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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hello! Vesuvius??

[I took a bunch of photos, but only my favorites are here.  If you'd like to see them all, please go HERE.]

I was so excited to leave Naples!  But first, we had breakfast at the hotel and then we wandered around the city a bit.  Then we headed off to the train station.  The train we took to Pompeii was actually really nice.  It was air conditioned and clean (it seemed to be new).  
The stone wall in the back of the photo (in front of the treeline) is actually where the sea used to start.  Then the volcano dumped 25 feet of ash onto the area.  The sea is actually now over 2km (~1.25 miles) away from where it used to start!
When we arrived in Pompeii, we still had time before the tour started.  So, we went to a little pizza place to get some lunch (the tour was scheduled to last several hours).  It was seriously overpriced, but what can you expect?  It's basically the only place to eat!  The food was mediocre at best.  The "salad" was just lettuce.  The pizza was dry and flavorless.  But, it was food.  And, it held us over until we got back to Naples.

Anyway, when we finished eating, we met our tour group.  While we waited, there was a guy who kept yelling, "Hello! Vesuvius? Would you like the bus to Vesuvius?"  He just wouldn't stop.  So, it became a big joke for Philip and I the rest of the trip.  Anytime we got bored, we'd just yell out, "Hello! Vesuvius?"  Seriously, after listening to that guy for half an hour, you'd be a little batty, too.  ;)  

Anyway, Our tour guide was actually an archeologist who works in Pompeii!  How fantastic is that??  First, she took us to a place that most tourists do not get to see.  It was a brothel on the edge of the city.  There were painted pictures on the walls of sex acts.  It was like a prostitution menu!  The city actually had over 35 brothels!  There were depictions of sex acts and phallic statues all over!  I guess Pompeii was like the Vegas of its time.  ;)

Then we moved onto the area that everyone gets to see.  When I used to think of Pompeii, I thought of a few buildings excavated from under the ash.  A small town possibly.  Not even close.  The city is enormous!  When it was destroyed, it was a city of over 20,000.  

I also used to wonder why the people chose to live so close to an active volcano.  It turns out, they had no idea.  The previous eruption had been hundreds of years prior and the current residents didn't remember (or have history of it).  They thought that there was a giant living in the mountain.  When they angered the giant, it caused earthquakes.  So, then they'd try to make the giant happy again.  

When the volcano actually erupted, the people were taken by surprise.  There wasn't any lava; it was all ash and poisonous gas.  And the residents that weren't killed by the poisonous gas were killed by the ash.  And then their remains and the rest of the city were perfectly preserved by 25 feet of ash.  The eruption was so violent that ash from Vesuvius was found in Greece.  
The remains of a Pompeiian restaurant. 
After the eruption, the city was basically forgotten about.  The city wasn't rediscovered until the 1700s.  Can you imagine just forgetting about a city destroyed by a volcanic eruption?  I know that Pompeii wasn't a HUGE city, but it was a major port city in its time.  

We wandered around the city for a few hours but we still didn't see everything.  It's amazing how much is left of the city.  Even the remains of people.  There were plaster casts of people and dogs and buildings.  You see, when the city was buried by the ash, it left the people under it.  However, the people, dogs, wood, etc., eventually decomposed.  However, the pocket in the ash still remained.  So, if you fill that pocket with plaster, you get a cast of what was there when the volcano erupted.

You can still see some of the bones left behind in some of the plaster casts.  It's very strange.  These people never saw this coming.  Creepy.  

Anyway, we continued to wander and wander and wander.  After a few hours of wandering, the tour was over.  However, we still didn't see the whole city.  We would've had to explore for days to see everything.  

If you're in the area, definitely take a tour of Pompeii (just stay in Sorrento instead of Naples!).  It's absolutely amazing.  I just wish we would have had more time and then I would've taken the "Hello! Vesuvius?" guy up on his offer.  If we go back, I'll definitely tour Mount Vesuvius, too.  

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