Taormina

The roadmap has been set for all highlights of the East coast with the first stop being Taormina. Close enough (at Letojanni), we take over one of the beach spots at Paradise Camping, including blue skys, empty beaches and a mostly regular bus service to Taormina downtown.

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It feels like beach hours are rare these days, while in fact we are rewarded with the coldest May within 50 years (true at least for Sicilia). Only in my last week, when the typical heat kicks in, I will realize how favourable the lower temperatures are for the sightseeing parts of the journey.

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Taormina offers a vivid historic centre and some ancient stones, most of them to be found at the Greek Theatre. Thanks to multiple tourist groups, we catch at least an impression of its shere size. Even with umpteen or hundreds of people around, the place is far from being crowded.

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How we know that it has been built originally by Greek rather than Romans? Due to the site: Greek theatres are always located on fantastic spots that offer beautiful views on the surrounding – just in case the play on stage might bore you.

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Impressive and Beautiful: Ancient Theatre in Taormina

We continue through the park with somewhat strange, yet fanciful buildings.

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In centro storico, traces of all kinds of Sicilian cultures are visible. Strolling through the streets turns out to be quite a pleasant way to let the afternoon pass by.

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By coincidence and hunger, we bump into the restaurant Porta Messina and enjoy wonderful pizza (even glutenfree!) and adorable antipasti. We could worship the food for hours, when eventually we continue our way through the city. They have several churches here, of which some are used as churches while others are used as libraries.

Being in Sicily for a couple of days by now, a certain pattern revolves: no matter what kind of job someone has, they all fullfil it with passion. Just like the chef of our lunch restaurant, the bus driver is one of the most passionate workers here, proving the vehicle and the road-turns just right for formula 1 races.

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Church = Church

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Church = Library

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Speedbus on Racetrack

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In Between Highlights (II)

Schlagloch

Sicilian Travel Quality

…kann Spuren von geschlossener Asphaltdecke enthalten. Muss aber nicht… Presenting today’s roads: after one direction had been blocked already, there was not much of a choice, so we made our way through rough parts.

…and this is what happens when bumping into a group of young Dutchmen. No complaints.

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Phönix-Statue in Agrigento. Paar mittleren Alters kommt heran, sie zu ihm:
<<Das ist die Bronze-Statue, die hatte wer-weiß-wer fotografiert, ich erkenne den Penis wieder.>>
<<…?!>>
<<Stell dich mal davor!>>
Stimme aus dem off:
<<Wenn Sie Penis vor Penis stellen… das ist vielleicht nicht gut für die Ehe?!>>

Phoenix

Leaving Stromboli

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We rinse off the black ashes from our volcano hike and debate happily over breakfast: How can the Sicilia holidays possibly turn out any other thing than fantastic? For us, the charming Liparic islands, the fire trek up to the volcano, the wonderful breakfast we get served with – it is already worth taking the distance of roughly 1.600km. The only issue now is: how can we top that?

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Perhaps we should skip all of our plans and just sit bored at some beach for the next 10 days.

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Anyway, after fantastic breakfast we take the boat around 11 AM and get back to brave little Hector, waiting all along at Camping Riva Smeralda.

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Hector says he looks slim and sporty in front of blue sea (vanity van??)

Getting back is easy enough, thanks to regular busses and irregular stops at our preferred crossing close to the campsite (try that with a Munich bus driver, ha!). We enjoy antipasti bought along the way and let the afternoon go by with flashbacks of the volcano fire trek, accompanied with images of the charming island Stromboli.

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…terrific!!! / The Stromboli Volcano

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At 5:30 PM, we meet our guide, kind of an outgrown hippie, smoking one cigarette after the other and talking in strange languages. Martina with her capability of instinctive understanding brings it down to the core: He invented his own Esperanto. No matter whether he speaks Italian, French or English, it always sounds more or less the same.

