Our adventures in Sardinia ended with a relaxing day on the beach followed a
by the most efficient and relatively comfortable ferry journey to Naples, by relatively comfortable, I mean that me and jess shared a sofa in a corridor for the night, as we saved money by not booking a cabin! We made our way off the ferry and entered what I can only describe as the shit hole. What is described by lonely planet as loud, anarchic, dirty and edgy, I can only agree with however, all the other crap it tries to spout is a load of Trollope. The buildings were ugly, the streets were dirty and the traffic was horrendous. Add to this my sat navs absolute desire to take us to every dingy alleyway and dead end, especially if it has prostitutes roaming the street corners. Seriously, my sat nav seems to have some ‘hooker search’ add on that I was unaware of!
We left Naples as quickly as we could and made our way towards Pompeii, we passed a million parking places, none of which looked overly legitimate, and certainly not displaying their prices!! We drove towards the train station and we found it had free parking on the road all the way there. So, for the sake of a five minute walk, we saved a few more pennies.
We followed a tour group to the entrance and paid for a ticket, there was no queue which was great as I had read about queues and waiting times online. We made our way in and made the best use of our free loading knowledge, first off, every English speaking tour group, we stood near enough to get the gist, and then moved on, so they did not spot the lurker in the group. Secondly we downloaded a free guide that was ok, although the layout was poor and certain names were different, worse still was the numbers in the book did not match the map, so at each important place within the ruins we had to search through eighty pages to find the one that it related to.
The initial ruins we found were some of the grandest; temples of many gods and important town centre buildings surrounded the square (foro). This consisted of typical grand columns that lined courtyards, great statues stood here and there, often modern replicas, where once stood the originals, which are probably in some museum somewhere. Off to the far left of this main square was a granary, where there was displayed numerous large terracotta jugs, partial marble statues and ornate tables. As well as this, there was some plaster casts of the victims that were found in the rubble during excavation, frozen solid, animating their final resting position.
I read that these plaster casts filled the holes of where the dead had lay during the eruption, and although their bodies had decomposed, the shape of the fallen was moulded in the lava and ash, and therefore plaster casts could be taken to demonstrate their final resting position. There seemed to be no logic in where the plaster casts were placed, a few here and one or two there? I’m not sure if they were displayed near where they were found, or just randomly placed in locations. I believe it would have been more fitting to place them where they fell, or to place them in a more respectful fashion, that befits the reality that these were once people who were killed before there time in a horrific natural act. My opinion on this is also based on the lack of humility shown, it’s as if no one actually died here, maybe it’s so far in the past that the realities that these were real people living normal lives are diminished over time, whereas similar sights that are more recent might have a more somber feel to them.
Even the suburban districts were interesting, without the grandeur of other areas, it had the typical sprawling city scape of building after building, all similar in shape and size to one another, similar to housing estates of today. The plinths of shop fronts still stand, and have been restored to show the numerous shops and snack bars that existed across the city. Some had large bowls that I believe were used to measure and display goods and quantities, another had cyndrical groves of different sizes that might have been used to measure coins for payment.
One of the most fascinating things to see here is the art, to see walls still complete with plaster and adorned with original paintings, or just coloured all those years ago. This has survived for….?????of years And a volcanic eruption as well! To see the faces, ideas, imagination of the artists and the owners of great houses who commissioned the works in exactly the place they were done, rather than adorning a museum wall was refreshing. It gave a real sense of what these buildings would have looked like in their heyday where the rich and opulent would spend their time, going about their everyday life.
There were two half moon theatres, one which seemed to have been restored more than the other, which had ornate carvings at the end of the rows. It is easy to imagine crowds gathered to take their seats to watch shows or performances. The stadium was not quite the size of the coliseum, but was still big enough and inside you could stand in the centre of the arena, nearly forgetting the barbaric feats of fighting that would have taken place there in the name of sport. I believe this is what makes these ruins so impressive, the fact that it has frozen in time much of Roman society in one place, to roam from street to street, you can imagine the workings of daily life all around you, from the painted signs to the groves of carts through the streets, life ended one minute and was preserved for the future generations the next.
I’m a massive fan of history and I really enjoyed this visit and the scale of the ruins, it reminded me of some of the roman ruins that I saw in Tunisia, places such as Dougga and the El Jem coliseum. I really hope one day that I can visit Libya as I remember reading or seeing somewhere that there is a massive amount of ruins there, although I’m not sure how easy it is given the recent conflicts. The rest of Pompeii, outside the ruins is an ugly affair, and looks like any normal run down city. It is both great, and not so great to be living in a van, as you get to see what everyone else sees on coach tours and the like, however you are also exposed to the ugly side of every location we visit, and are therefore not restricted to tunnel vision, and are opened up to a more holistic view of each place we visit.