- I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan
Friday, November 24, 2006
Pompeii, Amalfi, Bari
We didn't book ahead for Pompeii. We had been happy in the mobilhome in the caravan park at Anguillara Sabazia, so we took a chance on a motel-style room in the caravan park immediately opposite the ruins. It was very basic, but the plumbing worked, bed was comfy, the place was clean, it was a perfect location - what more could you need for €28 (well, maybe a less grumpy manager:-)
Of course, the first thing we did was to spend a day in the ruins.
After the Forum, it was a quite different atmosphere. Less pomp and reminders of past glory, but a closer feeling of relationship with the people who lived in this town and died so suddenly so many centuries ago. It had the feeling of a sacred place to me; a place that should be forever preserved to remind us that we are inconsequential when nature gets angry. Vesuvius was visibly smoking in the distance.
The little everyday things interested me. The bakery, with the ovens and storage jars; or the stepping stones in the street - exactly positioned so carts could pass unimpeded but pedestrians didn't need to step in the muck on the roads. We wandered, and listened in to passing groups with guides, but mainly wandered at our own pace.
The mummified bodies, both human and animal, were sad and fascinating.
The horror of that August day in 79AD is almost unimaginable - but their misfortune preserved a piece of history for us. For those interested in the history, there are excellent descriptions here: Interactive Dig and here: Pompeii: Portents of Disaster
En-route to Pompeii we drove through Naples, and later we spent an afternoon driving around the Amalfi Coast via Sorrento and Positano; we returned over the hills through Pimonte.
Those two driving experiences were exhilarating, interesting - and at times - terrifying. I thought nothing would worry me after Rome. Wrong.
In Naples, at one stage we got caught in an immovable traffic jam in a one-lane each way road. The opposite lane was moving OK, but ours was at a dead stop. So, as far as the Neapolitans were concerned, the opposite lane was an acceptable alternative - even though there was traffic heading in the opposite direction. At one stage a guy pulled out from behind me (after tooting me incessantly for not getting out of his road) and then forced the opposing car to stop and reverse into a service station to allow him through. The fascinating part was that the opposing driver seemed to think nothing of it, just another day on a Naples road.
On the Amalfi coast, with it's stunning scenery, the road is also narrow and winding, with successive hairpin bends for long distances. At one stage as we climbed on the outside lane, with a sheer drop to the ocean on our right, a giant tour bus was coming down and around the hairpin. We had to stop, and it became clear we had to reverse to make room for the bus. We would reverse about half a metre and the car behind us would reverse; in a chain reaction the gradually growing "tail" of cars behind would then shuffle backwards. If the bus had waited we could have manoeuvred much more easily and quickly - but no - the idiot bus driver would immediately move into the space we made. It took about fifteen minutes to make the room - with all the drivers tooting for most of it. But we survived. If I ever visit the Amalfi again - I won't drive it:-)
The next day we headed East, towards the Adriatic Coast, intending to stay somewhere near Bari or Brindisi and take a ferry to Greece. On the way, of course, we got lost before we emerged from Pompeii and discovered an interesting Autostrada that was four lanes wide - until you found yourself in a field with a few sheep as company.
I understand that these were the result of corrupt officials in the past, when contracts were awarded for many structures that were never finished. We saw many examples in Italy.
We finally crossed to the East Coast, deliberately avoiding main roads and Autostradas; the land was dramatically different - flat, fertile, smaller villages, larger towns and endless fields under cultivation. One unexpected pleasant moment occurred when we stopped to check directions and found these wildflowers beside the road.
When we reached the coast near Trani we started looking for Hotels - and discovered that in late May everything is closed. So, we had a slow, pleasant drive down the coast until we reached Bari. There we discovered that the inexpensive Ferry we had intended to take was also closed until June; after some investigation we did a deal with Superfast, which included the ferry from Bari to Patras and also the later Ferry from Patras to Venice.
As departure time was Midnight, we spent the evening in town having dinner and watching some street performers before putting the car on board and finding our cabin.
The journey was smooth and uneventful; this was our "sister-ship" which gradually overtook us on it's journey from Ancona to Corfu.