In the previous post, I explored how the FLNC came into being, explained a little about FLNC history and visited a number of sites of recent FLNC activity (If you want to see Part 1 again, click here). In this post, I’ll also touch on the FLNC, but will focus more on Corsica and Corsican culture.
As discussed in the previous post, the French tend to congregate around the exterior of the island – along the beaches…
And the beautiful coastline… It is scenes like these that keep bringing more and more French mainlanders to the island:
Of course, there are many Corsicans along the coast as well. Just as anywhere else, if one is young, it is difficult to make a living in a small, rural village. This is particularly so given the overwhelming dominance of tourism in the economy of the island. So, many young Corsicans migrate to the island’s cities such as Ajaccio or Bastia – or even farther abroad to the States or to mainland Europe.
However, one does not really get a sense of Corsican culture on the exterior of the island. The exterior is dominated by French culture. And by the tourist culture. Which, all too often, looks like this:
You’ll see a lot more ugly vacation homes like the one pictured above on the southern part of the island rather than the northern regions. Consequently, there are far more firebombings of such homes in the south.
This is the northernmost point of Corsica:
We may be near the coast here, but unlike on the rest of the island’s coastline, one can get a strong sense of Corsica here. This region is very remote – some areas have a lower population density than the Sahara – and thus Corsican culture is preserved quite well:
And as with the interior regions, you won’t see many FLNC attacks here, but you’ll see a lot of FLNC support:
This FLNC picture was taken in Ersa, located on the northern coastline described above:
This is Ersa as I saw it:
Wild pigs are not native to Corsica, and as such, have become a rather destructive problem. Hunting them has become a fairly popular sport and the habit of drying the hides on area fences will certainly get your attention the first time you see it:
Shortly after Ersa, we headed into the mountainous interior. Not sure my mother would like the roads of the interior, but I thought they were great fun:
There is a lot of interesting pro-FLNC graffiti in the interior as well:
And the mountains are beautiful too:
Which is, apparently, an impression shared by the FLNC as well since many of their press conferences take place in the mountains:
Many picturesque, small mountain villages such as this one can be found in the interior:
And there is even a railroad running from Ajaccio to Bastia. There used to be a route running south to Bonifacio, but it was bombed in World War II and never repaired:
After driving through the forest for a while…
You’ll drop down into a valley that contains the largest town in the interior of Corsica – Corte:
Corte appears to have emerged as the intellectual center of the Corsican liberation movement. It is where the nationalist political party, Corse Libera, which was described in Part 1, was founded. It is also home to Pasquale Paoli University which the French allowed to open up again in the 1980s. Given its position in the Corsican interior and with the mix of idealistic, young college students thrown in, one will find that the FLNC does not hurt for support in Corte:
You’ll notice all across Corsica that the French has been painted over on signs… That is particularly true in Corte where you won’t see French left intact anywhere:
Just outside Corte is the Gorges de la Restonica, and it is spectacular:
Getting up can be steep at times, as my Italian interpreter, climbing here on a chain, demonstrates:
But it is well worth it, for not just the mountains, but the many alpine streams and lakes as well:
There were a lot of crows at this particular lake which gave it high marks from me:
And above that first lake…
Was this one… And this view, for which there truly are no words that can do it justice:
Also up in the mountains of the interior are many shepherds and herders that take their animals up to the alpine areas for the summer:
They use trails such as this one:
And live in stone huts such as the one pictured below… As a side business, they will sometimes sell drinks or basic Corsican dishes to those hiking through the area:
It is perhaps fitting to end with a site in the interior that is of particular significance to Corsican nationalists. That site is the bridge at Ponte Novu.
The bridge was the site of a major battle in May of 1769 between royal French forces and the native Corsicans – a battle the Corsicans lost… This battle was important as it marked the end of the Corsican War, crushing the hopes and dreams for Corsican independence, and paved the way for the incorporation of Corsica into France.
Voltaire, in his Précis du Siècle de Louis XV, admiringly wrote about the battle: “The principle weapon of the Corsicans was their courage. This courage was so great that in one of these battles, near a river named Golo, they made a rampart of their dead in order to have the time to reload behind them before making a necessary retreat; their wounded were mixed among the dead to strengthen the rampart. Bravery is found everywhere, but such actions aren’t seen except among free people.”
This is a memorial that stands at the site today:
And, perhaps not surprisingly, the surrounding area is covered in nationalist graffiti:
Below is the bridge itself… It was blown up during World War II by retreating German soldiers: