The Ear of the Tyrant

Posted: Sep 24, 2003 9:24:17 AM

I will not be gaunt by the time any of you see me next. Because Sicily has some truly fantastic desserts, and I am taking every opportunity to partake of them. The Tiramisu is fantastic here, for example.

For the last few days I have been meandering my way through Sicily: Palermo for a couple of days, Agrigento for a day, and now I'm enjoying my time in Syracuse (Siracusa). Palermo was a little too big and crowded for me, so I didn't stay long. Agrigento was pleasantly small and easy to navigate in comparison, so I spent a day wandering around the amazing Valley of the Temples, a huge collection of ruined, semi-ruined, and almost-completely-intact Greek temples. Even for someone who has seen the best ruins in Turkey (Ephesus) they were impressive.

The ruins appear just as they do in pictures, but what such pictures never capture is the sheer amount of life in these places: the Tempio di Ercole and Tempio di Giove were crawling with lizards and grasshoppers, for example, and there were some fantastic dragonflies (including several bright scarlet ones) buzzing around parts of Palermo.

Today I'm heading out to explore the ruins of Syracuse, including a fairly famous theatre, amphitheatre, and of course the Orecchio di Dionisio, a prison shaped like an ear used by Dionysius, the tyrant of Syracuse. Legend has it that the peculiar acoustic properties of the grotto allowed him to overhear secret conversations amongst the prisoners. There's a good museum here as well, I'm told. And then there's the tomb of Archimedes (who was born in Syracuse)... I should stop writing reports and get out to see all these!


And I have a ticket for Malta! I leave this evening on a fast catamaran, arrive in Valletta at 11pm, and then I have almost a full week on the islands before catching another ferry back to Syracuse and then an overnight train all the way to Rome, where (I hope) my revised ticket to Edinburgh is ready and waiting.

It's all sorted, I have checked to make sure that I don't need a visa for Malta (I don't), and I'm eager to get going. The next time I get to Italy it will be nearly winter, and probably very rainy, but rain I can deal with. It's the food that I'll miss, from the fantastic Calzone Cavour I had last night to the wonderful breakfast pastries (croissants filled with vanilla-flavoured cream, flaky pastry filled with ricotta) to the pervasive gelaterias that are (literally) on every second block around here, each with a selection of ice creams, gelatos, and sorbets the likes of which you would never see in New Zealand, or probably anywhere else.

And now I'm getting hungry again too. Okay, must be off; in another fourteen hours I should be in Malta (accidents at sea notwithstanding), and off to explore some more famous ruins and museums (are we detecting a pattern yet?).


Sahi   Sep 24, 2003 10:14:51 AM

That part about the ice cream shops reminds me about the part of good omens about them having 39 kinds of ice cream in the US (and there only being three in the UK). :)


Charlotte   Sep 24, 2003 2:46:33 PM

*grins* Nice to see that your appetite has returned with a vengeance! You'll soon be waddling around the ruins instead of walking.

Mmmmm, all this talk of food has made me hungry so I'm gonna go find me some dinner. I think I have some Tim Tams in the fridge...

Tamsyn   Sep 24, 2003 5:26:40 PM

Mmm... TimTams.

My fiance just sent me four packets from NZ two days ago. I'm three packets down already.

And now I want tiramisu too. Thanks, Damon.

Binky   Sep 24, 2003 11:17:50 PM

My boss, who lived in Rome for some time and recently went back there, reckons the gelato at the Beachcomber in Kaitaia, of all places, is as good as any in Italy. But it just doesn't have the ambience.

I'm going to have to make some tiramisu now.

green eyed newt   Sep 25, 2003 3:17:24 AM

This is quickly tunring into the board of the International Gourmet Faction. And I just returned home form work, it's 3am in the night, and my bread is covered with mould.

Oh yeah. Life is good. If only your talk of Tiramisu could feed me!

Anyway, I feel faintly proud of myself -- when I read this reports' title I thought 'He must've eben to syracuse!' Though I know the tyrant bit from Schiller, not from history lessons :)

I marvel at your endurance at ruin-hiking, damon. But then, that's what you set out to do. Oh, how I can picture you steering towards a temple in single-minded determination, never sparing a glance for the italian maidens laying left, right and center to your path who are dying to feed you, offering dishes of tiramisu and calzone and ...

Now I'm projecting my fantasies upon you, poor guy.


Tamsyn   Sep 25, 2003 11:21:09 PM

Mental image of Damon ruthlessly trampling over dessert-laden Mediterranean maidens in his ceaseless quest for Ruins of Historical Note...


