Monday, October 06, 2008

Pompei & Vesuvius

Today we took the train from Roma to Napoli (Naples) to visit Pompei as part of a guided tour. We arrived in Napoli about an hour early, so we spent some time trying to avoid being stabbed, shot, ripped off, or run over.

Then our tour van arrived and we made it to Pompei:

When Vesuvius erupted extremely violently in AD79, it covered the surrounding area with a massive pyroclastic cloud. Pompei, originally a harbour city, was covered in seven metres of ash and the coastline moved 900 metres away.

The ruins were discovered and excavated over the last three hundred years or so. Almost all the artifacts have been stolen or moved to museums so just the ruins and a few bits and pieces remain. However, the layout of the city is clear and it's easy to make out where buildings such as the arena, shops, squares and baths were.

Here is one of two theatres. This is actually used during the summer for live theatre.

Some ancient Roman grafitti... actually this wasn't a lewd drawing because at that time, the Romans worshipped the phallus as a god of fertility and virility.

The equivalent of 4 euros got you 15 minutes with the girl of your choice in the brothel district. Everyone could afford this so it was a popular afternoon activity. However, if you couldn't speak Latin (perhaps you were a foreign merchant or traveller) then you might run into some difficulties explaining what it is you'd actually like to do. Hence the pictorial menu. Here's one entry...

The roads sloped downwards so that waste would be washed away during the nightly downpours. This city also had reticulated water supply via lead pipes. In fact, Pompei was one of the most modern cities in the world at the time it was destroyed. Large stepping-stones are visible, used to avoid stepping onto the road if the rains were late.

Our guide - he was hilarious. You had to be there but I'll never forget him. He was great.

The main street - please note the life-like wax statues of Pompei citizens performing their daily tasks, such as hanging outside shops smoking cigarettes, or trying to sell dodgy iPhones to passing tourists.

There's the volcano that ruined the party. It's about 10 km away.

The guy on the shelf should probably not have slept in that day...

The Temple of Apollo - there's a sundial on top of the white column to the left. Diana was around somewhere.

After exploring the ruins all morning, we had lunch and then were driven to Vesuvius where we climbed to the top. The road up is very windy (as in, many corners) and narrow in places. At one point a bus had broken down. We managed to sneak past in the van and had great fun stopping every bus that was heading down and telling them about the massive jam below. The reactions from the drivers were priceless. Further up we came across two buses trying to pass each other. There was chaos and traffic everywhere. The only thing missing was chickens. Anyway, somehow, they managed to squeeze past each other. Amazing. Italians are such passionate people and it's fantastic to see them live their lives with such drama and expression. Great stuff.

Here's a pic looking out towards Napoli.

Some lava.

Out towards Pompei - we are just below 1200 metres elevation here.

The crater is 300 metres deep and looks like a giant hole in the ground. I had a photo but I can't find it right now... there was a bit of steam too.

So we made it back to the train station, hopped on an earlier train and we were back in Roma by early evening. A fantastic day.

Just a small note to finish up - I was under the impression that Central European drivers were the worst you could find. I stand corrected. Napoli drivers are so incredibly bad at it that they've turned it into a comedic theatre of sorts. For example, the highway speed limit was 60kph in most parts due to many roadwork sites, but we cruised through in our tour van at over 120kph. Lane markings are not guidelines, they are mere suggestions. The horn is to be used as either a musical instrument or as a friendly greeting for every vehicle you pass or find yourself behind. Classic stuff actually and I really enjoyed being a part of the madness. I'm just glad nobody got shot.

As I mentioned in a few posts earlier, my 'perfect storm' of free Internet access, usable keyboard and spare time has come to an end. I doubt I'll have the opportunity to post so much again in such short time. I hope everyone is enjoying the blog and it would be great if you could leave a comment or two so I know people are reading it :)


Anonymous said...

Anne says after viewing your photos that you have a real skill for making other people's travel photos very amusing and thoroughly enjoyable. That has to be a priceless talent! We are both enjoying your take on Europe and your adventures but hope that you were just kidding about not getting shot.

meowsqueak said...

Thanks for the comment. I was kidding about the danger but there were times when things got a bit tense.

The photos on this blog are all taken by either of our cameras.