As it is nearly 1:30 PM when we arrive back at Pompeii, and we're here, we decide to just to see the ruins. Oh, Capri -- soon, my love. Soon.
Angello, who has won the patron saint of today award, arranges for us to leave our cheeses at a restaurant by the ruins while we visit. It will be nice not to have to carry everything, and maybe if mom gets tired, she can head back here and wait for me comfortably. It is dawning on me a bit that the reason for this trip -- her 60th birthday -- signifies something a little scary. She's getting older. She has a hard time seeing at night, walking on uneven terrain and she can't really hear me... although I'm not convinced she's not just ignoring me. Selective hearing runs in our family.
Pompeii is amazing. It's like a huge time capsule, but also weirdly modern when you think about everything that is based on Roman systems, like the judiciary. In the forum, the is a raised area where judges would hear cases... partially to raise their status in a very literal way, but also to keep them safe. Our judges sit on a bench, above everyone else in court. the legal process is also very similar, with an accusation and a defense.
The homes are beautiful, but sort of fake looking in a way. When you look at the frescoes painted on the walls and the exquisitely detailed mosaic floors, it is impossible for your mind to justify their age given the amazing condition. I think the only conclusion my mind comes to is that it can't be real. It's Italian Disney.
There are a few things that really stand out to me here. For one, the plaster casts of the bodies are unbelievable. Imagine this: it's sometime in the 1800's, and the plaster/mold technique is relatively new. You are an archeologist who is excavating part of Pompeii when workers come to you reporting a strange cavity with bone fragments in it. An empty space in rubble. Instead of ordering it cleared, you have plaster poured into it and then carefully chipped away to reveal a body, face frozen, contorted, at the exact moment of death. There is one where you can see the skull and teeth, another, a person curled up in fear. And a dog... chained up and unable to flee. It paints a pretty crazy three dimensional picture of what must have been a horrific event.
I am also struck by the speed bumps. The streets are rough stone lined by raised sidewalks. Across it in many areas are three large stones, separated in a very unique way. With space, apparently, for chariot wheels. They served two functions -- slowing down traffic, and creating a way for people to cross when the water would be too deep in the street. Ingenious.
And last, but not least... a brothel, with it's stone beds and suggestive frescoes painted on the walls. We enter this room with a number of older tourists who are laughing and pointing like teenagers.
Speaking of other tourists... we have a run in with some today. The tour leaders are actually incredibly rude. They bring large groups in and then just stand -- in full blockade formation -- wherever they decide to give a chat about one of the features of the site. You can't cross the road, or see anything until they move out of the way. We had just finished walking out of the bath house (also really cool, by the way), deciding to go out the same way we came in so we didn't get off track. A large British female guide made a very loud comment to her group about people who don't leave from the correct door.
Come on. It's not like there's and illuminated exit sign here. Or ANY exit sign for that matter.
I thank her for letting us know we are not doing this correctly. One of the tourists in the group says if everyone did it the wrong way, there would be a mess. One of the men calls us a bunch of corkers. I'm a little sad about the whole thing. I like the Brits. People can just be so damn rude. Until now, the rudest tourists I've ever encountered was this American woman in India, or maybe this German guy on a train to Machu Piccu in Peru. Maybe I should be thankful we've been absolved.
God save the queen.
We do some shopping in Sorrento, where I finally get my bathing suit. And two outfits, reasonably priced of course, that I will be sending to the stupid airline for reimbursement. Mom is exhausted. We need to slow the days down a but, and I think things will be easier when we don't have to use the bus to get anywhere. We've been burning the candle at both ends trying to get it all in. We head for dinner in the square at a place call Syrenuse Bar Ristorante. Mom orders pizza, which she says is not as good as the pizza in Naples, while I opt for linguini with mascarpone and lemon sauce. My mouth died and went to heaven. It's the best thing I've eaten here so far.
We have a little argument. Actually, kind of a big one. It has been almost a week, after all. I'm spending too much time blogging, and every time we stop and there is Wi-Fi, I'm busy looking stuff up. Or on the phone dealing with luggage. Or I'm stressed out trying to manage all the logistics. This IS a vacation... one we're supposed to be having together. I'm not doing well to remember that. In my bag I have a journal, which is what I would be doing more of to get these moments down for the book. I feel terrible and I am not finding an easy way to balance it all.
So, I'm taking tomorrow off. Mom doesn't know it yet, but she'll be blogging about Capri tomorrow. See you kids back in school on Monday.