Boys week: Sicily road trip

Straight after I returned from Istanbul it was time for Alex’ half term holiday. So bike out, kid in and back to the airport next morning. First stop was Germany for grandma’s 80th before we headed to Palermo to have our annual road trip – this time around Sicily. It was overall enjoyable, in particular the warm weather, Mount Etna and the Sicilian landscapes. However, i dislike the constant chaos in cities, the generally poor state of infrastructure and many dirty spots with garbage on streets, in nature and no one seemingly giving a damn. It’s sad to see.

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Happy birthday Oma Renate!

80 years is quite a number and so the family came together to celebrate the occasion at Margaetenhof in Gohrisch. It turned out rather nice and i had plenty of time to catch up with many family members. We even had a little after party back home. Sweet!

Off to Sicily…

We arrived in Palermo late afternoon from Berlin, picked up our little rental car and headed for the town of Castellammare del Golfo. I hadn’t booked any accommodation for this year’s trip, but brought the tent along for a bit of camping with alex. He likes it very much.

The first night, after our first of many pizza’s, we spent on a seaside camp ground that Alex had spotted. Due to luggage constraints (going camping with hand luggage only) i had only brought a sleeping mat for alex. So I resorted to some of the felt fittings and door mats of the car to insulate the cold. Very practical. The waves made quite some noise (i like it, but alex claims to not sleep well when they are too loud) and heavy rain made for a wet and stormy night. Inside the tent all was fine though and we woke up to a brilliant morning next day.

Sicily economy: The island remains one of italy’s five autonomous regions and has a very rich past. Over the centuries, Sicily was ruled by most of the large european powers at their time (even germans) leaving a diverse mix of culture and architecture behind. Economically and despite healthy tourism it is a tough spot and at c15% has the highest level of expatriates of any Italian region. The ongoing involvement of the mafia doesn’t help albeit less now.

Zingaro nature reserve, Erice & Marsala salt flats

On our first full day we spent the morning hiking in Zingaro nature reserve. We took the coastal path, checked out some houses converted to museums and a big cave. Swimming was not an option due to strong winds that day. Overall almost 7km – enough for the little man today.

For lunch we headed for the medieval hill-top village of Erice. Views were a bit hazy, but the architecture makes a visit worthwhile nonetheless. From up there we spotted our next stop – the nearby salt flats of Marsala.

Here, for centuries, salt is extracted using a system of ponds and windmills and the resulting salt decorates the landscape by way of white hills all over the place. The salt museum provides a good overview with tours in English available.

Stuck in mud

We had again big plans for the next day and kicked off with a visit to Torre Salsa nature reserve. I followed google maps that led me to an increasingly worse road. off-road pretty much. Previous days rain had softened the ground and we ended up getting proper stuck with our tiny city car in the middle of nowhere.

Not being able to move and with no one around we headed for the park entrance some 20min away on foot. I was hoping some ranger would be there (usually these reserves have an official gate and often charge for entrance and/or parking). The last stretch of the road was now more akin to a river and no ranger in sight. Well, we at least little swim on a pristine beach with unsurprisingly noone else around.

On the way back an english couple helped us out later on joined by two frenchmen and of course Alex. Eventually we got the car going after trying all tricks we could come up with. Thanks guys! We would still be there without your help.

We skipped the rest of this day’s agenda, which was chiefly the valley of temples (though we glanced at it driving past near the city of Agrigento), and rather had the car cleaned (the guy af the car wash couldn’t nt believe his eyes!). By nightfall we were in our room, showered, clothes washed (well, i tried my best), had takeaway pizza amidst 5 envious cats observing our every move and all the dirt was a mere memory. What an adventure!

Vendicari reserve & Syracuse

After some driving and lunch in one of the many eco resorts we headed for Vendicari nature reserve amidst great weather. The reserve is home to many animals including several bird species. Recent rain had also left its marks here with several pathes closed off due to flooding. We found a nice spot near the beach for the afternoon and Alex got busy with wave jumping and playing in the sand.

The night with spent in Syracuse, more specifically the island of Ortygia. It has a port and a lovely, largely traffic free old town be it quite noisy at times. More pizza please!

In the morning we managed to observe a fisherman sorting his early catch of fish, squid etc from his net.

Up the volcano and more time at the beach

Mount Etna is the tallest active volcano in Europe at 3,300m and sadly a mass tourist attraction. The volcano is very prominent even in the rather hilly sicilian countryside and was calmly letting some smoke out.

The very top was not accessible due to a collapse the night before. So we headed up to 2,750m by cable car from where a offroad bus took us close to 3,000m.it was windy and cold and some leftovers of last seasons snow remained visible.

The visibility was amazing and the guide helpful in explaining where different eruptions occured over the years. Alex was most amazed by the warm earth that you reach by digging a mere 5 or 10cm into the ground. It is an active volcano after all.

After Etna we headed for the town of Taormina. No appetite for sightseeing though. Alex wanted to get back to the beach. No objections from dad!

It was a last night camping for us, but not before scoring some very tasty ice cream. Alex went for strawberry, i had chocolate. However, as soon as he tried mine i could read in his face that he wanted to swap. Well, fair enough son 😊

Active volcanos around the globe

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Last evening in Palermo

We followed the coastal highway to Cefalu – a picture postcard place in Sicily. The weather was kind again and so… beach of course. Alex loves being in the water, which for me was a touch cold (i am a bit of a girl, no disrespect, when it comes to that).

Once the time was up we headed another 50min to Palermo with its cathedral and vibrant old town. I really enjoyed meandering through the busy streets. It appeared some sort of town festival was on (it wae Saturday night too).

Alex finally got his lasagne and i had pasta as well. Be even tried bruschetta for the his time on the promise of the waiter for a present if Alex ate it. Well, he ate three and got nothing. Not cool i think, but heh.

Nice evening to finish off a great trip. Time to get back to london next day and leave the sun behind (well, i shall have it back in a few days).

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