Monday, July 28, 2008

The ugly

a Palermo neighborhood, near Via Maqueda

a Palermo neighborhood

the Ballaro market in Palermo, Sicily

the Ballaro market

side streets leading to the Ballaro market

the Ballaro market

the Chiesa del Carmine, next to the Ballaro market. This gorgeous gem was the reason why we ventured into the Ballaro market, it's a place that one should not miss. This church is not mentioned in the major and leading guide books.
Not everything is pretty abroad. I remember an incident in the Soho district in London some years ago. This is the Chinatown area. It was my first trip to London and I was to meet up with my English cousins for dim sum in Chinatown. My aunt with whom I was staying took me there. We had time yet before the meeting, so we decided to get some groceries. She said, let's look at the fish' and started to walk down some alley and I followed but not for long. It was wet and absolutely filthy, I ran out from there, yelled to her,'I'll pass, I'll wait for you here!'. OMG, I couldn't stomach the filth. She decided, too, she couldn't either and left. Phew!
Last year, we (with Sophie) met up with a similar situation in Palermo, Sicily. This time we pressed on because at the end of this dirty alley was the most dome of an old church, Chiesa del Carmine. It had brightly colored mosaics and is the most beautiful baroque dome. The church is right next to the Ballaro market in Palermo and is the most dilapidated of any Palermitano neighborhood. To get to the church, we had to walk through alleys littered with trash, dog poop, smell of urine till we get to the Ballaro market which itself is no better. It smelt of dead fish and rotting vegetables. Phew! I love Palermo, and scattered among these desperate neighborhoods are the most gorgeous churches which are so well worth seeing. I remember an earlier trip when we went to see 'casa professa', a Jesuit church, we had to make our way through similar neighborhoods, I was praying the whole time that we'll come out of there alive. It was well worth the effort. Some of the neighborhoods in Palermo are very scary, they look dilapidated and intimidating and not having a guide or a local with us makes it a little uncomfortable. Well, that's the way I like to travel, I'm going to see the world on my own. Maybe the people are nice but we didn't have time to find out. These are very mixed neighborhoods with a lot of dark skin North Africans. We saw a big Tamil population because every afternoon the children would assemble in a shop and you can hear recitation and songs in Tamil. Here is one community trying to keep alive their heritage in a foreign land.
I love Sicily because it is not touristy, not yet!

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