November 10, 2010
We are still in the Devil Village, and it sure looks ominous again today. Yesterday we had sun most of the time, today is the reverse, it’s either raining or grey and foggy. Once in a while the sun peeks out for a few minutes to tease us and then ducks back behind the clouds.
Everything is so high here, the villages are either above cloud level or the clouds hit so the villages are right in the middle of them. I’m sitting now looking out the window at five ranges of mountains in the distance. There are clouds sitting on the top of almost every other one. They are those dark clouds filled with rain and they blow into Corsica from the west. From my vantage point I can watch the weather go by rapidly as the winds take the clouds from mountain top to mountain top.
This morning it was raining like mad and the forecast was for thunder and lightning. We planned to go to Levie, a small town in the area known as the Alta Rocca – you know, “high rocks.” Nearby is the Pianu de Levie, or the Plain of Levie, an area known for its prehistoric sites. The sites are the Casteddu di Cucuruzzu which was inhabited by Bronze Age hunters and farmers, and the Capula, another site dating from the Bronze Age, and it’s castle. Sadly, both of the areas were closed, but we could have walked around the wall to get in. We contemplated it until we went to the local Museum at Levie, where the ladies told us it was not a good idea as it was very dangerous in wet weather, and it was certainly wet and getting wetter by the minute. I had visions of falling into big puddles again, but the women said the stones and mud were very slippery and there was no one to come and get us in case of accident. We looked at each other, there had been no one to come and get us the last two days either, but there had been no rain and it was not really slippery. Slippery is the one word that will convince me not to do something. I value my hips at this point in my life and don’t want to break anything. Slippery – not good!
The museum was a real find. It concentrates on prehistory and contained vast amounts of information on the local early man habitations, the vegetation, animals, type of housing, rock formations, history of the area, and artifacts from the local digs. One of the most interesting graphs was on the formation of the Island of Corsica. Geologists credit the island as being part of the Iberian Peninsula that broke off and later turned around. It appears that Corsica and Sardinia were one piece, a micro-continent as they phrased it, that also broke apart several millennia after it separated from the mainland. We had wondered what part of the continent it came from, but would never have guessed that. Geologists are able to make the determination from examination of the soils and layers.
Traces of mans’ habitation on the Island date back 8500 years. The two villages and castles that we were unable to visit are dated to the Bronze and later Iron Ages. The museum had wonderful displays of pottery, arrowheads, tools, basket making, jewelry and ornamentation that had been found in the burial sites and debris around the villages. We spent almost three hours in the museum, and actually were there until they closed and threw us out. The women were most helpful and pleasant about making sure our experience was perfect. It’s a new museum and well arranged, informative and easy to maneuver through.
Our favorite was the Dame de Bonifacio, a woman’s skeleton dated at around 6570 BC. She is the oldest remains found in Corsica and was probably around 35 years old when she died. Her skeleton was in almost perfect condition, and modern archeologists were able to determine her medical history. She had been crippled from several accidents, and they think she died from septicemia because of tooth infections. She was buried with nothing next to her, no jewelry, ornamentation, pottery or food. But someone had kept her alive for a long life for her times, and in spite of her deformities. We sat with her for quite a while, wondering what her life had been like about 8500 years ago. It felt like we were keeping her company for a bit.
There was another woman’s skeletal remains, slightly more modern. She had been younger when she died, about eighteen or nineteen, and the museum dubbed her a coquette, sort of a modern day play-girl. She was buried with a lot of jewelry and ornamentation – think of the Neolithic need-to-have for the girl on the town. She had so many artifacts with her they thought she must have been well loved.
The drive up to Levie and the Museum was hair-raising. The road is a secondary and very narrow, the drop sheer on one side and the mountain looming straight up on the other. I had the car in second gear almost all the way, and it groaned and coughed up the steep grade. Every so often there were supports on the outside, but most of the way it was inches away from a plunge down to nowhere visible. The problem was if I was on the outside, all the cars on the inside were going over the lines on my side instead of hugging the wall like I did when lucky enough to be able too. And they pass on curves in the rain and fog! We were never sure some idiot wasn’t about to come barreling around a blind curve straight at us. I heaved a sigh of relief when we hit the pastures and the main roads.
We were disappointed to not be able to visit the villages and castles, but decided we weren’t going to push our luck. Yesterday was so spectacular it was worth the whole trip by itself!
As an aside, the women in the museum told us that the priests had referred to the Neolithic villages as places where the devils lived. Not surprising as they surely knew the villagers had been pagans and therefore to be disparaged at all cost. It’s interesting how the Corsicans responded. Over the years, some of the Stantari were moved, as symbols of Corsican culture, in front of local churches. Others were part of the local lore. One story is that farmers would turn the figures around in a belief that the turning would move the farmers fortunes around. Needless to say, the church was not too pleased with this. There are antidotes about a farmer turning a Stantari around. A year later the farmer came back and complained to the Stantari that nothing had happened to him. The Stantari is reputed to have replied, “Of course not stupid, you came back here.”
Back to Sartene, it was 2:30 and of course, nothing was opened. We went into several pizza joints to be told there was no food, we hit a couple of bars and were greeted by stony eyed men in groups drinking. We know where we’re not wanted. Just as we were about to get into the car and go back to the hotel to throw ourselves on the mercy of the management for food, I spotted a light on down the street. I figure if they have a light on they want someone to know they’re open. Right? It was a restaurant and they greeted us with open arms. Well, they looked more or less pleased to see us and told us they had food. And they did, and it was delicious. Melinda wanted to take some of her left-over saucisson back to the hotel for the huge Labrador and they laughed and said “Hahaha, a Doggie-Bag.” She then laughed and told them it was for the dog at the Las Roccas Hotel. The owner then nodded sagely, “The big tan one?” he asked.
When Melinda said that was the one, he laughed again. “We all know him in town, he walks all over the old city to visit every restaurant.” No wonder he’s a giant dog. I thought it might have been he was mixed with a Mastiff, but no, he’s just smart.
The most important of the places we wanted to visit is Filitosa, and I just called to see if we could get in. The answer was “No!” I weaseled that we had come all the way from Los Angeles, California. The answer was still “No!”
Melinda’s response was simple, “We’ll just have to come back in the spring like we planned originally so we can see Filitosa, and then we can catch Casteddu di Cucuruzzu and the Capula site too.”
Tomorrow we’re off to Ajaccio. I hope we have Internet service there too.