Tuesday, 21 April 2015

From the Lake to the Sea

Tuesday 21st April. Ancona 43.59982 13.48567.

Regrettably there will be no discussion of Critical Theory today but be warned, I may return to it later! Instead I'll just tell you where we've been for the last few days.

We left Montevarchi and our friends Allende and Gramsci behind and set of for a campsite at Castiglione del Lago on Lake Trasimeno (43.13458 12.04382), a pretty campsite right next to the lake and when we arrived the lake was like a millpond. Without the mill, obviously. By the evening the wind had got up and by morning one could have surfed across the lake. We arrived on the Saturday and after setting up we had a bite to eat and then I set off on the bike to explore. I discovered a local football match and sat in the stands with fifty or so partisan supporters and enjoyed 40 minutes including four goals. Back to the campsite for the big match; FA Cup semi-final, Arsenal vs Reading. We made hard work of it but we're through to the final where we can defend our cup against Aston Villa, I'll need to find a taverna with a telly or some decent WiFi on the 30th May.

Sunday found us in Gubbio (43.35095 12.56502), a medieval town on a hillside in Umbria. Coincidentally there was a football match at the stadium next door but Phil put her foot down and it was the next day before we discovered that the local side had drawn 1-1 with their rivals and attracted a crowd of over 1,000. At the same time there was a dirt bike rally around the town and we arrived in the main square in time to see the final section which entailed the riders driving over a heap of sandstone rocks. Very big sandstone rocks. A bit like showjumping but without the refusals. Very impressive.

With Gubbio being built on a hillside it was inevitable that the best bits would be at the top of the hill. We scorned the lift and climbed up to the Duomo (Cathedral) and then to the Ducal palace which was worth the entrance fee for the wood panelled room alone. Although the room had been recreated as the original is in a museum in the USA somewhere it has been panelled in a trompe l'oeil effect which was truly amazing. Different woods being used and inlaid to create the effect.

Monday was Phil's birthday and we set off again to explore more of Gubbio. The Palace of the Consuls is a museum housing Roman archeological remains, examples of pottery and ceramic work and the Eugubine tablets which comprise seven bronze tablets dating from the 3rd - 1st centuries BC. These are described as the most remarkable epigraphic heirlooms of pre-Roman Italy. To be fair Gubbio has a fascinating history and it's interesting to walk through the alleyways between the tall limestone buildings. The city is also famous for the annual race from the Piazza Grande to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo. The Corsa dei Ceri is held annually on the 15th May and entails three teams devoted to three saints running up the mountain carrying a statue of their Saint mounted on a timber support and weighing just over a quarter of a ton! Crowds throng the narrow roads and pathways and occasionally the statue is dropped which looks pretty scary.



After a pleasant birthday lunch we took the cable car up to the Basilica which was great fun. The cages come around and don't stop. You stand on your mark and a helper kind of throws you in, slams the cage and off you go. The views get better and better as you ascend to 900metres and look over the Apennine Mountains.

We really enjoyed our couple of days in Gubbio and would recommend it to anyone passing this way.

Today we bade farewell to the city on the hill and headed off to Ancona where tomorrow we catch the ferry to Igoumenitsa. I've hit the cash machine and we have extra cash in the event of a Greek exit from the eurozone so we should have enough money to last should they shut down the cash machines and start printing Drachmas again. I was going to say that most people following this blog will know my thoughts on the Greek financial crisis so I wasn't going to repeat them but maybe there's someone here interested in my views so here we go. I think it's a given that Greece should never have been allowed into the eurozone but if they were guilty of fiddling the books to gain entry then the folks at the ECB, IMF and in Brussels were guilty also of not auditing those accounts professionally and adequately. Tax avoidance and corruption is endemic in Greek society and this was known but in the rush to enlarge the eurozone these facts were overlooked. Now we have proud Greek people scrambling through dustbins for food, unable to obtain medicines they need, homeless in many cases and living truly miserable lives. As is always the case the folk suffering now did not cause this crisis but they are having to pay the price for the corruption that they had little part in. I find it disgraceful that there is nothing less than a humanitarian crisis occurring now in Athens and other towns and cities in Greece. Hopes were high after the election of the Syriza party in January but they are now finding that the bankers and the EU are far more formidable and resolute in their efforts to ensure Greece "toes the line" than they ever could have imagined. Whilst the bankers were happy for Greece to join the eurozone with just a cursory glance at their accounts now every proposal the Greek government suggests to "comply" with EU demands is examined in detail and then rejected. This crisis is not just about Greece repaying its debt. It's also about the EU looking at a left wing government (and a Marxist finance minister) and looking over its shoulder at elections in Spain this year. To allow concessions now to Greece would make it impossible not to allow concessions in the future to Spain, Portugal and Italy. Would the voters in those countries vote for a left wing government if Greece won concessions. Hmmm. One could say that we are living in interesting times if those times weren't so desperate and tragic for the many people suffering.

I apologise if I sometimes get a bit carried away on what is supposed to be a travel blog but we don't travel in a bubble and the day we no longer think of other people or have a humanitarian outlook or see the injustices in this world is the day to worry about us. See you all in Greece.





  1. Wonderful words, Pat.

    Kalo taxidi,


  2. Thank you Bernd. Tonight we are in Kalpaki and on Monday we visit the brothers Zampetas. Hope to see you soon.