A train to Naples and then a local connection took Mr and Ms X to the ancient ruins of Pompeii. The sight of Naples from the train was enough to make us continue on, as it was wall to wall blocks of dirt, run-down apartments, with washing overhanging every balcony, graffitti on every inanimate object and a general feeling of uneasiness, the first time we had felt like this since arriving in Europe. The trains were a psychadelic concoction of loose parts that masqueraded as a transport vehicle, and the smell of sweat and BO contributed to our gut feelings about the place. So it was both a relief and a blessing when we alighted at Pompeii, and joined the relatively short queue to enter the once thriving Roman city. They say that in some peverse way it was the volcanic eruption you had to have, as the whole place is eerily stuck in a time warp, circa 79AD. Even the mummified remains of humans who are forever frozen with their arms outstretched towards the skies, trying to gasp for air as the hot mud enveloped them, and dogs who remain sleeping, unaware of the devastation going on around them before being suddenly overwhelmned by the ooze.
And all this with the haunting Mt. Versuvius overlooking the scene in the foreboding background, ready to spill it’s guts once again at a moments notice (the last time in fact was in 1944).
The cobblestoned streets seem to speak to the curious tourists, as you walk into each of the houses, listening to the walls speak and reliving what life must have been like all those years ago. Pompeii was essentially a resort town for the rich and famous, and every house had its own unique and quirky subleties that differentiated it from its neighbour. Essentially, nothing much has changed compared to modern society. There were swimming pools, theatres, shops, markets, backyards, courtyards, town squares, sophisticated kitchens and outdoor recreation areas. There is still a lot of excavation work going on, and the vastness of the area and the length of the streets surprised us both. Also the fact that everyone was allowed to enter most of the buildings and touch the talking walls was a pleasant surprise, and the place seems to be well respected by everyone who visits.
However, walking along the uneven streets and peering into every nook and cranny is a tiring business, and after 3 hours, Julius and Minerva X had had enough and headed back to the train station to catch a connecting bucket of bolts to Sorrento, about half an hour away.
And what a contrast Sorrento is to Naples. Set atop a dominating cliffline on the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is a seaside resort that boasts magnificent views and interesting shops and roadways.