I have been thinking to write this post in such a long time. Pompeii is a very important place for me, it is the place that first triggered my curiosity to travel and so I didn’t want to write a lame post about it hence the long thought on writing about it. So I hope this post gives enough credit to the place.
How all it all began
The first time I heard about Pompeii was when I was in my history class in my local primary school in Leeds, England. I was in year 6, and my curiosity for history was probably provoked by the enthusiasm of my teacher. She was always excited in telling us events in the past, and this one was no exception.
“Do a project on Pompeii!” she once said.
She briefly told us that Pompeii is ancient Roman city which was buried during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. I immediately had my weekend planned, to spend all day in the city library. Back then, internet wasn’t so happening and library was always packed with people. I borrowed maybe a dozen book, thick ancient Roman history books. Some looked thick, some looked glossy with pictures. I was in heaven.
Ever since that project, I couldn’t stop thinking about Pompeii. I wanted, no, I NEEDED to go there to settle my curiosity.
14 years later, I finally got the chance to visit Pompeii. My friends and I were doing a 3 weeks trip and I insisted that we go to Pompeii. After 14 years of waiting, imagining and anxiously wondering whether or not I will make a visit, I finally did. I stayed in Naples (was not in love with Naples, but that’s another story…) and took a train to Pompeii.
That day was sticky hot, the train from Naples was full of people and it was stuffy inside, I was anxious. I wondered if Pompeii would be as I expected, wonderfully old with history marks all over the place, or that it would be disappointing, which meant my 14 years wait was just a waste. I know it might be weird to be anxious like that. After around 30 minutes, finally we stopped at the Pompei Scavi stop. The station looked ordinary, I mean I wasn’t expecting amazing architecture but the place was a little too ordinary for the extraordinary place I was about to enter. I think I was so scared of being disappointed that I was over thinking everything. I set aside my thought and walked towards the site, seemed that a lot of people were heading the same way that day.
The UNESCO World Heritage site of Pompeii is massive. It was beyond what I imagined. The weather was scorching hot that day but I didn’t care. I wore my hat and my feet were itching to explore as much as I could. Since I wanted to explore in my own pace, I decided to take an audio guide. I was well and prepared for my “dream” adventure.
When the eruption came to Pompeii, nobody expected anything. People were just doing their daily chores and were not ready for the inevitable fate they were about to face. The city was buried under floods of volcanic ash coming from Vesuvius mountain. Soon enough the city disappeared along with the many lives occupying Pompeii.
I almost could feel how they must’ve felt. The panic, knowing that death was right in front of them, and how they knew there was nowhere to escape. I live near an active volcano (Mount Merapi) and it has erupted a few times, taking many lives and destroying crops and villages. Having to experience all these events somehow helped me to create a bound, an understanding between Pompeii and I.
Until now, I still can’t believe that Pompeii was totally buried and basically disappeared from the face of the earth for about 1500 years. In the past, Pompeii was a very vibrant place filled with wealthy people enjoying the life. In this lavish place, people could enjoy luxurious bath houses, cafés and shows at the theatres. In my mind, the city had a promising future.
The volcanic ash preserved the city well, allowing me to understand what life was like back then and to walk on the same road as the previous occupants of Pompeii. One of my most memorable walk was through the small amphitheatre and at the back there were cubicles which was believed to be kitchens. I could still see the holes made on the stone tables. My audio guide informed me that it used to be a row of cafés where people would come and enjoy a bite or a drink after seeing the shows at the amphitheatre.
In no time, I felt comfortable – observing Roman baths, going inside a former brothel with fading frescos on its ceiling for “inspirational positions” and also feeling completely lost in time at its Temple of Apollo. There are plaster casts of the eruption victims, a lot of them are being displayed at the Garden of the Fugitives. These are not actually the original ones, only a plaster copy as most of the original artifacts and plaster casts are safely kept and displayed at the Naples National Archeological Museum. However, this fact didn’t ease my sadness when I saw them. It was heartbreaking.
I will be back
Given the huge site, I of course didn’t get the chance to see every corner of it. The heat was also very disturbing, which made me super sweaty. I hope to be back to this stunning site in the future, preferably in the cool weather of Spring or Autumn. Oh Pompeii, I do hope to be back.
I left Pompeii with a great satisfaction. The trip filled my greatest travel curiosity and it’s the perfect example of a realization of my dream. Never stop dreaming people! Dream big, live more!
How DEW travelled there
I took the train from Naples train station, the station to reach Pompeii is located in the basement. The name of the line is Circumvesusiana, which will cost you around €1,80 to €3,20 and around 45 minutes to get there. From the station I walked to the site. Pompeii is not the only site buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, do check out other sites as well such as Villa Oplontis and Herculaneum. There are several type of tickets, it’s worth buying a pass for 5 sites (€22) if you are in the area for several days to check out the other sites for a cheaper price.