Monthly Archives: October 2014

History in Three Parts

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.

Mount Vesuvious - Looks benign, doesn't it.

Mount Vesuvious – Looks benign, doesn’t it.

It is hard to fathom the depth. When it blew, the ash etc. went approximately 12 miles high.

It is hard to fathom the depth. When it blew, the ash etc. went approximately 12 miles high.

Terry gives a tiny bit of a perspective.

Terry gives a tiny bit of a perspective – albeit with a wind blown coif.

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.

Even the dogs are exhausted from the up and down.

Even the dogs are exhausted from the up and down.

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.

"I'ma noa makea upa mya minda yeta."

“I’ma noa makea upa mya minda yeta.”

When the accident comes, it could be the thumbtacks holding down the sign that kill you.

When the accident comes, it could be the thumbtacks holding down the sign that kill you.

Part Two – Pompeii is HUGE

After the 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.

Apollo overlooks the forum.

Apollo overlooks the forum.

The original speed bumps. Just the width of chariot wheels - pity the horses.

The original speed bumps. Just the width of chariot wheels – pity the horses.

One of thousands of walls still standing.

One of thousands of walls still standing.

I have no idea if the bas are new or old.

I have no idea if the bars are new or old.

This is now a storage area - originally it was one of several grainaries.

This is now a storage area – originally it was one of several grainaries.

There was a great deal of wall etching.

There was a great deal of wall etching perhaps a precursor to Italian graffiti.

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.

You think your mattress is hard? Actually a small padded mattress would be added.

You think your mattress is hard? Actually a small padded mattress would be added.

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.

Seems pretty straight forward.

Seems pretty straight forward.

Room 2

Also seems straightforward,

I think this is menage a trois - the guy on top seems pretty happy.

The guy on top seems pretty happy – whatever he is doing.

From there it was on to the men’s bath. They were very elaborate hot and cold baths, steam rooms etc.

I don't think this person was found in the Lupanar.

I don’t think this person was found in the Lupanar.

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.

Terry in a restaurant kitchen. Each of the huge pots would contain a different dish.

Terry in a restaurant kitchen. Each of the huge pots would contain a different dish. (Ed. note: No, she isn’t lost, she’s saying “Imagine what I could prepare in here!”)

Can anyone out there read Latin? I would love to know what survived this tragedy.

Can anyone out there read Latin? I would love to know what survived this tragedy.

They placed white tiles in the dark floors in order to see their way at night.

They placed white tiles in the dark floors in order to see their way at night.

The columns were all rounded off evenly so that they outer coating could be applied.

The columns were all rounded off evenly so that they outer coating could be applied.

Apparently the heat was so intense, in some instances wood didn't burn. These were a set of stairs.

Apparently the heat was so intense, in some instances wood didn’t burn. These were a set of stairs.

Outside arches had both sculpted and painted decorations.

Outside arches had both sculpted and painted decorations. Look at the bottom side.

We have not seen a lot of blue tile before Herculaneum. There was a great deal of it here so maybe it was reserved for the wealthy.

We have not seen a lot of blue tile before Herculaneum. There was a great deal of it here so maybe it was reserved for the wealthy.

More incredible tile mural work.

More incredible tile mural work.

They had many large - 15 foot high - paintings decorating the walls.

They had many large – 15 foot high – paintings decorating the walls.

Now for something a little more sobering.

Some skeletons were found in the boathouses near the sea. It is surmised they took cover here thinking it would save them. It didn't.

Some skeletons were found in the boathouses near the sea. It is surmised they took cover here thinking it would save them. It didn’t.

Some skeletons were just there.

Some skeletons were just there.

And now for something completely different.

For those of you who read of our experiences on Aeroflot’s business class (Mosgiel to Shanghai to Moscow), check this out – Fly Singapore Airlines

The Shoe Blog

You can’t keep a true blue shoe blogger down for long!

And why wouldn't you wear fancy dress boots to walk to the top of an active volcano?

And why wouldn’t you wear fancy dress boots to walk to the top of an active volcano?

