Day By Day

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tunisia Trip -- Part Eight

From the roof of the mansion we could see crowds building in the street below, so we went down to experience from ground level the beauty of Sidi Bou Said. The village has a distinctive and gorgeous decor. In part this is because of its location on a clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean, but in large part it is due to an obsession by one of its most famous residents -- Baron Rodolph d'Erlanger, a powerful French aristocrat and noted lawyer, artist and musician, who made the village his home in the late eighteenth century. At the time the village attracted members of the Tunisian elites who made their homes there. Led by Erlanger they adopted a housing code that sought to preserve the beauty of their environments. The most noticeable result of this is the blue and white motif applied to all the village's homes.

Sidi Bou Said's beauty attracted artists from all over Europe. The most famous of these were Paul Klee and August Macke, who lived there in 1914. While in the village Macke produced several works, including this lovely composition: "View At A Mosque".

The cafe represented in this picture still exists and looks just as it did a century ago when Macke painted it. You can take a picture of it if you visit the village. I wish I had.

We approached the main thoroughfare from the lower end.

And surrounded by teeming humanity we climbed upward. The cafe painted a century ago by Macke is directly ahead of us at the end of the street.

Past the usual souvenir vendors,

And (ho hum) even more gorgeous doorways.

Our passage was noted by curious locals.

Past magnificent estates.

To the top of the hill, where the town and the Bay of Tunis lay stretched out before us.

Impressive enough, but we weren't finished with Sidi Bou Said. There was still the Port below at the bottom of the cliff.

We could have walked there, down this endless stairway, but that would have been a problem, so we trekked back down the hill to meet our tour bus at a busy intersection.

Once there we faced a problem. We were a large group milling around waiting for our bus at a busy traffic area. The local police, of course, noticed us, and after some discussion one of them headed our way with a deliberate pace and an unfriendly look on his face. It was clear that we were to be ordered away from the intersection.

However, our tour group had a hidden resource -- retired New York City policemen. One of these strode out to meet the oncoming authority. I heard him compliment the Tunisian cop on his excellent English, and then the two men engaged in spirited conversation during which our companion produced credentials identifying him as a fellow police officer. Soon the two were acting like long-lost friends. We were undisturbed, and when our bus arrived the local police cleared other traffic out of the way so that we could board. I guess the police fraternity really is an international force.

Finally we drove away to the bottom of the cliff to visit the port.

Unfortunately by that time night had fallen and there wasn't enough light to take many pictures. There was, however, a very nice restaurant there where we dined in elegance. Then back onto the bus and to our hotel for a good night's rest.

No comments: