Monday, January 05, 2009

Trip to Rome - part 2

Day Five: Sunday 28/12 — Daddy had a very sensible idea: it was to get up early in the morning and leave while we were sleeping and when we woke up we had already been driving for a few hours, and thanks to this, we had breakfast 11 km from Pisa. We hurried into Pisa and saw the tower, the baptistery, and the"duomo". Every town in Italy has one of each of those things and the only reason Pisa is known is because of the complete failure at building the tower, or "campanile".

It has seven bells in it, one for each note in the scales. You can go into the tower, and up to the top of it, but we didn't. Now, as Becky wanted to very much, we went to Florence (Firenze). She's been reading a book about Michelangelo and wanted desperately to see the town where he lived. So off we went.

It had a lot of one-way streets, and a lot of tow-away trucks. This is rather surprising, considering that in Italy you can do almost anything without being stopped. In Florence, there is also a "duomo", a"baptistere" and a "campanile". The "duomo" is the centre of attention, it's made all out of marble: white, red, green... There are also some gates over there, made of gold, and on them is sculpted diverse scenes from the Bible. They were already there in Michelangelo's time, says Becky. When he saw them, he exclaimed: "these must be the gates of paradise!" They are still called that to this day. The next thing we saw at Florence was that great bridge with shops and houses all down it. When we were on it, we would have a hard time seeing the water.

After we had seen all we wanted to see at Florence, we went onto the "autostrada", and parked for the night at the first stop we came to heading to Rome. As there were showers in the shop, Becky and Nathalie took a shower. And although we all needed one, only they wanted to take one because of the terribly cold weather. We had completely forgotten to have lunch, and we did all the days that followed.

Day Six: Monday 29/12 — Daddy decided to do the same driving system as yesterday, and we had breakfast near Rome. It was exciting to think that we were at long last arriving to that long-awaited place, to see the Colosseum, Titus' arch, the Forum, the Circus Maximus, the diverse temples, the Palatine, the Catacombs...

The first thing we saw when we parked the car was to realize that we were in the right place: just next to the Forum, 500 meters from the Colosseum, etc... We started by seeing the Forum. It was all in ruins, but that isn't very surprising considering it's age. There is the temple of Castor and Pollux, of Saturn, and of Venus. Then we saw Titus' arch. You'll see it if you're standing in front of the Colosseum, looking north. You'll see a little hill called the"Via sacra"(it's a road), go up it and see Titus' arch.

If you go through the arch, which we didn't do, you will see the little frieze, of Titus becoming a god. It's quite surprising how many names a Roman emperor could have; these are Titus': Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, Augustus. The only reason we call him Titus is because we all agreed upon calling him that. All these names are on the arch.

Then we decided to visit the Colosseum, and although we had to pay, we thought it would be worth it. We got into the long line and when we got to the place to pay, the man asked for our identity card, which we did not have. This is what obliged us to go all the way back to the car. On the way back to the Colosseum (with the identity card) we passed through the Circus Maximums. It was nothing but a big field, oval shaped with one ruin in it. There weren't even gates around it. When we got back to the Colosseum, it was closed for admissions. It was quite a disappointment! We (Becky, Claire, Christopher, and Nathalie) then wandered into a chapel. Daddy, Mommy, Olly, and Christine had left us at the entrance of the Colosseum, thinking we would be having a lovely time! Well, we were having quite a lovely time, but not in the Colosseum.

So we were in that chapel and saw diverse and sundry things in it. When we finally arrived to our meeting place near the Colosseum, we told them the whole story. They were quite surprised but showed us what they were looking at: some birds; they were looking as if they were migrating but weren't getting anywhere. They were starlings and though quite far away they were moving in such unity that they looked like smoke. Apparently, Rome has a problem of excess of these birds. We couldn't quite imagine what they could be doing wrong, but it must have been something.

We then all went to a restaurant where they sold funny kinds of pizzas, that looked like 2 of them smashed onto each other, right sides together. We were very hungry and would have enjoyed it even if it hadn't been good, (but it was). That night, we drove, as was now our custom, onto the "autostrada", and parked for the night on the first service station stop, this time heading for Naples.

