Cagliari, Gunboats, Police , Jail and Wierd Stuff

Trip Start May 22, 2006
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Trip End Aug 05, 2014


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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Gunboat Diplomacy
After listening to the weather forecast which was saying bad weather was coming, but not for a few days, we got up at 5.30am on Friday 4th May to set off for Cagliari, the capital city of Sardinia.

The sky & clouds were black but there was little wind. As daylight came the wind strengthened on the beam, the sun came out, & we had an enjoyable sail.
As we approached Capo Teulada we saw a white motor boat sporting a large piece of artillery on the bow and more spotlights than you could shake a stick at, fast approaching from behind. Rob said "He's heading for us". My heart stopped, had we upset the local Cosa Nostra, had they heard that we had cask strength Bowmore (Islay whisky to you Sassenachs) on board?

The boat sped right up to our side at full throttle It was an Italian Army boat! A charming officer in elegantly tailored camouflage gear (all style these Italians) hung over the rail to tell us that we were too close to the firing range and they were having live artillery practice today. There was a 3mile exclusion zone. He was very friendly & with a thumbs up they were gone in a huge burst of spray. We heard the thuds of guns shortly later and thought, that'll teach those bloody dolphins to laugh at us.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, the wind was behind us (but comfortably so), Tiercel behaved herself and occasionally managed a fair turn of speed. As we approached Cagliari Bay the wind died so the engine was fired up and we were anticipating a few drinks and a slap up meal in port.

5 miles from my glass of wine, the wind started to pipe up & we were under an ominous black cloud. It blew a force 6 on the nose so what should have taken us under an hour, took 1.5hrs.

It was great to get in after our 12hr trip, tidy the boat & settle cosily down below.

Cagliari - Police, Jails and other weird stuff
The marina is in a sheltered corner of the harbour with a lovely view of Cagliari old town .Even better we got a discount for a weeks stay & a further ten percent off for being Cruising Association members.

The marina owner, Enrico, is the local Cruising Association Honorary Local Representative (sounds like a character out of a Graham Greene novel) and as nice a chap as you could wish to meet. He came & introduced himself, told us what we should se in the area and, if we needed anything, to ask for him. That is what I call service.

Cagliari is a delightful city. It is the capital of Sardinia and is not known as one of Europe's top tourism hot spots yet is fascinating, beautiful in parts and slightly down at heel (sounds like a character out of a J.P.Donleavy novel).

The Castello walls & two fortified towers are built out of white granite. They give the Old City a lovely pink glow at sunset. We climbed up the 120t open sided Torre San Pancrazio which was literally an open jail. It was 120ft high and open at the front. Prisoners were put in complete public view on 3 floors from about 40ft up. On entry we were told not to go onto the terrace for H&S reasons (yes, Health & Safety even reaches here!). We climbed up 3 flights of huge wooden stairs, with magnificent open views to the City. No sign of a terrace. The 4th flight of stairs were about 2inches thick with guano on the steps & rails. Rob's comment was "Not many people get this far". We stepped out through the doorway to be met by a couple of policemen with a few visiting dignitaries. Yes, you've guessed it, this was the terrace!!

The police were very sweet & let us take some photos before descending. The Torre battlements were about half a metre high so we could see why plunging idiots might be a problem.

We spent 5hrs wandering round the Castello walls, Cathedral Museums etc. The museums/galleries were both interesting and bizarre. The main museum showed artefacts from pre-historic times up to the 1930s (as in Spain, the Italians appear to ignore their fascist era). The most interesting items being tiny Punic bronze figurines - like wee matchstick men. Rob even bought one (a repro that is).

One of the galleries (the National Art Gallery) contained nothing but old (12th to 17th century) religious paintings ranging from the good (2 or 3 great portraits of notable clerics) to the bizarre (crucifixion scenes in which all the characters were dressed in 16th century apparel) to the seriously homo-erotic (pouting lipsticked male saints with elegant wounds, wearing hipster loincloths. Also a decidedly effeminate St George killing a very feminine dragon) - weird or what!

The other gallery contained waxworks made in the 19th century for the college of surgeons. They were remarkably accurate reproductions of the human internal anatomy. While we were there a party of adolescent schoolkids appeared and, unlike their British counterparts, took the whole thing really seriously and didn' point and giggle once - except perhaps at Rob's hat.

By the time we got back to the boat our legs felt like rigor mortis was setting in!
Well worth it though.

Mandas - DH Lawrence and a railway.
On Wednesday we took the strange, graffitied, wee narrow gauge train like something out of a Paul Theroux tale) to Mandas so that we could get a sight of inland Sardinia. Once out of the city the scenery consisted of gentle rolling hills with smallholdings growing grape vines (more power to your elbow wine growers!) olives, cherries, cereals and some citrus fruits. However the real delight was the profusion of wild flowers growing everywhere like wildly coloured carpets.

Mandas, on arrival was closed, it was like something out of a spaghetti western - just a few guys lurking in a local bar and everyone else indoors (presumably contemplating their strange religious paintings!). However, as we wandered around the place started to grow on us, it had an eclectic mix of architecture (from the 12th century to the modern) which blended together to great effect. It also had a larger than expected, beautifully designed old church.

As we were waiting for our train we noticed a plaque saying that DH Lawrence had visited (perhaps he saw the strange religious paintings as future characters in one of his novels?) and compared it to Derbyshire and Cornwall. Rob also spotted a siding with old rusting steam engines in it and rushed over to do his pretentious photographer bit -what is it about men and old bits of rusting machinery?

Last night some funfair lorries appeared on waste ground by the marina so tomorrow we leave Cagliari to head for Sicily.
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