeks in Sicily and southern Italy starting in the eighth century BC and quickly became one of the most prosperous and powerful. But what sent shivers down my spine was the history that happened here. This was where (if I may wax poetic for a moment) the Athenian empire foundered when they sent the flower of their youth and their navy and lost it all in a series of battles that took place in the harbor that I stood right next to, and the heights overlooking the city, where I actually stood. Maybe I'm just a history nerd, but that's what really turns me on about a place - standing where the great historical figures stood and seeing what they saw. Not many ancient remains in Syracuse, but so much history.
We went inland after that and then down to the south coast to Agrigento, where there are several fabulously preserved Greek temples. I've read about Greek architecture and seen pictures and all that, but there's nothing that compares to actually going there and walking around on a temple and seeing exactly what a cella is, or how the metopes and triglyphs alternate on the architrave, or how the stylobate curves in a classic Doric temple (don't worry, until last week I didn't know any of those terms either). Everything I do at Northwestern is so dry, bookish, and unexciting compared to this. I hope it's just that you can't understand it until you see it.
I took five rolls of film, but we don't have a scanner here so I can't put them up or anything. There is a website for my program which will hopefully soon have other people's pictures. I don't remember the address right now, but I'll put a note up here when I see that they're up.
The weather was fabulous (and still is in Rome). In Minnesota we'd call this Indian summer, but I guess here it's the Ottobre Romana - a little cool in the mornings and evenings, but beautiful the rest of the day.
Not that I get to enjoy any of it - this is definitely the busiest week of the year, work-wise. Even during finals, it's not like that, because I never have this many separate things going on. A ten-page paper and two finals is a lot, but it's nothing like a three-page paper, a 4-5 page paper, a midterm, a quiz, and a presentation - too many things to keep straight and to work on all at once.
Fortunately, fall break is next week, and equally fortunately, I finally know what I'm doing - I'm going to Greece! Which is what I originally wanted to do all the way since last year. I really dropped the ball on going with the other group, but now I think I'm glad I did - the group got a lot bigger and now includes at least one person I definitely do not want to spend my break with. So I'm going alone, which I'm a little nervous about, especially since I speak absolutely no modern Greek, but hopefully it'll be fun. It was quite a nightmare getting tickets, though - after getting back from Sicily, the cheap fare I had my eye on was much more heavily restricted. Not that it mattered, because it wouldn't give me e-tickets anyway, and I didn't have time for paper tickets to get sent. So I went to the local travel agent and she wanted to put me on a waiting list for this really sketchy sounding airline for $40 more than my cheap fare, but I was beyond the point of caring, so I agreed. This was Monday, and I went back today, and she said that the sketchy airline was full, but I could get tickets for the same price on Olympic Airlines (the Greek national airline). I'm pretty sure it's the exact same flights as I had my eye on before, just with the extra $40, which I'm elated to consider an handling fee, or a commission, or really anything, just so I have those tickets. So I'm going to Athens from Monday to Sunday next week. Yay! I just hope I'm right that this is the slow season and the youth hostel will have plenty of openings without me needing a reservation.