Saturday, December 23, 2006

Nietzsche's path

Friedrich Nietzsche spent some time writing in Nice and Eze, inspired by the winter sun and the deep azure blue of the sea.
When he stayed in Eze, he lived in Eze Bord de Mer rather than in the perched mediaeval village. However, he would apparently walk up the steep mule path to the mediaeval village every day - which is a considerable hike.

Nietzsche wrote in Thus Spake Zarathustra [which he wrote partly in Nice and Eze ], "I draw circles around me and sacred boundaries; fewer and fewer men climb with me on ever higher mountains,—I am building a mountain range out of ever more sacred mountains."
Its easy to see how the path ascending 400metres [1300 feet] through an apparent abyss topped by weirdly shaped mountains could have inspired his writing.

This is a photo of the zig-zagging path as it winds its way up to the village of Eze-the lighter coloured zig-zag is the mule path.

The estimated time for walking up the path according to the tourist information is an hour and a half and the descent is estimated at 45 minutes.

I think these are well underestimated, as we took over an hour to descend to sea level, walking quite briskly. The path is also quite rough and steep and in many places poorly marked , so reasonable shoes and good balance are necessary.

This is Eze mediaeval village taken from below, just at the start of the walk. The path is now called Chemin de
Frédéric Nietzsche [Nietzsche's Path] and starts outside the town walls.

The beginning of the path -near the village the path still shows some evidence of being cared for at one time but I don't think a huge amount of effort is spent on the path now.

A view of the coast line below Eze , the silver washed sea is due to the direction of the sunThis photo shows the V-shaped valley called the Vallon du Duc [the Duke's valley]
Even on a bright sunny day, the mule path can be full of dark shadows cast by bizarre rock formations.
The valley walls looked like they had been folded, twisted and ripped by a giant's hands.
A huge eroded spire of rock - this was immense. Its really hard to grasp the scale of these rocks looming over the path .I couldn't step back very far as there was a huge drop from the path edge to the bottom of the valley.

There were many side valleys which disappered into crevices in sides of the mountain. There were also some large caves which looked big enough to have been used by humans at some point in the past.

A lot of guidebooks mention the path and say its a wide path, well maintained, well marked and descends in gentle zig zags which makes me think they haven't actually walked down it themselves. After all, even Nietzsche himself describes it as 'a most onerous ascent'

This was my mum acting as a scale marker as she walked in front of me.

The huge scale of the valley and heavy tree cover makes it difficult to grasp that its a calanque - a geological term for a deep valley ending in the sea-sometimes called a Mediterranean fjord. They are more commonly found towards Marseille. The little island in the bay is apparently called l'Isoletta and there is a little causeway connecting it to the mainland. I've often seen it when I've passed by on the train and wondered and what it would be like to own a tiny private island.

In Ecce Homo, Nietzsche wrote about the landscape of Nice and Eze that inspired Thus Spake Zarathustra :

"The next winter, under the halcyon sky of Nizza [Nice] , which then shone into my life for the first time, I found Zarathustra III—and was finished. Scarcely a year for the whole of it. Many concealed spots and heights in the landscape around Nizza are hallowed for me by unforgettable moments; that decisive passage which bears the title "On Old and New Tablets" was composed on the most onerous ascent from the station to the marvelous Moorish aerie, Eza [Eze] ,—the suppleness of my muscles has always been greatest when my creative energies were flowing most abundantly. The body is inspired: let us keep the "soul" out of it ... Often one could have seen me dance; in those days I could walk in the mountains for seven or eight hours without a trace of weariness. I slept well, I laughed much—, my vigor and patience were perfect."

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Photo Friday- Ambushed

A honey bee ambushed by a European hornet [Vespa crabro].

Hornets are very large wasps which hunt other insects such as flies , small wasps and bees.
They have a very bad reputation for agression and dangerous poison in their stings - but this seems to be wildly over exaggerated -unless people directly threaten them or their nests, they leave humans alone.

Hornets have been agressively exterminated in many areas due to fear but Germany is now protecting hornets by law and its illegal now to kill an individual hornet or destroy a hornet nest - risking a fine of up to 50,000 Euros [65000$]

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Photo Friday- Fresh as a daisy

A common daisy [ Bellis perennis] and a male common blue butterfly [Polyommatus icarus].

