Ashes to ashes

Trip Start Aug 14, 2007
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Trip End May 23, 2008


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Friday, September 7, 2007

Pompeii, Campania, Italy
GMT +1:00 hour


A room when it is shut up, and the lamp put out

- a Pompeii resident describing the effect of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius

A Day Trip back in time
On our second day in Naples we caught the train for the 40 minutes trip around the bay of Naples to Pompeii, the areas most famous sight. It's one of Italy's premier tourist attractions which, of course, meant we'd have to put up with the hordes, the hordes we'd escaped in Naples itself. But that was fine... as long as there are no queues and no tour guides jumping them.

The day itself was pretty straightforward; we left Naples, got the train there (we actually got slightly lost but with the help of a nice local man, one who kept smiling uncontrollably at Meg, we found an alternate entrance to the Pompeii site), had a look around and came back to Naples. It's hard to come up with a decent entry for such a day, so we'll be hoping the pictures attached manage to rescue these lame few paragraphs of text and thus keep up the excessively high standard of the previous Travelpod entries! So before you all click onto the pictures we request you stick around a bit longer here while we give you a small bit of background on Pompeii. Don't worry - it's not a history lesson... just, as I said, a bit of background info. Oh, below you will also find a final observation from Italy. Just one, mind you.

Pompeii
Pompeii was, by all accounts, a wealthy Roman trading town that, on August 24th of the year AD79, was buried by volcanic ash and pumice from the eruption of the nearby volcano, Mt. Vesuvius. The volcano had been spouting smoke and ash for several days before the fatal eruption, and as a result most of the town had already been evacuated, meaning out of a total population of 20,000 it is thought that only 2000 of its residents actually perished, asphyxiated by the toxic fumes.

While the aforementioned resident might not think so, the eruption was one of the best things that ever happened to Roman archaeology, freezing as it did the way of life in Pompeii as it stood at the time and leaving behind a series of ruins, subsequent excavations of which has revealed a way of life in precise and remarkable detail. Indeed Pompeii has probably yielded more information about the ordinary life of Roman citizens during the imperial era than any other site; mainly its social conventions, class structure, domestic arrangements and its (very high) standard of living.

Amazingly the town was more or less forgotten until parts of it were discovered in 1600. Another 148 years passed until excavations of any sort began, continuing more or less without interruption until the present day. It's not really surprising that, in a site as big as Pompeii, exciting discoveries are still being made today and excavations are presently trying to resolve whether or not the survivors attempted, vainly, to resettle Pompeii after the eruption.

Final Observation

Helpful Italians
We think it kind of appropriate that this be our last observation from Italy as it's an observation that demonstrates a side of the Italian people we didn't really see until the last few days we spent in the country, a few days that coincided with us getting off the tourist trail. A coincidence? We think not. Anyway, in those last few days we've had a few examples of helpful locals doing their bit to help us and it just demonstrates how the everyday Italians (not the ones involved in or around the tourist industry) are nice, hospitable people and good ambassadors for their country. As we already touch on, we stayed on one stop too long on the train to Pompeii and a nice old man, with not a word of English, did his utmost to help us (which he did). Another guy on the train to Bari made sure to let us know, as he was leaving the train, that our stop was not the next one, not even the following one, but the stop after that. Again, he hadn't a word of English but we easily got the gist of what he was saying. The fact that our stop was the last one didn't matter, it was the effort he went through to help us that we'll remember. "Grazie"
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