Started this morning off with a walking tour of Mazara del Vallo where we visited two churches.From the outside the churches look very plain, but what a difference inside. The churches in Sicly outclass the churches that impressed me in other places, not by just one mile, but many. I used to think St Patrick's Cathedral in New York, St Peter's Basilica in Rome and a small church in Ixtapa, Mexico were magnificent in their gold and statuaries, but even the size and grandeur of those churches is diminished by the churches here. The craftsmanship in the friezes, statues, paintings and mosaics far outstrip othe places. The Duomos today were no exception. Ceilings reminiscent of the Sistene chapel soaring high above the pews and Carved Cherubs and Angels covering the roof supports from the bottom of the ceiling to end just above side altars or statues. Enormous paintings cover the walls between the supports. The second church today contained the first stained glass windows we have seen to date. It also had a side altar room whose floor was dug up to reveal staircases to what we assume must be catacombs. And silver...silver altar wherein the whole altar is covered or made of silver, who could tell? I have been pondering the differences between western and Sicilian Catholic Churches. Who decided which was more precious - the enormous amount of silver in Sicily or the gold of the west. Who made the decision of which one was more precious and therefore more a fitting for people to show awe and love for God? And where did the precious metals come from for so much of it to be available for so many churches? It did not matter if the church we went in was super ornate or plainer in their decorations (minus the silver), both stood out firmly in there own way. Just as an example, in one church the Virgin Mary statue seems to be simply carved and painted. In the other, the Virgin was actually a marble or stone statue with a real blue velvet cape and dark blue dress.
After stopping in a small museum, we headed to the museum built to house the famous "Dancing Satyr," a mysterious Greek bronze statue found by local fisherman in 1998 after resting on the seabed for 2,000 years. We got to see part of a film with English subtitles documenting the work required to make it sturdy enough to put on view, including the removal of thousands of years of encrustations and sediment.We went on to visit the Kasbah where several thousand Tunisians and Maghreb Arabs live and work. Felt like I was one of those rats who got put in a labyrinth and had to find my way back, narrow streets turning every which way, roaring little automobiles forcing you to squeeze by on the right, scooters and bikes, and ceramic tiles lining the walls, urns and pavement. Mazara's mayor has been decorating things for the last five years and others have joined in. Someone suggested that it might be a way for people to figure out where they were, but Luca thinks it is a touristy thing. We ate a couscous lunch before returning to the resort for some time off. The meal was interesting. We had two types of appetizers, one triangles of bread with different dips and a fried wrapper, which reminded me of phylo dough filled with a mashed potatoes. Then we had two couscous entrees, one with vegetables and one with fish. Dessert was a sesame seed covered pastry shell with date filling. Back to Mazara for a cooking class and contest. We went to this lovely restaurant where Chef Paolo greeted us and entertained us before we started. He had us wash our hands and put on plastic aprons and paper hats. So there are 16 people standing around grinning and laughing at his antics. He explained the recipes we were going to make and listed the ingredients, but not the measurements. He then divided us into five teams. I was on the first team and our job was to make homemade pasta noodles using only flour, water and three pinches of sea salt. There were three of us and the sole male was tasked with making the dough, while his wife put in the salt and I put in the water. We fumbled around a lot but finally got it to the consistency the chef wanted. We then had to roll the dough out getting it thinner and thinner until we out it through the noodle cutter. Team two was charged with making almond basil pesto to go on our pasta, team three with the egg plant Parmesan, team four with the anchovy pizza and team five with the almond mousse parfait. Mary Ann was on the dessert course and they cheated and kept trying the ingredients, so as soon as all the parfait glasses were finished, the chef took the rest of the leftovers away. The finished food became the courses with the pizza appetizer, eggplant Parmesan first, our pasta with the pizza main, and finally the dessert. It was hard to pick the best and of course, I chose mine, but nobody felt badly when the chef chose the dessert. Time to end this and head to bed. Tomorrow is a new adventure.Luca is reviewing these and fixing any errors, so look for a recap when I get home.
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