Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Palermo Gehtto

After arriving in Palermo, Sicily on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon we took the shuttle from the airport into the city to check into our hostel accomidations. The ride on the way in is also along the coast for most of the way and is quite beautiful, but once entering the city you soon get a very different picture.

The first thing you'll notice about Sicily is that there are abandoned and half-constructed houses everywhere... I mean everywhere! A declining population combined with a push to move to more modern housing has left many houses empty while others rapidly trying to be built. Even houses that are occupied are often not complete (with entire upper stories just a shell frame) due to a law that excludes property taxes on houses "not yet fully complete", a loophole that compounds the uncompleted housing landscape.

The next thing you soon realize is that all the guide book warnings on the crime riddled Palermo are not exajurated in the slightest. While waiting to check into the hostel a women (40ish) comes in to ask what to do as her camera was stolen right off her shoulder not 5 meters outside the entrance to the hostel! No jokes, not 10 minutes later (still waiting...) a guy comes in with a beach towel and asks for the location of the police station, some kid ran by and grabbed his bag right off his towel he was laying on! Crazy, 10 minutes into the trip and already I had strapped my passport and wad of cash down my pants ;-)

After dark was also not fun. Full gates around the hostel (which is a school outside the summer) and lockout without ID wasn't so bad, locals giving blatently obvious wrong directions down dark alleys was not good. Needless to say that after a few tours, some diner and a beer the night would end early... or so I thought.

The hostel patio bar is definatly the place for international mingling and great stories. The best however was upon returning to my room realizing that the courtyard outside the compound (when you have bars on the windows and a 24 hour gate I certainly call it a compound!) was the hotspot for local 4 on 4 soccer league staring the local regional teams!

It's not quite the Bundesliga but the constant stream of locals, roadside beers and fireworks made the games almost as exciting... and passionate. You'd think by the Italian style argueing that they were playing Italian Serie A ball! :-)

All in all a great start to the trip and a good foundation for travel tomorrow... to the famous Corleone! :-)


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