Fascinating impressions on the highest active volcano in Europe
Between sea and snow – 1800 metres above sea level, far away from city traffic and beach promenade and yet so close. In the year 2020, the Etna became my refuge from all the media reports about the corona virus. Here, where the world is still in order, high up on the Sartorius craters.
The wind, the rumbling of the Southeast Crater when there are a few explosions inside, like a thunder that you can feel with your whole body. A place where the lava deserts and craters of past eruptions stretch around you, coupled with the unique flora and fauna of Etna. The view on the east coast of Sicily and the coast of Calabria, on the Nebrodi Mountains and sometimes even on the Aeolian Islands will give you a feeling of freedom. The clear air lets you breathe while you feel the crunch of the cold lava underneath you. Time flies up here because you forget all your worries and immerse yourself in a world of untouched nature.
Mamma Etna – as the Sicilians call their volcano – has truly become like a mother to me this year – you feel safe up there, safe from the everyday worries and media reports, she lets you forget and breathe deeply for a few hours and impresses you with her diversity.
One day in particular remained in my memory this year, however. It was a sunny morning in August when we decided to go up to Etna to do a hike over the Sartorius craters. After driving through the small idyllic Etna villages, we reached our destination at about 1700 meters – the Sartorius craters. 7 extinct craters which are arranged like a button system. The sky was bright blue without even a single cloud and the temperature was very pleasant. So we started our hike on the extinct craters and reached the highest point on one of the craters. We stayed for a moment, I let my gaze wander over the blooming landscape and the coast and because of the clear view I could even see the Stromboli volcano in the distance.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a soft thunder that became louder and louder, I looked over me and was a little confused at first. It sounded like a thunder, but it wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was Mamma Etna herself, who tore me out of my thoughts with a few explosions inside the South East Crater. The fascinating thing about this “thunder” is that you not only hear it, but you really feel it, you just get goose bumps when you stand up there, fascinated by the view and the volcano you are on at the same time with a slight rumbling sound.
A lava fountain
After this moment, I was more than filled with adrenalin and wanted to see the activity of the crater. Luckily this day was “San Lorenzo”, the night when most shooting stars can be seen, so in the evening we went to the south side of the Etna to watch the stars at 2000 meters above sea level. On the way there, however, we should see a completely different spectacle.
Mamma Etna was also very active that night and spewed meter high lava fountains from the southeast crater. I could hardly believe my eyes, never in my life have I seen such a natural spectacle live. Nevertheless we drove up to 2000 meters as planned to see the shooting stars. But I couldn’t let go of the impressions I had already gotten during the day and the spectacle I had only seen for a short time during the night.
After we had waited an hour for the shooting stars and nothing had happened, I couldn’t help it, I wanted to get to a point where I could see and observe the lava spectacle again. You don’t see shooting stars every day, but I had only ever seen such a spectacle of nature on television or in photos. So we drove down again so far that I could see the southeast crater again. We stayed for some time and watched the spectacle. Red lava fountains shooting into the air and illuminating the sky, I was simply fascinated. It is not easy to put these impressions into words, because you just have to experience and absorb them. Only then do you realise how impressive and fascinating nature and our earth is.
That was simply the day I fell in love with this volcano, because no matter how busy or worried you are, as soon as you get up there, you simply forget everything around you.