The name daisy is supposed to come from the Anglo saxon dæges eage which means 'day's eye'.

Daisies close their petals at night and open them again in the morning after a good night's sleep leading to the idiom, 'fresh as a daisy .'

This daisy has pure white petals but some plants have a dusting of pink on the edges of the petals. As a child, I used to spend hours making daisy chains and daisy bracelets and daisy crowns - the daisy chains would wilt fairly quickly, but most of the fun was in making the chains as long chains possible.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Photo Friday - stillness

It took me a while to think of posting this grasshopper photo for the photo friday topic, stillness.

I was caught up in looking through photos of places with calm water that then seemed kind of cliched, even if they were evocative photos.

This grasshopper sat frozen watching me while I took some photos. I had already followed it for several 'jumps' as I was determined to capture its impressive coppery orange colour.

The grass all around was very sun scorched so although the grasshopper was distinctive and contasted strongly with the dry leaves in the camera's eye; he was actually fairly well camouflaged when viewed from a distance.

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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Doors in Eze

A smiling faun's head set above the door of a shop selling tapestry largely based on the famous tapestries of La dame à la Licorne [The Lady and the Unicorn] that are now in the Musee de Cluny in Paris. A little one can be seen below the lamp on the left hand side.

The old lamps had a lovely patina of rust and I liked their interesting shape.
Door and stairs to the upper part of a house and a small door to the basement. The street was very narrow here so its quite shaded.

A carved heraldic dragon - i couldn't find any details on the heraldry online. I will ask at the tourist information next time i visit.
A dragon shaped hoop for tying up a donkey - donkeys were used as pack animals in this and other mediaeval villages till relatively recently, so its common to see places to tether the animals set in the walls.
An intricately carved door with geometric motifs. The lock looked interesting too.

Some guardian angels - I would have liked a closer look at the detail on this door furniture but having lived in two mediaeval houses in Antibes, I would never invade somone else's space and climb their stairs just from curiosity.

We used to have people wandering into our house and peering through the windows as many tourists think that ancient houses are actually museum pieces or re-enactment quarters and not houses where people live ordinary lives.
I couldn't think of any reason why letters were chalked on this door - but i thought it was interesting enought to photograph. Children in France learn to write like this from their earliest school days, so its possible that a child was practising their letters.

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Friday, November 24, 2006


Eze is a mediaeval town perched on a hilltop overlooking the sea. Its not too far from Nice - an easy and cheap bus ride so its a good day out for visitors to the area.

I visited Eze for the 4th time, I think, at the end of October when my parents were visiting us.
Eze is one of the prettiest mediaeval villages near here; absolutely pristine and immaculately kept - a huge contrast from the run down and damp old town of Vintimille that's just across the border in Italy.

It does get busy with tourists in the summer but it still has a nice atmosphere. The breathtaking views and sun dappled honey coloured stone buildings make the visit worthwhile-although very hard going as the streets are cobbles and the paths are very steep.

This is the fortified gate and entrance to the village built in the 14th century. Originally, a drawbridge and ditch were part of the defences.

This is the view from the entrance to the village.
And the same view through the gateway. The remains of hinges and places to insert heavy wooden bolts are still visible.

An archway with a sign leading to the famous 4 star hotel/Michelin starred restaurant Château de la Chèvre d’Or, not in my budget though.
The Chèvre d’Or name either comes from a local fairytale or from a previous owner's miserly habit of hiding gold coins [the profits from selling goat's milk] in the walls of the building which were found during early renovation work -or so the story goes.

On a sunny day, the village is is a blend of sun and shade due to the narrow paths and alley ways. A typical shady and tiny courtyard showing some very small doorways - the majority of people would need to stoop down when entering here.

Narrow lanes and higgledy piggledy houses and shops.
Lots of houses are also artist or craft workshops selling paintings , leather , glass and ceramic work.

Due to the village fortification andwalls, most of the paths circle round and many of the building have strangely shaped outer walls to fit into the restricted space. The village is an entirely pedestrian area and no motiorised vehicles are allwoed- even for deliveries of goods. Moving house or delivering requires teams of strong people with hand carts, though donkeys were used in the past.

More arches, a small window and iron lamp and a saint's statue build into the wall for protection.A lot of the buildings in Eze have very decorative old ironwork - I would have liked to have taken more photos of these interesting features but i didn't think about it till after we were home.
The Baroque Eglise Notre Dame de l'Assomption [Church of Our Lady of the Assumption] was dedicated in 1772 and designed by the architect Antonio Spinelli.
The locals say that the thousands of stones needed for the church were carried from the quarry up the steep hillside, on the backs of local men completely free of charge.

The inside of the church is highly decorated and ornate but no photos are allowed as it is a place of worship.
I took the photo a few years ago on a previous visit -there is a small ancient stable at the foot of the village where donkeys used to be kept to carry baggage and goods into the village. The donkeys belong to teh village and are apparently only kept in the stable on Sundays and spend the rest of their time grazing in nearby fields.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Storms and clouds

The clouds have been impressive recently -especially at sunset.

I wish I knew more about cloud formations - I bought a book about the different types of clouds but I still find it hard to differentiate between them.
I still find clouds fascinating- especially at sunrise and sunset. I think their diversity is inspiring -even though there are often cloud formations and weird colours that would look totally unbelievable if they were painted.
These were all taken in the evening in the past few days - I'm not sure if the red or orange -tinged clouds count as a red sky in the weather lore ' red sky at night, shepherd's delight' or whether the whole sky is meant to turn red.

The fading sunlight lighting up clouds as seen over the rooftops of Nice- or at least our neighbour's roof.
Until Friday, the weather here was very warm and sunny- unseasonably so for November.
On Friday the heavens opens and we had a massive thunder and lightning storm.

The wind was so strong that the water was forced through the gaps in the window frames, and opening the windows to shut the shutters resulted in a soaked head, arms and floor. It was like someone repeatedly throwing buckets of water at the windows.

Gandalf, our new kitten was quite upset by the storm. He was disturbed by the lightning and the claps of thunder and then he was puzzled by the darkness when the shutters were shut.
After the storm was over he slept and slept and slept.

This is of course a gratuitous sleeping cat photo.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ventimiglia Alta - Mediaeval Ventimiglia

This is a panorama stitched together from 7 photos taken on the bridge over the River Roia [River Roya in French ]
The old mediaeval town is on the left hand side and the modern town of Ventimiglia is on the right.

I took this photo standing on the middle of the bridge-looking up the Roia valley towards the other bridge and distant mountains.
The mediaeval town of Vintimiglia is an assortment of higgledy piggledy lanes and ramshackle houses squeezed together onto a small, incredibly steep hill. You can just see the bell tower of the cathedral poking up above the rest of the buildings.

It seems very run down, poor and damp which contrasts dramatically with the mediaeval towns in France which generally seem prosperous and pristine or at least comfortable and well maintained.

It has a really interesting atmosphere and I liked the old town a lot [and plan to visit again soon] but I can see why many people don't recommend visiting as there is a forbidding look to the town as it looms over you and it doesn't have the immediate prettiness of Eze or Menton.

Two flags flying- the Italian flag and the pirate flag, the Jolly Roger. I'm not sure why the pirate's flag was flying- I saw several pirate flags flying in Vintimille.
Next time we visit I will buy a guidebook, if one exists, as I would like to find out more about the contrasting architecture in the mediaeval town. Some of the houses looked as if they were originally owned by the very wealthy and others by the very poor.
This was one of the wider streets.
Arches and tunnels often lead to little private courtyards.
Narrow dark lanes with many arches between to help support the buildings - in some places these lanes had little or no daylight -so it must have been like living underground before electric light became common. I didn't manage to take any decent photos of the very dark alleys - next time maybe.
This building showed multiple signs of use and re-use across the centuries.

Some interesting coloured laundry hanging out to dry.
The balustrades for this building were entirely trompe l'oeil painting -it was very effective , except where time had eroded the paint and destroyed the illusion.
Some interesting carved stone faces under a balcony.

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