Helen Trustrum   Sep 26, 2003 2:57:29 AM

Great to catch up with your travels Damon. Keep it going.
I am another green-eyed monster back in wind-swept P.N!
Take care

Damon   Sep 26, 2003 2:02:52 PM

Hi Helen and others!

I'm in Malta, and although it's very cool (just went to an old hospital used by the Knights of St. John) everything closes down in the afternoons, including all the historical sites and museums, effectively killing half of every day. 'tis frustrating.

I have yet to have seen any Italian women bearing down on me with dessert-type treats, but a girl from Edinburgh I met in Palermo managed to convince me to try some Marzipan fruit and roasted chestnuts. And then there was the Norwegian belly-dancer I had a nice chat to on the ferry over to Valetta, but she had no desserts at all.

Charlotte   Sep 26, 2003 2:23:05 PM

*resists urge to take a Freudian interpretation of the above post* Which is good, because I think that Freud was a moron. Although I could be the moron because this is a fairly moronic post. I should get more sleep.

Damon   Sep 26, 2003 2:27:46 PM

Freud said something about Marzipan fruit? *grin* No, travellers are always keen to meet other travellers. Had my ear talked off by a mildly-inebriated Belgian lady the other night. The woman from Edinburgh I suspect needed someone to walk around with at night, because if you're an unaccompanied foreign woman in Italy you can get a fair load of slimy propositions rather quickly otherwise. And the Norwegian belly-dancer was headed in the same direction when our train was cancelled (warped tracks) and we had to catch a bus to the ferry terminal instead. All very innocent, honest!

Charlotte   Sep 26, 2003 2:50:54 PM

*laughs* So in both cases you were the perfect gentleman and gallantly escourted the distressed damsels to their destinations, modestly turning down all efforts of appreciation for your heroism?

Damon   Sep 26, 2003 2:52:48 PM

Well, I am reading 'Don Quixote' right now *grin*

Charlotte   Sep 26, 2003 3:18:40 PM

*laughs again* I haven't read the book, but I've heard enough about it to sincerely hope that you aren't using the book as a model-cum-guide for all your heroic deeds!

Damon   Sep 26, 2003 3:19:24 PM

There *is* a famous windmill in Malta...

fraZ   Sep 27, 2003 9:19:40 AM

ok iev been tryign to figure it out. is it said Either or eIther makeing the i or the e the main sounds? its been bugging me. i miss all of these's random tips

Binky   Sep 29, 2003 4:59:21 AM

Hope the power cuts didn't cause you too much trouble, Damon. I recall "closed", "cancelled" and "on strike" as being the most useful Italian words I learned.

Charlotte   Sep 29, 2003 4:54:32 PM

Perhaps he wasn't affected, since he is in Malta (I think) at the moment.

But I hope all of the problems have been sorted for your train trip to Rome tomorrow Damon!

*keeps fingers crossed*

Damon   Sep 29, 2003 5:19:49 PM

@Fraz: it's either or, really *grin*

I have just returned from Malta, thankfully missing all the powercut strife in the north of Italy, although my train was cancelled a couple of times due to heat-warping of the tracks (took a bus instead), and in another three hours I will be on the overnight train to Roma. So it's all good.

Greg Crossan   Sep 30, 2003 12:25:08 AM

Hi Damon - have been following Childe Damon's Pilgrimage with great interest: sorry to hear about the recent glitch in the plans, but that's travel for you. [Love of travel = dromophilia; fear of travel = dromophobia; writing about travel = dromography; devouring travel = dromophagia; the urge to travel = dromoturgy (made that one up!).] Anyway, I see you'll be in Edinburgh in a day or two, which is a treat in store. I recommend Lady Stair's House Museum for all things literary, the Scottish National Gallery for all things arty, and a walk up Arthur's Seat if you want to re-enact a climax from Hogg's 'Confessions'. Those bus tours of the city are good too, for an overview. But it's best to visit the 'old' side of town on foot - ditto the Royal Mile between the castle and the palace. It's a fantastic city and you'll love it! All the best, -Greg.

Sahi   Sep 30, 2003 9:54:59 AM

isn't it about time again for a new report?

fraZ   Sep 30, 2003 10:47:21 AM

yes, us simlple country folk are wanting more, & is it said Either or eIther with the main noise being the "i" or the "e" & dont toy with me with another clever answer please.

Charlotte   Sep 30, 2003 2:25:05 PM

*merrily intrudes in on above conversation* 'Either or' seems to be the correct answer.....
Of course the internet is less likely to torment you with vague answers than siblings on vacation!


