This is travel letter no. 3 in the series. From the Egypt of ancient hi-tech culture up to Romania meeting up with historical vampires and bearded men on horseback, we now move eastwards in the Mediteranian to meet the place where everyone settled down one visiting culture after the other.
Sicily – a place of fables
Tourists know this perhaps best for delicious holiday resorts like Taormina. Others have been on a trip up Mount Etna by cable car or bus… how wild can it get? But how many have waded the slums of Palermo on foot, strolled with the boys in the street of the bicycle smiths, got a good offer on a 100 liter pot in the street of the kitchenware shops, been blown to hell by the scirocco and then raved around at night, honored the tombstone for a real modern saint shot by the mafia, lived with old men in backyards, seen dried-up corpses of monks hung on hooks for drying, lived by the world’s 5th best street food for several days, driven with all the small train tracks between coastal towns, lived with a wild pack of dogs in a container on the side of Mount Etna, climbed the whimsical lady without safety nets on mountain bike in ice rain? And how many have bothered to familiarize themselves with the culture created by all cultures, because everyone has been there? One cannot understand Sicily without understanding that thing. And you may not really have been there.
The Scirocco, near-death experience No. 1
Let me start with my first indirect encounter with the Sicilian Mafia. The Scirocco, the sandy ultra-dry wind from the Sahara, blew from hell to the attempted landing in Palermo accompanied by screaming women in the cabin exposed to extreme turbulence… after which the pilot pulled the stick and forced the plane free of collision with the rocks at the coast and flew 65 km south to the airport in Trapani. Here the-human-dump stands and stares, and no one knows what is going to happen, for such is Sicily. It’s not because things are not working out. Everything works one way or another. It just does not work according to the book and the expectation. As my first welcoming acquaintance back in the return bus put it: do not expect and judge on the basis of disappointed expectations. After which, unannounced, a bus appeared.
So how does the mafia come into the picture here? Because the airport should never be located in a place exposed to dry, strong desert winds just behind a promontory, which is guaranteed to create the most disgusting turbulence. There was great qualified opposition to the project, but the mafia enforced it for prestige reasons, and they had the power and means to do so. Thus, Palermo rest among the top-5 in difficulty among pilots.
Despite my extreme delay, there was still a little old grandfather who smilingly opened the door to his AirBnB apartment. He did not speak a word of foreign, but I still understood everything he said in Sicilian, and he apparently understood everything I said in minimalist Italian. Long live the redundancy of the language and the great Latin test in high school combined with French-Latin. + various stylish gestures of course.
The apartment was a journey back in time, at least 100 years. The courtyard with the columns, the staircase with high ceilings, the holy virgin in her illuminated wall chapel on the way up the stairs – every house, every street has its house altar – the plaster that falls down from the walls, high to the ceiling is almost an expression that even there is poverty here, then there is human space, and it happens from the bottom-up. In totally-spoiled welfare Denmark where I come from, that kind of loftyness has been abolished. Except for the super-artificial ideological politically-correct top-down order that we must be uncritically tolerant of an unlimited number of convenience immigrants sailing under the flag of refugees – and if we do not eat that poison, then we must feel guilt, shame and fear .
What is she then, the figure, the holy virgin, who hangs on every street corner, stairway, backyard? She is none other than the goddess, one finds everywhere in and around the Mediterranean with many names at all times. It is not only in Latin America that syncretism exists, where the so-called ‘pagan’ sticks its head out through the Christian facades.
My next indirect meeting with the Mafia comes the next morning. I wake up to the typical sounds of men shouting at each other down in the backyard and the start-up of the obligatory scooters. I had not yet learned the special 3-shutter system that can reduce sound and light to the doors out to a balcony. And of course there are no windows, because what do you do with them when you have a balcony. In contrast to the stranger snobbery that is practiced in Danish city apartments, where everyone must have at least one balcony / balcony at all costs, but no one uses it for anything other than storing expensive teak wood garden furniture and various junk – and none of the parts they use. Is it a lie what I say? Check it out: there is absolutely no life on the balconies of urban Danes! It is a piece of architecturally ‘liberated’ nonsense.
A saint for the justice of the people
The Mafia has not yet arrived on today’s route. But an early walk brings me down to San Domenico, the Dominican church, a monster of a cathedral-sized Catholic church. The typical layout is a large center panel and two side panels separated by tall columns. At the top of the building is the altarpiece. Along the sides of the colonnades there are side chapels for various saints. One of them is unusual and houses a large tomb plate with the inscription Giovanni Falcone.
One can say a lot about the Catholic Church, but one has to know what one is talking about. Are we talking about the satanic structure that has occupied the Vatican, the Vatican Bank, the Jesuit Pope and his pedophile predecessors, the Vatican Bank, the encapsulated power lodges, the cabinet heathens disguised in women’s clothing, hypocrisy and sychophantism? Or are we talking about the many piously believing Catholics, their total ignorance of the elitist evil and their naive but honest belief in the sacred, the good and the popular. Are we talking about the elite’s parasitization of the sacred simplicity among believing and worshiping peoples, or are we talking about the justification of the popular and its honest faith? We simply need to know what we are talking about in order not to fall head over heels for an anti-propaganda number and not to become like those we tend to criticize and point fingers at.
Make no mistake here. The Sicilians know very well what the mafia is. It is exactly like all other high lords who run a bad game for their own gain without petty squinting to the people. Giovanni Falcone was a famous lawyer who uncompromisingly defended everyone, high and low, with the intended letter of the law. It brought him – of course! – on edge with the mafia, which has always bent the law and all its letters. It cost him his life and people knew it.
Here it gets interesting. It forced the church to unofficially canonize him, and it was one of those canonizations that was enforced through popular pressure and not from above. It was politically incorrect but popularly correct. The Church, and in particular the Vatican is, as you may know, heavily infected by the mafia, the lodges, the banks, the families, the satanics. But the church leadership could not afford to lose its footing with the people, so they had to give in. The church is not one size either, it is one big motley power struggle. There are lots of factions in the Catholic and they cover the whole spectrum. The fact that the gloomy factions have a tendency to gain political victories simply means, that they have the most stinking rich and powerful ‘friends’. This is where we find the common denominator between Catholicism and mafia / fascism. Who gave the Vatican the status of a soverigh state af having lost it for hundres of years. Benito Mussolini! Who brought the Nazis to power by the infamous conklave i 1933? The Catholics. Who were the mentors of all the leading figures in Nazi Germany? The Jesuits. Who and how was hundreds of Nazi scientists brought out of Germany i 1945? Through the Vatican and Operation Paperclip. Who were the best friends of the Jesuits in Buenos Aires during the fascist regime? Mr. Bergoglio aka the pope. The list goes on-and-on.
So Falconi became a popularly elected contemporary Sicilian saint, because he defended the people against the cruel power called the Mafia. Notice how spontaneously small pieces of paper are strewn around his tombstone. That kind of spontaneous affect belongs only to quite a few and never the ‘big’ officially canonized.
Palermo is both a modern city and a relic of the past. It is Italy’s fifth largest city, and you can easily spend a week just looking at art and culture, if you are into that sort of thing. There is a church on every other street corner and a Madonnna chapel on the wall in each backyard. There are, for example, two of the most amazing and overwhelming Byzantine churches in the entire world. One is in a room in the Norman castle, and the other is called San Cataldo. Both are small spaces, ie not cathedral size, but the decorative-artistic density in these spaces is overwhelming. Normans you say, and Byzantines? Yes, everyone has been here. And the Normans are, as you know, descendants of Norsemen, Vikings. Did you know, for example, that the Vikings were so famous as warriors that the Byzantine emperors hired them all as bodyguards? So the Normans, ie 2nd generation Vikings from Normandy, who as you know flooded England with the Wilhelm Conqueror, also arrived in Sicily. They moved into the buildings that the Arabs had left behind and further enriched them. Money = gold to pay with they had plenty of. Gold is also not spared along the walls, domes, vaults and niches. No space is left bare.
