AguidedexcursiontoEtnavolcano.TransfertoRifugioSapienza,visitto CraterSilvestri,andTaorminaandtothe old Greek theater
ISA Congress Catania Sicily 20- 23rd May 2013By Ian VickersThere were seven of us flying from Manchester and we all arranged to meet at the airport. We flew to Sicily via Munich and we were met at the airport by members of the congress, mini buses were laid on for all the participants as they arrived for transfer to the hotels. We were one of the first groups to arrive and we had two days before the congress started. Both of the hotels were 4* and only 500 yds. Apart so there was no difficulty mingling, also there were several cafes and shops in between. Everything in the hotel bar was 4 euro, so, as we all had fridges we stocked up on beer and wine.The first day of the congress is the registration day. Both hotels were set up with a team of committee members to do the registration and also a shop set up by one of their sponsors’ selling gifts. This year we received bags, baseball caps, polo shirts, badges, and the program, the ladies received the same apart from a scarf instead of the baseball cap. There were 22 countries participating this year from all corners of the world with 301 people attending. Our first event was the opening buffet which was in our hotel, the food was plentiful and the speeches short, unlimited sparkling wine along with soft drinks. This was a very good way to meet people and I fell into conversation with the party from Croatia, it was their first congress and they were keen to meet people.Tuesday, after breakfast we were out onto the coaches, 6 in all, allocated by spoken language. We were on coach 4 with the Americans and the Dutch. Our destination was the old historic town of Syracuse, where we toured the old Greek and Roman ruins. We left there around 1300 and headed back. On the way the Dutch group wanted to stop at one of the Second World War cemeteries to find the grave of a Dutch Naval Captain buried there. After paying our due respects we set off to join the others at lunch at a farm in the Augusta area. This was a long lunch with several courses plenty of wine by the jug, good musical fun entertainment form a group and shops to look around.Wednesday, we set off early for a full guided tour of Etna, those who were capable had the option to go to the top by 4x4 buses. I was surprised, Etna is not one volcano but many, and we were taken to the 2002 eruption crater about 1000 ft. below the summit and we spent some time walking around. The crater is still partially active with steam coming out of a vent and the ground was warm to touch. We ate lunch in a café at the visitors centre and then on to Taormina, a quaint hillside town overlooking the sea. We spent the rest of the afternoon there looking at the shops eating ice cream or sitting in one of the many bars enjoying a beer (or wine.)Thursday, we departed at 0830 to the Sailors Monument in Catania for the commemorative ceremony. The ceremony was presided over by the Chief of the Italian Navy, C in C submarines, C in C Sicily and the Mayor of Catania. After a fly past by two Navy helicopters a wreath was laid at the monument. All the Heads of delegations made their customary short speech accompanied by their respective National Anthems. On completion, the Heads of Delegations were taken to the port to embark on a boat to review the laying of a wreath from a submarine out in the bay. The rest of us were taken by coach to watch from the harbour wall, we then joined the heads of delegations on board two Italian warships for drinks and a light buffet.We had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves giving us plenty of time to prepare for the Gala dinner in the Sheraton hotel up the road. The dinner started with canapés and drinks. These were very good and gave the participants a chance to mingle, chat and exchange gifts with friends. Later we all moved downstairs to the main banqueting hall for the official dinner speeches and dancing. The handover of the ceremonial totem from Italy to Greece was deliberately kept short with no speeches from heads of delegations just an exchange of official gifts, and then it was time to eat drink and have a really good time. The band was brilliant and played music from the 40’s and 50’s just right for dancing until around 0100 and we started to drift off some earlier than others, I know two of the Americans had flights at 0600. We were lucky as we had two more days to recover.