Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Travel Journal, Part VII

Naples, Pompeii and The Vesuvius.

07/23 - Saturday

I around seven in the morning and got in a train to Naples. I still can't believe I'm leaving Rome without seeing half of the museums that are here. I believe that to be real satisfied I'd have to remain in Rome for more fifteen days. I feel quite sad to leave and as I saw the flowers and trees through the train's window I got even sadder; I don't know if I'll ever be back.

A few hours later when I arrived in Naples I was starving (I didn't risk eating anything in the train, I know I go sick quite easily) so I entered the first restaurant I saw at the station? MacDonald's. I wonder why Italy's Big Mac's are leaner and bigger than Brazil's.

Anyway, I got in a Taxi to the hotel and unpacked what was necessary for the day. The time is passing really quickly today and when I finally made it out of the hotel it was nearly 3pm, and since the museums close at 5pm I didn't have the time to visit any of them. In the port there weren't any more boats to Capri's Island, so I just gave up and walked around the city.

I didn't see much in Naples, just walking around the port isn't enough to know a whole city (it was enough to get tanned, though). My priority here is climbing up the Vesuvio volcano tomorrow, if there's time I'll go to the archeological museum and the Duomo, but I won't count on that.

Above is a sight of Naple's port with the Vesuvius on the background.

07/24 - Sunday

Once again I woke up at seven in the morning, but this time I caught the Circumvesuviano train (means train that circles the volcano). I bought this ticket that gave me the right to take the train to Pompeii, the bus to Vesuvius, the entrance to the crater and a lunch in one of the several restaurants that are along the way up.

The picture above is of the creepy train station of Pompeii, The Mystery Village.

I first climbed the Vesuvius before going to Pompeii. I never thought I'd ever be climbing a volcano in my life! That was awesome! The bus took me up the geologic park, through the burned trees and dried lava. It's quite an experience to see the dried rocks and the dried herbs finally managing to grow around the lava after more than sixty years of eruption. Somehow all that destruction was... beautiful.

Anyway, the bus stopped around ten meters before the crater because up there is only ashes, impossible to climb by car... it's very hard to climb even on foot! I had to get a stick to help myself up.

When I first stepped on the way up through the ashes my foot was buried seven inches into the dust. That was the hardest part because the ashes were slippery and I almost rolled over the crater three times because of that. I ended with a bloodied knee because I'm clumsy like that.

The Vesuvius is about four thousand years old and usually is quiet for long periods, having a small eruption once in a hundred years. The biggest eruption was two thousand years ago when it destroyed Pompeii and a few cities around it. The scientists say that another big eruption just like that one happens once in two thousand years, which means it's about to happen again sometime in this century.

There is an old man that lives in a small house with a shop right there. He calls himself the volcano's guardian because he was born there and studied the volcano, he even wrote books about it, seeing personally a two eruptions; until today he tells the tourist some of the stories about the volcano he witnessed.

Anyway, enough for digressing, back to climbing to the crater, I almost died the last time I slipped because my foot was left there, hanging over the cliff. A polish man who was near me held me up before I fell over. After that I was a little scared, but I continued climbing until I reached the crater, climbed in a rock and looked inside.

That crater is absurd, that's something I never thought I'd see and it was completely up to my expectations. I didn't imagine it was so wide and high, it was like a huge slide, just like a bow and I imagined myself having some fun in there. I continued walking forward because I wanted to walk around the whole crater and see the wonderful sight of Naples and Pompeii from up there.

The sights really were breathtaking. The Mediterranean must be the bluest sea ever. It was as blue as the sky and it was impossible to know where the sea ended and where the sky started. I thought I saw flying ships and white thin clouds on the water. That's something I'll never forget along with only two purple flowers that managed to grow right up there in the crater.

The way around the crater got even more dangerous as I walked further, I only had four feet of stable ground to step on and since I already had slipped three times I decided to not risk anymore and returned to where it as safe.

After that, I took the bus back and stopped at the restaurant. When I entered the bathroom to wash my hands I was taken completely by surprise. I had to wash myself from head to foot. I was all gray, completely covered in ashes.

I had the best spaghetti until now in that restaurant with the special Vesuvius sauce, which means a lot of pepper! That was simply delicious. I had a mint ice-cream for desert and finally returned to Pompeii because my surprises weren't over for the day.

In Pompeii I got a map and spent five hours walking around through the ghost city. The burned houses were open for us to enter and the temples too. In one of them I saw the painting in the walls. That was the only example of roman painting that was left until today; first because the Romans didn't have the tradition to paint; the Roman Art consisted in building huge temples and theaters and honoring the Caesar with sculptures. The only way to have real painting was if it was for decorating temples walls... and that's exactly what I saw there.

Pompeii was buried in about twenty feet of lava in the year 79. It was discovered in the XVI century and people started digging it back in 1748. This city is huge; there were about two thousand habitants when it was destroyed. I walked to the Villa dei Misteri (Mystery Village - where it was intact a sculpture in the wall to the god Dionysius) and Via della Fortuna (Lucky street), I visited the Viccolo dei Vetti (Vetti's House where there was more panting!) and walked through the houses until I reached Fauno's house, that has a small statue of Fauno on the ground.

Following the streets to the west I found this place where the archeologists kept the pieces they found while digging. I saw three humans that were intact through all those centuries. The lava kept them just like they were in the moment they died. One was kneeling on the ground praying, another was laying down screaming in pain and still there was one that was completely relaxed, probably died while slept. That was very impressive.

The theater was a perfect example of the Roman Entertainment, I had only seen the Colosseum, but this one was smaller and it was obvious how good the acoustic is around the theater. Some people say that even if the actors said a line in a small voice in the center of the stage everyone around could hear it.

Unfortunately, I had to return to the hotel. I took a shower and headed to the station. At 10pm I was in a night train to Palermo. I?m going to arrive there around 9am. I'm really lucky there are beds and covers in these night trains.

Today was one of the best days until now.

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