Also read: These Vikings …
The world’s strangest burial place
If you are into a little more macabre aesthetics, then you just have to move further north after the Norman castle to the Capuchin monastery. These monks buried their dead by just not burying them. They have embalmed them by air drying and impregnation, after which they are placed on shelves, behind glass, in drawers, sitting on chairs, hanging on hangers on the walls. Nowhere in the world can one see such a strange aesthetic of death. Is it macabre? That’s not how it works. But if one is afraid of spiders, then the sight of a spider is a horror, and if one is afraid of death, then the sight of the remains of a former living one is a horror.
The monks did so in the greatest honor and respect of their deceased brothers. Later, snobbery came into the picture, for the wealthy citizens of Palermo suddenly felt that they should be embalmed and framed in their own set of shelves. Thereafter, the families began to demand that their ancestors be treated with special care and get changed into party clothes on special occasions. So a kind of aristocratic post-mortem dress-up dolls. The tradition continued until the beginning of the 20th century, when an adorable 6-year-old girl, Rosalia Lombardo, was embalmed according to all the rules of art. Here it’s getting a little spooky. She is so well preserved that it looks as if she is just lying and sleeping under her glass lid.
Do you know why it’s called a capuchino? It does so because it looks like the gray hair top with a bald spot in the middle of a small, old Capuchin monk sticking its head out of the coffee cup. No kidding!
World Street Food Championship
If you have even taken the trip around Palermo Cathedral on the way down the hill, you have had enough of clerical culture, and then you need what Palermo has been named among the top 5 in: Street Food, as it is called on hipster lingo. This means just food that is prepared well in advance in a simple way, or that does not require much preparation, and which can therefore be served without the long wait. It’s fast food, but it has nothing to do with the ridiculous, disgusting, synthetic, and strictly toxic non-food MacDonalds concept. You do not have to go into a restaurant. aubergines, it’s shrimp and stuffed squid, olives, tomatoes and mozzarella, stuffed rice buns, fried lamb liver with lemon, kick pea fritters, baked tuna, artichokes and pizza-like case called sfincione + a whole lot more. If one is sweet things, then there are no better places. How about a canola, a crispy pancake filled with fresh ricotta, honey and sprinkled with chopped pistachios?
So also the food culture testifies that ‘everyone has been there’. The Arabs, for example, came with the pistachios. First there were the prehistoric people that we do not know enough about. The Etruscans, the Scythians, cultures from the Black Sea, Asia Minor and Central Asia. The Phoenicians were there. Then the Greeks arrived, then the Arabs, then the Normans, then the Germans from the Holy Roman Empire, the Hohenstaufer. Meanwhile, the French had been there, a serious plague, leading to the notorious and bloody uprising called the Sicilian Vesper. Immediately afterwards the Spaniards from Aragon and later some Austrian lineages. Sicily was its own kingdom at one time. Then the Italians finally arrived. Let us not forget that there lived Sicilians all the time, who learned to live with changing rulers of a more or less charitable nature. In the 1800s, the foreigners were finally expelled, and Italy became a republic with autonomous provinces after Garibaldi.
Not only did Sicily and its inhabitants suffer with their rulers. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions have hit hard throughout history. Several towns on the island, the largest island in the Mediterranean, have very few intact buildings after the Baroque, where one of the major earthquakes took place. The entire city of Messina was added 3 meters extra on the same occasion, so that one of its only well-preserved medieval buildings, Santissima Annunziata dei Catalani, very Byzantine, stands in a 3 meter deep depression, almost like the Sphinx of Giza. It is almost a Herculanum-like sediment. But that is the original street level, and every time you dig out to a new building, it all comes to a standstill because a historical layer appears containing all sorts of valuable objects.
A bloody chapter in the history of the island. I was here at Easter (2016), and at Easter 1282 a revolt broke out turned against the French and their despotic king Charles I. In 1266 he had Manfred, the former German regent, assassinated. His and his soldiers’ treatment had neglected their rule and set fire to the islanders. He had ambitions with Sicily as a springboard for a major Mediterranean conquest, where he wanted to go all the way to Byzantium and overthrow the Palaiologos dynasty.
