Part One – Grouse Grind Versus Vertical Vesuvius
Saturday morning we left the villa and drove in to Pompeii. We wandered down the street to where our hotel had told the entrance to Pompeii was just 100 metres away. She must have been in collusion with the guys selling tours. After spending some time hearing that we had come 100 metres in the wrong direction (Ed. note: Thanks Hotel Degli Amici- like we aren’t walking enough!), we were convinced to wait five minutes and to take a “tour” up to the top of Mount Vesuvius. After a 45 minute wait a taxi shows up and off we go. After a one hour ride, we get to the “base” and we start the 35 – 45 minute climb to the top – 860 metres in elevation (G.G. is a mere 853 metres) via a switchback gravel path. All sorts of people – age, physical fitness, readiness were on the path to the top. The taxi driver told us to meet back at the van in 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Some tour.
After a glass of mediocre wine at the top we started the 15 minute climb down – with another “We did that” experience under our belts.
The ride back to Pompeii was interesting. Italians don’t seem to want to make decisions about which lane they choose – so they frequently sit on the yellow line.
Part Two – Pompeii is HUGE
taxi driver whoops – tour guide – dropped us off, (Ed. note: “If you want to tip the chauffeur that’s okay and it’s okay if you don’t” he says as we climb out. Tip? 8 of us paid 20 Euros each for the ride up and down. We didn’t.) we had a nice lunch and wandered in to the ruins of Pompeii. It was amazing. None of us had any idea it was so big. There were 11 000 people living there in 79 AD when it erupted. It was on the lee side of the explosion so it was buried in ash up to 20 metres deep. (Ed. note: This was a little different from the fate of the people living a few miles away in Herculaneum.) It was awe inspiring to wander the streets and think of what the people had built and what had been destroyed by nature. We have many, many photos – but just before we got to the Amphitheatre the camera battery ran out. Sigh.
After much wandering we found the Pompeii Lupanar. It was one of about twenty-five in the city at the time of the eruption. What is the Lupanar? It was a brothel. The people of Pompeii had no hang ups about sex. It was just part of everyday life and any kind of sex was acceptable – no taboos. There would be penises on surrounding buildings pointing the weary traveller in the right direction.
In the Lupanar there were 5 rooms and each room had a painting above the doorway illustrating the “speciality” of the person inside. The walls were covered with graffiti rating or raving about the occupant’s abilities.
From there it was on to the men’s bath. They were very elaborate hot and cold baths, steam rooms etc.
Part Three – Hot Time in the City That Night
Herculaneum is the lesser know victim of the eruption of Vesuvius – which is quite interesting since it was much more dramatic. It is a beach town and was home to many wealthy people. Their homes were magnificently decorated with sculptures, friezes and paintings. However, until 1981 it was assumed that most of the inhabitants had evacuated but in that year there were roughly 300 skeletons found. What happened to them is hard to imagine. While Pompeii was buried in ash, Herculaneum experienced something quite different. From Wikipedia:
“During the night, the eruptive column which had risen into the stratosphere collapsed onto Vesuvius and its flanks. The first pyroclastic surge, formed by a mixture of ash and hot gases, billowed through the evacuated town of Herculaneum at 160 km/h (100 mph). At about 1 am it reached the beach and the boat houses, where those waiting for rescue were killed instantly by the intense heat, despite being sheltered from direct impact. The study of the victims’ postures and the effects on their skeletons indicate that the first surge caused instant death as a result of fulminant shock due to a temperature of about 500 °C (932 °F). The intense heat caused contraction of hands and feet and possibly fracture of bones and teeth.“
As a result of this intensity, a kind of air seal was created over the material on the city and much of what was there – even organic things such as wood, left over foods etc was preserved. It was amazing to wander through and see the city. It is also much smaller than Pompeii – what they have uncovered thus far is roughly 4 square city blocks, so it is easy to see in a relatively short time. If you ever get to Pompeii, see Herculaneum in the town of Ercolano (suburb of Naples). However, try not to drive there when all the traffic lights in the city are out. Combine that with the normal crazy Italian drivers (Ed. note: They are slightly more sane and careful than the Chinese – they stop for you when you are in the crosswalk.) and you have a substitute for heart attack paddles!
Anyway here are some photos of Herculaneum.
Now for something a little more sobering.
And now for something completely different.
The Shoe Blog
You can’t keep a true blue shoe blogger down for long!