Our first stop on our Eastern Mediterranean cruise was Bari, Italy. Bari is a town on the east side of the boot of Italy, down where the "heel" starts. The first thing you see in Bari is the Swabian Castle, or Castello Svevo, built in 1132 by a Norman king named Roger II. How many King Rogers have you ever heard of?
The King Roger that we are talking about built this fortified castle right on the banks of the blue Adriatic sea in Bari.
Here are the kiddos outside the wall of the castle. Side note - Alexander, my oldest son, is wearing a large, floppy hat in most of the pictures. Why? Because he was in the middle of a round of antibiotics for Lyme Disease that he got from a tick in Heidelberg. The antibiotics made his skin more sensitive to the sun. A fact we found out in Venice when he burned after putting on SPF 30 twice. No worries on the Lyme Disease though. We caught it super early and the antibiotics completely rid him of the bacteria.
Swabian Castle has passed through numerous royal hands. From the Norman King Roger II to William of Sicily to an emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (Germany) then to some Angevins (people from the area of Anjou, France) to Ferdinand of Aragon (Spain) who gave it to the Queen of Poland. That's some castle flipping for you. After all this changing hands it finally became a prison.
After taking a rather dull tour of the inside (they were showcasing an Italian photographer who thought it was interesting to take up close shots of mundane things like radiators, stop signs, and house plants) we walked around beautiful Bari.
Bari has a sleepy feel as you walk around. Doors that open into small alley ways are propped open with nothing but a sheer curtain hung up to shield their homes from prying eyes.
Trays of homemade pasta were left drying in doorways and window sills.
You had to be careful waking around old Bari. Their streets weren't closed to traffic. If you could fit down it, you could drive it. Luckily, it still meant that most cars weren't able to go around these alleyways. But scooters and motorcycles could. We had to jump out of the way of some speedy Italians more than once.
This is the world famous Basilica di San Nicola, or the St. Nicholas Basilica. As in, Jolly Old St. Nicholas. This basilica holds the remains of St. Nicholas of Lycia, which is in what is now modern-day Turkey, who died in 343 AD. This St. Nicholas had a penchant for secret gift giving (sound familiar?) and he liked to put coins in people's shoes who left them outside their door. He is the real-life model for our modern version of Santa Claus. There are stories of his providing poor girls with dowries so they won't be forced into a life of prostitution. That's quite a Christmas present. Sure beats the Cabbage Patch Kid and slippers I got for Christmas. If you ever want to give your kids a hard, cold dose of reality, tell them Santa is buried in an old gray church in Bari, Italy. I've been there. I can prove it.
Italians are so different from Germans. Where as most Germans really aren't that interested in talking to you, you can't get Italians to shut up. They want to know who you are, where you are from, where you are going, why you are there, and then they want to tell you all the same things about themselves. They sit on these little corners talking to everyone who passes by. It was great. Europeans who are actually interested in us!
We headed down to the water to get a look at the coastline of Bari. One of us got a little too close of a look.
Andre had been jumping from rock to rock when he lost his footing and took a bit of a bath in the Mediterranean. He was soaked from head to toe so we took off his shirt and wrapped him in Matt's jacket. Being only seven, this completely ruined the day for him. So much so that he said, "I'm sorry I ever even came to Bari!"
Oh. That's so sad. Blame Bari for dashing your hopes about Santa, but not for getting you wet.
Here's hoping that if you ever come to Bari, you stay nice and dry.