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Photos from my trip to Naples with Pompeji and Herculaneum together with "Arkeologi på väg" during
15th to 22nd October 2009.

To see the photos, click at the index to the left.

Thursday 15th of October
It was a sunny but cold day with a temperature around zero when we drove toGothenburg airport and arrived there just before 10 am and met up with the other in the group of 26 persons, including Mari Wickerts who had arranged the voyage. We knew most of the other from other tours or activities.

We had some coffee and chatted with the other before the flight departed at noon. It was two hours flight to München where it actually was some snow in the air when we descended the plane. We didn't need to walk far away before we arrived at our gate. Apparently they had some overbooking, as they offered 200 USD for people who took a flight over Turin and arrived a couple of hours later. The flight to Naples only took another one and a half hour.

We arrived after 4 pm and when we had gathered our luggage we all went with an airport bus into the city of Naples and Piazza Garibaldi with the railway station, but also with our hotel Starhotels Terminus, where we should stay for a week. After check-in we went out a for a small walk to check the environments. We found many hotels, minor shops and restaurants. The streets were really busy with traffic everywhere and the situation was made worse with a lot of construction works around the square.

At 7:30 pm we all went up to the terrace at the top floor, where we had a nice view over the city in the dark. Later we understood that we also had a view over Vesuvius and Monte Somma as well. Mari offered some wine as a welcome drink and went through the program. After this we went to a nearby restaurant with five other in the group and had a good pizza before we went to bed.

Friday 16th of October
After a quite good buffet breakfast we went to the train station. It was quite chilly, but5 sunny with a clear sky. Mari had bought 3-day passes called “artecard”, w2hich were valid both for the train as the entrance to five different places. There seemed to be graffiti everywhere, on the trains as well as on many houses along the railway. It took about 20 minutes before we arrived at Ercolano, where the Herculaneum excavations are situated. There the guide Anna-Maria met us. She was Danish-Italian and spoke a pretty good Swedish, although with a strong accent and many grammatical errors. But first of all she really knew her subject. The planned trip was extended to two hours, but still we hadn't time to walk around by ourselves. They estimated that only about 20% had been excavated, but too much is below modern houses. This is better preserved than Pompeji, as the covering of the houses and people was nearly instant of a smoke, mingled with ash and mud, which created an instant concrete, which protected this town of about 5000 inhabitants in just a few minutes. You could really feel the daily life and particularly the mosaics and paintings are really beautiful. There are several coal-burned, but otherwise well preserved wood in several places, which is unique. Most of the skeletons of people were found in protective vaults in the old harbour. After a while it had become quite warm.

When the tour was finished we went up to the village to get something for lunch. We ate some lasagne, but it was not only expensive, but it was done in a microwave and served on plastic plates with a plastic fork.

After lunch we all continued to Torre Annunziata and Oplontis, where we visited Villa del Poppea. This is a villa built for a really rich family and also covered by lava. The villa contains really a lot of beautiful paintings and mosaics. Anna-Maria guided us around again. The details are magnificent and the paintings are of four different styles. After this tour we went back by train to Naples, where we returned just before 6 pm.

We went out for dinner with Lars, Anna-Lena, Isabelle and Ingemar at 7 pm at a nearby restaurant. Mari had said that the restaurants don't open before 8 pm or so, but we didn't believe her, which apparently was the case. Some ate shellfish, clams, swordfish, but I and Ingemar ate a beef with butter and cognac sauce, but that was quite tasteless. We all had a panacotta as a dessert. Back at the hotel I arranged the photos I had taken during the day before it was time to go to bed. Christina was tired enough to go to bed much earlier.

Saturday 17th of October
We went out just before 9 am and caught a train to Pompeii. Our Swedish guide Thomas Staub met us at the station in Pompeii. We had a much calmer temperament, but apparently he knew well what he was talking about. The weather was grey and threatened to give some rain. After the normal procedure to enter the site, we walked up a slightly steep path up to the excavated town, which had about 20000 inhabitants when Vesuvius erupted the 24th of August 79 AD.  The path is paved by stone, which had been worn out of many people passing on it long time ago.

