Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vesuvius from bottom to top, Pompeii and the Crater

The long walkway around the city and the one of the entrances with Vesuvius in the background.
Both Pompeii and Herculaneum are wonderful sites and it was hard to pick which one to see. I decided as I was at the later most recently. The others had never been to either. Pompeii is a time capsule of what life was like a couple of thousand years ago and the surprise is similar to our's in many ways. Temples, public buildings, markets, bakeries, baths, theaters and brothels - change a few of the names and it's a modern town. And the private homes from the very wealthy to the worker bees' really show the way people ate, entertained, slept and just lived their lives. As usual we rented the recorders and the narration was excellent. I particularly like being able to chose additional material on art, architecture, history and daily life.
This time of the year here is so perfect. It isn't crowded and it isn't hot. There very little shade in the town so my last visit 40+ years ago in August was scorching. Three hours of visiting was enough, although we only saw about one half of the city. That's enough for us on one day.
One of the main streets

All sculptures present today are copies but
it's nice to see them in their places.

There are amazingly a lot of frescoes left inside and even a
few outside. This is inside one of the baths.

If you click on this picture to see it bigger, you may pick
out the croissant some joker left - this was a bakery.

Vesuvius looming up behind the ruins is rather ominous.
It is still active.

Some of the few intact columns, probably reconstructed.

As usual I love these glimpses through

The private Roman villas are spacious and perfectly
designed for the climate around the lovely atriums. Only
caveat today would be small bedrooms and few bathrooms.

This was the "little" theater. Aren't these carved edges to
the rows amazing.


It's a long walk through the volcanic ash from the parking
lot to the crater rim, but we're all in good shape due to
endless amount of walking/climbing during our vacation.

Looking down into the crater is an awe inspiring experience.
We drove up to the top of Vesuvius twice, which was certainly not our plan. It's a long drive on a narrow winding road through the "Park". The mountain is only 1281 meters but it looms above Naples. Back in 79 AD they didn't even know it was a volcano until on August 24 it exploded and buried Herculaneum under mud and Pompeii and Stabiae under ash. Since then it has erupted many times, most recently in 1944, which left lava flows we could still see.
After our day in Pompeii we made the first trip. It was only 3:30PM when we arrived, but that was too late. They close the park for visitors after then. It does get dark at 5:30 so I guess they're worried about slow walkers. So we returned the next morning. It was a little brighter than the day before but still a bit misty at the top. The views of the crater were spectacular and well worth the climb. It takes about 40 minutes to climb it and then about the same amount of time to walk around and take pictures. It's faster going down.
One thing you can't help but think about is what would happen if this blows it's top again - and it probably will. There are millions of people living below and the traffic is impossible normally. What plan, if any, do they have to evacuate everyone? Modern bustling communities crowd around Herculeum and Pompeii and everywhere else. People live on the side of the mountain. It boggles the mind.
You can walk half way around the crater.

Wisps of steam rise from the many vents in the crater
reminding you it is still active.

Having taken a number of families photos for them, one
obliged for us.

This is a good shot of the walk around the crater.

Unfortunately the view of Naples and the sea wasn't that great. We could see more than the camera shows.  The
dirt colored "river" below is one of the lava flows.

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