B. The Journey Continues
Fortunately for us, the weather started to co-operate after the deluge of rain on our arrival in Pompeii. As we left the Grand Theater the clouds were clearing and and the sun began to tease.
We emerged onto a side street with cobblestones the size of an Easter Island statue testicle… assuming they are anatomically correct and have testicles underground. You can extrapolate the size of which I speak from the size of their ginormous heads.
At regular intervals, there would be Chubb safe sized cubes of granite poking up and stretching across the road. Were they ancient speed bumps to slow down inconsiderate chariot drivers? Nope.
It would appear that Roman roads in Pompeii had two purposes and the first was transportation as you’d expect. They also doubled as sewers. When it rained raw sewage would wash down the roads and the granite blocks were there so pedestrians could cross the street without getting their feet brown.
B.1 The Journey Continues Some More
Along the way we pass the Domus l Volvus Flavius, which translates to “House 50 Fred Volvo.” Fred Volvo lived in Pompeii and made the safest chariots in the Roman empire.
They had both driver and passenger side flamingo feather bladders to protect in case of head on collisions. There was blind spot warning which consisted of a parrot tied backwards onto the handrail, trained to squawk if another chariot were coming up to pass.
Eventually his children decided to branch out and moved to Sweden to make very safe sleighs. In 1927 they began producing cars and became the Volvo motor company. That’s my “Slumdog Millionaire tour guide” explanation.
C. The House of Menander and Other Stuff
Eventually we made it to the House of Menander. Now that I’ve provided a link to actual historic information, I can just make stuff up as I go, as is currently popular with politicians and dating sites.
For instance, I’m actually 6’2″ of sculpted muscle with a luscious head of blonde hair and work as a hand model for Rolex. Yeah, I know you’ve seen pictures but are you going to believe me or your lying eyes? Hey, it’s a well known fact that the camera adds 63 pounds and blonde hair can easily be mistaken for no hair if the light’s not right, okay?
A major politician from Rome named Quintus Poppaeus Sabinus was the owner; a relative of Nero’s second wife. I guess I can understand why he wanted to live in Pompeii. So why isn’t it the house of… that guy’s name? Because there’s a well preserved fresco of the playwright Menander inside. That’s much easier for tourists to remember and pronounce.
It’s a very big house at 19,000 square feet and as a picture is worth 1,000 words it may behoove me to give readers a tour of Casa Menader using the powers photographic journalism.
Photographic Evidence of a History Place
C (1) Other Stuff
After departing Menander’s crib the tour stopped at an ancient bakery as we made our way towards Via Abbondanza which was the main street for Pompeii and led to the forum.
I mentioned that the oven looked like a pizza oven, but the tour guide corrected that notion. They only baked bread. Tomatoes are indigenous to South America. It would take another 14 centuries before tomatoes would make their way to Italy via Spain. It would take yet another three centuries before they’d be used as food. Huh?
Yes, it turns out that they were used for decorative purposes until the late 17th century before somebody became desperately hungry enough to eat one. Yet Satan’s fruit, the the vile and despicable grapefruit was used as food immediately without having a three century, decorative shake down period which we’d still be enjoying. Yeah, like sticking a cherry in the middle makes a grapefruit half even remotely edible. BAH!
At this point Jo and I had to bail on the tour. It was getting late and it would be a three hour train ride back to Rome so we struck out down the main drag on our own.
C.2 More Other Stuff
Had we stuck with the tour, the brothel would have been our next stop. Very popular with the tourists, at any point in history up until this writing. After doing a little research, I’m kind of glad we missed it. It’s tossed off as naughty and fun.
However, I don’t care I don’t care that male genitalia engraved in stone provided road signs. The reality was stark as the prostitutes were slaves and lived and worked in tiny stone cells. Life was dismally brutal and without hope. Moving along…
We were moving briskly and eavesdropping on other tours to glean information on what we were viewing and almost blew through the forum without realizing it. The forum was the “town square” of ancient Roman life.
Below is a quick video of the forum. The video is exactly eight seconds long or the same amount of time needed to ride a bull. Given the amount of huffing and puffing I was doing and the style of our travel… I think that was inadvertently appropriate.
C.3 The SEO God Commands that I Conjure Subheadings to Produce a Green Happy Face for Readability and I Comply
Our last stop prior to the visitors center was the Forum’s public baths. There’s a tradition I’m glad we no longer carry on as a culture. Fortunately for the women of the time, men had separate baths and entrances.
The Romans in Pompeii had cold baths (frigidarium), lukewarm baths (tepidarian) and hot baths (calidarium) so even Goldilocks (Caputaureum) would have found a bath that was juuuuust right in Pompeii. The hot baths were heated by fires in bronze cisterns rather than thermal energy from Vesuvius.
Pompeii was about the size of Summerside, Prince Edward Island with a population of approximately 15,000. I don’t think Summerside has three Tim Horton’s, never mind three public baths and I found myself wondering if perhaps Pompeii was the birthplace of OCD.
Well, I suppose if your streets run brown with raw sewage when it rains and your toilets are wherever there’s room to squat, there might be a need for more baths. As we left the baths we realized we were going to have to book it to catch the train on time.
4. Return to Rome via the “Scenic Route”
We had to run the obstacle course called The Visitor’s Center in order to leave the grounds. I blindfolded Joanne so she wouldn’t see the many shopping opportunities we’d be passing. I took her hand and ran her through the center and we reached the platform with minutes to spare. It was like running through a pottery barn with ceramic artifacts all over the place.
The train arrived and we hopped on, glad we made it just in time… for the train to Salerno in the opposite direction. D’oh! This would add about three hours to our return to Rome. We hadn’t much time when we arrived at the platform to get oriented and when we did, we had oriented ourselves in the wrong direction.
The upside was this was the Amalfi Coast we were traveling and it lived up to it’s billing of beauty. We didn’t see much of Salerno from the train station, but with mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other, it looked beautiful and I’d love to visit Salerno if we ever get back to Italy.
Fortunately, we didn’t have to experience the wonders of the Circumvesuviana for the trip back. We caught the bullet train for Rome which would take around three hours for an 8 p.m. arrival. We’d had glimpses of Vesuvius through the day and as the weather had cleared off I finally had an excellent view of the volcano.
Mount Vesuvius is impressive all on its own and it’s unsurprising that the story of its eruption in A.D. 79 is still a famous world event today.
It produced 100,000 cubic yards of magma per second – the equivalent of 2.5 Washington Capital rotundas – during its massive explosion in A.D. 79. and it lasted for three days.
I know that’s still less hot gas than is actually released from the Washington rotunda over the run of just three hours, never mind three days, but it’s still very impressive.
It was around 10 p.m. by the time we made it back to our room in the convent and we crashed immediately. We were meeting Steve the Translator’s daughter Flavia in the morning . She was a tour guide and would be taking us around the Colosseum and other sites the next day.
My apologies to Robert Ward for stealing the “parts” gag of the title.
For those who don’t know, SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.”
A Hilltop Church then the big reveal. Now for my next magic trick…
Seeing more of Italy than we anticipated
Last time on TTWTH: Pompeii and Circumstance Part A