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In the Back: Strombolicchio, former
Volcano Funnel

Our group is not huge, but heterogene: it is my first hike without severe sweating, thanks to the maximum speed of other group members. Although I miss a geologist who could tell me more about the elements that are thrown out of a volcano, about the heat and the atomic structure of magma, about the planet’s history and further details, I can do without and focus on the spectacles of the trip.

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Throwing long Shadows

Most of the things we see are unique, at least for what I have experienced so far. Incredible proportions, like the small rock called Strombolichio that once has been the funnel that spit out the Stromboli island. The coniform shadow of the volcano, clearly visible and stretching out miles across the sea. The hike itself leads up to moon-like landscape with paths through lava in all forms: rocks and stones, sands and ashes, all gray with small red particles every here and there.

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We reach the top at sunset, meaning: the exact minute when the sun dives into the sea to our West. Thanks to cloudless skys, we have full 360° view and it is breathtaking. Another gratitude goes to favorite winds that take the sulphur clouds of the volcano’s eruptions in the opposite direction.

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Volcano Sunset

All of a sudden, we see a first volcanic eruption – a small one, not even from the best perspective yet. Even though, like a spark, it sets us on fire (figuratively). How cool is it to see an active volcano while standing on its flanks?!?

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See Video here: Stromboli Eruption during our Visit (filmed ourself)

Up to this point, it was a walk in the park. Now it is time to put on the helmets and, with significant temperature drop and coldest winds, all layers of clothing we have in our backpacks. Let me point out that you are totally wrong expecting a heated mountain to be warm on its peak – not even the thermic baselines about heat rising up are true anymore.

In the end, it does not matter. All that matters is standing up, 200m above the active craters, fascinated by the crater’s roar and the wind and the fireworks that go off around us.

 

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After having seen the highest peaks of our planet (Himalaya, 2018), it now is like looking into the well-heated oven, showing open mouths of red-fervid magma –  deep in the inner earth itself.

 

This is…

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Stromboli

The early morning sun shows today’s destination: Stromboli, one of the Liparic Islands. We expect black beaches, fire-spitting dragons and a walk up to the peak, while around 6:00 AM we only see a faint silhouette at the horizon.

 

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Looking like a Postcard Image

The campground crew talked us into the early speed boat, departing from Milazzo at 7:30 AM. The next 4 hours prove them right: instead of aiming directly for Stromboli, the ship stops at each of the main islands and ports: Lipari, Vulcano, Salina, … finally: Stromboli!

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The first impression is a bright one. White cubical houses with blue ornaments and blossing decoration gather together in the populated part of the island. Narrow streets offer batik tissues, colourful tiles and a flair that ranges from Greek hicktowns to Hippie eras.

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The villages Piscità, Eicogrande and S. Vicenzo stretch over mere 2 km, centered around the main church, main piazza and most famous (= least quality) restaurant. Right around the corner, we find our B&B “Aquilone” that welcomes us with a charming courtyard and friendly service. It is okay to share toilet and bathroom outside the room, especially as we only share it among us (all other rooms have bathrooms of their own). Later that afternoon, when we come to a rest in the garden chairs, we hear the vulcano (always in sight) humble and thunder. Somehow it is sort of comforting, like being greeted by ancient natural forces.

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Aquilone, courtyard / Stromboli

Lucky us that we took the early boat: the island is worth a stay of at least half a day. Just like foreseen (ordered, even), we stroll across black beaches, white houses and all kinds of delicious restaurants and bars. With the Fire Trek ahead of us, we buy pizza and arancini meant as victorious snack on the peak.

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While waiting for our trek to start, we see a couple of other tourist groups: elderly Germans, being assured that oh no, they will not need to go up all the way to the vulcano, they may relax during a small guided tour and then have dinner at their hotel. Other groups head off for the vulcano hike, half of them with borrowed trekking shoes or amateur equipment. We get confident that we will make our way easily, when…

(tbc)

 

Capo Day, and: Sicilia, finally!

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The day starts like every day should: Waking up close to the beach, then drive Hector to Capo Vaticano. Get flashed with the variety of looks the sea offers.

