Monday, June 30, 2008

The Greek Theatre at Taormina

I hate tourism. I hate tourists. They really make me crackers, especially at ancient monuments. So as I step down the stone steps of the Greek (and later Roman) theatre of Taormina, unable to think of antiquity and antique things - Sophocles, gladiators, wild animals - surrounded as I am by tourists falling all over themselves to get a photograph of what is unphotographable, seeking like children who have lost their minds the secrets of the Greek Theatre, all of them in fools' shorts, I boil over with wiild improbable rage, trying to take a photo myself, which would capture this. The essence of this place. Shooed away by a Dutch man in shorts (shorts!) who has brown vampire teeth and wants to photograph his fat-legged wife as she wraps herself around a Doric column, giving her vampire husband the thumbs up, I push my way through an English family standing on the stage, clapping their hands to check the acoustics, then sit down, with my back to the bay, and fume at the tourists. I read in my despised Lonely Planet guide that Taormina was a city founded by the Chalcidians of Greece and possesses a bay admired by Goethe and Maupassant. All this may be true, but in 2008 Taormina is full of turkeys from Northern Europe wearing shorts. Innumerable turkeys waddle up and down its streets, cameras swinging around their pale turkey necks, and I walk among them, even as they conspire to ruin my pleasure. Who wouldn't want to pluck them clean of all their money, dressed as they are like children? The enterprising Sicilians would and do, but this doesn't compensate for the fact that my pleasure in antiquity lies in ruins. Ruins like the Greek theatre of Taormina, which looks knackered from the attentions of tourists, who suck like vampires the energy out of the stones with their cameras, despite the fact it looks out over the celebrated bay. Only one question remains as I walk to the restaurant recommended in the Lonely Planet guide where the waiters will make me feel paranoid, and will then pluck me clean of my money.... Would the Sicilians ever wear shorts? I rest my case.

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