Herculaneum, Italy

Day 93, Wednesday December 6, 2017

We are up early to take the train to Herculaneum, which is another ancient town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

We are a bit early for our train so we visit the church in Pompeii. Yes, another church! I should be tired of them but it seems that each one we visit is so different for the others that there is always something new and amazing to see.

The Shrine of the Blessed Virgin of the Holy Rosary is an international place of pilgrimage.  It is considered the most important shrine consecrated to Mary in Italy.  4 million pilgrims from all over the world visit here every year.

The church has many hallways and rooms covered in thousands of ex-votos. These devotional images were created in thanks for the fulfillment of vows by those who survived an illness or disaster because they prayed to the Virgin Mary. I keep seeing images in the marble. What do you see here?

Every town we pass on the way to Herculaneum is crowded with apartments. I think just about everyone in Italy who lives in urban areas must live in apartments.
We can see the smog over Naples. There seems to be more smog here than in Rome.Believe it or not, this is the ‘street’ that Google maps tells us to walk down to get to the archeological site.  It was long, narrow, dirty and full of garbage!This is our first view of Herculaneum. Unlike Pompeii, which was covered by about 4 meters of ash, Herculaneum was buried under more than 20 meters of mud, ash, and other pyroclastic material. This thick layer preserved wooden and other organic-based objects such as roofs, beds, doors, food and even skeletons.

Until these skeletons were discovered inside boat sheds near the shore of ancient Herculaneum it was thought that most of the residents escaped the town. However excavation of the boat sheds in 1981 revealed over 300 skeletons. It is thought that they were waiting for boats to take them to safety but they died before this could happen. Please take a look at this excellent five minute video from the Smithsonian which explains all about these skeletons.

I understand that the skeletons on display are replicas of the originals but they still make a powerful impact.
These walls were painted from dark orange-red changing to light yellow…and the column’s construction was interesting.There were more places for buying prepared food…and this is one of the many water fountains we saw both here and in Pompeii.Many beautiful mosaic floors were well preserved because they were covered with the hot mud that flowed down from Vesuvius.

This is part of a huge sport centre here which had a pool and areas for other types of recreation.Herculaneum is especially known for having well-preserved buildings with upper floors.It is possible to see carbonized charred wooden beams. doors and shutters…as well as railings and shelves inside the buildings.There are several of these ‘balconies’ along the streets.The College of the Augustales was an order of freemen dedicated to the Imperial Rulers of Rome. The big carbonized beams that supported the upper floor are still in place.

It is possible to see how the modern town of Ercolano was built on the buried remains of Herculaneum, and there is Mount Vesuvius in the background.More preserved areas. Unfortunately many of the largest and best preserved villas were closed to visitors today. It was disappointing but not much we can do about it. We read a sign that said that it was not possible to properly look after the site for many years, and that by the year 2000 two-thirds of the site was closed to visitors due to safety concerns. With the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, work is now ongoing to restore this site and reopen areas to visitors This building is particularly well-preserved…and has a carbonized bed inside.The doors in the back of this photo are the original wooden doors that were carbonized, which really just means to be changed to carbon by burning.Some of the villas were very grand and must have been incredibly beautiful homes.

We were able to peek into the entrances of the closed sites.

As we leave we look down on this ancient town one last time. The arched rooms in the bottom of the photo are the boathouses where the skeletons were found.I read that the peak of Vesuvius has been reforming and there is danger of another eruption sometime in the future. The volcano is closely monitored and the hope is that there would be enough warning to evacuate nearby residents if this happens. I wonder about that.We did find a longer but more appealing route back to the train station. We see some interesting graffiti along the way…and roads paved with large square stones, laundry hanging right on the sidewalk and streets, some interesting buildings, and finally we are at the train station just as the sun is setting.

So, to answer the question of what I saw in the marble, it was a cartoonish horse figure, standing up on its back legs looking straight out at me.

I forgot to post this video titled A Day In Pompeii yesterday. It is a reconstruction of what likely happened in Pompeii during the eruption. I found it helpful in trying to make sense of what we see now in Pompeii. Take a look if you are interested.