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Hard to say, who is more flashed: Hector or Martina

In perfectly good mood we head off towards the Sicilia-Ferry, when suddenly the main road is blocked and the deviation takes us on tiniest roads, all up into the mountains. Steep as the French sea-alps and leading straight up, the paths make us enter different temperature zones before rolling down, back to sea level.

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Hector is as adventurous as always, taking it nonchalant straight onto the ferry. Between Villa San Giovanni and Messina, the sea is as narrow as blue jeans right out of the laundry, giving us hardly enough time to enjoy a cup of coffee.

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Coffee along the Way

In the early afternoon, we arrive at Capo Milazzo. The Mediterranean Sea continues to play it cool and azur, it is hardly bearable…

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Welcoming Sicilia beneath our Tires

A church is located at Capo Milazzo, digged straight into the rock of the landmark and decorated with marble marquetry. It has a special athmosphere, itensified by a young man murmuring his prayers. We sit down in silence for a couple of minutes before we exit the church and enter the real world.

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Finally, we settle down at the only campsite available, Camping Riva Smeralda. You may not choose it for luxury sanitary facilities, but there are two strong reasons for it: First, it is as close to the port of Milazzo as a campsite can get. Second, you end up with that view:

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The only complaints we may raise are about the kitschy view on early morning fishermen…

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In-Between Highlights

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Kann Spuren von geschlossener Asphaltdecke enthalten.” (May content traces of compact tarmac.)
Martina knows how to define travel quality here. Hector, meanwhile, knows how to make funny sounds from his furniture…

“Die Fahrt über den Vesuv dauert sicher länger als die Autobahn.” (how to get from South Etna to Northern Sicilia).

“Sardinien oder Sizilien, ist doch egal: Hauptsache Spanien!” (special greetings to Svenja)

A Summer’s Day in Tropea

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The roadmap that has been thoroughly prepared foresees a stop-over in Tropea (Calabria) on day 5. Consequently, we arrive at this charming town around noon on our 3rd day. Settling down Hector at Camping Marina dell’Isola, we nearly jump up and down from pure joy about having the sea 25 metres to the West, the church Santa Maria to the North and the historic centre to the East. All within max. 2 minutes walking distance.

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Santa Maria dell’Isola

You may find the beach too small and slightly overcrowded, the people too posh and the blue sky sort of boring, but we decide to like it that way.

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Beach. Sea. Holiday Feeling.

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tough girls take it as it is

Tropea itself is pittoresque and offers a mixture of old stones and a wide choice of shops, bars and restaurants. It is here where we eat our first “Arancini”, a local snack that comes as a rice ball with fillings that may be ragú, cheese, chili salami or whatever the cook finds in his fridge.

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Around sunset, we take over the best table in the ultimate bar on top of the cliff and enjoy 180° of view: sea, coast and all shades of blue.

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Sharp Eyes may find Hector in the Picture

Off-season here means: choose Fragolino and Lambrusco from the menu, get served with Vino della Casa. At least you can choose your favorite color (white / red). However, such details do not matter after all, as the view awards us our first glance on the coniform island Stromboli. We will get back to that topic later during our trip, while for today’s evening it is a distant promise of adventures yet to come.

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Lookout: Stromboli View with Sunset. Today from a Distance only…

Straight South! Starting the Sicilian Trip

Munich throws bright rays of sun on Hector and the crew when Martina hops on, all ready for our fantastic trip to Sicilia. Summer comes late this year and even though Trentino welcomes us with constant rain, we are grateful for not having snow along the way.

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At Caldaro/Kaltern, Martinas friend welcomes us for our first holiday night. Hector is fine with wine from all sides and the same is true for us.

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On Sunday, we decide to use our well-prepared roadmap for spontaneous changes in our plans: leaving Parco Bomarzo aside and ignoring Paestum, we continue straight south until we reach sunny weather at the coastline in Baia Domizia.

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Hector likes it best with a distance of max. 30 metres to the sea and so do we. Mere 1.092 km away from home took us straight into summer holidays.

