The Vacation Post

I was going to say I’m not going to complain my vacation is coming to an end, but I just did ๐Ÿ˜‰ A bit over two weeks away from work, most of it spent on our Sicilian escapade, a small miracle in the Covid-infected world, and maybe an act of selfishness, but we really needed a break, and obviously we obeyed all the special rules.

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Eastern Sicily – as we only had time to see this part of the island – is beautiful, and full of history. Beauty and power of nature was represented by Etna, an active volcano that overshadows entire neighbouring area, and occasionally threatens its inhabitants. We were not in danger, but still impressed by the roaring sounds and the puffs of steam.

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History is present there, in multiple, rich layers. I wanted to see the traces antiquity the most, and Syracuse satisfied that need beautifully. The city of Archimedes kept a few pearls from the Greek and Roman periods. So did Taormina, a tourist destination since 19th century, when it was frequented by Goethe, Wilde, Nietzsche and Wagner, among others. There’s a beach, and a beautiful city on the hills over the beach, and another beautiful town on the mountain over the hills. And this year it wasn’t as crowded as it is supposed to usually be ๐Ÿ™‚ I was very impressed by the medieval churches and fortifications, the artefacts of the Norman Kingdom (Italo-Vikings!!). What surprised me, was I quite enjoyed the baroque, especially seen from outside, when we were walking along the narrow streets of the Sicilian towns. Some of the churches were rather boring inside, just as most of Polish small-town baroque, but some were exceptional. I love the entire old centre of Noto, even if I had to see around noon on a very sunny day.

 

Still, some of my favourite moments were those spent on the beach, where I mostly read. I dipped my toes a bit, but mostly concentrated on books. That’s how I survive seaside, since primary school.

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I always take some big books, not to risk reading through all the supplies before trip’s end. This time it was Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead, Sandy Mitchell’s For the Empire, and finally, and this I will have to finish in Cracow – Neal Stephenson and his wonderful Anathem. My fiance had one book with her, and it was a very good choice (my recommendation ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) for Sicily – Il Gattopardo, a masterpiece about the difficult beginnings of this island in the united Italy, and about change in society in general.

I was really impressed by Mailer, one of WWII classics I somehow missed before. Written in his early twenties, fresh from the army and the Pacific campaign, but one of the mature, modern war novels that I both enjoyed, and was moved by. I read Thin, Red Line long ago, too long ago to properly compare, but I was obviously reminded of James Jones’ depiction of an island campaign.

Heh, and now I learned there’s a third Jones WWII book, Whistle, that I never read. I liked From Here to Eternity even more than Thin, Red Line, so I definitely need to read this (I bought it before I finished writing this… I’m still addicted).

Reading For the Empire means I had my first encounter with Commissar Ciaphas Cain. A very entertaining one! We are thinking about a Warhammer two-shot, so I won’t say more, but it was the best of what a franchise novel could be – well written with something special to make it distinct and fun – the main protagonist himself. I will be going back to this series!

Anathem

Anathem is just wonderful. Ola’s review is great, and does the novel justice. I’m halfway through, but I can already say it will join several of my “top” lists. A reversed world, with scientific monasteries… all the more and less subtle references… and even quite likeable protagonist ๐Ÿ™‚

Conclusion: more vacations, more books.

39 thoughts on “The Vacation Post

  1. I’ve been one day in Sicilia on a cruise (mediaeval Friedrich II “stupor mundi” always fascinated me). But I didn’t read, there ๐Ÿ™‚ Anathem is great, and I love most of Stephenson’s books.
    Enjoy the rest of your vacation ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Did you get as far as the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento? It’s an incredible series of monuments. The thing I remember most about Sicily is how casually people treat these ancient monuments, you can just wander around them without any restrictions