It started in Palermo. With the exception of a small French-dominated village called Sperlinga, Sicily soon supported the uprising. According to one of the legendary versions, the triggering event was a French sergeant who aggressively attacked a married woman. Her husband then stabbed him down, and the moment the church bells rang after the Vespers, the streets were full of men shouting ‘morana li Franchiski’, dead over the French. Within 6 weeks, 3,000 Frenchmen were killed. There are several versions of the story, but they all imply that the French raped the women. A particular figure, Giovanni di Proada, is considered the mastermind of the uprising.
After the six weeks, the rebels had control over all of Sicily except Messina. But it was soon followed up, and the whole French fleet was burnt down. King Charles exclaims whimpering: ‘My God, if we are to go down, let it be in small portions at a time’. Exit Franchiski. Almost then. It first stops throughout Italy when Garibaldi and Victor Emanuel II throw out the Bourbons.
Dancing with dogs
On to Catania. It seems almost larger than Palermo, but that may be because you can see how it climbs far up the mountain, ie the volcano Etna. That it belongs at the foot of Mount Etna, is seen on all the black building blocks used as giant cobblestones and as bricks on the houses mixed with white stones. Very nice and very special. The city’s landmark is a silly black elephant in the lava rock on a pedestal in the cathedral square. On top of that, an obelisk protrudes from the animal. One thinks: whole roasted elephant on stick. And the craclings, I tell you… When the Greeks from Naxos colonized the island, they carried out ethnic cleansing of the then 10,000 inhabitants and replaced them with Greeks. Understand how the Greeks became the role model for the Romans.
My goal is an overnight stay with Luis Martin – with Catalan roots – in the small town of Nicolosi 14 km up the mountain. It was 600 meters above sea level and would form a perfect base for cycling up to the snow edge on my hired mountain bike the next day. Martin, as he preferred to be called, is along with his wife folk musicians. She sings, he plays the Jewish harp. His first question, when he had opened the heavy iron gate at the end of the dirt road to the house, was: ‘You have problem with dogs?’ I did not think I had. ‘Only one of them is like WOOF!’ His English was sparse. In return, he offered to speak Spanish or French, the latter I experienced in several places. Even though they took the lives of French people at that time, they do not mind speaking their language. There turned out to be three adult dogs, 5 cute cubs, three cats, an unknown number of ducks and chickens that as he said ‘They like to sing at night’. Well I live in the countryside anyway, so I am used to it.
Mount Etna, near-death experience No. 2
The guesthouse was equally surprising: a converted container. I think it was perfect. The next morning set off up the mountain. It consisted of an average increase of 12% lasting four hours. After this, at the snow line, you could not get on other than on foot or with the Funivia, the cable lift that led up just below the top. Reasonably smashed, I got an hour break with pasta with eggplant and tomato (del Norma). I had to give up reaching the top due to a bad snowstorm, and since my equipment was not in order to say the least, and my hands quickly screamed at frostbite, I could not get down fast enough again. On the other hand, it only took half an hour – I dare not think about the top speed, but it’s wrong not to give in with the frozen fingers and release the brake. It would have been suicidal. Then in a warm bath, a double glass of vodka and under the duvet.
Mrs. Etna had shown herself from both her gentle and her grim side. Everyone knows this: there is a micro climate around Etna, and the weather is changing rapidly and radically. The next day on the way by train across Sicily, it was cloudless all day and views all the way up to the top (Etna can be seen over half of the island in clear weather).
The train between Catania over Enna and to Palermo is brand new and modernly decorated, very Un-Sicilian you could say. Along the way, you get a lot of messages in the speakers, but among them a slightly strange one that reminds one, ‘..that the staff in the train state employees train officials, that you are obliged to show a valid ticket to them, and if you refuse it will be punishable by imprisonment! ‘ This is the first time I have heard this total-overkill message about something so obvious, that you have to show your ticket. Why this tone – in advance? The new totalitarian Europe has also arrived here. Here, too, we will see the new European police, which is being talked about now after last year’s streak of terrorist events, and which the Schengen agreement has only been a step in the right direction, just as the EU has only been a US-like superstate in the mold – according to American model, for the EU has never been anything other than a trade regime for the United States, which was seen more clearly than ever in the context of the political-economic war against Ukraine. The EU simply did what the US told them to do. And by EU is not meant the Europeans and united European national politicians but the EUrocracy of the Commissioners, Technocrats and Atlanticists, the EU the neo-fascist project, the big milking machine of the central bankers and the globalists.
