21 September 2013 Saturday - Herculanium

Today we took the train back toward Naples to the ancient Roman city of Herculaneum, another ruined seaside town like Pompeii. When we got off the train, we saw a bunch of taxis, waiting to take tourists to the archaeology site, and they wanted a lot of money. I left Kathy and Karen and asked a guy, “Where is the archaeology site?” He answered, “Straight ahead, at the bottom of this hill.”

So we decided to save our money and walk down the somewhat steep hill. It was just a few blocks, so we were glad to have saved the money.

Herculaneum is smaller than Pompeii (about one third the size) but it is much better preserved. There are sizable buildings still standing there that are nearly two thousand years old.

Many of the buildings have well-preserved artwork from the ancient Roman times.

There were much fewer tourists at this site, so I brought out my audio recorder to try to capture EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena): evidence of ghosts. I can imagine there were lots of terrified people who just suddenly died there, so I figured there might be some ancient ghosts. I won't be listening to the recordings until we get back home.

The story of Herculaneum is similar to Pompeii, but unlike Pompeii, it wasn't buried in ash. The city was destroyed by a pyroclastic blast from the same volcano (Mount Vesuvius) in the same year, 79AD. Then molten lava came down from the volcano and buried it, which preserved things amazingly well.

In Herculaneum, there weren't any pockets of air, there were whole bodies! Basically, the blast killed the people, then molten lava burned them and encased them at the same time. Archaeologists originally thought that most of the people escaped the city before the volcano erupted because they only found three dead bodies. But at some point, archaeologists were digging down by the ancient docks.

They discovered the dead bodies of lots of people who were apparently trying to protect themselves by hiding in the rock shelters at the docks. At the same time, they were waiting for rescue boats from other towns. Apparently these people were not rescued.

It was kind of eerie to see all those dead bodies, but the area was cordoned off so we couldn't get very close. The best I could do was take photos from a long distance with my zoom lens. I hope at least some of them turn out okay.

There were statues and carvings of Roman gods and goddesses. At one place, I asked Kathy and Karen to stand in the foreground, so I could have my goddesses lined up all in one place!

We were absolutely exhausted by the time we left Herculaneum. We still weren't recovered from Pompeii yesterday and our feet were killing us. We crossed the street and sat down at a little restaurant where we ate a quick lunch and rested. But our day was only half over!

Walking down that big hill was okay at the beginning of the day when we were fresh. Walking up it after trudging through another city was just too daunting. So after lunch, we hailed a taxi. We climbed inside and asked him to take us to the train station at the top of the hill. He was a talkative guy, and started making passes at Kathy's mom, Karen! She told him, “I'm old enough to be your mother!” and they joked a lot. It was cute.

We boarded the train and continued on to downtown Naples, where we walked to the museum where they kept all the ancient artwork from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Our feet were burning, but we trudged on as best we could. The art was amazing. Not all of it was from those sites, but it was all very good.

The museum had a special room set aside for ancient porn. I saw many tourists leave the room giggling about what they saw.

I thought I was exhausted when we left Herculaneum, but by the time we got through the museum, it was beyond exhaustion. My feet were killing me, and I stopped to rest at every bench I found.

When we got back to our hotel, I tried to check my email, but had problems again. The hotel's WIFI is still not working properly. When I finally got in with my laptop, there was no word from Mitzie or Skip, either confirming or denying the receipt of the email I sent yesterday. That was worrisome. I hope they make it to Rome!