1st cultural shock, the Mafia & bike touring w/ new friends

1st cultural shock, the Mafia & bike touring w/ new friends

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Just two days ago we had reached Genoa , Italy. But now we will disembark onto Sicily, an island that most people associate with … well, you know, right? Anyhow, 800 kms in a day, that’s literally light speed! Solid ground under our bicycles is great. We feel excited, but also a little anxious. Join us as we continue our journey to the east and around the world. There will be cycling, obviously, history - as in old stuff, our first  little cultural shock, the Mafia, problems,   a change of plans, more very old stuff,  new friends and our best camp spot so far. Sicily is located in the Mediterranean sea just a few kms southwest off the tip of  the Italian peninsula.

Higher temperatures and the prospect of better weather led us here, but first off Palermo. It’s already evening when we arrive so we check into the cheapest room on the island. Finding a spot for our tent in the darkness is hard and we do not feel confident to camp in a big city. - Welcome to Palermo! - Thank you! Grazie! The city has had an eventful 2750 years so far and it shows on every corner. Today, Palermo is the political, economic and  cultural centre of the entire island.  

It is buzzing with life and to prepare for  the coming days we head to a street market. - How much does it cost? - 2 Euros. - Six Euros. - Six! - 6 Euros for this? - I don't know! -This is 2 ...and this is 4 Euros? Really? - Give me five! 5 Euros! So he was weighing the stuff and the bananas and the eggplants were 2 Euros and then I put two bell pepper, one white onion and one orange and he said now it's six. So this was way too steep increase in price, because he was just adding one Euro for everything, basically.

So he told another guy to handle the payment and he said "6€", I said "it's too much" and he said "okay, 5€" - so I paid 5€. Unfortunately, after our highly successful grocery  shopping, we end up in a fight. So, if you ever happen to visit this stunning city, make sure to send us some eye watering pictures, thanks! -Morning! Buongiorno! We are leaving Palermo. We stayed in the cheapest available place on the whole island which is behind us. The room was 22 Euros together per night.

We are moving now towards the east following the north coast. Despite the numerous little problems we’ve had, on  our bicycles is where we feel most comfortable. We know we are getting somewhere, slowly but surely, one pedal stroke at a time. For what it’s worth, by now we’ve cycled a total of 2500 kms. After a little breakfast we hit the road again. Wow, wow, wow! Everything is beautiful and also ugly at the same time.

To get anywhere by bike, you take in every metre. We love that and it is one of the central reasons why we cycle around the world. But, if the in-between is not a postcard  picture, skipping it is not so easy. Unbelievable! Look at this! It's a number one beach front property, but -nothing! People do not invest here. We're not even three kms away from the city center of Palermo right behind these houses, you see in my back, it's the beach. Honestly for me it feels a little bit like being in a developing country, in a really really different place.

This island has been riddled my crime and corruption for at least 200 years and it really shows. It's insane! It's mind-boggling! I don't know what to say! A perfect beachfront property - state of disrepair again! Here on our left was maybe a restaurant or something. Perfect location! Amazing location! Look, it burned. So, I mean, put two and two together why did it burn. Oh my God, I hope I do not have any glass in my tire now.

We regularly rack our brains over how to deal with  negative aspects of our journey. Like this one.  In the end, however, we went to see the  world with open eyes. Unvarnished. We are privileged to do this and we take it  as our duty to show it as we see it. 

In no way do we want to discourage anyone  from doing it or seeing it themselves.   As long as we don't explicitly say, don't come  here, come, but come with realistic expectations. So, yes, apparently the Mafia is still a problem in Sicily. We just get to see one tiny fraction of their billion-dollar business model. Through violence and intimidation, monopolies are established in the waste management sector and that waste is subsequently disposed of illegally.