Fat Daddy, Gordie and Little Gary

We are staying somewhere between Positano and Amalfi, where exactly doesn’t really matter since one area melds into the other and every spot along the way is equally beautiful. The daily view from our villa is of houses and highways impossibly built into rocky cliff-sides, set against the blue blue Mediterranean sky.   We are living well in our rented villa, high above the sea. Sylvia, I have read your FB notes on this area (“I love the Amalfi coast!”) many times and now I understand!

That's our villa in the circle.

That’s our villa in the circle – and “our” beach at the bottom. (Ed. note: Ristaurante Da Adlofo is on the right)

The place we are staying was advertised as being above a small beach 150 steps below. Slight amendment: it’s 450 steps below! I am the only one in the group who doesn’t mind. It’s a good work-out up and down and a great spot for swimming. If we wanted to, we could rent a deck chair for the day and spend it sun-tanning, but those days are done for UV ray-fearing individuals such as ourselves. So we go down for a nice swim then climb back up.

Bathing uh...Beauties?

Bathing uh…Beauties? (Ed. note: Bodies have been hidden to protect the guilty)

There are two good restaurants below as well. (Ed. note: Well, actually only one since the other has closed for the season. Although they are technically reachable by land, really they are just serviced by water and when the majority of the tourist season is over, they close up.) We have been to the better one, named after my brother, Dave Adolf. The food and wine were fantastic—no meat, only great seafood and pasta. Beautiful! We were going to take their boat to Positano but it entailed an hour wait and we sized up the crowd of about 15 who had come over for lunch on it and wisely decided we probably wouldn’t get on. So, what to do? Call a water taxi of course!

Da Adolfo Ristaurante - magnifico!

Magnifico!

One day, we took a semi-private tour to and around the island of Capri.

This is a monastery - the dedication of the people who built must have been amazing!

Look up – waaayyy up! This is a monastery – the dedication of the people who built must have been amazing!

We shared a gorgeous 33’ boat with 8 other tourists and a lovely driver who plied us with champagne and olives on the way out, and more champagne, beer and limoncello on the return voyage. We visited green and white grottos (although not “the” blue grotto—too touristy and expensive, said our guide) and navigated through a rock passage where it was important to make a wish. Mine was for you, Dave.

 

Make a Wish!

Make a Wish!

One of many modest HOMES on the mainland overlooking Capri.

One of many modest HOMES on the mainland overlooking Capri.

Mary, Capri is no longer a dump! The lower road along the harbor is the most average, with a string of souvenir and gelato shops, restaurants and scooter rentals. Once above via the funiculare or uphill walkway, you arrive in an enclave of the wealthy. Only high-end designer shops of everything from men’s ties (180 euros), unisex linens and jewelry line the streets.   The alleys allow discreet glimpses into private gardens, villas and hotels.

One of the busts in a private garden. Who knew Aunt Jemima was popular in Capri?

One of the busts in a private garden. Who knew Aunt Jemima was popular in Capri?

We spotted pictures of Jackie and Ari at one of the local bars and had lunch at an outdoor spot, great for people watching. We learned later from a couple on our boat about a chair lift that runs on the Ana-Capri side of the island. Would have been fun but we didn’t get there. Instead spent a slow, relaxing day wondering around the eastern part of the island.

On the way back Luca dropped anchor and let us cavort in incredibly blue, deep water. Great fun.

On the way back Luca dropped anchor and let us cavort in incredibly blue, deep water. Great fun.

A day trip to Amalfi was fun. We had a look at the church and got ripped off at a restaurant where we stopped for lunch but are starting to accept this is part of the package. (Ed. note: Definition of a rip off: Order a hamburger; wait until everyone has their lunch almost finished until your arrives; take two bites of yours and after a ten minute wait for a server to show up, tell them that it is cold (so cold it had to have been pre-cooked and then taken from the fridge to the bun); get the bill and see that they want to charge you for the replacement burger and 1/2 the cost of the original as well since “You take 2 bites”; Pay them only 1 of the 4 euros they demanded.)

In Amalfi it is not okay to park here, but it is permissible to drive off into the water.

In Amalfi it is not okay to park here, but it is permissible to drive off into the water.

The next little town past Amalfi is Ravello where we wandered briefly after lunch and bought better-priced pottery to take home.

