Wednesday, October 07, 2009

My day in Pompeii

One of my trip highlights so far has been my trip to Pompeii. This was a 'must see' sight for me, as I'd read about Pompeii all my life (and the 79AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius) and had to see it for myself. And.... here I am at Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background!

Fortunately, Pompeii is close enough to Rome for a day trip. I opted for the Semi-Private Day Trip to Pompeii & Sorrento from When in Rome Tours (if you are in Rome and have a flexible schedule, get in touch with them, as they sometimes have deals for last minute bookings!). Aside of needing to be ready for bus pickup at a Rome hotel at 7:30 (eek!) we got off to a good start. Our lovely air conditioned small bus (great driver, cute too!) had about a dozen passengers, mostly from the USA, but also from Australia - and Canada, of course!

About 3 hours later, we got our first glance at Mount Vesuvius... and a much needed pit stop.Now, we were really getting close... I got hungry well before I saw this sign. We weren't having lunch until after we toured the site, and, silly me, had forgotten to bring a snack. Fortunately, another passenger came to my rescue with a spare granola bar. (might have been nice if the tour had a few small snacks on board for long bus trips, low expense for them and would be greatly appreciated by folks like me).Upon arrival at the Pompeii site, it is easy to get water. Our guide, who met us where the bus pulled in took a moment and made sure everyone had a bottle of water before we left the area; that impressed me (now this I did bring with me!) Speaking of our guide, here he is, in one of his most impassioned moments. He was a real archaeologist and had actually worked on the Pompeii site for 6 months earlier in his life, so he had deep first hand knowledge. He was also charming and funny, and kinda cute too. I really had no idea of the magnitude of Pompeii until I was there. Or, in fact, until I read the excellent booklet that the site gives away free. Our guide did keep telling it how large it was, but when I looked at the map in detail later, I realize we only saw about 20% of the site - and we were there 3 hours!!! We kept moving the whole time; I was tired so I can't imagine how some of the less mobile folks made it; while our guide was sensitive to their needs, he did keep us moving. One cannot see Pompeii in a day - part of me wishes I'd seen one of the theatres, but there wasn't any part of what we did see that could have been subtracted.

To start off on a light note, if you were new to town in Pompeii, or just visiting, you would need to know where to find a prostitute. This road marker pointed the way to the brothel. Seriously. And another... Until you found yourself at the brothel itself. How did you know? There was a similar sign at the entrance (more phallic symbols for my trip's collection!). Inside, there were plenty of frescos to get one in the mood....Of course, all this for the men, nothing about the needs of women, and I expect for the most part the prostitutes did not choose their lives willingly, but I do love the passion and experimentation in the frescos. Now, for a bit more of Pompeii.... This was the house of the baker. Well, one of many 35 such homes. The residence was upstairs and the hortus (garden) contained machinery for grinding wheat and making the bread. The gardens at the House of the Faun; only the gardens have been restored to what is believed to be the design, everything else is as is, as it was uncovered. This was the largest house in Pompeii (2,970 square metres), so belonged to a most prosperous resident. The bronze faun in the garden...Mosaic tiles: A general pic of the view standing in Pompeii, with Mount Vesuvius in the background. Inside a smaller house, there were these cool frescos, with amazing colour - look at that blue! (You can click on the pic to enlarge it for a closer look). Another fresco detail:In the public baths, the bathers could tell the time of day from the way the light shone in the windows. Apparently the fashion was to go to the baths in late afternoon, after a day's work, and before dinner. There were separate baths for women. Relief detail inside the baths... More reliefs in the bath... there was a room lined with these guys... they were about 9-10 inches tall and just above eye level (well, way above eye level for someone shorter! lol) Not just a fresco, but the hole you see is a glimpse into part of the water heating system. The guy in the hat is from modern day. Ha ha!!!! Our guide kept us really moving, so no time to get pics without tourists in them....Nice pic of Mount Vesuvius - apparently it looked much differently before it blew it's top. There were interesting street signs. The street name signs have to be recently created, but the street names are real - they were most organized! And this visual indicates a spot where there would be porters that could help you home from the market with your purchases.This marker means one way street. Really. Sad to see, but one of the remarkable things about Pompeii is how the combination of ash and gas conserved the shapes of the bodies of the people in Pompeii in the exact positions they were in when they died. What is seen today are plaster casts made from these remains. We saw a couple of the most famous ones, this being a pregnant woman lying face down, as if to protect her baby.... ;-( And this, a young boy, covering his mouth from the gas... Sadly, there is some evidence that the people left Pompeii during the eruption, but returned, not knowing that the gas would follow...OK, this was the Mensa Ponderaria, the public office to control weights and measures. This was near the produce market.

Nice pic of ruins and Latin lettering.... Loved these views of ruins in the larger town squares and forums....
No, those are not my feet. But just forward of the stranger's left foot, you will see a depression in the stone. This is actually part of the city's drainage system. When it rained, all the water would drain from the streets and squares in a matter of minutes, and was collected for use in washing and crops. Marvelous, and better than we do in many places in the world today!
Another cool view....
And another....
Nice detail on the top of an old column:
These little white stones in the roads had a specific purpose. At nightfall, they would reflect remaining daylight, as well as light from lanterns, to light the way. Seriously, this was a very sophisticated society.
This last pic was actually the first view of the site I had upon arrival. There are several city gates, and depending on how you get to Pompeii, and what you plan to see, you can enter at different spots -- though this did seem like the main one.
I have several hundred more pictures (!) but these are good highlights.
Afterwards, we said goodbye to our tour guide (he really was awesome!) and met up with our bus driver. Only thing I would have liked changed about the stop in Pompeii would have been 15 minutes to visit the gift shop for some postcards, but I know there was a schedule....
Our tour continued onto Sorrento for lunch. I'll write about that in a separate post next (click here to go to that post).

1 comment:

Armchair Traveller said...

This was lovely to see Pompeii through your visit there !