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Friday, March 4, 2011

Pompeii: the City Frozen in Time

It was very difficult to get up in the morning, but we knew that we had to get on an early train because all of the guides said that walking through the ruins of Pompeii would take hours and the last entrance was at 5, so we needed to get there by at least 11.  We got to the train station in the nick of time, sure that we were not going to make it.  Fortunately, we did.  The train was one of the regional ones, so not as nice as the one that had brought us to Rome from Venice, but it was still nice enough and we settled in for some napping before we arrived.  The train ride seemed very short to me, and before I knew it we were in Naples.  I had heard, I think from "Eat, Pray, Love", that Naples was the pick pocket capital of the world, so we were heavily on our guard.  (Later, we learned the top two cities were acctually Barcelona and Rome...whoops!).  We found the train line that we needed to take to get to Pompeii, Circumvesivio, and bought our tickets (that line is not covered by the Eurail Pass).  They were only about 2 euro so it wasn't too bad.

The tracks had a lot of cig butts in it, it was kinda disgusting, but we were super pumped to get to Pompeii, so we didn't really pay it much mind.  We got onto the train, along with everyone and their mom, and luckily found some spots next to each other.  There was a family who had to sit in three different sections, and I kinda felt bad for them, but the dad had a camcorder and was a little obnoxious with it, so soon I stopped caring about them.  Unfortunately, the seat we found had spray paint on the outside window, so we couldn't really see very much.  We did, however, spot Mt. Vesuvius!  The ride was a little more than a half hour and it was pretty uneventful.

When we got to Pompeii, we got out and walked where the signs pointed us.  Along the road were some stands selling stuff to tourists (like there always are) and on them were the BIGGEST lemons I have ever seen.  They looked like grapefruit..only lemons.  We decided to buy some Lemonade on the way back to the train station.  About a 2 minute walk led us to the entrance where we bought our tickets, and I thought we probably wanted an audio guide as well.  Little did I know there was a free booklet explaining everything...but, the audio guide was fine.

Walking the path up to the beginning of the city (that was a thriving city 2,000 years ago) we had spectacular views of the destructive Mt. Vesuvius.

We walked all along throughout the city seeing everything from temples, public offices and sports arenas.  I think it is best to explain the city through pictures.  First, a brief history for those of you that don't know what happened in Pompeii.  In 79 AD Mt. Vesuvius, a volcano that is still active today, erupted like major big time.  It swallowed the city in ash the first day and on the second day, those that hadn't died from the toxic chemicals and tried to hide in their houses were covered with molten lava.  The way in which the volcano erupted caused the bodies and indeed the entire town to be preserved exactily the way it was at the time of the explosion.  So, when it was excavated, they found how people in ancient Rome would have lived 2,000 years ago with actual examples.  It's really very cool because it's not just an excavation site, it is like walking through a dead town.  The buildings are still there, the roads are where they were and even some of the people (in body casts made from plaster of paris) are around.  It's kinda the coolest historical place I've been.  I'll explain stuff in more detail through some pictures.

 This was the temple of Jupiter (Zeus) and it was rather large and right in the middle of the main square.

 This is one of the body casts surrounded by the pots and other random stuff they have found around the site. 

 This is the Villa of Mysteries and this is why it is called that.  This fresco is thousands of years old and they (the smart people) have no idea what it signifies.  Villa is something that refers to any building outside of the city walls....something you didn't know I'll bet :)

 According to Braden (one of the smart guys) this is one of the most famous mosaics in the world.  He says it was on his history book in 6th grade...I, of course, had never heard of it.  GO WOLVES.  It portrays Alexander the Great fighting some Persian guy...who is famous...that I just now forgot.  I'll remember at some inopportune time in the future.

This is a picture of Braden!!  He is standing in the theatre of the town of Pompeii.  It was really big and impressive and they could cover it with stuff.......COOL STUFF!!!

Well....so we left Pompeii and decided to hang out for a while in Naples.  On the way back into Italy's 3rd largest city, we saw other sides of the volcano and it was SO cool.  When we got into town, I went to the tourist office and asked for a good place for some pizza, it having been invented in Naples.  He showed me on a map where to go and off we went into the big city.  There were a ton of people selling things on the streets and sidewalks outside the main train station, but that was normal.  As we kept walking, though, we saw how dirty and disgusting the town really was.  It was almost embarrasing.  I took some pictures of the town:

This is not just like one area that I took a picture of, this was the entire town.  Every street we saw...it was overly creepy and dirty.  When we found the pizza joint, it was closed....really good advice tourist office.  Every consecutive pizzeria we found was also closed...so we went back to the train station and had some pizza there and waited for the first train out of Naples.

When we got back to Rome it was raining pretty heavily and there was some thunder and lightning.  We decided it was better to not do anymore site seeing and just sit in and make some pasta, which we did.  It was delicious :)

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