We started at the Appolo temple and continued to the forum, which is an open place. Beside it is a big shelter for less interesting findings, like pottery, some plastered fillings showing people, marble fountains etc. The place is less preserved than Herculaneum, but quite a lot of nice houses, often with an entrance room with a Impluvium, where you could find a minor basin collecting the rain water, but more often for showing a nice house. The street often had stones as passing between the pavements. We visited the small amphitheatre and passed by a temple of Isis, the Egyptian Goddess. At noon we were allowed to enter the house of Meander, which had nice paintings and a green garden.

After visiting the house of the Sitar player the guiding ended for the day and we quit the group and went to a place behind the forum to eat. It was much better and cheaper food than yesterday lunch. In the afternoon we walked with Lasse and Anna-Lena and started with a bakery, where there ware several big wheat mills and a big oven. On the road we say the house of the faun and continued down to one of the houses where they  prepared wool. This was the biggest industry during this period and the brothels was “just” number two. We looked at the painting of a ship called “Europa” and then saw some more of the plaster showing how people had looked like when the lava had covered them. The necropolis had many interesting monuments and finally we lookeds at the large amphitheatre before we headed back with a few more stops here and there. Of course we ended up in the book store at the entrance.

We took the train back just after 5:30 pm and arrived at the hotel an hour later. Just after 7 pm we went out for dinner and found a new restaurant, which was pretty good. When we came back we invited Lasse, Anna-Lena and Isabelle for some melon liqueur Christina had bought along the way home just to test it. We were quite tired when we went to bed around 11 pm.

Sunday 18th of October
As usual we departed at 9 am and we went back to Pompeii. Apparently Mari hadn't understood that the ticker only was valid for one entrance, but Thomas helped us to enter anyway. First we entered the bath house outside the city of Pompeii. This required special allowance. There were both a lot of floor mosaic, but also some erotic paintings. This is a bit strange, as there was at least in Rome a law that prostitution was prohibited in the baths. Otherwise it was quite an ordinary things for the Romans and it was rather that the emperor had been worried that there were too few legitimate inheritors due to this.

It was quite chilly and cloudy today but only a few drizzling now and then. Apparently there were many more people today, not least big groups from a cruising ship and we tried to imagine how it could be in the summer when it probably was much worse.

The next stop was the house of the faun, which we had visited yesterday. This was the largest private house (Domus) in town. The nicest piece of mosaic was one of a battle with Alexander the Great. We also visited the house of the small fountain and a bakery with grain mills driven by donkeys.

As the speciality of Thomas is the water system, he showed us some water pipes of lead and the water tower, to where the aqueducts were led. Outside the excavation done by the Swedish group, there was a group of Frenchmen who currently made some experiments with dying in lead basins, but they were using new methods.

Then we entered the Swedish excavations, which was an area with several different types of houses and functions. The most interesting things was the water system and not least the large crossing and taps for the different fountains in the house,

We thanked Thomas and went for lunch and spent the afternoon separate from the rest of the group. We ate at the grill beside the forum and then went to see the nearby baths and then continued to see the necropolis, which was less interesting than the one beside the large arena, as well as we went to the Mystery Villa. This villa had a big reconstructed wine press. On the way back we went to see the house of the tragic poet, which is famous for the door mosaic with the image of a dog and the text “cave canum”, that is “beware of the dog”. Then we went back to the Frenchmen, so Christina and Anna-Lena could ask them more about the dying experiment. They were not really good at English, so I had to help them with the translation now and then.

The final stop was at a brothel, where they had some erotic images. But we wondered how much comfort it could be on the stone beds. Then we went back to the railway station and went back to Naples, where we returned the same time as yesterday,

We gathered in our room before dinner and Isabelle arrived a bit late. We wanted to find another new restaurant and went further around the Piazza Garibaldi, but after walking quite a bit in the surrounding streets and alleys, we came back to the piazza before we founf a restaurant in a hotel, which had a good Italian Sunday menu. The waiter was quite funny and expressive. We were back at the hotel at 9:30 pm and Christina was extremely tired and frozen and had to rest before she went to bed. Myself tried to arrange some of the photos first.

