January 31, 2012

European Honeymoon Cruise, Part 3: Pompeii

{Read part one here.}
{Read part two here.}

Stop number two on our cruise was to the lovely Italian city of Naples. A stop at this location allowed me to fulfill a lifelong dream--to visit the historical site of Pompeii.

Most people have heard of Pompeii and its disastrous history. In the year 79 A.D., the volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted, wiping out the nearby ancient city of Pompeii. Not only were the city's inhabitants killed within a span of mere minutes, but the city itself was buried completely under layer upon layer of volcanic ash. This ash preserved Pompeii exactly as it was when the volcano erupted, and it layed undisturbed for hundreds of years. It is now one of the most-famous archaeological sites in the world, largely due to the amazing extent to which it was preserved.

The tragic story of Pompeii instantly fascinated me when I first heard of it as a young girl. Ever since then, the archaeologist-enthusiast in me has longed to see this place. So as Matt and I were looking over our cruise ship's land excursion options, the Pompeii tour was the first one we booked.

Our excursion included a 45 minute bus ride from the Naples port to Pompeii, and then a guided tour of the whole archaeological site. I was pleased that our cruise kept our tour group to a small size, so we didn't have any problems with crowding to see something or hearing our tour guide's in-depth and fascinating commentary. 

It was the most beautiful, warm, sunny day--one that made it hard to imagine the horrors that happened here when this city was lost to the world for so long.

Here's a great view with Mt. Vesuvius in the background:

One famous, yet rather morbid aspect of Pompeii is that not only did the ash from the eruption perfectly preserve the city, it also preserved the people who died such horrible deaths.

The bodies of these people did indeed decay, but because the sediment from the eruption was so compact, a cavity remained in the sediment in the exact shape of the human form. Archaeologists were able to locate these cavities below the surface, drill a small hole into them, and then fill them with a type of plaster. This resulted in molds showing humans exactly as they were in the moment that the volcanic eruption overtook them. Exact body positions and even facial expressions are visible, and I must tell you, it is an utterly chilling sight. 

These forms make the horror of that day come tragically to life. There are molds of individuals curled up in tight fetal positions, trying to shield themselves. There are couples gripping one another, or families huddled together. These scenes are beyond heartbreaking, and in the saddest way, offer an emotional bridge across the years to these humans who lived so long ago.

We toured one of Pompeii's many bath houses and were in awe of the mosaics and vivid paint colors still adorning the floors, walls, and ceilings.

Outside on the city streets, one can still see the juts left in the stones by all the cart wheels of this once-bustling city.

Here our tour guide is pointing out a mosaic on the ground in front of an entrance to a home:

The statue below was part of a fountain adorning the courtyard to one of Pompeii's grandest homes.

Below is a bakery that once provided Pompeiians with fresh bread daily. Archaeologists even found some perfectly-preserved, carbonized loaves of baked bread in the ovens here.

This was a cafeteria where locals came to dine. Little fires were lit in the holes to keep dishes hot:

This was once someone's lovely home...

It's funny, in a way--two thousand years later, Pompeii's city streets are still bustling with activity. Instead of city inhabitants, however, this time it's tourists.

Here we are about to go in and tour a brothel. You read that right--a brothel. Turns out Pompeii was filled with them, actually.

The outer city walls:

This is probably one of my favorite pictures of us from our honeymoon:

Seeing Pompeii firsthand was everything I'd imagined it would be. It was incredibly surreal to walk through the well-preserved city and get a real feel for what life was like for the citizens of Pompeii. The story stopped being just a story to me--it became personal. Walking the streets of Pompeii allows for visitors to experience history in a way few other sites can offer. I now feel I have a personal connection to the history here and the impressions it left upon my heart run deep.

After our experience at Pompeii, we had just enough time left to wander the streets of Naples near to the port. We really had just one goal in mind--to find a quiet little cafe where we could enjoy some authentic Italian cappuccino. I'm happy to report that we were successful!

As our ship sailed away from Naples, we saw the most beautiful sunset on the horizon. It seemed like the absolute perfect way to end our memorable day at Pompeii.

1 comment:

Rebecca Maier said...

I'm so wanting to go on a cruise like this. I always want to know what the next place is that you're taking us to!!!!


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