Monday, June 06, 2011

Naples: Pompeii and Herculaneum

Last time, I talked about the first part of our honeymoon, in Rome.  I've been negligent in talking about the next part, which involved traveling to Naples.  Our goal was not so much to see Naples, but to visit the important historical sites close by: Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum.  Naples, being the largest city near these, was our home base for this part of the trip.  It also had a large museum, collecting many of the artifacts recovered from these sites.

I remember, when we first got to Rome, thinking "Wow, the traffic here is worse than Boston."  Well, Naples was even worse.  The streets were filled with pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cars, all honking and zooming past one another.

A taste of Naples traffic.
But we managed to survive Naples, and even get out of the city to visit some of the important sites.  First up, Pompeii.  There was a lot to see in Pompeii, and it'd be easy to overwhelm with pictures.  Pompeii was buried in ash when Vesuvius erupted, and its rediscovery was one of the great archeological discoveries of Ancient Rome. 

Kristin walking down a Pompeian street
It's been a long process unearthing Pompeii, with many mistakes along the way (some say that Pompeii's second tragedy is that it was discovered a couple of centuries too early).  Still, there's a lot to see.  For example, this very famous mosaic (technically a copy, as the original is in the Naples museum).
Cave Canem--Beware of Dog
The best preserved building in Pompeii is the Villa of the Mysteries, famous for its paintings connected to the Dionysian mysteries.  But what I found most interesting was this room:
A storage room?
According to what I could find, this is supposed to be a storage room.  My difficulty, however, is that it apparently has no door, just the hole in the wall that looks like it was made as part of the excavation, and this window:

The only way in or out?
Maybe I'm wrong, and the door was just very narrow, and it was merely widened, but I did notice that some of the maps of the building showed no door there.  I couldn't find much more information on what most people consider an uninteresting part of the house.  But to me, it's rife with story possibilities.

And one last photo, also located in the Villa of the Mysteries.  A grim reminder of the tragedy which gave us Pompeii as we have it today:
One of the bodies found in the house.
The next day, we went to visit Herculaneum.  This city was also buried when Vesuvius erupted, but since it was buried deeper, much of it was better preserved.  Overall, I preferred Herculaneum over Pompeii.  It's better preserved, and thus there's more there for the amateur archeologist.  It's also smaller overall, so you can see all of it without being rushed.  Finally, they provide you with a free English map and guidebook, both of which you had to pay extra for at Pompeii.

Herculaneum.  The grassy area is where the beach used to be.
The view from the beach.  The cliff on the left shows how deep the volcanic tufa burying the town was.
I took many, many pictures, of which only a few will be interesting to those not fascinated by Roman archeology.
Kristin taking a picture of the impluvium (a pool for catching rainwater) in the atrium of one of the houses.
Kristin taking pictures of a shop, which probably sold those jars you see in the upper right.
One of the interesting things about Herculaneum, from an archeological view, is that some of the wood from the town was carbonized and preserved, giving us some rare samples from the time period.  That's why I have pictures like this:
Part of the door to one of the houses

Lots and lots of pictures like this.  Which maybe aren't so interesting to folks who aren't as into ancient Rome.

I was going to finish up Naples in this post, but I'm thinking maybe I can save some of it for later.  So I'll wrap things up here for now.

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