Monday 19th of October
Today we went Westwards by a local train to Pozzuoli. Tarje, our guide for the day had come to pick us up. It was very crowded on the train, but after a few stations we could all get seats. The weather was sunny, but still chilly. Our target was the amphitheatre Flavio, which is the 3rd largest arena in Italy, but it's older than Colosseum in Rome. Tarja lived in the town and was a good guide. The arena took about 20000 spectators. Below were areas for the animals and gladiators, which often were treated as heroes. After the tour we got a few minutes to take photos and those who wanted could walk the stairs down to the old forum called Temple of Serapis. It was a nice place, but it was partly covered by water, as it is below the sea level and they can't remove it. There was even a public toilet in marble. When we went back some of the other, like Christina, had had  a cup of coffee.

We took the train back to Piazza Cavour and walked up to the National Archaeological museum. First we had lunch with Anna-Lena and Lasse at a pizzeria. Christina and Lasse  ordered a fish soup which the waiter recommended as the specialty of the house, but it took a long time and we were qutie angry at the waiter when he several times just said “just a couple of minutes more”. Lasse started to walk around in the kitchen, which distressed the chefs. When we finally got the meal the fish was still partly raw and we had just five minutes left to eat and it  was quite stressful.

Finally we went into the museum. It was quite large, but it seemed to mostly contain things from the Roman period and we wondered where the pre-historic and Medieval things were exhibited. Christina and I avoided the group and went by ourselves. First we saw plenty of statues from a single estate. Half a floor up in the immense locals we saw fine mosaic end erotic paintings, mostly from Pompeii. The upper floor contained things from Villa Papyrus and paintings from Pompeii. We were not content until about 5 pm, but some other had been there for another hour or so. We went with Isabelle, Lasse and Anna-Lena through the large shopping gallery, which still didn't have any opened shops after a restoration, but it was very beautiful to see. Just beside it we stopped for coffee and cakes and then we decided to go back to the hotel. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and then spent a couple of hours together chatting in our room before we went to bed quite late.

Tuesday 20th of October
Today we were met by our Swedish guide Flavia, who lived on a buffalo farm just outside Naples. The buffalo milk is used to make mozzarella cheese. Again it was going to be a sunny day. We took a really crowded bus to the old town, where she guided us around. She wasn't particular good and the environments made even worse. There were already quite a lot of Christmas stuff sold. Unfortunately Flavia and Mari hadn't talked before, so we started in the wrong end and had to rush back the same way to get to the Cathedral Duomo. The cathedral was interesting as it probably had the oldest baptise funt in Europe from the 4th century and in general quite nice, but not anything really great, as we had seen more unique cathedrals elsewhere.

Then we continued in another less crowded bus near Piazza Municipio and started with a two hour lunch, as we shouldn't be as stressful as yesterday. We found a china restaurant, which was a nice change of meal. After lunch we entered Castel Nuovo with the civic museum. The castle itself is very impressive with it's five towers. Inside there was a big hall, which is used  by the municipality for assemblies and a couple of floors with an exhibition of depressing paintings. We also took an elevator up to the floor, where we had a beautiful view over the city and particular over the harbour. Outside there were plenty of sellers of bags. We believed that they were illegal immigrants, as all of them were black and when there seemed to be a sign of polices around, they quickly assembled there stuff and went away.

We continued towards Palazzo Reale, but this was closed for the public a few days due to a conference. So we continued over Piazza Trieste and entered a church with a beautiful dome. It reminded us a lot of Parthenon in Rome. Then the group split up. We went with our usual friends to a gallery, where we took a cup of coffee with cakes. Then we walked along a shopping street before we thought it was time to take the bus home. Isabelle went away with some others we met. When we arrived to Piazza Garibaldi I saw that a couple of zip locks were opened on my backpack and probably somebody had tried to find any valuables in the overcrowded bus, but there nothing of value to take, so everything was left as is. We decided that we hadn't strength to get out for dinner, but we bought some sandwiches, which we ate together all four in our hotel room. Christina and Anna-Lena read and discussed what to do the next morning, but it turned out to be decided as we had thought before. We we unusually tired tonight when it was time to go to bed.

Wednesday 21th of October
We went up half an hour earlier and went with Anna-Lena and Lasse to Herculaneum again. This was going to be a really hot and sunny day. We timed the train quite well and was there just after 9 am. It was nice to look around in our own tempo this time. We went into all houses we had missed last time and not least the harbour, where they had found most of the people who had been seeking shelter among the boats and where they had found many skeletons more or less piled on each other. We passed about 3,5 hours in the heat.

Afterwards we ate pizzas in a restaurant near the station. Again we met Eva and Micke, who had been here when since the site opened during the morning. In general the pizzas tasted much better here than in Rome, where we were a couple of years ago. We returned to Naples and took a train to Piazza Cavour and went into the old town from the Northern side. The alleys are really narrow in the most streets, but the small cars and motorcycles seemed to be everywhere. We admired the handicraft, which mainly was put into the particular Naples Christmas landscapes with moving workshop figures.

At 4 pm we went on a tour of the subterranean Naples. Unfortunately an English school class followed the tour, so it was noisy and difficult to hear the guide. Eva and Micke was also following the tour. The rooms had both been used as a water storage, as well as bomb shelter during World War II, but quite few dared to go so far below earth to protect themselves. First we went through an extremely narrow passage to a water cistern. Eva had waited, as she didn't like it and at least one in the school class had panicked and returned very soon. The narrowest was just about 30-40 cm and every second person carried a candle light. We also saw an experimental cultivation of plants, which only were water by the humidity and had special light on them. There is also an artists exhibition of the war, which was very strange. When we came up the 150 steps again, we continued to an Roman-Greek amphitheatre, which also mostly were found underground, although some pillars had been integrated in the newer buildings. The entrance had been found when they had dug to get a bomb shelter during the war. The tour was slightly interesting but not at all as we had expected. Particularly we should had avoided to join a group of giggling teenagers.

Afterwards we took a cup of coffee and rested our legs before we took the bus down to Piazza Trieste and the restaurant, where we should eat together. As too often we didn't get what we expected. According to the menu it should be some kind of potato gratin, but we got just french fries, so we complained and when we had ate most we got a kind of boiled potatoes. As the waiter never asked the persons about dessert at our table, we ignored this and had coffee and cakes at a nearby cafeteria afterwards. We took the bus home and Anna-Lena, Lasse and Isabelle went with us and emptied all remaining liqueur and had a nice time until midnight.

Thursday 22th of October
We didn't go up until 8 am and had breakfast before we packed. Many were already up and had planned to go out for a while. Christina felt a cold was coming and wanted to sleep another hour, so we didn't check out until just before noon. Anna-Lena and Lasse fetched us for lunch, which we took at a nearby restaurant. When we walked back the clouds had changed to some heavy drips of rain and soon after we returned to the hotel it started to rain heavily.

When it was time to walk to the airport bus most of the rain had stopped, but the streets were like basins of water and I had to carry the luggage instead of dragging it and I was happy that we had quite small luggage. Apparently we had just missed a bus, but when the next bus arrived it just started to rain again and was quite heavy until the airport where we quickly went out of the bus and into the terminal. We had wait a while before we could check-in. It was quite an easy procedure to pass the security control and after some coffee we walked through the shops and went to the departure gate. We departed towards Munich just after 5 pm. The flight was a bit late and we had a long and stressful walk in the transfer hall, but arrived in time. We even had time to take a cup of the free coffee by the gate. We arrived in Gothenburg about 9:30 pm and said goodbye to the other before I fetched the car at the parking and we were at home an hour later after a fulfilling another dream destination.

Carl-Gustaf Samuelsson
Christina Arrindell

 

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