Recently, on a beautiful summer morning, we found ourselves sitting next to Bryan Colangelo and his Italian wife Barbara on Spiaggia del Pervero in Porto Cervo, Sardinia.
Colangelo is top NBA executive, or at least was until June of this year, when he resigned from running the Philadelphia 76-ers after being alleged to create fake Twitter accounts to talk ill about his predecessor and some of the players.
Colangelo denies all allegations of course, and hints that perhaps his wife had something to do with it, should hard evidence of the silliness have surfaced on some bad day.
But he was enjoying the sunny day on the beach the same way we were, making trips to the bar above with some frequency for a glass of Sardinian Zedda Piras in the shadow on the patio.
Mirto Zedda Piras, traditional Sardinian spirit, originates from the small red berries (Red Myrtle) and the leaves (White Myrtle) of the Myrtle plant. It’s extremely popular in Sardinia, and I can see why.
There are things in the history of this Mediterranean island that are unique.
One is that the coastal towns were heavily fortified against attacks by Saracen pirates from North Africa.
They were a major nuisance especially during the 17th and 18th centuries – the Saracens captured more than a thousand merchant ships in the Mediterranean’s and took over a million Europeans into slavery in Africa and middle East (by some estimates, we will never know for sure). It had gotten so bad, that people stopped settling in the coastal areas.
At the beginning of the 19th century the British had developed enough naval power to bomb the Saracen barbarians into bloody submission until they came asking for a piece treaty and the situation had somewhat normalized.
However, corsair activity based in Algiers did not entirely cease until France conquered the state in 1830.
The dramatic history is visible today in the presence of fortified watchtowers along the coast to warn the cities of attacks and provide the first line of defense.
I swam to one of those, located on a rocky reef – it controlled access to the bay, all right, but if you were stationed there, you only survived if the city behind you beat the barbarians. There is no access to the tower at ground level, it looks like the soldiers had to climb a ladder which they pulled up after. I am sure it was a lonely place, totally relying on others.
One must wonder if history repeats itself. Perhaps it just rhymes and let’s hope that’s all there is to it.
In a recent news around 400 African refugees stormed the beautiful Spanish exclave Ceuta on the border with Morocco just on the African side of the Pillars of Hercules. They have climbed over the double barbed wire fence which are over 18 feet tall (6 meters). They attacked guards throwing corrosive Quicklime at them, which of course burns.
Ceuta and Melilla, also a Spanish exclave, are effectively the only EU external borders on the African continent.
But for now, Sardinia is a paradise. The local cuisine is exquisite, the sea is light blue in the bright sun and a glass of Zedda Piras makes the evening flow like a dream.
Let the good times roll.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler