Saturday, September 27, 2008

Next stop. . . Messina, Sicily and Mount Etna!

Coming into the Port of Messina, Sicily was AMAZING. The water was so blue it hurt my eyes. . . and they have this amazing gold Statue of the Madonna guarding the Port of Messina as you enter the strait.

At the base of the statue it reads: "Vos et ipsam civitatem benedicimus," or "We bless you and your city."

Here's a little taste of what it looked like as we came into port. I am telling you there is NOTHING better than seeing these coastal cities by water and coming into the harbors slowly and majestically by a BIG OLE' HONKIN' cruise ship!

For a taste of what it was like to tour parts of Sicily, just check out my slide show! The sights are AMAZING!

Next we have Mount Etna, which my mother in law and I were able to climb and conquer:

It's kinda like a moonscape or something--the terrain is so vastly different:

The trails that you can take to climb as far as they will let you go--(which is about 9,500 feet) keep changing, depending on if the Volcano is active or not. Only scientists and vulcanologists are actually allowed to go to the very top--(which is about 11,000 feet):

So first we rode a really nice coach (bus) for about 40 minutes--and then we took a 'funicula' or tram/gondola as far up the mountain as it would take us:

Then we took these huge 'jeeps' until we reached 2500 meters (or 8202 feet) If the pictures look a bit 'glary' it's because I took these from INSIDE the jeep as we were riding up:

From there, we had to go on foot the rest of the way to 2900 meters (about 9514 feet)
Looking up at Etna can be quite intimidating!

Climbing it can be even trickier--as the lava rocks which have been pulverized into gravel can be a bit slippery--and it was so darn WINDY I thought I would be blown right off the top! But I made it. . . whew!

There were places where you could look down into some of the 'hot spots' and see smoke and steam coming from some active points of this massive volcano:

To give you a bit of background about Mt. Etna, this volcano is one of the world's most active ones! It has been erupting for several million years. (so scientists say) The volcano has more than 400 craters, split all over the Catania county. To the ancient Greeks, Mount Etna was the home to Vulcan, the god of fire--and it also supposedly was the dwelling place of the one-eyed monster known as the Cyclops.

Etna offers skiing in the Winter months and breathtaking hikes in the woods during the Summer. There are also a number of smaller peaks on the slopes of Etna, and some interesting caverns. Dear Hubby, you would have LOVED this!

Since Etna is still an active (strato) volcano, with relatively cool lava temperatures and numerous openings (vents), nobody ever knows precisely where on its vast surface the next eruption will be. That's EXACTLY why it's so darn EXCITING to climb it! HOLY LAVA FLOW, Batman! We could have ourselves a ERUPTION here!

Since I DO have somewhat of a phobia of heights, I clung to my mother-in-law for a bit, before I braved the 'photo ops' that were awaiting me to take from the top looking down:

And HOLY VOLCANO CLIMB! We both made it down in one piece!

Let me just state right here for the record, it was another ABSOLUTELY AMAZING day--and we dined and partied all night. . . in fact we kept partying and dining the entire next day as well because we had an entire day at sea before we reached our next port of call. . . and the culinary crew of the ship put on this GRAND BUFFET at midnight that you just HAD TO BE THERE to even believe! (but that will be saved for my next post)

One thing I will mention that was pretty exciting, later that evening, after dinner--while heading off to our next port (Barcelona, Spain) we passed by this other active incredible volcano--called Stromboli. I mean--the volcano took up the whole ISLAND! It's pretty impressive seeing it jut right up out of the water all by itself like that. . .

And apparently it erupts quite regularly! TOO COOL!

I'm telling ya--My face hurt from smiling so much--I was SO DARN HAPPY on this trip!


Nicole said...

Very cool photos. I think I would have gotten vertigo attempting that volcano hike.

Showmethesale said...

Yeah, well. . . I was a bit shaky and my heart was racing quite a bit in a few spots. . . but hey, it was AWESOME!

april said...

OH MAN! this trip looks amazing! i wish i could just hop into your backpack & see the sights with you :-) (especially to catch a glimpse of the Pitt & Clooney!)

Mary said...

That does it! I'm just camping out at your doorstep and throwing myself in your suitcase so I can go on the next trip with you!

Showmethesale said...

Well, alrighthy then! I think I will go purchase some bigger luggage so that on the next trip (and hopefully there WILL be a next trip) I can just pack April and Mary right along with me. . .

Anonymous said...

Great photos, thanks for sharing your vacation, gives a great perspective, thanks, better than any advertising or travel agency.