Posts tagged education

Pompeii

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Pompeii!  A city frozen in time.  We were staying just across the road at Camping Pompeii. Although the site is convenient it is not very quiet due to all the tourist hubbub.  If you are not keen on staying in the city, the campsite does provide parking for the day too.  Entry to the archeological site is €11. Audio guides are available from the main entrance but these are not necessary if you get a map and brief guide in English.  We spent two and a half hours there but felt a bit rushed as we left it late in the day (hoping the crowds had thinned) to visit. I’d recommend at least 3 or 4 hours for a decent visit.  Make sure you take water and sunscreen if it is hot.  There are some lovely shady spots great for picnics if you have time.  Dogs are permitted at no charge.

We have by now seen quite a few Roman sights, and at first I wasn’t that impressed by Pompeii but after half an hour I realised just how huge and interesting it is.  The scale is unmatched by any other excavation. It is a good walk to see all the sights and you will need sturdy walking shoes as many of the roads are uneven.  There are deep grooves in the roads from the wheels of the carts which used to trundle across this city.  The amphitheatre is huge – it used to hold an impressive 20,000 people and was used for gladiatorial matches.  They used one gate for releasing them into the arena and the other to take the injured out.  There are signs on the floor of metal rungs, perhaps to loop lions or other beasts onto.

A haunting sight was the mummified remains of the victims trapped by the pyroclastic wave of ash.  Most of the forms are huddled up in a foetus position.  Some of their faces show expressions of fear and pain.  The garden of fugitives has a few all huddled together and includes children and babies.  What they experienced must have been absolutely horrifying.

You can learn a lot about how the people lived in those times as so much of the town was well preserved by the volcanic ash. There are eating houses, with their ceramic food receptacles built into the marble table tops.  The Romans used to eat lunch away from home and these ‘restaurants’ had a couple of different rooms to eat from.  One had chaise longues and they used to eat their lunch lying down in the style of the Greeks.  There is also a house which was built for use as a brothel, unusual in those days.  The baths with their marble basins and piped water are dark but opulent.  The forum is huge, a massive space which accommodated thousands of people.  There are also numerous temples dedicated to the various Roman gods which are frequented by the numerous stray dogs that live in the ruins.

Saepinum

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Saepinum, a unique and deserted Roman settlement, greeted us after a short drive on some very bumpy roads in the Molise region of Italy. This Roman town was an important gateway for goods and travellers within the Roman republic. Part of the amphitheater had been used as a foundation for a number of medieval cottages. The archeologists excavating the site decided to leave these standing and they give an interesting insight into how buildings expand organically upwards over time. There is a large square with a recreated entrance gate and original carved fountains and pillars.

What makes Saepinum unique is that it is not very well known. We were virtually the only visitors to the site, and even had to shake the parking attendant to wake him from a snoring reverie.  The ruins gives you a chance to recreate the Roman town in your imagination without having to fight your way through hordes of other tourists. The site is so unvisited that I actually had difficulty locating it. The closest town is Altilia (you can park here), close to Campobasso.

Living in a motorhome is somewhat claustrophobic, but discovering just how small the houses were back then made us feel extremely grateful for the space and amenities we are so fortunate to have. Never have so many trees been chopped down to warm so few dwellings. On the other hand thick stone walls are quite soundproof, making domestic altercations and unwanted TV channels very much unheard.

We made a quick diversion on to Lucera; a supposedly interesting town in Puglia. We were keen to see the massive castle with its endless towers. Unfortunately  the castle office is clearly not interested in having visitors. Locked gates barred our entrance and, much to our dismay, the informative sign displaying the opening hours had been desecrated with a black permanent marker. We had a short walk around the perimeter and then went on our merry way.

Like Clockwork

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The bizarre crucifixion clock

As if we hadn’t had enough of clocks already our trip today was to the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen. This was absolutely fascinating, starting with a cuckoo clock that morbidly depicts the crucifixion scene every hour on the hour. That’s a lot of stabbing and nailing! We learned a lot, especially about the history of time keeping.

Apparently it was common practise for neighbouring towns to have different time measurements (10 hours to a day here, 12 there etc), and some even changed the length of hours as the seasons changed. The museum provides a free booklet in English with all the information you need for a visit.

On our way to Blumberg we made a spontaneous stop at the Rothaus brewery. Unfortunately it was closed, being Sunday, apart from the shop where we bought our very first keg of German beer. 5 delicious litres of weissbier for the bargain price of €10! Be sure to read the instructions (or little pictures for us non-German speakers) before using it as you may end up, like us, spraying the inside of your van with a coating of white foam!

Bugs Galore

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Compeyre is a sleepy riverside village stacked up on a hill close to Millau.  The townspeople were friendly, and it gave us a taste of real French life in the countryside.  The municipal campsite is gorgeous, perched next to the river with shady spots and endless lawns.  I swam in the river and got swept along by the strong currents. Paragliders waft about the surrounding hills, and one of them landed right next to our van. Perhaps he smelled our delicious BBQ from above and thought he could invite himself to dinner.

Our next stop was Micropolis – an educational center devoted to insects, and some rather scary looking spiders. I’d never seen a bumblebee hive, or Amazonian stick insects as long as my forearm, and despite having to jostle with kids to see the attractions we gained a surprising amount of insight and knowledge. I could have done without the massive spiders though! The visit concludes with the insect carnival, a trail depicting bugs in various stages of going off to a dance, like a giant fiberglass version of a Disney movie.

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