Day Seven: Tuesday 30/12 — As usual, Daddy and Mommy got up early to drive the camper and C4. And breakfast that day was at Pompei. There was the old Pompeii, and the new Pompeii. Of course, we were going to see the old one. This town suffered quite severely from an earthquake in 62 a.d. the people of that city were still working on fixing damages when mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 a.d. It was indeed a very terrible eruption. All of Pompeii was suddenly covered in ash, smoke, and lava. the only witness to this terrible catastrophe was Pliny the younger, who is called that to differentiate him from Pliny the elder, his uncle, who died trying to save something or somebody from the eruption. He wrote a book about it. More of the people who died there died because of the smoke and toxic gases they breathed than of people who died because of ash or lava. When the catastrophe occurred, different people had different reactions: some ran to the temples, and prayed to the "gods", some simply tried to run out of town (they didn't go fast enough), still more ran to their loved ones, crying for help. A writing has been found on a wall: "This must be the end of the world!" It reveals the surprise and distress they felt. But it's quite understandable: wouldn't you feel the same, if that happened to you?

I will continue the sad story of this little town; all the town was covered in a few meters of ash. the dead bodies of the victims were "buried" there, and decayed over the years. A couple hundred years ago, a French archaeologist was digging up the town and discovered these holes in the rock. (The ash had solidified into rock around each body, after the which it decomposed). So when he found these holes, he got the bright idea to pour wet plaster into them, and waited till they dried. When this had happened, he took it out of it's "mold". It was in the shapes of bodies! He did this on all the holes he found and thus formed quite a collection of people who had died almost two thousand years ago! There was a garden now called "the garden of the fugitives" in the which were found 13 "holes" inthe shapes of the 13 members of a family trying to get away. They didn't manage. There were babies, a Mommy and Daddy, grandparents, brothers and sisters, they all died to that fate. We could walk through a town that had existed so long ago, and see the houses in the which few things were harmed (although everything out of burnable material was destroyed), but there were ovens, and stoves. There was even an old restaurant. Apparently it was a kind of fast food place. But it was not at all like you may imagine! It was a kind of marble slab table in the form of a capital L, and in it were holes, likes flower pots. No tables were there but maybe there were some that got burnt. Or maybe there never were any. We guessed that they would put fire in it and pans over the top.

Apparently there was a baker taking bread out of his oven and a woman collecting her jewels, and a dog pulling at his leash, but we didn't see them. The town is huge! You could easily get lost in it. There were a good number of paintings on the walls, all of which had kept their colours perfectly. What was quite fun to see was what a zebra crossing was like on a road in79 a.d. The carriages could cause accidents just as cars cause them today. Well, they're like four, large stepping stones across the road. The pedestrians would just walk across the road on those stones, about 30 cm. above the road level - (about 1 foot). The sidewalks were also at that height above the roads so you wouldn't be stepping up at all to get onto the 'stepping stones'. As the wheels of the carriages that used to pass by were quite high, they could pass over these stones without difficulty.

The roads were made of big cobblestones and arranged so unevenly that we couldn't imagine carts and carriages rolling down it without breaking their wheels. We thought that maybe the lava had something to do with it. The town is built on a little hill so that all the roads are sloping. It's quite easy to imagine that lava could overthrow the neat little stones of a Roman road (known for being so straight!) Everything made out of marble is as good as before; there are also the marks of where there used to be the town gates.

The most impressive part of the town was the amphitheater. Apparently, during some sort of spectacle going on there, the spectators got into a fight about something or other and some people were killed. Because of this the governor of the area decided to close it for 10 years. But his wife didn't like the idea so the number of years was reduced after which it was opened. There were stairs at little intervals from each other to get in. And there are barriers put up to stop anyone from going there. But some person tore down one of the gates and lots of innocent people (including us) came in. It was delightful walking, standing, and sitting, where people sat so long ago. But all too soon the guard told us and all the others that we weren't allowed to do that, calling in Italian all sorts of things about coming down. So that's what we did.

But though we weren't allowed to go up where people used to sit, we were allowed to go inside where there were lions, and things like that. Some of the seats were still there, although not all. It was quite impressive. Near to this, there was an empty swimming pool that was for Roman young people, who didn't go to school but were highly encouraged to go to the gymnasium to do sport.

Everybody was tired of walking and had been for the last half hour. Again, lunch had been forgotten, and we decided to leave. Christine and Olly most of all. We knew that there was plenty we hadn't seen but knew also that we had seen Pompeii, and that was enough. Anyway, now we were going back to Rome for a second chance to see what we had missed!

Again, as was our habit, we went to the highway toward Rome, and stopped for the night at the first place we encountered.

Our log finishes at the next entry ...

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