Peck's personal Web site
in the Off Season, 2007
the grudgingly-French island off the coast of Italy. We're
catching the off-season rates, late November and early December 2007.
may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a
good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught
up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
Kangooed up from Aléria on the eastern coast to Corte, the ancient capital
in the mountainous midlands of Corsica, and here is the Hotel du Nord, right in
the middle of the old upper village. The off-season price is right, and the staff
(who actually work in the bar just to the left but come across to help you out)
a modest urban sprawl out from the lower village, but it's not too unsightly,
and the old town around the Citadel is charming. The main street, almost the only
one, is the Cours Paoli, named after the George Washington of Corsica.
level up, and on one of our days in Corte we're taking a break from the great
hikes in the region and marching up to see the old Citadel. That's the Cours Paoli
just below us.
is the Église de l'Annonciation, founded in the 15th century but largely
baroquized a few centuries later.
at the Gates. Here's
the Citadel, the medieval "Eagle's Nest" (Nid d'Aigle) surmounting it
all, and later accretions running off to the right through that solemn gate.
across the Place d'Armes from the solemn gate
Citadel houses, in addition to memories and the ghosts of the past, the municipal
Information Office, archaeological branches of the University of Corsica, and
the Musée de la Corse. The museum, opened in 1997, is a brilliant display
of modern museum practice, from the spacious exhibits to its informative audio
walkarounds, but most of it is built around the collections of a mid-20th century
priest, Louis Doazan, who got taken by traditional Corsican culture and hoarded
everything he could lay his hands on. (Not like US priests; I mean he just laid
his hands on ancient farm implements, etc.)
is a display of the time-honored costumes of the ancient Corsican religious and
trade guilds, still thriving as social clubs and marching in the public festivals
-- but you can guess what these remind a conscientious American of, eh? KKK. Is
that a hint? An unpleasant experience, seeing these, a chill to the spine.
the top end of the Citadel looms the Nid d'Aigle, built in 1419 by a medieval
thug called Vincentello of Istria.
battlements all around Vinny's Eagle's Nest were added later in the style of the
great 17th century French military engineer Vauban, so we feel justified in checking
this place off on our checklist of Vauban bastions visited.
sole stairway up into the Nid d'Aigle.
view from the top of the Citadel, away from the city. We're looking down into
the confluence of the Restonica and Tavignano valleys -- ground level is at about
485m asl, and the top of the Citadel rises 111m above that.
reading out historical facts about Corte as I try to scribble down my notes as
fast as I can.
belvedere at the end of the Nid d'Aigle
top of the Nid d'Aigle, with the remains of, as I recall, an ancient donjon, now
past its sell-by date and fenced off.
view down into the lower village, with the new Università de Corsica Pasquale
Paoli, Corsica's only university. Mr Paoli founded a university here in the heyday
of his constitutional republic in the 1760s, but it disappeared with the French
invasion of 1769. Corsican separatists, blowing up post offices and from time
to time French officials as well in the 1970s, demanded a replacement, and in
1981 the new Uni opened its doors and now instructs and enlightens about 3,500
students. From what we saw, they seem to be a very international student body.
Inspiration of Vauban lives on.
the Citadel looking north (towards the valley of the roaming pigs)
courtyard of the Nid d'Aigle. After the independence of Algeria in 1962, the French
Foreign Legion set up shop in the Citadel, probably as part of a housing overflow,
but now we're just down to tourism and museums and university departments.
Peck would not have made a good sentinel in a medieval watchtower, without crouching
for hours on end.
imagines what being shackled to this wall must have been like, back when they
did that sort of thing to people. Prior to Guantánamo Bay.
of the Nid d'Aigle of Corte
The light at the end of the tunnel
upper village from the Nid d'Aigle
down upon the front gate of the Citadel and the Place d'Armes outside the solemn
looking for lunch
village square, with somebody commemorated in it. Let's go see.
it must be Paoli. No, it's not. It's J.-P. Gaffori -- a son of Corte who was one
of the "Protectors of the Nation" in the revolt against the Genoese
in 1745 and who captured Corte in 1746. He led the conquest of most of the island
but was assassinated in 1753 in an ambush organized by a Genoese agent, his brother.
Let that be a lesson to us all.
to legends (which are normally more reliable than the corporate media), Genoese
troops advanced using Gaffori's own son as a human shield. Gaffori wavered, but
his wife Faustina urged the Corsican patriots to think of their country first
and fire away. We're told by the guidebooks that Genoese bullet holes from 1746
are still apparent on these walls.
Place Paoli, and that's Pasquale or Pascal or whatever there in the centre of
it. The restaurant Pascal Paoli is just over to the left and, trust me, rather
than dine there, hang yourself, if that's your only choice.
down the Cours Paoli in the Corte upper town, the Hotel du Nord about halfway
first greatest reason to visit Corsica is Corsica. I grant that. But the second
greatest reason to visit Corsica is Pietra. Made with flour from chestnuts!
Free Range Pigs!
is famous for free range pigs, wandering all about, eating up acorns and chestnuts
rather than the droppings of other pigs as in US and Dutch hog farms, mixed with
noxious antibiotics and growth hormones. And it's true -- Corsican dead pig products
We've driven from Corte up the valley of Scala di Santa Regina (a fairly disconcerting
20km single-lane road halfway up a gorge) to the Col de Verghio (1467m). This
Visitor from Elsewhere is meant to be Jeezus, by the sculptor Bonardi (surely
not the same guy who makes the tinned ravioli in America), somehow defaced, literally.
free range pigs. Kristin loves nothing so much as a pig, so we're out of the green
Kangoo and off to see the piggy sights for an hour.
and a potential friend
range pigs ranging freely
doing her hanged wolf imitations.
shamanistic purpose to this, no doubt. In Oklahoma, farmers hang dead coyotes
from the highway fenceposts in the belief that that marks off their territory
from predators, like pissing your way around your frontiers. It's a very uncomfortable
sight, in Oklahoma, a straight flat line of fenceposts three kilometres into the
distance with this sort of thing hanging off them. But, well, then there's Oral
and cows getting together for an early evening soirée.
minding the Kangoo in the forest of Niolo, or Niellu, as her admirers return from
the mens' room
lake of Calacuccia, a dammed reservoir actually
a bit of the gorge of Santa Regina, as twilight falls down upon us.
Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 19 December 2007, revised 12 June 2012, 25 September 2014.