Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Walking in Corsica - Filitosa (Prehistoric Site)

What a glorious day – 30 degrees, bright blue sky and lots of sun, so we decided to make the most of it and squeeze in a late afternoon walk.

It was too hot for hiking up the chemin de Fozzano and I didn’t think my blisters could stand it (I stupidly put my walking shoes in the washing machine and realised that it was only the dirt holding them together!), so we decided to do a more leisurely walk around Filitosa. As often happens, we were greeted by a friendly member of the Cesari family – the founders – who was happy to chat to us about this important historic site.

This one is an easy walk for all the family and takes about an hour to see the site if you don’t dawdle. You can buy a guide to the site for 4€, but as we’d been before and knew that there were multi-lingual information points along the way, we didn’t bother.

The first menhir is Filitosa V and in my opinion, one of the most impressive. It is accompanied by what looks like a huge stone sarcophagus, but I’m not sure it is really because whoever would have been inside would have had to curl up like the assistant in the ‘lady sawn in half’ magic trick! We continued on, stopping only to take some photos of the pretty pink cyclamen until we reached the first information point.

The setting is so beautiful and peaceful, and from the lookout point it is easy to see why this site was chosen as you can see for miles. The first ‘dwelling’ is is actually just a tafoni style shelter (tafoni are rocks eroded and shaped over time by the wind), and on to the more structured settlements. These buildings were surrounded by Menhirs which are standing stones with faces and sometimes more detailed carvings such as limbs, weapons and even capes.

There are a couple of what presumably were early homes and I was tempted to go inside, but it was tiny and my slight claustrophobia reared its head. It was amazing how cool it was inside compared to the ambient temperature.

We could see the main site down below, so we made our way carefully down the hill, all the time regretting that we’d have to climb back up again, but actually it looks like the path has been improved since my last visit as it was easier and more structured. The smell was heavenly as we brushed past the wild mint and basil which was sprouting all over the place.

The lower site consists of 5 Menhirs standing is a semi-circle facing outwards as though they are warning off intruders. They are very different in terms of size and detailing and we wondered if perhaps they were sculpted by people with different skill sets. The Menhir above is the most detailed. One of the great things about most historic sites in France is that there are no barriers and you can approach and touch the exhibits which I love. It was amazing to think how these people with very few tools had sculpted and erected these statues in granite – we have enough trouble getting a granite worktop in place!!

There is a third site behind the five menhirs which is where you can see the ‘dinosaur’. I think that rock formations are like clouds in that everyone sees something different depending on your psyche. I first saw a tortoise and then the face of an old man in profile with bouffant curly hair and a Mr Punch chin.

We walked all round and eventually spotted what we thought was perhaps the dinosaur, but I spotted a big snake so I was far more excited in chasing him across the rocks trying to take a photo, before he got fed up and slithered into his hidey-hole under the rocks

We walked back down towards the main site with the sun setting fast, and took a quick tour of the museum before heading home. The museum is home to 3 more menhirs, one with a horn!! One of them is exceptional for the detail of his arm and hand, but I hadn’t noticed it until I was standing slightly to the right of it.

We looked at all the artifacts that had been discovered on the site but the weird thing is that where I’d been keen to touch all the other menhirs, I had a distinct aversion to these and became increasingly freaked out by them!

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