Sunshine, ruins and cutting it fine
Thursday, 13 March 2008
It was a beautiful day today. Sunny, warm, clear skies, for the first time since Rome. But I was slow to get moving, and still had several thousand photographs from Pompeii to label and classify, so I didn’t get going until about ten o’clock.
I went to Herculaneum, which is a town less well known than Pompeii, but far better preserved: instead of being covered in ash, it was drowned in boiling mud, which was bad for the inhabitants, but good for the archaeologists. The ruins in Pompeii are rarely more than a storey high; Herculaneum is full of two-storey buildings, and even some wooden structures survive.
Only just over four blocks have been uncovered. So it’s not a complete town like Pompeii, with theatres and temples and amphitheatres. There are a few public buildings, but it’s mostly just shops and houses.
And it’s just terrific. More houses are open to the public, there are more mosaics and frescoes, and the site has been planted with gardens. You can’t get lost there, which is a shame, but you can certainly get immersed. In fact, in some of the photographs you can barely tell where the ruins end and the surrounding suburb begins.
Again, it’s taking hours to upload the photos, but I still had time for a last dinner in Sorrento, and a night-time wander through its narrow streets.
Tomorrow I’m leaving for Athens. It’s going to take over twenty-four hours: Sorrento to Naples by the Circumvesuviana, Naples to Bari by Trenitalia, a frantic dash to the ferry wharf, a ferry trip from Bari to Pátra, then a train trip from Pátra to Athens. There’s less than two hours between my arrival at Bari and my departure: if the train is late, or if I lose my way between the station and the ferry, I could be spending the night in a town so grim that it doesn’t even rate a mention in Europe for Less Than Thirty Altairian Dollars a Day.
I’ll let you know how I get on.