I mean, I read about this, but I really thought it wasn't as bad anymore. I'm not judging, because obviously there have been structural problems of not properly functioning institutions for literally centuries here. Centuries, where you cannot trust to go to the police, cannot trust a judge or court, that law is spoken properly. Anyhow, we want to follow the north coast of Sicily to the east to reach Mt. Etna,   one of the world's most active stratovolcanoes. Pretty blue! It's Christmas soon and we are trying to  arrange something special.

We've stopped here, cos we are trying to steal some oranges. - Ok, let's go! - Mafia will kill us! Because it is getting dark, you can tell it's late in the day and we did about 55 kms so far out of Palermo. I have to reject my statement I made at the Côte d’Azur, when I said "I've never seen so many fences and walls." Basically, since we left Palermo, there's not really been a place where we could put our tent.Yeah! This will be interesting! It's not perfect, it's good generally! No one will come here for sure. It has a flat, even surface.

We are really really hungry. We're trying to cook and our stove failed on us. The fuel pump. We have this multi-fuel cooker and use it with gasoline. Last time it worked as intended. Now the fuel tank is half full, you can pump, nothing happens. I will try to figure out what's going on, but now it started raining as well. So cold dinner for us.

It could be worse! I mean, the coast is super ugly. The last 60 kms were along heavy industry, refineries, bad smells, oil on the ground. Terrible, actually! A big road with heavy traffic and no cooker, but look, I mean, we are sitting in the dryer tent and having a very good salad. Very very healthy! Not such healthy bread.

Apparently it's hard to get healthy whole grain, whole wheat bread in Italy. We also have gorgonzola- blue cheese! Yum! You wouldn't think, but it's going to rain really really badly. In the afternoon will start raining for about a week here on the North Coast of Sicily. This is why after a lot of thinking like hours and hours of thinking, weighing options... next time we we throw a coin!

We'll go back a little bit the great big road we cycled yesterday to get to a train station, where we can take a train to the south of Sicily, to Agrigento, which is supposed to be a very nice city. Also the weather in the south is supposed to be better. We'll then continue the southern coast. Yeah see the beautiful parts of Sicily too, without freezing and being wet all the time. Which is a problem or which would be a problem, because our fuel stove is not going to work anytime soon I guess. We'll try to contact the company MSR but I don't think we will get it to work without new parts and that will take some time.

Have you ever asked yourself how radically different your life could be today if you had made an utterly trivial  decision differently at a certain point? We have to make decisions under uncertainty all the time, but even more so since we are on the road. Maybe the weather forecast is  wrong, maybe we can get the stove to work,   maybe it would actually be great in the north of  Sicily and the south will be a disappointment.  It’s kind of absurd. We have the freedom to  choose another direction with every crossroad,  

but it costs us so much energy  to make a simple decision.  We need a healthier way, learn  to go with the flow as they say. As every Italian city so far this one is also very hilly with lots of stairs which is good because when we don't cycle one day, we still can train our legs.

Today we explore Agrigento, but first a few  words about the turbulent past of this island. To this date many residents first and foremost  identify as Sicilians and much less Italians, which is easy to understand looking at the history.   The oldest evidence of human activity on this island  dates back a staggering 14.000 years. By around 750 BC, Sicily had three Phoenician and a dozen Greek colonies. Agrigento or Akrágas as it was called by the Greeks was one of the leading cities of Magna Graecia during the golden age of   Ancient Greece. The modern day city is quite  nice but is outshined by the ancient part. 

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th  century AD, Sicily was then ruled by the Vandals,   the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine Empire, and  the Emirate of Sicily. The Norman conquest led to the creation of the County of Sicily  in 1071, succeeded by the Kingdom of Sicily,  which lasted almost 700 years. Under the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon, not the liquor,  you know that huge French dynasty, it was then unified with the Kingdom of Naples as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.   It only became a part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860. Since then it’s probably mostly governed by the Mafia. Or in short: Sicily has a rich and unique culture.

The Valle dei Templi is a UNESCO  World heritage site for resembling   one of the most outstanding examples  of ancient Greek art and architecture.  Behind me you see the temple of Juno. Actually it's not the Temple of Juno. Apparently there was a erroneous translation from some Latin texts. Anyhow this is built in Doric style. You can see the front here.