The usual pronunciation in American English is (e´ther), with a long e sound. According to the Dictionary of American Regional English, the pronunciation (i´ther), with a long i, is used mostly by well-educated speakers in urban areas of the Northeast, and is often considered affected by others. Almost the opposite is true in British English, however, where (i´ther) is more common. Both pronunciations have been recognized by English dictionaries since the 18th century. The same variation occurs in neither. [edited to add that my computer won't do the little upside down e thingies]

*grins again* I recommend using both versions with equal frequency, to avoid being though of as 'affected' by both Americans and the British and simply to thumb your nose at the language puritans......

Oh, and yeah, I vote for a new report as well!

*disappears back into obscurity*

Damon   Sep 30, 2003 8:12:14 PM

Hey, it's my lecturer in Romantic lit.! I hadn't made the connection re: Hogg's Confessions (which I have read), but now I absolutely have to take that walk along the same path. Not that I'm planning on pushing anyone off, of course...

I'm afraid that it really is either of the two pronunciations, Frazer: you say potato, I say potato. Dan Quayle says potatoe.

I will write a new report, eventually; I have a papal audience tomorrow (got my ticket and everything, even if it is number 3000), and then I'm (hopefully) on the revised plane trip. And then I shall be in Edinburgh...

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Oct 1, 2003 1:59:13 AM

Papal audiences are very cool. Of course I went in 87 when the good Papa was still a bit more lively but the most lively thing were the people getting audienced anyway. Three brass bands going like crazy and and all those nuns and monks and priests standing on their chairs screaming and waving when the pope called the names of the groups they were with. I didn´t have a ticket but went in on a whim with a group of students from Northfield Minnesota, something I found out when everybody around me started screaming. Great fun and not at all what I had expected.

Morgan   Oct 1, 2003 7:39:06 AM

"I just think they're neat..."

Oh yeah, new season of Futurama has started up here so I'm taping that for you.

Need more reports...

king Arthur the 3rd   Oct 1, 2003 11:26:55 AM

i to am hungrey

Greg Crossan   Oct 1, 2003 11:36:50 AM

It's a bit of a slog up Arthur's Seat - maybe an hour if you stick to the beaten track (begins over the road from the rear of Holyrood) - but well worth it for the view. Just beware of Brocken Spectres!

David   Oct 1, 2003 2:25:37 PM

Re: either

I recommend pronouncing it eighther.

Also spell it that way.


Damon   Oct 1, 2003 3:04:44 PM

It's getting somewhat confusing with all the pseudonyms here - Fruitbat? Arthur 3rd?

I had a ticket for the Pope but went to the section for those without tickets, which turned out to be an extremely good thing as I was right next to the path the Popemobile takes: I have a great photo of the pontiff from about two metres away *sycophantic grin*

Charlotte   Oct 1, 2003 3:08:49 PM

*waves hello*

Fruitbat is Harvey 2.0, but King Arthur? *shrugs*

I saw the Pope when I was about 10, in Christchurch. We have a photo at home somewhere.

footle   Oct 1, 2003 3:53:52 PM

Go up St Peter's Dome. Was probably the best part of my Monday :-)

Damon   Oct 1, 2003 3:55:20 PM

Yep, I'm doing that on the return trip in December. Will be very cool.

Captain Roberto T. Fruitbat   Oct 2, 2003 1:10:14 AM

Yes, it´s just me, Harvey 2.0. I had an identity crisis and decided it´s time to ditch the bunny suit. And that´s Captain Fruitbat, please. :)

My own Pope pictures were taken while balancing on some chairs which I shared with two priests and a nun who were behaving in a manner usually associated with teenagers at a pop concert but I got some very good pictures and even escaped unscathed. Risking life and limb for a picture of the Pope when I´m not even a catholic and have been an atheist since I was thirteen. I wonder what got into me ...

king   Oct 2, 2003 1:25:29 AM

fraZ   Oct 2, 2003 6:15:11 AM

tv is makeing the change to "c4" on frriday, startign of with a weekend of the top 100 music videos of all time.umm morgans get's back form house sitting tomrrow, mum's finnishing her holidays. & im goign crazy sitting at home. i think people are gettign bugged because im nto doign anything. even thou this is the first break ive had from working since. well the start of the year maybe. oh well

Damon   Oct 2, 2003 10:23:42 AM

Yeah, take a breather for a bit, Fraz. But make sure that you get the dishes done on time! *grin*

@Captain: sorry, no disrespect intended! I was next to a nun as well, although she was very dignified, and hardly screamed ala Beatles fans at all. I didn't have to balance on any chairs; he drove straight past. He didn't look too well, either.

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