National Geographic : 1935 Jan
LIFE'S PATTERN ON THE ITALIAN RIVIERA deeps and wait all day for such prey. Hav ing caught it, he makes a fire on the rock, cooks the limp, repulsive object, and eats as if at a feast. STALKING THE SARACENS Everywhere we drove our car we ran into the Saracens-their towers, their history, and their evil reputation. I have a weak ness for them. They belong to that mar velous Mohammedan civilization that in the Middle Ages surpassed in certain things the culture of Europe, much of which was then undeveloped. They began the habit of leap ing across the Mediterranean from North Africa when the first detachment of these able pioneers touched Gibraltar and pro ceeded to possess Spain. And what did they there? They built at C6rdoba a mosque, now a cathedral, which is still the glory of the city; they built at Granada a palace which still makes poets and artists of all who have the happi ness to linger in its recesses; but they were routed by the people already living in Eu rope, and ever since have been branded as criminals and savages. The people who drove them out were even less mannerly than they. This we learned at the marvelous village of Eze, on one of our longer drives. We were tired when we reached that point of the Moyenne Corniche (as the middle road from Nice to Menton is called) where the rock rises like a monument above it and seems to dominate sea and penetrate sky. There must be a res taurant, at least a cafe, to restore us, for people eat of necessity and in all places. The car almost refused the mounting way which left the Corniche and pursued a ter rifying zigzag. Far below the village the road ends in a face of rock. All the world is on wheels nowadays; but no wheels of any size enter Eze-only those of a hand cart, perhaps, and the feet of men and donkeys (see pages 91 and 93). Toiling up the slope with delight at every step, we pass through an archway. It is the city gate. No city opens before us; only a paved path, narrow and steep. There is not a yard of level walk in the entire maze of ways. Of real streets there are none. Extended arms touch both side walls at once. One might be in a crypt, so frequent are the arched spaces through which one gropes. Yet from tiny windows above are bright eyes peeping and taking in every movement of the strangers. With curios- ity? With distrust? There is historic reason for the latter. A small terrace is braced up on the way. It holds three tiny tables. Ah, food! A low, massive wall keeps the tables from falling down the cliff; the public way is one with the terrace, and a little doorway stands open to show a lusty proprietress. She greets us in French, tentatively. We reply in Italian, also tentatively. It works, for she changes merrily and declares that 3 o'clock is not too late for luncheon. But amuse ourselves at the castle for an hour and return for a feast. Because she knows as well as we that an hour is long to wait when one is famished, with deft hand she sets a reviving Dubonnet before us, then bows us onto the upward path. We get lost on the tunnellike ways and find ourselves before an open interior elegantly antique, with furniture and hang ings of Gothic times, the house of a prince who likes to live in an eyrie. FIGURES COME OUT OF THE PAST The castle at last, or rather its site, for the walls are nearly gone. Not so bad after all, for now nothing stops the eye; the view is from the mountains of the Esterel to those near Bordighera. While I sat on the grass of the castle floor under the spell of the unreal sense of floating given by the immensity of sky and sea, dreams of old history came to me. In them the Saracens figured, for this had been one of their best-loved towns. From here they could look across the sea almost as far as their Africa and on every side could see the approach of friend or enemy. One can feel the presence of those bold, skilled men, trying to make strongholds and keep them, that they might bring the land into the culture of those who held to the True Faith of the Prophet. "There is no God but God," they cried for the benefit of the heathen beyond these gray mountains. No one in Eze now but a solitudinous prince and a few peeping peasants; yet, at the beginning of the 13th century, poets lived here, troubadours who loved and sang. Some three centuries later, in 1543, Bar barossa, the Saracen corsair, gazed on Eze from his galley on the sea and grew fierce with the lust of possession. To my mind that is understandable. But whereas I should like it for the peace and pleasure of my soul, he wished it as a strategic point and for looting.