Dwight Peck's personal website
Corsica in the Off Season, 2007
Corsica, the grudgingly-French
island off the coast of Italy. We're catching the off-season rates,
late November and early December 2007.
After devoting some days to sampling Corte's ample
hikey charms, we've Kangooed over the pass and down the course
of the River Golo, following the line of the scenic railway on
the map below, to emerge at the coast at the Ramsar wetland site
the "Etang de Biguglia" and then turn north to Bastia.
It's 28 November 2007.
Here's our Hotel Posta-Vecchia, seaview room!
and inexpensive (off-season) and with its own restaurant just
across the alley (closed, off-season), but a little hard to find
at first. The highway passes through this part of the city in
a tunnel directly underneath it, so naturally on a two-dimensional
map we didn't have a chance of just turning left and pulling into
the carpark. Besides, there isn't any carpark. What there is,
I'd guess, is a serious city-wide parking problem.
You 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.
But the room (seaview!), once found, is fabulous.
The minibar's out-of-service and the TV's showing
mostly derivative French detective crap, but we do red wine in
the evenings, which doesn't need chilling, and we've got our own
DVDs (Jeeves and Wooster, Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry),
so we're set!
With a superb view of the Jetée du Dragon
of the old port
There's the reliable Kangoo, just below us.
We're off to buy the IHT and Guardian,
if we can find any, and scope out the dinner menus.
The Vieux Port, or old port, the heart of the
lower city. Bastia is Corsica's second largest city after Ajaccio
but, with its industrial zone sprawling down the coast to the
south, it's the economic cynosure.
The view from the Môle Génois back
into the old port. We love the Mediterranean practice of employing
weapons of war for tying yachts up to (as in Tunisia
as well). This was originally the fishing port of a hillside village
called Cardo dating from before God was born, but the Genovese
bastiglia-ized the place in the 15th century (bastiglia=fortress=Bastia,
get it?), and old Cardo was left behind.
The Corsica-Sardinia ferry "Napoleon Bonaparte"
dwarfs whole neighborhoods of the city. And pays for its share
of the civic improvements.
Once more, from the Môle Génois,
with a view over the backing mountain spine of the Cap Corse,
over which we will drive for a hike a few days hence.
The famous carpark. And, behind that, the church
of St-Jean-Baptiste, Corsica's largest, built in the 16th century
and baroquified a century later.
Along the Old Port, this is the Quai of the First
Battalion, a bit too touristy for us, even in the almost completely
deserted off-season. Nonetheless, it argues for a relaxed and
leisurely enjoyment of life that many of us from northern New
Jersey need to grasp at when we can.
This is a different famous carpark, but it has also
got the St-Jean-Baptiste rising above it.
Typical family residences on the way up the hill
from the Old Port, looking much the worse for wear. Tourists visiting
here from the USA will feel a special tug
at the heartstrings here, because it wasn't the Romans or Visigoths,
Genoese or French occupiers who did this -- it were we.
"Shock and Awe", as Our
Decider, Mr Bush, would say.
The German army -- pressed hard by the Maquis
resistance coming down out of the mountains at them, with Free
French forces snuck in from North Africa by Général
Girard (the fascist De Gaulle's leftist archrival) -- re-enacted
its own Dunkirk and evacuated some 27,000 troops and 100 tanks
out of here, and this last German stronghold was liberated on
16 September 1943.
The population of Bastia, men, women, boys and
girls turned out to celebrate the liberation of their homeland
and danced in the streets for days on end. And some weeks later,
whilst the townies were still dancing in the streets in joy, the
American air force senior staff decided that it was high time
to get those Germans out of Corsica.
So on 4 October 1943
the US bombers flew non-stop daylight bombing raids over the city
and utterly destroyed 90% of the historic Old Town. Killing many
civilians, of course, "collateral damage", as it were,
but since like the Israelis in Gaza we didn't actually INTEND to murder all those innocent people,
it doesn't count .
Reminds you of the Marvelous
Disappearing WMDs in ex-Iraq. As a national group, the
US does seem to have a long tradition of throwing the most awful
bombs around pretty casually. Probably makes Cheney's face light
up in a broad, zesty smile.
But the Corsicans are picking up the pieces as
they can, and this is the renovation work in progress on the Citadel,
built by the Genovese in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Genovese
governors lived here, in the "Palace of the Noble Dozen".
That may be a shaky translation.
You're wondering how I know all this.
Kristin's reading it all out to me from the guidebook.
Ferries that dwarf neighborhoods. The Napoleon Bonaparte
in an idle moment.
(That odd building along the sea wall on the lower right is actually
a set of ventilators for the highway tunnel that passes underneath.)
John the Baptist out of a window
Lower Bastia in a panorama, with Sardinian ferry
The cathedral of Ste-Marie, early 17th century
From the farthest city bastion out into the sea,
with the upper citadel and Ste-Marie cathedral above.
Fortifications along the city wall.
Part of the upper town
Bastia's Flatiron Building, now a croissanterie.
Kristin's in the shop getting her eyeglasses fixed, so I'm wandering
about out here taking pictures of skinny buildings that I'm not
sure I could even fit into.
The view from our hotel at night
The citadel from near our hotel. The light on
the left is on the Jetée du Dragon, and the light closer
in to the right is on the Môle Genois that we visited earlier.
This is probably all-a-bustle in the summertime.
St-Jean-Baptiste from the back side. This forlorn
and empty square (with parking garage underneath it) erupts
into life on certain days as a pretty neat farmer's market.
Get your Fast Food and Kebab, here!
A last view of Bastia, after several days and
several exceptional hikes, for tomorrow we need to Kangoo down
to Porto Vecchio to catch the monster ferry home the day after
Base map: http://z.about.com/d/goeurope/1/0/g/Y/corsica-transportation.gif
Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, .
All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 December 2007, revised 15 June 2012, 25 September 2014.