Free Entertainment in Siracusa

We spent 10 Euro each for admission to the Archeological Park in Syracuse, Sicily, this afternoon. It was quarter to three when we entered, and we knew we’d have enough time in a couple hours to see the major points of interest before the site closed, or the rain started. The rain came first, but we’d already taken a quick look at the Roman amphitheater, walked by the immense altar used for sacrificial rites in the 3rd century B.C., wandered through the amazing Greek Theater and the surrounding necropolis, and roamed through the cave called The Ear of Dionysus. The rain started. We kept going, with stops in caves and shelters, but quickly realized we’d already seen the highlights. The remaining interest, a rope-maker’s cave, was closed, as is the city’s archeological museum all this week.

The closures and rain made the 10 Euro entry fee feel even steeper than it already was. To consider our next move, we had a beer in the carefully arranged row of stalls across the street from the Archeology Park entrance. (If you follow the signs, you are led through the souvenir shops to the ticket office at the far end.) Through one downpour and onto the next, cozy in the bar’s tent shelter, we sipped our beers and listened to cars on wet streets accompanied by more than the usual impatient honking.

The Greek Theater 3rd Century B.C. – still hosts productions
It was just a couple blocks back to the intersection near our hotel, and we quickly recognized a pretty good fender bender in the middle of the intersection. A westbound silver minivan had been hit by a northbound silver paneled van. Gestures and loud voices ensued.

No one seemed to be injured. The cars sat in the middle of the intersection, while the involved drivers made cell phone calls and looked alternately angry and plaintive. We crossed the intersection and headed to the deli. After browsing for some wine, and walking down the street to find a pizzeria, we decided to reverse direction and stop by a place we knew. Back at the intersection, nothing had changed. The rain picked up, and we spotted a tow truck coming up the street.

We found our food and sat down for a glass of wine and small pasta dish. It was getting dark, and when I looked out the window of the restaurant, I could see the tow truck had pulled off on one of the streets leading to the intersection. The two silver vans still were blocking traffic in both directions. Once we’d finished eating, we saw a police car had joined the fray, also parked on the west side street. Drivers, police, and the tow truck personnel were gathered under umbrellas in the rain.

Later, settled in our room, groceries put away, laundry checked, I realized I could still see the intersection from our window, and the vans were still there, blocking traffic. It was now over an hour after the accident, rush hour was picking up, and it was fully dark. The rain was falling harder, and the few cars that were getting through the intersection with each green light were up to their hubcaps in water, plowing through their lanes, or anyone else’s lane. A motorcycle without lights threaded up the street.

Curious how quickly–well, how slowly–this intersection would clear up, I turned off the lights in our room to watch. I saw someone move through the intersection with a white tether, and wondered if the tow truck was going to pull the car off the intersection rather than risk backing into the traffic. Finally, after two, three, four times seeing the guy with the tape, now two guys with tapes, I realized these were the cops taking measurements of the accident. It’s rush hour; they are probably risking their lives out there, and every green light brings honking from the frustrated jam of cars whose drivers have no idea why the traffic ahead is not moving.

Another quarter hour passes while I watch the police dodge out to measure. The traffic lights keep pace. Right lane forward, left lane turn, both lanes stop. Drivers become inventive. U-turns become popular. Left turns might go around or in front of the accident vans. The vans are dark. No flares mark the spot.

But then, suddenly, the cops are done with their investigation, the minivan is driven away (really?!) and the tow truck maneuvers to position itself for hauling the remaining paneled van. By now the traffic is backed up as far as I can see, and further. The police appear to help while the tow truck interrupts the left turn lanes. Finally, the broken down van is hoisted, the tow truck drives off, the minivan departs, and the police car pulls out in front of another car that has the right-of-way (at least in my country).

Now isn’t that worth 10 Euros and more?

The Sunday Gangs of Syracuse

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