The Island of Corsica // december 25-29, 2001
corsica. south of france. east of spain. nobody's happy about french rule there, but they're willing to swallow for the money.
i hitched the southern part of the island for four days and saw pretty sights.
for starters, the first ride was with a linguistics student named vincent. i think. anyway, he made it a point to say that the corsicans were "autonomous" but not "independant." as we drove by a road sign i wondered what he meant. the french had been scribbled out and the native corsican left. turns out this is a battle that's been going on for a few hundred years now.
this is funny like most cultural battles are funny; the wasted energy is absurd. but then again, i'm not corsican. i'm just a tourist with chemical problems and no home.
bonnifacio (however you want to spell it) is on the south tip of the island. its all about contrast. the sky is cut by the edge of the cliff, and the cliff is sliced by the ocean, and the ocean is split by the island, and the island has been diced by the people. but not too badly as to ruin it. that'll take a few more generations.
i kept thinking of bloody lips, beautiful windcracked lips, the whole time i was there.
the bunkers are about the only real remaining ruin that's visible. napoleon was born here. they've had enough wars to totally wreck this place. its surprising they didnt.
herodotus (historian) mentions that phonoecians, etruscans and carthaginians came in and took some land but basically stuck to the coast. but the real sotry is that these guys, with a little help from their roman buddies, took the place over in 259 B.C. and so the headaches started. first it was the romans, then the christians, then the greeks, then more italians, and finally about 200 years later ostragoths and outright vandals starting kicking the corsicans around (the bishoprics, i think they were called). they did a good job, but they were trying to make a living too. they could only do so much on a rocky island in the middle of nowhere. then there were barbarian pirates, and sarrasins in the 7th century, and so eventually the corsicans said fuckit and hiked up into the hills to live there. shortly after after this a chap named Pépin le Brief decided to give the island to the french. but then the sarrasins came back and so the pope said the island belonged to italy. thus we arrive at 1077. the story goes on.
i'm sure you can see why napoleon, one of the greatest generals ever, came from a place like this. if you grow up with a culture like this around you, you understand warfare.
like me; i grew up around cowboys. i understand bullshit.
the place is unquestionably beautiful. its like a combination of costa rica, southern france, hawaii, and israel. but without the tourist economies of any of those places.
the hitch-hiking was an easy flip. rides every few minutes, easy walking, and clean roads (though disappointingly few problems). i dont think that anyone was much afraid of anything. hitching in america is like stepping into a burning insane asylum. hitching in corsica is like sitting in the living room of a nice old lady.
this nice old lady was named Xavia.
she sells real estate in paris and has a lovely little stone cabin in the mountains. she drove me a good half hour off the route to show me the place. its nice to be proud of something. its nicer still to give people rides. Xavia was, it must be declared, nice.
the following rides were also with old ladies. i didnt get the names of these two (below) because i couldnt understand a damn word they were saying what with my french being good but not great and their accents being simply corsican. but we all had a great deal of fun driving fast and listening to loud music. old corsican ladies rock out, it needs, also, be said.
the two cute college girls are melanie (l) a film documentary student, and amelie (r) a journalist. they really live in paris, but melanie's family is corsican so she's got things to do there such as settle multi-generational family disputes and have everyone in town recognise her car that broke down a few days earlier. this is a picture of them in melanie's living room which is set into the side of a hill. like a hobbit. she's excellent. we ate clementines and smoked cigarettes while the wind blew outside and it got dark.
late on the evening of december 28, this princess was kind enough to stop, too. her name was marie-antoinette. really. .. i think really. anyway, marie-antoinette knew cab calloway and frank sinatra songs, which we sang while driving through the night. as a girl the american army saved her from the germans while she was in morocco. she was 10. now, at 65, she adores americans. the last thing she said was "God bless america" which i thought was ironic, given the fact that america is running the planet. america no longer needs god's blessing. nor hers.
but it was nice of her, regardless.
i have only inklings of how nice and cruel war makes us.