A Little Pompeii and Circumstance

Generally, when we travel, we plan ahead for some of the major things we want to do, but then allow timing, mood, weather, luck, and whimsey to guide us in discovering other things to experience and see. Such as it was with working in an unexpected trip to Pompeii. We found ourselves with an extra day to kill while in Rome, and so decided to take a day trip bus tour down to Pompeii.

IMG_7050The bus drove through Naples, the sum total of which netted four –count ’em- four!– usable photos and a fairly lousy lunch. Naples isn’t a city that’s doing all that well, led by an unemployment rate of about 28%. It was once a busy industrial city, but many factories have shut down in the last few decades. Naples is also characterized by high levels of corruption and organized crime, which often starts with serving very bad lunches to tourists driving through on busses.

We did get to see some waves crashing on the shore. It looks like a city that will be affected by climate change, as the waves regularly surged onto the main boulevard that borders the water. This was pretty much the highlight of our drive through town.

IMG_7059Although there is an interesting castle right on the water, called The Castel dell’Ovo, which literally means “The Egg Castle.” There’s a whole story behind that name I won’t bore you with. Besides, I have no yolks for it. Anyway, it is the oldest standing fortification in Naples, dating back to Roman times. The first castle on the site was built in the 12th century by the Normans. Speaking of which, how could everyone tell who was who if they were all called Norman?

IMG_7499This is the volcano, Vesuvius, that made Pompeii famous. If it hadn’t blown its top and buried the town, we might never have heard of Pompeii. The mountain doesn’t look like much, actually, so its understandable why they weren’t worried about it when they built the town. Besides, the land is very fertile due to the volcano, so the town grew because of the volcano, and then was destroyed by it. Reminds me of Stormy Daniels.

IMG_7064It’s amazing all that ash didn’t ruin their great lawns. Obviously, the technology the Romans had for keeping grass green was way ahead of its time.

IMG_7436There a couple of auditoriums, one of which was played in by Elton John, another by Pink Floyd. So they still work!


IMG_7067If you love old ruins like we do, Pompeii is a special treat. Because normally when you visit old Roman ruins, you see the “skeletons” of the walls only. It’s truly amazing to see an entire town in 3D, very much like it was in its heyday.

IMG_7443With just a little imagination, you can see how colorful and decorative the city was.

IMG_7452Not that you can tell from this painting, but many artistic and scientific skills were lost for a thousand years after Rome fell. Artists from the Renaissance actually got excited digging up old Roman ruins because they were able to see quality, style, and skills that were long since forgotten, and so resurrected them for their new art.

IMG_7456To accommodate wheeled carts but keep pedestrians feet out of the mud, they built sidewalks and placed these stepping stones between them. Note the groove where the wheels wore down the rock.

IMG_7458This was an entrance to a house. You can tell this isn’t a Roman-era photograph because she’s wearing glasses, and no one wore glasses back then. They all had contacts.

IMG_7460Again, when you realize that most of the Roman ruins we’ve seen don’t even have walls, when you see an entire city so well preserved, well, it makes you want to add another “i” to the end of Pompeiii! Actually, nowadays they’re writing it as “Pompei.” I’m guessing that with all those eyes, people thought the word looked like a potato.

IMG_7461AD 79. That’s when Pompeii was buried. I’m not sure we can build any better columns today.

IMG_7088The city was full of fountains, running water, and gardens. Plus they even predicted the shape of the United States, with the red, white, and blue included! Those Romans were really ahead of their time!

IMG_7469This is a picture that decorated one of the brothels. Despite zooming in and poring over every pixel, I still couldn’t quite figure out what kind of hanky-panky these two were up to. But it probably cost him ten dēnāriusses, which is 100 asses, which has to be where the term “piece of ass” originated. I’m just making that up, but it sounds right!

IMG_7472Just imagine hordes of people walking around in togas, carts clattering on the stones, and big neon signs advertising fast food hanging on every other wall.

IMG_7473Amazingly well preserved tile flooring. We want this for our shower.

IMG_7478At the time of Pompeii’s destruction, it was thought to have a population of about 11,000. Today, about 3 million tourists visit Pompeii every year. What Vesuvius didn’t destroy, all those tourists might. They’re now talking about regulating the number of tourists because it’s starting to get a little out of hand.

IMG_7480Despite the treasure trove of historical riches, Pompei (or Pompeii or Pompeiii, whichever you prefer), could be placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger by Unesco. Hundreds of millions of dollars are needed to help preserve, restore, and investigate the ruins, many of which are still buried.

IMG_7483Carolyn thought there’d be a bad smell from all the dead people.

Actually, it was kinda chilly there on that day.

IMG_7487One of the rooms where various artifacts are being held. The glass cage holds the skeleton of a dog, who was buried right as he was licking –um, ah, well. Anyway, at least he went out with a smile on his face.

IMG_7492A view to die for (literally), and a bronze guardian.

IMG_74981,000 years after this was painted, this little bathroom fresco might have been the most formidable painting in the world. The painters at the time were still struggling with perspective and realism; the Romans had techniques that were completely lost until the ruins were dug up. If Rome hadn’t fallen, I still say you might be reading this from your pod on Mars.

These people were buried by ash, dying almost instantaneously. How many times has it happened that someone was going about their daily life, thinking of plans for dinner or whatever, only to have their lives upended, or even dying unexpectedly? This, actually, is one of the main reasons we’re tootling about the world seeing this stuff. You only got one life to experience what you want to experience, so get out there and start experiencing it. You never know when a Vesuvius might reach out and get you!

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