Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sunday--Vesuvius and Herculaneum

And it's the last day of our trip.  And we're going to the top of Mt. Vesuvius.

As mountains go, Vesuvius is not that interesting.  No forests, no huge ravines, no castle on top.  And not even particularly dangerous anymore.  Now the danger is the volcano Solftara in Pozzouli (near Naples) but who's ever heard of that?  (Again, a  picture lifted from the web).

In this shot you can see the road where you drive up most of the way, and the zigzag footpath where you walk the rest of the way up.  At first, I was a little concerned--meaning that I got out of breath and the heart was pounding a bit.  I'm not exactly in shape, and I'm not used to being more that a few dozen feet above sea level.  And have I mentioned that it was hot this week?  Then it hit me that this wasn't a race--the Vesuvius had been there for centuries and wasn't going anywhere, and Robert and Amanda were too nice to leave me there, so I just slowed down and enjoyed the hike.  We found that if you hung over the railing, you could get the breeze coming off the Gulf of Naples and it felt pretty nice.  Alas, it was a smoggy day.

So we walked 20-30 minutes and there we were--looking into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius.

There are still wisps of steam coming out of the crater, and the eggy smell of sulfur in the air.  We walked around the crater, had a lemonade, and tried to visualize that day in August 79 when this volcano erupted.
We finally made our way back to the car (it's always trickier walking downhill than up, especially on gravel).
A digression--I had my thermos of water with me (of course) and when I opened it we heard the pfffftt! of the air pressure equalizing.  It doesn't take much to amuse us.
Then it was time to find the last destination of this trip:  Herculaneum.
Herculaneum is about 11 miles west of Pompeii, and was also buried in the eruption.  It apparently was a richer town, and is much better preserved, but not as well known.  There were no lines to get in (after we finally found it--it really wasn't very well marked) and only a few vendors.  It had a fraction of the crowds of the better known town. (Bob thinks Pompeii is more popular because it's easier to say)  You can easily see that it was buried under some 60 feet of ash and lava, and the town build over it.

The walk we were on was at street level, and we're looking down on Herculaneum, and then across at the town that hovers over it.

This picture shows the boathouse, where panicked people packed trying to escape from the city.  This would have been the harbor (and the water level) at the time.  The skeletons in there are models, but that is where they were found. People tend to believe that the people were killed by being smothered in ash and lava.  The truth is that they would have died almost instantly, even if they were indoors, by the extreme heat of the pyroclastic surge .

But like Pompeii, it is the life of these people that was preserved by their violent death.  They had art, and beauty, and bathhouses (and bawdy houses) and bakeries and laundries.  They seem very real.


On the way out, Amanda had a conniption fit.  Of all the wonders that we had seen, the one that had her jumping up and down was on the other side of the fence, in a pile of trash. 
Demijohns.  Three of them.  Big ones.  Green ones.  In their faux wicker baskets.  The. Big. Find.   There was no low spot in the wall.  We considered climbing the fence, but there were some security cameras and alarms visible.  We debated how much we would like to see the inside of an Italian jail.  There was much angst.  We left them there--but I bet Amanda is still trying to figure out a way of getting them.

After a day in AD 79, we returned to a more modern home, to curry and zucchini fritters, to popsicles and watching "Sharknado 3."

As the subtitle of the movie says:  "Oh hell, no."
When we went to bed that night, we looked at each other and said "did we really hike up Vesuvius, walk through Herculaneum, and watch Sharknado all in the same day?"
I don't think we have much of a mind left to be blown.  We're tired.  I set the alarm for 3:30 a.m.--it's time to go home.


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