Friday, April 15, 2011

2000 Years and Me

04-07-11, Pompeii

11:42 a.m. and I am sitting on the steps of a large, many-roomed building which appears to have been a smaller bathhouse. Some small patches of original artwork still visible.

Pompeii, too, has changed (I know...a silly thing to say) since my first visit. There are very few places where one is allowed to leave the main streets. Gates everywhere, so one can only get a rough idea of what these buildings/homes once were--though with a bit of imagination it's possible. But the biggest shock, and one I consider an inexcusable desecration, is the public drinking fountains, all over the city, which constantly spewed streams of water into a large square troughs for passersby. I distinctly remember one, a lion's head whose one side had been worn smooth by ancient Pompeiians rubbing their own faces against the stone while drinking. Now all the fanciful sculptures have common garden-hose variety spigots coming out of their mouths to be turned on and off as needed. Horrible!!

The rooms of the many small shops lining the streets are largely of the same dimension...15 feet square is the average; I imagine due to the constraints of length of available beams and supports. There are linking doors between some but not many. I bought a map, but it is for the most part not much help. The more famous buildings are labeled, and I've taken photos of those with numbers corresponding to explanations in the guidebook.

The streets are, for the most part, straight, often giving off to beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside.

And above all, to the north, looms Vesuvius.

I brought along an extra battery for my camera and am pretty sure I'm going to need it.

12:44 sitting on a small column in the garden atrium of a Pompeii wealthy home, opening onto a vineyard. Very tourists passing by. Wonderfully restful, and I only have to imagine other people, at other times, doing the same. I should move, though, since I'm ruining a beautiful photograph for anyone looking in from the street.

3:18 Finally, after hours of walking, found the small amphitheater, where I am now sitting. The main amphitheater is still a long way away. Maps are very very helpful and also very very confusing. The street names on the maps are not necessarily the names on the streets, or at least I can't find them. Anyway, I am somewhat disappointed by the fact that I was able to actually enter any of the villas with the paintings. All locked up tighter than a drum. Did find several of the famous mosaic entry floors, but had to shoot through the barred gates.

The area where they have recently excavated or are currently excavating seem to be in much finer shape than other parts of the city. I suspect much of that is due to the fact of vastly improved archaelogical/preservation techniques.

It is now 3:26 and Pompeii closes at 5, so I'd better start trying to find my way back to the forum.
Two young girls are standing on the stage (or prescenium or whatever, singing to the applause of people in the stands). Fun touch.

So, thus is concluded the second of my primary reasons for this trip: the quay at Cannes and a return to Pompeii. And now back to the train.
The local trains in Italy, I've noticed, frequently have musicians wandering through the cars, playing for money. Some of them are quite good, but I have something of a prudish view of soliciting money. Coming back from Pompeii there was a man playing an accordion. With him was his son, a little boy around four, who held a plastic cup and went from person to person. The poor kid looked embarrassed and terribly shy. I knew full well the father was using his son as an organ grinder uses a trained monkey, but when the little boy came up to me and looked up at me with those big, hopefully-still innocent eyes, I couldn't resist. It took me a minute to dig some coins out of my pocket, but he stood there patiently, waiting. When I dropped it into the cup, his father said "Thank you." And they moved on.

5:05 p.m. Back at the hotel and took a load of laundry to the small laundromat a few door down. It will be ready at 7, and again it won't cost me $170.

Also discovered that there are three stops for Sorrento, and the second one is five minutes from the hotel, rather than the fifteen euro taxi ride from the end-of-the-line station. Checked when I got off coming back from Pompeii and found it's a one-hour ride (remember those 36 stops?) to the Napoli Centrale. My train for Rome leaves at 9:50, and there's a train from my closest stop leaving at 7:47 (there's one at 8-something, but I don't want to cut it too close). Oh, and an interesting thing about the stop closest to me. There is only one track, used by trains going in both directions. I imagine that requires some pretty fancy footwork on someone's part.

Going to have dinner here at the hotel, then pick up my laundry, and spend the evening sorting out and labeling today's photos. There'll be a real glut of them when I finally get back on line. (And yes, I'm still suffering internet withdrawal.)

Some 200 photos I took of Pompeii are being posted to Facebook. I hope you might look for them.

So, until later....

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