Saturday, May 31, 2008

The other side of Sicily

Today's adventure took us to the Valley of the Temples, in Agrigento (about a 2.5 hour drive from Palermo).

As the bus wove along the winding streets, our guide reminded us that there are literally no rules of the road in Italy--no, really there are NO rules. The number of cars and bikes weaving in and out amongst our bus made us sit on the edges of our seats. People made their own personal lane of traffic and simply honked at one another to change lanes or pass someone whenever they felt the need. Amazing really, coming from a world of traffic cops and highway patrol!

Upon arrival in Agrigento (which refers to the agricultural careers of the people in the area), we applied plenty of sunscreen and began our trek up the hill to the ruins. According to our guides, The Valley of the Temples is one of the most important and most well preserved archeological sites in the world. Agrigento was initially founded as a Greek colony in the 6th century BC and it quickly became a major cultural center. All of the temples were constructed within a century, each facing east, which was a standard criteria for both Greek and Roman temples. This was done so that the statue of the god housed in each temple would be illuminated by the rising sun.

We were able to climb amongst the rubble and see the glory of many of the temples that were still standing. Of all of the temples in the valley, Temple of Concorde is the one that is most intact. It is believed that this temple was constructed around 430 BC, but it is unclear as to which god this temple was erected for. The temple got its name from a Latin inscription found near the temple and is pronounced like our sister college Concordia. We also saw the temples dedicated to the gods Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), and Hercules amongst others.

The site was amazing, the weather was beautiful, and it was definitely a morning to remember!

We followed up the morning's activities with lunch and a glorious few hours at the local beach before heading back to Palermo for a free evening.

Tomorrow we have our second concert and take the cruise to "the continent."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Viva Italia!

Ah, the first day in Italy! Many of the choir members awoke from their travel-induced comas and opened their curtains to discover a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean ocean beyond their balconies. Good morning, right?

After a beautiful breakfast of eggs, yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, and coffee, the Augie choir left the hotel, bright eyed and bushy tailed for their first experience of la vita Italia (bear with me if that isn't actually Italian...). We took a walking tour of the city and surrounding area in two groups. One of the main places we visited was the "Four Corners," which was an intersection of two streets with statues and fountains on each corner, representing the four seasons. The streets of Italy are something else. They are about 90% composed of mopeds that speed by at forty miles an hour right next to pedestrians. Don't worry though, parents, because they usually either honk or make some other noise (Chapman got a wookie noise warning him) to cause us tourists to jump out of the way.

We walked through open air markets with an impressive array of fruits, vegetables, olives, and meats--the most impressive being the massive swordfish that were chopped in half, displaying their pink meat for sale. We reached the Palazzo dei Normani and went on a guided tour, admiring the architecture from different eras and the incredibly realistic paintings on the walls. We briefly visited a cathedral and then had free time. Many choir members roamed the streets searching for an ATM before enjoying a meal in one of the small shops on the street or buying food from the market. A few groups discovered (not firsthand, don't worry) that the activity of choice at the park by the water was sucking face. The harbor was nice as well if you could ignore the garbage floating by the docked sailboats. Then we all made our way back to the Hotel Jolly to prepare for our concert.

We couldn't decide whether the Sicilians were impressed or alarmed at the massive parade of blue and khaki marching through their streets. We finally reached Palermo University and developed a new appreciation for elevators after marching up four huge flights of stairs to reach our concert venue. The room we sang in (and Sicilian buildings in general) was an interesting mix of medieval and modern architecture, with a few windows, a glass door, some unfinished walls, and artificial lights that flickered and chirped for our entire performance. The Palermo University Choir were good performers and responded positively to us as well. After singing the doxology and marching down those massive stairs again, we continued our color coordinated procession back to the hotel for dinner, which consisted, once again, of a first course of pasta, a second course of meat and vegetables, and an incredible dessert (tiramisu!).

That's all for now; thanks for reading parents and friends. Know that the Augie choir is safe, sane, and having a blast. Danielle Messerschmidt signing off!

Written by: Danielle Messerschmidt '08

Thursday, May 29, 2008

We made it!

Just a quick note before we all turn in for the night--we made it safe and sound!

Our connecting flights were tight, but after 28 hours in 3 different airports, 3 rounds of security checks, and a few misplaced bags we arrived in beautiful Sicily just in time for sunset--and dinner!

Tomorrow we head out into the city to explore and join the University Choir for our first concert. I promise we'll have a full update then.

PS--Don't worry moms and dads, we have the search parties out for the bags and have got things under control for their safe return!

PPS--We are 7 hour ahead of Sioux Falls time... so, we are not heading to bed at 5:10 pm, we're heading to bed at 12:10 am! :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We're leavin' on a jet plane...

As the minutes tick by on this Wednesday morning, each one draws us closer to our Italian adventure... Soon we will be loading the bus, gathering in Minneapolis, and on our way across the pond. Wish us luck--and timely connecting flights! Ciao!

(Please Note: Our first official update will likely be posted on the 30th.)