Gladio then and now
Here we begin to understand the gloomy connection that exists between terrorism and the legitimation of the totalitarian project. After Paris, Copenhagen and Brussels, entire packages were already ready with totalitarian legislation. Immediately after Paris 2 – Paris 1 was nailed on the board, Paris 2 was the head of the nail – arrived the involvement of civil rights in the way, that characterizes only totalitarian regimes. In the mini-event, they had pre-made packages ready with terrorism legislation = more control = less civil liberties = lots of money for the police so they can continue not to do their job, but be on standby for ‘a new job’.
In the same category: On Italian television, they brought one of the probably identical clips of the Brussels affair similar to media in the rest of Europe with the usual gaslighthing and scam about lone Muslim terrorists and ISIS. Nobody obviously notices the obvious in the fact, that both the EU and NATO are governed from Brussels. The headquarters of kleptocracy and terrorism are assembled here!
The Italians should actually have a real opportunity to figure out the scam. They have experienced both the seductive tricks of fascism and the post-WW2 at least as dirty Operation Gladio, in which Italian civilians were massacred at the instigation of NATO using right-wing fascist terror cells. This is not a conspiracy theory but official history writing, which was impossible to eradicate from the history books, as the Italian police took cases such as the railway station in Bologna and the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro seriously. The problem, of course, is that the Italians, like all other Westerners who have watched too much television, labored too much mentally disruptive Hollywood, had one unpunished political corruption case after another, and now together with Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal and Iceland have experienced a financial terrorist attack from the EU, the ECB and the IMF – and Goldman Sachs (Mario Draghi) that their historical memory and ability to see patterns have disappeared. Brussels [date] IS the Operation Gladio that never ended and was reduced to a unique historical blemish. The filth continued and will continue until it is completely brought to light. Just say the name Turkey. Then fascist groups, now jihadist groups. [See NATO History of a Terrorist Organization]. Then Italy, later Bosnia, Chechnya, now Libya, Ukraine and Syria. NATO and client Pentagon all-fucking-over!
SLEEPING WORLD, WAKE UP! SOON IT’S TOO LATE!
Back in Palermo and immediately on to the airport and measly 5 km by taxi to a fake-luxurious shit hotel at a 4x overprice. Everything in Sicily is half price, except for any taxi ride to and from an airport. Another time, the trip will be on a scooter rented directly at the airport – with the equipment in order and a little later in the spring or early autumn – Easter 2016 was the earliest possible. And a 125 kbm Vespa thus has a top speed of 100 km / h – without having to have a motorcycle license. 100 km is halfway along the Sicily. Before venturing out on a scooter here, however, make sure you have read and understood the traffic and the landscape. In the cities, driving is different than we are used to. Do not drive rotten! Latino driving is safe and flexible. You look each other in the eye instead of holding on to your right. Everything is slipping at an unstressed pace, but rules are there to be bent, especially in Sicily. When you, as a pedestrian, cross a busy road, you find a suitable hole, and then you walk. One can then be assured that restraint will be withheld.
The trip home went as planned according to schedule and without delays and reschedules. It was almost disappointing, after a week where every day had offered unpredictable challenges. It was so boring that I managed to fall asleep between Rome and Düsseldorf. It can also be due to 4 hours of poor sleep at the airport shit hotel with a machine that constantly stopped and started outside the hotel window.
Airports, transit, check-in queues, duty-free mega-consumption, overpriced sandwiches is all asshole. So rather an emergency landing at a mafia airport – you know what that is. Always remember a good paper book to sink into on the trip. And put it in flight mode.