Cefalu, C’est la Vie
Cefalu is well worth a visit. We did not, by any means, give it the credit it deserves as we were only staying for a few days and had some very basic needs to satisfy before starting to explore the town and the area: The need for soaking up as much sunshine as possible without getting our eyebrows singed. For two days, happily exposing ourselves to UV I, II and what felt like a fair amount of x-rays, we lolled like immobile skin-shedding sea elephants on the sunbeds in the beautiful Kalura Bay. Like the afore mentioned sea elephants, lifting a “fin” only to scratch our thighs, and unlike them to splash sun lotion on each other’s backs or lift our water bottles, not really caring that half of its content missed the target and trickled down our bodies.
Once in a hot while we would roll off our beds and plunge into the sea, basking in the underwater world of colorful fish, shells and plants, before again retreating to our incubators.
When we after a couple of days eventually mustered the will and strength to lift our heads and look up, we discovered dazzling sights of mountains, rolling hills, and for someone living on the (ice)edge, a mind-boggling diversity of colorful trees, bushes and flowers. Rocks and cliffs were valiantly protruding into the sea, one of the closest ones occupied by remnants of a Byzantine fortress.
And from there it was all gloriously uphill…
On my next swimming spree I went ashore and started climbing the stairs towards the ruins. Almost there, I was met with signs of Privado. Usually that’s something I don’t take very personally, but being in the land of the God Father, I figured maybe I should. Fortunately GF land is also the land where Sicules, Elymes, Sicanes, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans.., you name it, have fantasized, fabled, fagged, fair- or unfair-traded, fought and failed, frolicked and feasted and probably foregone a lot of other frivolous f’s. Their leftovers are so densely scattered all over the place that you can hardly turn a Sicilian stone over without discovering that it is part of an ancient structure or hiding something of the kind.
I had only to lift my head just a tad higher to catch sight of The Rock, the cliff since times immemorial defining and serving as a dramatic backdrop to the town. As it has done for thousands of years, presumably all the way back to a rocking Stone Age. Remnants of temples, forts and meandering walls scattered all around the 270 meter tall hill now tell enticing, but piecemeal tales of former everyday life, worship, wars and conflicts.
Tales we wanted to hear. Late that same afternoon, therefore, hoping the sun would have eased up on her ambition to scorch everything she set her rays on, we set out. One fourth up the hill we passed through a gate carrying a sign stating that it would be closing it not too long. Just beyond the it, we came upon a guy dutifully registering anyone who ventured up the hill. Even though it was pretty clear that he was not employed on accord of his language or personal skills, he was able in not so many words, but with ample gesticulation, to convey a lot of information. First of all that it was now too late in the day to go all the way to the top, and secondly conjuring up colorful images of all the horrors that would befall upon us if we failed to be back in time.
Sensing that negotiating with The Sentry at The Rusty Gate would be as fruitful as domesticizing a white shark, we nodded obligingly, said our arrivedercies and left him to his somber musings. As soon as we turned a bend in the path, though, we seized up the distance to the top, checked our watches and looked at each other. The rest is history… and a lot of archaeology.
Passing the afore mentioned temples, forts and walls we ascended steadily towards the top. It soon became pretty obvious that climbing 300 height meters in +42 degrees, with neither shade, wind or anything to drink was more challenging than we had anticipated. I felt the water evaporating from my skin at a terrifying rate, wondering if I dropped dead there and then how many seconds it would take before my body naturally mummified…
Finally, feeling near the point of extinction, we reached the top. Instantly invigorated by a breathtaking view over town, sea- and landscape. And by a group of otherwise fit looking youngsters now hunched against and in the shade of a stone wall. They looked more dead than alive, only one of them able to produce a shadow of a smile when I asked if they were ok.
We hurriedly took some photographs, among other things capturing “on film” the meandering alleyways of the medieval old town, and the striking and dominant outline of the beautiful Dome, dedicated by the grateful seafaring King Roger around year 1131. .
Being aware of the fact that our time was limited, we soon started our descent. Even though we were half walking, half running and would just barely make it down in time, we met a couple of guys going up. We tried explaining to them the perils of not obeying St. Horribilus at the gate, but they just kept on walking. Fortunately we don’t read Italian newspaper so we were spared the details of their terrible fate. Looking on the bright side, though, at least from the perspective of future visitors, their dried up and well preserved bodies will add an interesting flair to the place. Knowing that must be a great comfort… to their spirits.