    Liked by 3 people

    1. piotrek

      Not this time, but this is a place I definitely want to see – although perhaps not in August, a cooler month would be better.
      Yes, they live among all these monuments from different eras, layered on each other, and they are able to be so casual about it! My city is quite ancient, by our standards, but Sicily was quite civilized 1500 years before anything serious was build here…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks, I really like this hat, it saved me through some really hot summers, in Poland, Italy, and especially Tennessee ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Cain is cool, I haven’t read any Gaunt story, but from what Ola told me Cain might be better ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Woohoo for Anathem! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Ah, Sicily… I really need to visit it someday!
    Vacation seems like an utopia right now, and I’d actually give a lot to have a bit of that heat and sun you’ve been complaining about ๐Ÿ˜‰ But I’ll return the favor in a few months when it’s gonna be me torturing you with pretty pictures! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      It sure is! And Italy is one of these places, where history really is all around you, truly fascinating. I’m happy we also had some easy times though, sightseeing in 40 degrees Celsius is tough work.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Ola did such a thorough review… we’d do a two-shot if she hadn’t, but now, perhaps I’ll just write a long comment. Unless after I finish I discover a need to argue about sth ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      I would be ok with ‘reading staycation’, but I believe we managed to strike a perfect balance between sightseeing, beach & books ๐Ÿ™‚
      I can’t swim, so a beach is my perfect reading spot – no distractions, I just soak my toes a bit two-three times a day ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

          1. That’s um, actually the only river I can name in Poland ๐Ÿ˜… (unless the Bug is actually a thing, I’m too embarrassed to google it). Laziness is something I’m entirely familiar with, though! That’s why I read mostly at home ๐Ÿ˜‰

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I am really glad you enjoyed Sicily, and a tad envious too! I planned to spend my vacation there too, because my boyfriend’s family lives there but he couldn’t take the days off work because of the covid period and so… No Sicily for me this year, sigh!
    Also, it seems you were lucky with your books too, so let’s hope you would find some great books in September too!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks.

      I was worried I wouldn’t be able to go, that some restrictions and bans will be put in place at the last moment, but we were lucky ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Books and vacations always go well together, but from those wonderful pictures I could see that your eyes were delighted just as much as your mind: Sicily is indeed a wonderful place, and a destination I hope to be able to visit sometimes in the future… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jealous, really jealous. We’ve contemplated Sicily as yet another Italian destination to visit (we’ve been to the big three — Rome, Florence, Venice — and Bologna, Lake Garda and the Italian Alps, but never Sardinia or Sicily.

    I wrote a short story set in the island once, and am reading Anne Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance, but neither Mrs Radcliffe nor I have stepped foot there. (But I feel I know parts of it quite well thanks to the TV crime series Il Comissario Montalbano…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Never heard of the series, nor the original novels, but I’ve seen Scicli, the real-life version of the fictional Vigร ta, from the “Barocco Line” train, going to Ragusa, one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen during this trip.

      I’ve only seen Puglia and, now, parts of Sicily. Plans to go to Venice were ruined by the dreadful virus. But it’s not my last word on that issue! And, as my fiance loves Italy, I’m probably going to spend most my vacations there for the foreseeable future… not a bad deal ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Pretty cool that you both got to visit Sicily recently! You do make me want to travel with this post and to rock a hat like that too. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It’s also excellent to heart about Anathem. It was instantly pushed high on my TBR following Ola’s review and even higher now knowing that you agree with her thoughts on it! Looking forward to the two-shot as well. Stay safe, good sir. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Omg – what a gorgeous vacation! Sicily is gorgeous but I think the sheer history found there is astounding. Hopefully I’ll be able to afford a sicilian vacation someday… glad you were able to get away!

    Like

    1. piotrek

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

      With a budget airline and Booking it was not as bad as I was afraid it would… Polish seaside would cost similar money with no weather guarantee (and no comparable historical attractions). I consider this vacations a big win in this difficult year ๐Ÿ™‚

      Like

  9. Looks like you had an amazing time – we love Sicily so much and have taken a few wonderful holidays there. It is beautiful and packed with history – and you had some good book for the beach so it sounds close to perfection.
    Lynn ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Yes, it was, but it was also my first trip there and I definitely missed some important parts (like Palermo ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), so we’re definitely going back one day ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  10. buriedinprint

    What beautiful pictures–thank you for sharing them with us. And I agree, taking big books on vacation does make it less likely you’ll run out of reading (oh, the horror). I’ve never been that close to a volcano; I imagine it must be very humbling. And I love the idea of Anathem making several of your top lists. The sign of a devoted list-maker…one list is never enough.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. piotrek

      Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Yes, it was impressive, you felt closer to the mysterious inside of our planet and forces beyond human control…
      And yes, lists are essential, in all areas of life ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

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