29th Aug: skulls and the tree of life

August 29, 2008

P1010015.JPG307 Km driven

Driver in the grove

99 photographs taken

Food best not talked about

Picture: Elephant at the start of the mosaic pavement

I organised the latter part of the holiday around a trip to Otranto. On a visit some years ago I fell in love with the Cathedral, the castle and the town in general. The Cathedral is remarkable for many things, in particular the 12th Centrury mosaic pavement and the later with the skulls of a selection of the martyrs of the Battle of Otranto (refusal to convert to Islam, result beheading, I think I might to my shame have been more pragmatic). While the pavement contains representations from the Bible and the seasons it is not just (from my perspective) christian; the style seems to incorporate more ancient themes and structures.

We drove down the coast, catching the odd watch tower, passing through holiday resorts and wild areas alike. Parking in Otranto we found a place to eat overlooking the harbour. The absence of locals should have told us something, but the location won out. It turned out to be a mistake, the suffering of which was compounded by the extreme difficulty of finding public toilets and the absence of toilet paper from those in cafes.

I leave the rest to your imagination, but between bouts we managed to get around the cathedral, study the mosaics and admire things in general. After that a trip to the small but complete Byzantine Church of St Peter (which justifies a second picture). from there we walked down the city walls overlooking the harbour and then drove down to the very tip of the heel of Italy before heading back for the hotel and out last night. Sunset over Leuca, with a clean and well equipped public lavatory was an excellent end to the day, somewhat ruined by the realisation that we would not get back the hotel in time to eat and had a poor sandwich from a service station as substitute. the bar was open however and Italian beer works well for the end of a long hot day and we were sitting next to the best hotel swimming pool in the known universe.

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