Again we were given ideal weather for sightseeing. Pompeii was the sight. Hands down, this was the most interesting destination on the Italian leg of our trip. Speaking of legs, Pompeii is located on the shin area of the boot.
In 79 AD the thriving commercial port of Pompeii ground to a halt. At noon on August 24th, nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted. This continued for eighteen hours straight. We know what happened next...sort of. Pompeii was engulfed and covered not with lava, but with ash. Eight feet of white-grey ash settled like snow on Pompeii. Two thousand Residents did not react quick enough and, thus became frozen (so-to-speak) in time. We viewed some of them. Some were praying. Some were protecting their head from the falling ash. On many faces we saw fear. Their eyes were wide and their mouths hung open in unbelief at what was happening. They were preserved, seemingly, at the exact moment their life flashed before them.
It was a town near to Pompeii, Herculaneum, that was buried in Vesuvius' lava. The morning after Vesuvius stopped spewing, its ash, pumice and gas collapsed and rocketed back to earth. The flowing red-hot debris, running at speeds approaching 100mph. In only four minutes the entire city was buried sixty feet in molten rock. When it cooled, it turned to stone, thus preserving Roman life back in the year 79. Those, my friends, are the tragic stories of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
We have our own short pompeii/vesuvius story. To visit Pompeii means to walk in hard to walk places. Do you remember the show Leave It To Beaver? I think it was during the closing credits that Beaver walked down the street with one foot on the road and the other on the sidewalk. Had he done that in Pompeii, I would hope Big Brother Wally would have known something about treating spinals and head injuries. There was literally a two foot drop from the uneven cobbled sidewalks to the chariots-only street.
Walking carefully around Pompeii rustles up an appetite. We sat on the chair-height side walk and ate our picnic lunch. As we ate, we read that Vesuvius was still an active volcano. On average it has erupted every thirty years and it has been sixty since it has last erupted. It is long overdue. After learning this we looked up from our bread and butter to see what looked like smoke billowing out the top! It turned out to be only a perfectly placed cloud, but still. I guess God does have a sense of humour! Nevertheless I questioned our intelligence: We are sitting under an active volcano that is over due to blow, touring ruins from a previous eruption, and thinking how awful it was to get stuck in Pompeii in 79. At the same time, if it really were going to erupt, what a way to go.
The other funny thing about Pompeii are its pets. The ruins are inhabited by several rather mangy looking dogs. They sleep on the streets and in the gardens; well, pretty much anywhere and everywhere, actually. They are completely undisturbed by the hordes of tourists trampling around the ruins. I actually don't even recall seeing any of them awake on our visit. Then again, if some of them didn't twitch in their sleep, I would have thought they were just really well preserved from the 79 eruption.