Extremely meandering post that eventually leads to Pompeii.

I’ve been trying to type things out in order from when I visited em but you know what? That’s boring! It’s late right now and I feel like typing, just not about the next place I’d visited after Birmingham. (Hint: York) Not that I wont write on York later. Nice place really, I’m just not in a Yorkie mood… speaking of which damn those are good chocolate bars, Yorkie bars. Luckily I’ve found a couple places in Calgary that sell em and I stock up when I can. Just plain chocolate, nothing fancy, and that’s what is so damn brilliant about em! One thing I’ve wondered however is why they advertise Yorkies as ‘no girls allowed?’ I gave one to my younger sister not too long ago and she failed to violently explode or grow a mustache, so why no girls?… I’ve gotten sidetracked haven’t I? That’s the problem with writing late at night, or morning really if I want to be technical about it, my mind wanders. Unfortunately that’s also when I feel the most creative and up to typing. Most of what I’ve typed has been written sometime between midnight and 6:00 AM, it’s my creative time, damned if I know why. Logically on those occasions when my sleeping habits are somewhat normal my ‘creative’ time oughta be at a different more respectable hour, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way. Ah well!

So, what was this all about? Oh yeah, Pompeii, or Pompei as the modern town there is now called in what I presume is a clever ploy to trick Mt. Vesuvius into not erupting again out of confusion whether it’s already destroyed this town or not. Let us talk about that, shall we?

To get there you can simply take the train as there’s a stop named Pompei which I’d thought was more for tourism than anything. I was wrong. You see, there’s a modern town situated there now, something which I honestly never knew but really should have guessed now that I think about it. Quaint little town truth be told, little being the key word as it’s literally little more than a collection of Hotels and restaurants circling a central square park and surprisingly nice cathedral/city hall/quite beautiful building which even now, looking online, I can’t find out what exactly it was. I presume church because of the big cross and angels blowing trumpets but you can never really be sure, although through the magic of the Internet I can link to a picture I took of it that turned out extremely well if I do say so myself. Behold! Nice eh? There is more to the town than that, but it’s quite spread out and for the most part that’s what you’ll see of it.

Upon arriving there I admit I was confused, I mean… this is Pompei right? Where were the ruins and why is this small town here? No help was forthcoming as the train terminal was a sparse as they come, so in a daring maneuver I call ‘asking for help’ I walked to the nearest Hotel and asked the person where exactly the ruins are and whether they had any rooms available. Unfortunately no rooms were forthcoming, luckily she spoke a smattering of English and was able to give me an idea which direction to head in, the town of Pompeii actually being part of the town of Pompei, go figure. My companion and I wandered for a bit with a vague idea of where everything was and eventually found a decent little hotel to spend the night in then using what I’ve come to think of as the universal language of babbling, pointing, waving my arms and smiling politely when they say something I can’t understand while nodding managed to rent the room from the kindly old lady who spoke neither English nor french for the night before wandering out in the general direction of where the ruins were supposed to be.

Ah, the ruins. For the price of 10euros to the extremely sour woman behind the counter (Whether she is or isn’t there may vary, that she was extremely rude and grumpy will not!) you are given access to an amazing vast slice of the past. Worth any frustration I’d had finding the place and certainly worth the entrance price. I’d go so far as to say anyone with even a remote vague interest in the past should visit this place right now. Go on, get going. I’ll wait till you get back. Back now? Excellent, so you’ll know what I’m writing about when I say wasn’t that damn incredible? The way once you’re past the gates you’re given free reign of what amount to a small ancient town almost completely open to exploration and wandering, so big that this ancient town actually has street signs and directions to help people not get lost, wasn’t that amazing?

Walking along the uneven smooth stone pathway with the cart wheel grooves worn into it from hundreds of years of horse-drawn carts being navigated down these narrow streets. The distinct red-brick roman buildings that vary from simply rubble to almost completely intact, often even still boasting the original floor tiles and wall murals from almost 2000 years ago. The fact you’re often simply allowed to walk around these places without guide, taking your time and looking over the individual details of a wall painting that predates almost everything you’ve ever known if you want, or simply skip to other places like the amphitheater or teatro, or if you’re the more gruesome type, the casts of the people who died in this place so very long ago. Yes, there are quite a few of those on display, some covered by glass cases still resting where they died so long ago but most having been moved to various places throughout the town and either put out as a grim display of the towns history or stored away in dark corners you can kinda see when peering inside the various storage buildings which also contain ancient vase, murals and statue and lots and lots of red roof tiles. Personally I have to admit the sight of those body cast made me queasy and I never really sought them out after the first few, the amount of detail on some and the positions they’re often in speak volumes of the misery of those last few livings moments, almost voyeuristic. Casts of dogs were also available, contorted into unnatural shapes from those last moments of agony I presume. Gruesome. Enough detail for you? Good. Moving onto other sights of Pompeii now that the mandatory mention of the inhabitants is aside.

As I mentioned above the quality and condition of the buildings tended to vary between complete ruin and amazingly intact, some even boasting complete roof and decorations. The experience of walking down these streets with Roman ruins to either side, the stark outline of Mt. Vesuvius in the distance and the bright sun overhead, birds singing in the distance accompanied by the occasional dogs bark and the murmur of other tourist groups passing by, it’s all very surreal. Other tourists weren’t actually all that common in my experience, perhaps simply the sheer size of the attraction spreads them out to such a degree that I felt isolated. You’d think Pompeii would be a massive tourist destination but it never felt that way. Hell, like I said you’re pretty much given the freedom to wander as you like, but you will also often stumble across parts closed to the public; scaffolds set up and various archaeologists tools sitting about, perhaps even one of the elusive archaeologist breed actually kneeling nearby hard at work. It all lends a certain informal feel to the place as though rather than a tourist you’re a guest being allowed to enter if you promise nicely not to touch anything. I feel I should add here that while I was there construction was in the works on a new more fancy modern tourists center as opposed to the simple booths I encountered, so who knows what Pompeii will be like a couple years down the line. For now however, it’s a surprisingly relaxed experience.

Pompeii was incredible, I’ll say that again and again and probably years from now will still be using those words to describe visiting there, Pompeii was incredible. Nighttime came and we were shooed out of the ruins by bored guards that were doing a search pattern along the streets to make sure not to miss any wandering sightseers, after that nothing eventful and the next day was back onto the train to another town. But damn, Pompeii was incredible (Warned you I’d say it over and over again!) and it was easily one of the most interesting places I’ve ever seen. So. Damn. Incredible.

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