Mijas and Granada

Tuesday, November 17

We leave for Granada today which is a good thing as our balcony is positively swarming with workmen this morning. Too bad all this painting is going on as it made it difficult to fully enjoy our apartment, which was really quite nice otherwise. We met some people in Seville who told us about a pretty white village named Mijas so we stop for a visit on our way to Granada.imageOne of the first things we see as we set out to explore Mijas are a lot of donkeys tied up along the main street. These are the donkey taxis that were first started in the 1960s by a local resident who used the donkeys to transport goods.  Early tourists wanted to take pictures with the donkeys and asked to have rides and the tips they offered were more than his day’s wages…and so began the donkey taxis.  I thought that they didn’t look very well cared for and that they were not very healthy and wasn’t interested in making them give me a ride.image image  So, here is the donkey ride I chose.imageWe found a lovely stone bench overlooking the valley and had our picnic lunch here.  imageThere is a very old tiny church which we visit and we want to buy a few things at their little shop but the store didn’t have change for 20€ so we said we would come back later, but when we return they are closed, so we are out of  luck.

mijas-villas.com has this description of the church:”Hidden away in a corner of the village, overlooking the wonderful valley leading to the coast, is the hermitage of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’. Built into a rocky outcrop by Mercedarian monks in 1520. Inside is the image of the ‘Virgen de la Peña’, the patron Saint of the village. According to the legend, she appeared on this spot on the 2nd of June 1586 to two young shepherds that had been led there by a pigeon. Subsequently an image of the Virgin was found concealed in a recess in the tower where it had been hidden for 500 years. In 1656 work started on the sanctuary cave, which is nowadays always decorated with flowers and pictures as offerings.”imageWe then walked around the edge of the town along some of the old original stone walls which offered more great views of the valley below.imageWe enjoyed the gardens along the way which were very well maintained and had more flowering plants than we have seen elsewhere as well as many water features.  It was very pleasant and relaxing.imageWe stopped to watch these rock climbers but they take a long time getting ready to climb so we have to move on. imageWe climbed a little tower on our walk through the town and it gave a nice opportunity to see the roof tops and how tightly packed together the houses are.imageI often see older people sitting on doorsteps or walking along the streets and wish I could take their pictures but I don’t want to be rude or intrusive.  I was able to take this fellow’s photo after we walked by. image

What is not to love about a street as pretty as this?imageCars manage to drive along the narrowest streets and we find them parked in some of the strangest places.  This car had travelled up the street in the second picture.  You may be able to see that the street became much narrower further on. We have no idea how it managed to navigate past the flower pots on this very narrow road or how it is going to turn around to get out of there.  We climbed steps to get to this road!imageAll to soon it is time for us to hit the road.  We need to be in Granada by 6:00 to meet our host for our next apartment.  The scenery changes soon after we leave Mijas, it is drier and we start to see olive trees.imageWe have seen graffiti everywhere we have been in Spain and Portugal.  These tags are all along the highway walls.imageSoon we are driving through mile after mile of olive groves.  We can’t believe how many fields of olive trees there are, stretching as far as the eye can see in all directions. I snap these photos as we drive by so they aren’t wonderful but they do give at leat some idea of all the trees we see on the way to Granada.image

I want to thank everyone who has taken the time to write a comment or ‘like’ a post on this blog. WordPress just sent me a notice that my blog has more than 100 likes and that “my stats are booming and I am getting lots of traffic”  I’m not sure exactly how important that is but I think when people like a post or comment it makes it easier for others to find the blog on search engines.  I am still relatively new to blogging and need to do a bit more research into all this.

I started the blog so friends and family could follow my travels and as a place to show some of my art and I have been rather astounded to find that my blog has had 7,223 views by people in 50 countries since I started it for my trip to Paris in 2014.  So, if you do enjoy a post please feel free to offer a comment or press that like button.  I am behind on responding to comments but I do read them all and I am always thrilled that someone takes the time to comment on what they have read.