Villages, and how they continue to paint a way of life ..

Evisa (Malaterre)

 

My first thought would have been that the island is not unlike one large extended village itself

After many years of travelling around and thus becoming more acquainted with individual villages, the evidence of their respective differences became more apparent. It is both comforting and relieving to admire the stone structures facing time courageously, in spite of all. Charming and representative, their presence is vital in the maintaining of traditions, communication, customs and a certain education.

There’s a curious sensation of almost imposing, as though the ancient walls and foundations were attentive to your every move, not without a strong perception of welcoming and an invitation to enter. Atmosphere. Throughout history, invaders arrived by sea, and this is one of the main reasons why we find the majority of villages inland, planned protection was necessary against attacks, often transporting malaria.

Tradition has it, over the summer months many Corsicans working in the towns take flight to their respective villages, thus renewing contact with family and friends who come on holidays, almost as an annual ritual and resulting in the multiplication of the population of the village quite significantly indeed – this also makes room for the wave of tourists arriving, especially over July and August, when some will choose to take advantage of the wide variety of coastal attractions, whilst others will travel around, taking their time in visiting. Quantity wise, there are over 200 villages, many remaining active, whilst others have witnessed being abandoned, little by little for various reasons and over the years a general departure has been taking place, but also a problem that villages in general everywhere have to face, one might rightfully say. You’ll find a fountain in every village, along with a church. Some may just have a few houses, whereas others will have grown and spread with time. Many still exhibit their knowledge in a given area, be it through agriculture, crafts, gastronomy, or simply their privileged location – for we must remember the advantage of being near the coast is equalled by the advantage of being up the mountains, where rivers flow with carefree ease and liberty of expression – the visual here is necessary to discover for oneself.

Now the contrast between the summer months and the winter months is more than surprising, and it is not without a measure of nostalgia that the villages shrink back to their winter occupations, and where the spirits settle and meditate. Note that the use of the Corsican language is still very much alive within the villages, remaining one of the best ways for the younger generations to become acquainted with their native language. The elders will also sit, chatting and often playing cards, whilst others will join in at playing ‘la pétanque’ (a particularly appreciated southern french traditional game) on a square in the village, or simply stroll around.

As you can see, there is much to relate as regards the villages, when you imagine their past history too, populated and thriving, self-sufficient and equipped, and where the use of donkeys for example, was on a daily basis, a necessity for transport and survival, along with being an attraction for many a child growing up. Today, one can still see and often use, ancient paths leading to valleys and roads which have survived through the lapse of time and nature’s continual growth – these same paths that once lead the ancestors, soldiers and bandits, and continue today to bear huntsmen, families and friends. Visiting the villages, I have always felt drawn towards the stone wash-houses, where echoes and whispers from the past remain and intrigue – much of what was going on was reported and discussed in detail here, needless to say, where many hours were spent with the laundry. Often picturesque and always useful, they too remain holders of former times anchored in memories.

I have chosen here to write more freely on the traditional way of life, rather than the structural components of a village, for I tend to favour the representation of these villages throughout their history and their continual influence today in modern Corsica. Hunting remains popular and traditional, wild boar and game – as does fishing in the many rivers for mainly trout and eels. Customary, each village has its annual feast day and celebrations, and here arrivals from neighbouring villagers too become very active – an important date that is given full respect, and where preparations can take up to days beforehand. It’s a joyful, pleasant, artistic and musical moment, where everybody participates. Yes – village life is a way of life.

Photo credit: Pascal Malaterre  http://www.pascalmalaterre.net/

Evisa ©

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