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Our Wakes: 2017

Pompei (15 April- 2017) and Herculaneum (11 May 2017)
                     During our various trips in Italia we realized how much tectonic activities and                      earthquakes have  shaped the country and will continue to do so. We were reminded                      of the impact of the earthquakes during our visits to Assisi and Sienna. At the end                      of 2016 Italy suffered a series of earthquakes around Rome. But one of the most tragic event in its history is undoubtedly the story of Pompeii and Herculaneum, both cities located on the slopes of Vesuvius, south of Naples.  Rich Romans had their luxurious villas in Pompeii because the climate was pleasant as they were located close to the sea and often enjoyed a fresh breeze. The ground was also fertile because of the volcanic activity and the wine was excellent. Unfortunately on the 24th of August 79 AD, Vesuvius erupted violently. There were some warning signs, but not everybody considered them serious. Ash was thrown 20km up into the sky and suddenly, a hot flow of toxic gases at 500 degrees Celsius swept down the volcano and instantly killed all those exposed to the gases. Afterwards, everything was covered in ash untill the 18 century when excavation started. Today some parts of Pompeii have been cleaned and the ash removed so we can now discover how the city was organized. At the beginning of the visit you can see docks for ships reminding us that Pompeii was next to the sea. A little bit higher up, you reach the city of Pompeii with its numerous streets as well as public gathering places such as the forum, the market and the amphitheater. Some streets were reserved for pedestrians with occasional big houses, but others were more commercial. The commercial streets are seriously rutted in places due to the wheels of the ox-carts. Alongside the commercial streets there were many small shops with restaurants that today could be compared to fast foods shops as people took the food away with them. More the 70 restaurants have been located. There were also numerous bakeries and around 40 brothels in Pompeii. At the intersection of the streets, there were some blocks of rocks that allowed pedestrians to cross the streets without getting dirty. In those time the streets also served as the gutters. Some areas of the city were occupied by luxurious houses. Often the houses had 2 floors and a central patio with a little pond. Pompeii had a water distribution system with lead pipes. The houses were very quiet places and the inside walls were beautifully decorated with paintings that have been well preserved because they were covered by ash. During our visit, a breeze nicely cooled the houses. Not far from Pompeii, we see Vesuvius reminding everybody that he is still there. Today geologists believe that while Vesuvius is dormant for the moment, he could awake violently  at any time. Let’s hope that the warning signs are interpreted correctly next time to avoid another tragedy. When you visit  Pompeii today you do not get a morbid feeling. At one place you see some molds of bodies. Soon after being killed, the bodies were covered in ash forming a coffin. The corpses started to decay and left a cavity in the ashes. Archeologists later filled the cavities with plaster and got molds of the deceased people. Some of the corpses are on display in Pompeii but most of them are preserved in Naples. If you want to complete your visit it is highly recommended that you visit the museum of Naples as it has a large collection of artifacts collected during the excavations as well as numerous paintings that have been brought to the museum for better preservation.  Herculaneum
Forum with Vesuvius behind
Mold of a victim
Roads are in bad condition....
Mill in bakery
Fastfood restaurant
Wall paintings
Patio of house
Floor tiles
Patio of house
Oten people associate Pompei with Herculaneum even if the 2 locations are separated from each other by more than 15 km. Herculaneum being located more southerly than Vesuvius, has been less covered by ash. At The time of the eruption, Herculaneum was evacuated and the victims that have been found were close to the shore. Today archaeologists believe that they were waiting to be evacuated by sea,  but unfortunately, rescue arrived too late. The bodies were not buried in ash so the skeletons of the unfortunate ones are all that remain there. The city is well preserved and when wandering in the streets you get a sense of what it was in the old times. Herculaneum had several restaurants etc., but clearly was quieter than Pompei. Today a big part of the ancient city is still invisible as it lies underneath the modern city. If you happen to be around Vesuvius, both cities are worth visiting because they give you a different perspective of what it was like in the time of the Romans..
Burned shutters
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