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Serving Uncle Sam: A Military Life in WWll

Gerald Schwartz USAAC (USAAF) 1940 - 1945


Chapter 95: The Beauty of Capri. Meeting Spanish American from LA. Visiting Magical Blue Grotto! To Anacapri with Teresa

Capri, Italy: Dec 7, 1944 I got up at 8.30 AM and after breakfast wandered about town. Capri is an interesting place for several reasons. One is that there are no roads per se! That is, they are narrow enough only for a vehicle as wide as a jeep. They were meant for horse drawn wagons, and are not paved.

The principal attraction on this lovely little isle is the Blue Grotto which I am told is a fabulous cave with several chambers in which one sees various shades of blue. I intend to visit it and will have more to tell about it then.

Capri has historically been a Mecca for wealthy Europeans, many of which owned villas. Some even came via their own boats, and were the sort which also visited the French Riviera. The harbor is quaint and upon arriving via ferry one is struck by the whiteness of the houses, which contrast with the green trees and shrubbery in wild confusion. The harbor area is known as Capri, and while the land is fairly level there, it rises dramatically to form a mountain.

The area at the top of this mountain is called Anacapri. There are two ways to visit Anacapri from Capri. One is via the narrow dirt road. The other is a scary ride almost straight up the cliff via the Finiculare (cable car)! Incidentally the word Finiculare happens to be the title of a very old Italian song, the words of which I still remember from my youth.

I am told there is an ancient Monastery there as well as some other interesting historical sites. While nosing around in Capri I met a Spanish fellow from Los Angeles, California and we spent some time together chatting in Spanish. He was surprised at my command of all things Spanish, not just the language! He said I was the only American he had ever met who had learned to speak Spanish,that felt it was also necessary to learn the culture, history, songs and jokes!

The Isle of Capri derives its name from its appearance as one approaches it. It sits in the Mediterranean Sea looking for all the world like a Goat in a prone position. The Italian word for Goat is Capra, hence the name Capri!

While walking through town after lunch, I met a girl by the name of Teresa. She took me to visit the house of a friend called Carmelina and we spent a delightful afternoon there dancing, drinking and romancing. When I took her home at 8:00 PM she suggested that I meet her at the Piazza tomorrow afternoon so we could rent a car and visit Anacapri on top of the mountain. I returned to my hotel, drank a lot of gin and stumbled off to bed at 10.30 feeling no pain!

Dec 8, 1944: Capri: I awoke this morning with a big head and swollen tongue. After washing up with ice cold water I felt somewhat better. I gave out some laundry to be cleaned, and tried without success to tidy up the room which is littered with rations that I had drawn upon arriving at Capri. Prior to taking the ferry at Naples I was given coupons for 7 weeks of rations by a chap named Todd. Now I am the proud possessor of all manner of candy, cigars, cigarettes, etc.

I have made friends with several of the guys that work behind the bar at the hotel and we kid around a lot. During lunch they suggested we all go to visit the Blue Grotto and four of us did so. Upon arriving at the dock we loaded into a large row boat, which was propelled by an old man of about 78. The water was rough but that did not seem to bother him as he rowed the 4 kilometers to the Grotto. As we approached the high stone cliff, we saw a small entrance, which was concealed by the surging water on a regular basis. Our guide (the old man) told us to lie down flatwhile we waited for the water to recede from the entrance. When it did our guide also reclined, and grasping a chain that was attached to the wall of the entrance pulled the boat into the cave.

We barely had time to realize that we were now in a tunnel when a huge surge of water entered it behind us and propelled us into the grotto at a rollercoaster pace. It was quite unsettling to have the walls of the tunnel rush by so close to us. Anyone attempting to sit up would have surely been injured. The boat circled inside the huge cave until it stopped. We were immediately struck by the quiet serenity of the place.

The roar of the Mediterranean was surprisingly stilled. The water, walls, ceiling, and rock bottom of the cave were all of a different shade of blue. It was a sight that probably could not be duplicated anywhere else in the world, and I could not help feeling privileged to see it!

As we sat there in wonderment we suddenly realized that we had all gotten wet from the force of the wave which had thrust us through the tunnel. Our guide said that the Grotto is blue because the entrance is an arch through which the light filters.

That afternoon I met Teresa at the square as we had arranged. I rented a small car and we drove to Anacapri on top of the mountain. We spent the afternoon visiting the monastery and other relics from a former civilization. Afterwards when I had taken her home and returned to my hotel, I recalled the events of the day with a feeling of deep satisfaction. .

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