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Tunis, Tunisia

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The letters are not quite where they belong and I don’t know how to make an apostrophe or a period; Oh Erik figured out the period. [Archive Note: I never did figure out the apostrophe, but I went through and put them in for the sake of the archive. Some of the letters were in a different location on the Tunisian keyboard, so it was slow-going to type. Also the "internet cafes" (sans café) were usually miserably hot and uncomfortable. As a result, the dispatches from this trip are not very long, despite the amazing sites and adventures we experienced.] So we are about to leave Tunis for the island of Djerba, have a few spare minutes.  We had a long layover in Dusseldorf, Germany, on the way here and spent the day beer hopping along the Rhine River.  Good stuff. 

Courtyard in Dusseldorf, Germany, with a bronze statue of a horse and rider and stone buildings covered in ivy. Photo by Shara Johnson

Our first day here in Tunis, we learned that there is never any need to invest in an audio-guide for any sights, as you will inevitably end up with a human guide whether you want one or not.  We wandered somewhat aimlessly around the massive medina for pretty much the whole day.  This is the old, walled part of a city, and where the souks, or market places, are located.  I can scarce exaggerate the number of passageways and alleys and mazes, all filled with vendors. Truly remarkable.  If you ever need to pimp your hooka, this medina is the place to go... Hooka smoking is ubiquitous, producing fruity aromas wherever one dost pass. And stores sell a hundred different colors of bodies and pipes. Ran across a kitty cat shopping for a fish fez. :-)

A cat sits beneath a table full of fez and other hats in the medina in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo by Shara Johnson

Bright blue door with ornate black geometric design on it in a concrete building in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo by Shara Johnson

Door and upper story window with elaborate lattice work in medina in Tunis Tunisia. photo by Shara Johnson

Corner with stairs and green painted cabinet in Tunis Tunisia. photo by Shara JohnsonTwo archways, one abandoned and crumbling next to a white one with lantern hanging down and blue windows in Tunis Tunisia. photo by Shara Johnson

 

Here is the inside of a very old building located deep in the heart of the medina.

Inside of historic building in Tunis medina, Tunisia.

Yesterday we saw pretty much ALL of the Carthage ruins.  Some places were quite monumental, though mostly Roman, accomplishments – a massive cistern system, a huge bath complex, amphitheater, villas, etc.  Oh and the sanctuary of Tophet where the urns of sacrificed Carthaginian children were found; and somebody built their house right next door – if that’s not a premise for a horror flick, I don’t know what is. The guidebook claimed one couldn’t see all the Carthage ruins in one day, but they don’t know us!

The torso of an ancient statue stand in a courtyard of a villa in the Roman ruins of Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia, the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Photo by Shara Johnson

Tall pillars reach into a blue sky at the edge of the Mediterranean, the ruins of the bath complex at Carthage in Tunis, Tunisia. Photo by Shara Johnson

Ruins of ancient Roman stone apartments in Carthage, Tunisia. photo by Shara Johnson

Then we took the train to a pretty village called Sidi Bou-Said for happy hour mint tea (me) and moist coffee grounds (Erik, who doesn’t like coffee but likes caffeine).  Mint and coffee is what makes for happiness here, but maybe it’s a good thing there isn’t much alcohol to be found; as we’ve seen several full-on brawls in the streets and sidewalks – never seen anything like it in America. (Well, maybe when I worked the canneries in Alaska…)  The views at Sidi Bou-Said are perfectly lovely, overlooking the Mediterranean, Carthage, and Tunis in the distance. The sea water is really a striking blue-green. We thought there were a lot of cats in Italy and Greece, but you could find as many cats on one street here in Tunis and Sidi-Bou-Said as you could in a whole Italian village.

This morning we went to the Bardo Museum which houses an astounding collection (largest in the world) of Roman tile mosaics collected from all the Roman ruins that lie scattered throughout Tunisia. Some of them are 20 by 30 feet and bigger.  So much variety.  Some of them from a distance look as plush as carpet. Up close, the detail is amazing. To think of the artisans placing each individual stone into place…

Long ancient Roman tile mosaic from Tunisia inside the Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia.Roman tile mosaics in Bardo museum.Ancient Roman tile mosaic of north African lion. Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia.A mythical god in a chariot pulled by horses through the sea ... ancient Roman tile mosaic inside the Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia.Scene of men, gods, angels and women in three ships at sea. A leopard jumps out of a ship. Octopus, eels, fish, crustaceans float in the water. Ancient Roman tile mosaic inside the Bardo Museum, Tunis, Tunisia.

Check out all the little details on the mosaic above ... the variety of people on board the ships; a leopard is jumping out of a ship; an octopus, eel, fish and crustacean float in the water. Imagine looking at this in your villa every day. If I was a child growing up there, what stories I would have concocted in my head with that scene!

The building that houses the museum collection is an old royal residence and even without the mosaics, it's a really cool building.

Fountain in a courtyard in Bardo museum Tunisia. photo by Shara Johnson
 

OK, well, it really is a bit difficult typing with any degree of efficiency; so this isn’t too exciting or detailed a tale.  But we are well and having fun.

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