Day 31: Pompeii

I had planned only to visit the ruins in Pompeii, but plans change quickly when you’re on the no-plan plan. While walking around I saw this girl coming out of a gated area, and she looked like a traveler with backpack and water in hand, not like an archaeologist, being escorted by a guard. I was curious how she had gotten to go behind the barriers, and when it sounded like she was getting directions I listened in because I had no I idea where to go. I followed the directions he was giving to here and struck up a conversation. As it would turn out her name was Rachael, and she was from Tasmania. I explained that I had been down in Aus for a summer, and we started chatting. She struck me as a very nice person and we walked around the ruins together.

The Pompeii ruins are incredible, and visitors are given an amazing amount of access to the cite. We’re allowed to go in about half of the areas with whats no available being excavated still. So much of the city has been preserved. Although everything made of organic material has long since disappeared, like roofs, the frescoed walls and mosaics are still in amazing condition. Some of the art on the walls is actually pretty good, and the colors are still fairly vibrant reds and yellows. The area of the ruins themselves is also quite large, and it took us more than a couple hours to see everything there is to see.

One of the interesting parts was that almost every kitchen had these big vases built into their counter tops with the opening raised just over the height of the counter top. These were apparently used to hold water and wine. The other thing I found very interesting was the graffiti on the walls that can still be seen today (though very faintly) in places.

There is also a large Colosseum within the ruins, which I broke the rules of by climbing out of to get a better view. I wonder if any Gladiators ever did, I didn’t find it particularly hard, but I have heard that people never used to be as tall as they are today.

Leaving Pompeii I was realizing that getting out to Bari would be very difficult by now (about 1pm) so I decided to have a nice lunch with Rachael and stay at the local hostel. I was able to get a room, so I left my laptop with the front office, and my bag in my room, where I met 3 Canadians who were traveling with a girl, Jess. One of the Canadians was also named Colin, which made things confusing sometimes, and is a PhD student studying biochemistry. Another was in the real estate business, buying and renting out pieces of property, and seemed very successful, though he had some of the most far right opinions on business and economics I think I’ve heard. I think I fall somewhere in between the people who think that workers should have no rights, and there should be no income tax, and the socialists who believe that taxes should be so high as to provide the same living quality to everyone. Anyways lunch was really just ice cream and water, but it sure did hit the spot.

After putting down my bags Rachael and I went down to Sorrento to have a taste of the Amalfi Coast, and have a dip at the beach. Sorrento turned out to be a gem of a town built along high cliffs over the water, with pleasant cafes, not too many tourists, and a great little alleyway shopping area that seemed to just breath old world charm. We found our way to a beach we were told was nice to visit called Marina Grande.

Marina Grande as it turns out isn’t all too nice, its really just a small beach inside an artificial harbor filled with small fishing boats. The water was murky and filled with trash, not all too pleasant. We went in to our necks, but didn’t stay too long because the water was really not all too nice.

We started back up the hill in a different direction winding our way along a path. Its a shame I didn’t have my camera with me, but I was worried that it would get messed up with all of the sand, especially since its easy to accidentally turn on. At a point we found ourselves looking out over a nice little secluded beach with cleaner water and sand, which we were sad we had walked passed without knowing. The path ended with us back in the middle of town. Along our way I had seen a number of stores selling a bright yellow drink which as it turns out is a regional liqueur made from Lemons, which seemed to be surprisingly strong at 30% alcohol by volume. I felt it was my duty to try it and report back on what it was like, so I bought a 50ml bottle and took it back to the hostel.

When we got back to Pompeii it was time for dinner, but a shower had to come first to wash off the salt and sweat. Wow does it get hot and humid down in this part of Italy. For dinner we walked around town until we found a restaurant with decent prices. The interesting thing though was that the seating area had no roof per say, but was covered by what looked like mulberry plants so thick that it seemed just like a roof. I actually hadn’t noticed until a yellow leaf floated past. We both chose freshly made pasta dishes off the menu. I ordered the Tortellini Bolognais, and her a kind of pasta stuffed with cheese.

Back at the hostel everyone was enjoying the evening out in the atrium next to the front office where there were chairs drinking beers, and chatting it up. The social life really is a highlight of the hostel life. I should really try to stay at them more often when I’m not running around all day seeing the sights exhausting myself. I went and got my bottle of Sorrento Lemon Liqueur and a couple plastic cups we had picked up on our way back and let everyone have a taste.

The Liqueur tastes a bit too sweet, much like a lemon head candy, but is not very strong tasting (though it is, believe me). It was nice to meet more people, there were some older Australians, who like Rachael were teachers, the Canadian roomates were there, and a number of other people and we all just chatted it up. Eventually things died down around midnight and we had to creep back into our rooms at 1am for sleep trying not to wake the others.

The heat doesn’t really die down much after dark, the room remained hot all through the night, and the beds creaked which made it hard to get a good nights sleep at all.

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