"You can get anything you want at Ravello's Restaurant"

“You can get anything you want at Ravello’s Restaurant”

This is the width of the road along the coast. Motorcycles and cars are parked legally all along it.

This is the width of the road along the coast. Motorcycles and cars are parked legally all along it.

These gentlemen constitute a little band of some sort or other. Now, remember the width of the road? Well they thought it would be cool to be a marching band and march along the road for awhile. Aaahhh, only in Italy.

These individuals constitute a little band of some sort or other. Now, remember the width of the road? Well they thought it would be cool to be a marching band and march along the road for awhile. Aaahhh, only in Italy.

Another day, we drove to Paestum, famous sort of like Jiaxing is famous — no one has ever heard of it (Ed. note. It is very uncool to bad mouth our famous home, Terry!) In the 2500 years since 3 Parthenon-like temples were built by the ancient Greeks, the area has been dominated by different groups, each of which left the temples standing. The Romans created a town within the city walls and brought with them their standards: a forum, an amphitheater, neatly aligned homes built in rows centered around an atrium. You can still see mosaic floors and the foundation walls of the entire village. Even the Allies used the site as a command post during WW ll, with paratroopers setting up in the Temple of Neptune, considered the most well-preserved temple of it’s kind (Doric columns) in the world. Quite marvelous to contemplate, these structures lasting for thousands of years. Meanwhile, we knock buildings down after a few generations. Wood and plaster don’t last nearly as long as solid rock, I guess. Perhaps if there actually were an endless resource of wood here and in Greece, the ancients might have built from it, but no, it was rock that was plentiful. We visited the local museum as well and had a good look at many of the relics of the Roman period recovered from local digs.

I doubt our floor will look this good after 2500 years.

I doubt our floor will look this good after 2500 years.

This half buried house is a monument to something or other - maybe sturdy construction.

This half buried house is a monument to something or other – maybe sturdy construction.

Temple to Hera - or Neptune depending on whether or not you are talking to Terry of Geoff. How big is it? Can you spot Terry?

Temple to Hera – or Neptune depending on whether or not you are talking to Terry of Geoff. How big is it? Can you spot Terry?

Karen suggested early on that we make Pompeii our destination after we finish our week here so we wouldn’t have to drive there and back. After our visit to Paestum, I’m glad we made that call, since the road is really curvy and small distances take time. On our way back from Paestum, we stopped in Sorrento to check out an outdoor market. Knock-off purses, cheap clothing, make-up, candy and fruit– nothing very special but interesting to people watch.

And now our title.

We eat and drink very well at home in our villa. Geoff has been scouting out excellent reds for very little money, compared to what we would have to spend in BC. So while we play cards in the evening, he is quaffing Amarone and the rest of us are gleefully entertained by the goings-on of our three little gecko friends, Fat Daddy, Gordie and Little Gary. We have a big window by the dining table where the light attracts the moths, and the geckos follow. They climb on to the screen and wait like spiders for the moths to fly near then BAM! The small ones provide a single bite while the bigger monsters take a big of chewing. Little Gary lives on the inside somewhere and doesn’t partake of this meal but we are confident he is keeping the fly and mosquito numbers down.

Fat Daddy and Gordy

Fat Daddy and Gordie. Gary’s shy.

Today is a rest day in Positano—how bad could it be?—then off to Pompeii for one day before Rome.

The Shoe Lookalike Blog

Can you imagine – Italy – and not a shoe worth photographing. Okay, maybe I am intimidated by the Italian women…

Anyway, for those of you who have been wondering, Roberto Luongo was NOT traded to Florida. He was traded for a lifetime of meals at Ristorante Da Adolfo  in Italy.

Life on the beach has aged Lou, however.

Life on the beach has aged Lou, however.

 

 

On the other hand, working at a Hamburgersia & Bakery in Rome has given Kesler an new lease on life.

On the other hand, working at a “Hamburgersia & Bakery” in Rome has given Kesler an new lease on life. (Ed. note: The best burger I have ever had anywhere!)

 (Ed. note: Next time – Vesuvius, Pompeii, Herculaneum and The “Eternal” City.)