Pompei really was an eye-opener in so many different ways. When we pulled into the road leading to our campsite (which is just outside the gates to the excavation site), we were not prepared for what was ahead. As we drove on, a flurry of vendors jumped in front of Rory offering us “Safe Parking” and “Clean bottled water”. There were so many people and dogs in the road that we had to slow down, which also made us a bit vulnerable as people surrounded us and peered into the windows. Uneasy much! And this was before we even pulled into the campsite!
But not even the drive could prepare us for the campsite, Camping Zeus. In a word, it was vile! The bathrooms were disgusting to a point that we didn’t want to shower as we would come out dirtier than before. But what they don’t tell you in the brochure is that the Pompei ruins and the campsite, are actually home to unwanted stray dogs. Lots of stray dogs! It is really sad, apparently residents of Pompeii and Naples, dump their unwanted dogs at the ruins, leaving them to fend for themselves. It’s so cruel but also incredibly unhygienic. Going to the bathroom in the campsite at night is a bit dodgy as the stray dogs sleep in the toilets and showers so you are on their turf. They also leave their droppings in the showers – not cool! This coupled with the huge amount of homeless and drunk people that hang around the ruins meant that we were not going to stick around for long!
After recovering from our shock at the disgustingness of the area, we chained our chairs and table together (just to make sure that they were still there when we got back) and went into the ruins.
The ruins were absolutely fantastic and far surpassed all of our expectations. They were so interesting and so well-preserved, not to mention that they are so vast! Wandering around the streets of Pompeii really gives you insight into the life of the Romans. They were so clever and thought of everything. For example, giant flagstones mark each road crossing which was ingenious as the Romans could cross the roads on these stones and not get their feet dirty with any sewage that was on the street. Clever! Another really interesting thing is that the Romans had various “take away” stands lining their streets where people could buy readymade meat and veggie dishes which was a lunchtime favorite. But perhaps the most eerie part of our visit was the plaster caste bodies that were preserved at the time of the excavation.
Quick fact: Plaster of paris was poured into the body cavities at the time of the excavation, thus capturing the actual shape and state of the people at the time of eruption.
These people have been immortalized in their suffering, their bodies crunched over in fear and panic. It is so hard to look at but on the same token, it makes the whole experience so much more personal. Wow!
After spending about six hours wandering the site, we returned to the campsite, delighted to find that our chairs were still there. Whew! Needless to say, we packed up really quickly the next morning and headed for greener and safer pastures in Sorrento!