jn82’s Epic Adventure

Day 53 [23 Mar 09] – Naples

Posted in Naples by jn82 on March 24, 2009

Today was a pretty chill day, as we had no where in particular to see. Had to check out of the hostel by 10.30am, and catch the train from Naples to Rome only at 5.24pm, so we decided to walk around a bit of Naples’ old city and kill some time. The streets in the old city are all single laned, and there is constantly very heavy traffic, mostly by insane mopeds zig-zagging through cars and pedestrians. The first floor buildings here are shops selling all sorts of stuff from well known brands such as Zara and Foot Locker to small ones selling 1,001 laundry detergent items. Nothing really interesting to see here. On the second floor onwards and in the smaller steets behind, you can see the Naples signature laundry hanging out to dry of most apartment windows.

Typical Naples back street.

We really did not feel like doing much, so just headed down to the coast for a view of Mt. Vesuvius (again), as well as go into an old castle (Castel dell’Ovo) which was right on the coast. The view of the city from the castle was pretty good, and that was about all you could do from the castle because it was totally empty on the inside.

Mr. Vesuvius, from the coast of Napoli city.

View of the city from Castel dell’Ovo.

The smaller boats docked below the castle.

We had lunch at this little traditional place which the hostel recommended, La Taverna Da Buongustaio. The food here was excellent and very well priced for what you get, as we found out having dined here the first night we were in the city. It is a no frills kind of place with no fancy table settings, decorations or waiters in uniforms. The restaurant is operated by four men, one who takes the orders and three who work in the kitchen. All smoke openly and happily in the kitchen. They have quite a few newspaper clippings on the wall, so I guess this is a place the locals know very well about. Today, I had Spaghetti Frutti di Mare for my first dish, and grilled sword fish for the second, for a very reasonable 14 €. Pretty interesting concept they have in Italy for meals, where instead of the usual entree and main, the first dish is usually a carbohydrate loaded pasta dish, and the second is some sort of meat or seafood. Pizza can come in as either a first or second dish I think.

Spagietti Frutti di Mare, very generous helping of clams and mussels.

Grilled sword fish, less exciting.

How authentic is this place, seriously!

In the evening, we got on the Intercity Plus train from Naples to Rome from 5.24pm – 7.30pm, following which caught the Luna night train from Rome to Geneva. In the Luna night train, we took the entry level sleeper option of a four-to-a-cabin couchette, as it cost us only 35€ with the train pass, as opposed to 65€ for a twin sleeper. On the train from Naples to Rome we were actually regretting this money saving decision as all the guide books and travel websites mentioned the rates of theft on Italian night trains is particularly high, but in the end were lucky enough to share the couchette with only one other man, the most un-italian biology researcher for the research division of the Italian Ministry of Health. I forgot to take a picture of the couchette, but it looks very similar to the night train cabin we took from Lisbon to Madrid, only difference is that there was no sink in the cabin.

Swiss sleeper carriage on EuroNight Luna 314 from Roma Termini to Geneva.

Post continues tomorrow when we wake up in Geneva!

Today’s pictures here.

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Day 52 [22 Mar 09] – Naples

Posted in Naples by jn82 on March 22, 2009

Another day visiting ruins, this time in the ancient city of Pompeii. In 79 AD, the same Mt. Vesuvius volcanic eruption which buried Herculano also buried and perfectly preserved Pompeii. Pompeii is roughly four times the size of Herculano, so it was impossible to finish visiting the site in one day. We had a pretty easy morning in the hostel, and only got to the ruins at Pompeii around 12.30pm.

Not much to comment here, just that many of the buildings in the area open to the public are very well preserved. Pretty easy to see signs of very advanced town planning as the buildings were in a grid like arrangement.

Below is a random selection of pictures from today’s gallery.

Temple of Venus.

Rich guy’s house.

Temple of Jupiter with Vesuvius in the background.

Perhaps one of the more interesting exhibits here were the plaster cast moulds (which were poured on the skeletons) of the Pompeii residents (during excavation) as they were killed in the volcanic eruption. You can see their painful facial expressions very clearly, as well as the position of their bodies when they died.

Help me!

Arghhhhhh!

Men, women and kids.

Another interesting area was the almost perfectly intact amphitheatre, where gladiators used to fight each other and wild animals for the crowd’s entertainment.

Amphitheatre.

Headed back to the exit around 4.45pm, having only seen around a quarter of the site. After a while we did get a bit bored of all the ruins as everything looked pretty similar, and we were just tired of walking around. Other than that, it was a pretty interesting place to go to and have a look at.

The streets of Pompeii close to sunset.

Today’s pictures available here.

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Day 51 [21 Mar 09] – Naples

Posted in Naples by jn82 on March 22, 2009

Took a very early morning train from Rome to Naples today, on the cheaper Intercity Plus trains with a 5€ fee instead of the Eurostar Italia Av one with a 20€ reservation fee, as there was not much value paying for a one reduction in travel time.

Naples is a pretty grotty looking city, even compared to places like Rome and Milan. It supposedly has a crime rate around three times of Rome, and a triple digit amount of murders a year. I guess if you are Italy’s largest port city and have one of the most dangerous volcanos in Europe, your property prices are pretty poor and as a result more questionable take up residence here. After dumping our bags at the hostel, we headed off by train to Ecorlano Circumvesuviana station, to visit Mt. Vesuvius and Herculano.

Mt. Vesuvius is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last 100 years, and responsible for the destruction (and preservation) of five cities, of which Pompeii and Herculano are the two largest ones. We took a mini-bus part way up the volcano till the ticketing entry point, after which was a trek uphill of around 30 minutes before reaching the rim of the volcano.

We had not really prepared for the weather on the volcano, and I was wearing only the usual shirt and thick fleece jacket. Everyone else around us had on all their thick coats, wind breakers and head gear. Not a good sign. The wind on the volcano was insane, and the wind chill temperature must have been around -10 degrees celcius or something. Extremely unbearable. But we had no choice but to continue to the top!

Looking into the volcano’s crator from the rim.

Not exactly what I expected to see, but then again if there was any molten lava bubbling inside I would probably not be around to write this post now. All we could see was a huge crator, of which 700m of the rim was accessable to walk around. It was really quite amazing to be standing this high up on and beside something so dangerous.

Path and barrier around the rim.

We did not have very long to walk around the rim as the mini-bus driver only gave us one hour and twenty minutes from the time he dropped us off at the enterance, and after climbing up and down and stopping in-between to take pictures, we only had around ten minutes at the end of the path. That was fine, because it was too cold to hang around there anyway! After getting down and thawing out in the mini-bus, we headed off for lunch, and then made out way to the ruins of Herculano, the smaller and less well known of the two larger cities which got buried in superheated pyroclastic material that has solidified into volcanic tuff when Mt. Vesivius erupted in 79 AD. It is really amazing that we were walking in a 2,000 year old ancient city which had been so well preserved that many of the original buildings, roads and art work are as they were back in the day. The level of preservation here as a result of the volcanic ash trumps the previous ruins we saw at Coimbriga in Coimbra and Caesaraugusta in Zaragoza, which were badically abandoned cities left to decay over the course of time.

Mt. Vesuvius, Herculano and the modern day slums of Ercolano, practically indistinguishable.

Well preserved pillars.

More pillars.

Ancient eating place.

Collapsed mosaic floor of the male thermal baths.

Some preserved art.

We only got to Herculano around 2pm, and did not have time to have a good and detailed look at the entire site because it closed at 5pm. On to the more famous city of Pompeii tomorrow! More ruins ahead.

Today’s pictures here.

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