It used to have six columns in the front and then 13 columns on the sides, pretty big, 2500 years ago.   We are now standing next to the southern city wall, the fortifications of the city. Also built by the Greeks. They were in war with the Carthaginians 50 years after they started building this stuff here. Seeing this in full swing - Plato is said to have remarked that "they build like they intend to live forever,  yet eat like this is their last day." It includes the remains of seven temples. Most of them being built in the 5th Century BC. ​​Ancient sources considered Akrágas to be a very large city claiming a population in the hundreds of thousands.

I am always amazed by human achievements of epic proportions like this. In all fairness though, it seems like most of the temples and city walls have been built by slaves obtained after winning a war against Ancient Carthage. Be it as it may, that still shows that there is no problem too big if you just throw enough human lives and suffering at it. But enough with the old stuff. The next morning brings brilliant cycling  weather and even better news.

Say hello to Carmen, Chema and their dog Trufa.  They followed us from Genoa to the island and they  convinced another cyclist, Ivan, to do the same.  Oh God, I'm being followed! Help! Arrivederci, Agrigento! Ciao, Ragazzi! Tutto bene? After a quick meetup we drop them off at the Valle  dei Templi and head to the next iconic attraction,   the Scala dei Turchi which means  "Stair of the Turks" in Italian. We are at the Scala dei Turchi.

It is a limestone rock formation in the shape of a staircase. The latter part of the name derives from the frequent piracy raids by the Saracens during the Middle Ages and   Ottoman pirates or Turks so to say, during the Early modern period. It is said that the pirates used this spot as a landing  and boarding place, hence the name. Now we are trying to find a place, where we later tonight can camp with all of the guys and girls and dogs. Carmen tasked us with finding a  camp spot at this iconic beach,   which seems a little far fetched, but lo and behold…. We ran int o this nice very friendly old man. He speaks I don't know like five words German, but not really.

We were able to make him understand that we need to camp somewhere for the night and we're not really sure what he meant just that we shall go to the next small village Lido Rossi or something like that and he said it's no problem to camp there for one, two, three nights. We are not sure if he meant just on the beach, like anywhere or if we can stay on his property or something. So, uh, well he said "let's go, just go straight to LidoRossi" and he went with a car. So maybe he's waiting there somewhere for us, hopefully.

A special thanks to Guy Rittger, our newest buymeacoffee member in the "one more day" tier. Supporting us via buymeacoffee.com is great. We love creating these videos and sharing our story with you. But as you might imagine it is a lot of work and costs a lot of money. So if you are able to chip in, it will enable us to do this much longer. Yeah! Thank you and back to the story! So, we did find him! He is in this car. This is amazing!

It's fantastic! Ok! We're following him! Great view! Stairs of the Turks. No problems. Tranquility. My name? My name is Arev. This is Mathias.

Mathia! Giuseppe! Giuseppe? Very nice to meet you, Giuseppe! Thank you very much! You can put your tents here, at the beach. Amazing! Panorama! Yes! Very good. Until tomorrow. See you guys! Bye, see you! After a bumpy start our first week in Sicily turned out to be the best one so far. We have been on the road for 45 days now, but it is here at the Stair of the Turks, where we get our first glimpse of the lightness of being. We and our new friends spontaneously stayed another night, enjoying the breathtaking location.   Perfect day! Come, come, come. Yes!

Giuseppe, a true Sicilian, visits us again with his homemade wine and steaming Espresso.   He seems to be happy to have us around and  we truly could not wish for anything more. But you can have more, more of our  stories, if you click right here. In the next episode, we're going to explore the rest of the island together with our new friends.

The sun in our hearts and in our faces. Thank you so much for your support, your likes and thoughts and your contributions at buymeacoffee.com  It makes a big difference and helps  us a lot to create these videos. Until next time and may the wind be in your back!

2023-04-07 23:06

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