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Along the way…

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…to summer destinations!

Via Ferrata: Einstieg in die Welt der Klettersteige

How to enjoy the mountains all for yourself? Combine bad weather forecast with unexpected sun!

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Barbara on her Way Up

Zwischen Schlüssel-Übergabe (gegen die Wohnungsnot in der Stadt!) und der Abfahrt nach Sizilien bleibt gerade genug Zeit für meinen ersten Klettersteig. Eigentlich unseren ersten Klettersteig: Barbara ist mit von der Partie und zieht mal wieder Männer an und aus (überholender Klettersteigler – wer braucht schon T-Shirts wenn die Sonne scheint?).

After handing over my keys to my house-sitter and before Hector heads off for Sicilia, there is enough time for a quick introduction on fixed rope routes. Once more it is Barbara who joins and it is not quite unexpected when half way up a sporty hiker passes us by and pulls off his shirt along the way.

2019_05_11A01Gleich zu Beginn geht es steil nach oben und ich bin begeistert: der direkte Weg ist so viel effizienter als die ewigen Serpentinenpfade!

The via ferrata starts with a steep passage and I congratulate ourselves to this new approach: it is so much more efficient to go straight up the walls rather than following regular hiking paths. And, by the way, it is much more fun! Especially when it comes to the parts that have been marked with a “C” on the ferrata’s map, which I assume means “extra Cool”.

Zum Einstieg enthält der Klettersteig eine Leiter und Abschnitte, die auf der Karte mit „C“ markiert sind. C steht dabei für „besonders Cool“, sind es doch diese Stellen, die uns am meisten herausfordern.

With Winni from Erlebnis-Berg at our side, grade C is no problem at all. We brachiate along the cliff and get routine in using the snap hooks and ropes. We learn that tiniest rock needles are sufficient for a bit of a stand and how to relax hanging in the steel ropes at a vertical wall.

Mit Bergführer Winni an unserer Seite ist Schwierigkeit C natürlich kein Problem und so hangeln wir uns entlang der Felswände immer weiter bergauf. Nebenbei lernen wir den Umgang mit den Sicherungs-Karabinern, das richtige Abstützen am Berg und die Suche nach hervorspringenden Felskanten, auf denen wir ein paar Quadratmillimeter Fuß platzieren können.

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At the Wall. In the Wall? Along the Wall!

Die Strecke führt entlang des Hausbach-Wasserfalls bergauf und ist mit wildem Enzian garniert. Gut, dass wir die Tour bei Erlebnis-Berg gebucht haben, wer weiß, ob es sonst so romantisch wäre. Auf jeden Fall macht es jede Menge Spaß und wir fühlen uns nun ausreichend erfahren, um eigenes Zubehör anzuschaffen und im Lauf des Sommers den ein oder anderen leichten Klettersteig im Alleingang zu begehen.

The route follows the direction (mostly: upwards) of the Hausbach waterfall and is speckled with wild gentian flowers. These mountain people, always so romantic… Today is just the right start into new movements and results in a shopping list for climbing harness and helmet. Looks like the mountains will not bore us anytime near.

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Nach 170 Hm endet der Steig mit einem Baumstamm, auf dem wir den Wasserfall überqueren und noch ein paar Yogaposen einbauen. Der Blick von oben in die Klettersteig-Strecke ist berauschend, vor allem für uns Neulinge. Eben noch waren schwere Wanderungen das höchste der Gefühle, während nun noch mehr tolle Bergtouren möglich sind, Kraxelei inklusive. Das mindert zwar nicht den potenziellen Freizeitstress, steigert dafür aber unser Glücksgefühl. Rückfahrt im Regen, Grinsen zwischen den Außenspiegeln, Muskelkater im Gesicht – super Ausflug!

Grand finale is a tree traversing the gulch, inviting enough for some yoga pose. The look down on our track frees up even more endorphins and part of the muscle soreness is caused by wide grins on our faces.

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nonchalant…

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…und übermütig