Port of Call – NAPLES/Pompeii
When we last left our heroes, the were leaving Sorrento in the rain, hoping that they had gotten their 30% chance out of the way…
No Such Luck! The intrepid ‘Family’ of Tour Guide Julia, popped their umbrellas, and donned the very stylish and fashionable ‘Purple Trenchcoat’ that is all the rage of the Pompeii circuit… at least according to the street vendors at the facility entrance. These lovely 5-Euro items are designed as the ultimate in biodegradable wear, as they immediately begin to shred as soon as they are worn.
The ruins of this Roman city from 79AD are rather spectacular. I’d expected something with columns and some buildings and such, but this places SPRAWLS over a large territory. As Julia tells it, the city was actually a port town on the Mediterranean. As you may have noticed from the prior map, it’s now about 5 kilometers inland. This is not due to the seas sinking but rather the huge volume of volcanic ash and material that settled over the area in a few days and raised the land well above the sea where it remains today.
It’s raining pretty steadily here so most of the time Renée had her camera safely Ziploc-ed away. Most of these photos I captured with the camera on my trusty iPhone4, so please excuse the rather poor quality.
Here, to open the section of photos, is one that Renée captured during a brief respite in the rain:
The approach to the small gladiatorial stadium, seen in the offing:
Here we are standing in the center of the stadium. The seating has been renovated for actual use in years past, but not any longer. At the lowest levels, where the wealthiest would sit, you can still see the carved marble seats and steps. And guess what? It’s still raining!!
This is a close-up of one of the main entry streets. It lead down to the harbor. These streets were open gutters/sewers that carried the city waste out and down to the sea. These raised stones are at the level of the walkways on either side of the ‘street’ so people could walk across without having to step in the muck. The spacing of the stones was designed to easily allow chariots and carts to pass up and down to the port. You an clearly see the worn groove of those iron-shod wheels from 2,000 years ago. Cool!!
Guess what this building below used to be for?
If you said ‘bakery’ you win a prize! Sure, sure, it just *looks* like they had large, brick ovens. How do they *know* it was a bakery?
Unlike most ruins, this one spent 1,900 years buried in volcanic ash. When they dug the place out they founds THOUSANDS of loaves of bread in this and other bakeries around the city. They were more ‘toast’ than bread, but there was no doubt about it… I wonder if they made pizzas here on weekends?
This was one of the people on our tour group. As you can see he also had donned one of the “PURPLE TRENCHCOATS”. He was shooting pics with his Nikon and trying to keep it under cover in-between… brave soul!
BTW: The inscription on the wall is not part of the original building but was placed there in past years. It reads (if my Latin is any good at all…) “House built in the second year of Augustus”… or something similar.
Looks like in-town accommodations were rather small
More pictures along the way…
As this was the ‘Adults Only’ tour, our guide took us to one of the more unusual areas of the city. Just off the main port road we saw earlier was a series of smallish rooms like this one pictured below. Here you can see a local neighborhood German Shepherd has spotted a likely location out of the rain for a nap. This was one of a number of pups we saw during our travels. They were all collared and tagged and evidently belonged to folks that lived near the ruins.
So the archeologists weren’t certain what these rooms with a rather permanent bed-looking area were..
…until they started cleaning up the frescos that were still painted on the walls above the doors…
It turns out this was the the city’s brothel area, conveniently located near the harbor. Since this was an extremely busy port that served many different cultures, there were many different languages spoken by the sailors and merchants. The frescos made it easy to select what… ummmm… services you wanted. It was kind of like going into a McDonalds in another country, just point at the picture of the Big Mac and you knew what you were buying.
It was a busy street!
By the way, notice what looks like a pipe revealed in the stone to the right of the street scene above? This is actually a water pipe ‘main’ that server water to the homes throughout the city. When archeologists first examined these pipes, the found they were made of LEAD. Egads! They speculated that this might have been the cause of many of the dead in the city before they knew more about the actual history. On further examination, it was found that the water was so ‘hard’ that it coated the inner portion of the lead pipes with a solid wall of calcium, completely insulating the water from the lead and making it quite safe. Talk about lucky!
This mosaic floor is at the entrance to one home, I really liked it and didn’t see something similar elsewhere as we walked through the city.
Every once in awhile, you get lucky.
This is an iPhone4 picture I shot of part of the central plazas of Pompeii. It’s still raining, but it’s finally letting up a bit.
The mountain you see in the background just breaking free of the clouds is Vesuvius… imagine what it looked like.. THREE TIMES HIGHER than today!
One of the casts made of the many found in the ash 20 feet deep. They died from inhaling the poison gas from the volcano and were covered up in less than 4 days to a depth of 20 feet or more. This is not an actual ‘body’ The heat and corrosive environment of the ash incinerated the bodies after they were trapped, leaving cavities in the cooling mass in the exact form of the person or animal. Once this was realized, they poured a casting material into the cavities to create these impressions of the people who perished.
This was one on many of the wall frescos that are still in place throughout the city (outside the brothel).
This is one of a number of storehouses and restoration shops thy discovered as the city was uncovered. As they learned more and more about the history of Pompeii they realized why places like this were found, and why so many were found dead here. A couple years before the eruption in 79AD there was a sever earthquake that caused a lot of damage to the city. Many of the residents relocated to other villas they had elsewhere and left the rebuilding and repair and renovation of Pompeii to slaves and artisans. …and those were the people that were there when the mountain blew up.
The second picture is of a dog, restored in a similar fashion the way the person was earlier. I flipped the picture over to make it a bit easier to see the shape of the dog.
A couple final parting shots as we exit Pompeii and the rain lessens further…
One final picture from Renée of a section from the central plaza of Pompeii. It provides a sense of the huge scale of the place… look carefully (try clicking on the pic to get it in a viewer where you can zoom in) under the archway and you’ll see a few umbrellas and one of the lovely purple trenchcoats.
As we climb aboard the #19 bus to take us back to the ship, I’m still stunned at the scope and… reality… of Pompeii. Even in the rain it was an awesome adventure!!
As we ride back towards ‘home’ it… stops… raining, and the sun comes out!
I then look at my watch and realize I’ve missed the start of Captain Jack in the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie already. It’s showing in the Walt Disney Theater in 3D. There’s another showing late tonight but I don’t want to disturb the other patrons by snoring loudly through the back half of the film.
One final photo from Renée that she captured as we sailed away from Napoli… what a beauty shot!
Clean up, dinner, perhaps a nightcap and then
Tomorrow is Civitavecchia… and another busy, exciting day
But we’re *not* doing Rome!
Tune in then!