The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.--Richard Bode

Thursday, June 27, 2013

From Pompeii

Hi again:
 The overnight ferry from Sardinia to Rome was just the same as I have told you about before -- kind of long, a little expensive, and not the most exciting thing to do.

I got to the port just south of Rome early in the morning. I was rested and ready to ride. As always, my GPS takes me on the most confusing routes down little side streets and up tiny lanes; navigation is probably my biggest challenge.

I finally made it to Anzio just south of Rome. The trip was interesting because all along the route women were sitting in chairs waiting for men to pull up and talk with them. It was kind of early in the morning for this kind of activity, I thought, but they did seem to have some customers pulled over to ask prices. I found all this to be a great mystery -- I mean, do they pick up their chair and get into the man's car, or head off into the bushes, or what. Maybe I am jumping to conclusions; maybe these scantily clad women had fruit stands there just off the road -- you think?? Nah!!

I was surprised at the amount of trash piled up everywhere. Apparently Italy does not have the strict anti-littering laws the rest of Europe does. I remember the women along the road from my previous trips, but I don't remember all this trash. Perhaps there is a strike going on. I say that because Italians are very hard workers in all other regards, with construction jarring me awake starting at about 5:30 a.m.

I wanted to see Anzio because one of the biggest Allied Invasions of Europe took place there just about two days before I was born.  I couldn't find much about the invasion, but I did have a nice campsite right on the Mediterranean Sea. It was terribly windy, and just as my camera took this picture its tripod blew over into the sand. I had a terrible time getting it to work again. It was quite the unhappy little thing.

There was a great museum up in the hills above Anzio. It took a lot of effort to find it, but it was well worth the effort. It was filled with old toys and farm machinery which brought back a lot of memories of my childhood of many years ago, and with a lot of information about how the farmers cleared the swamps there early in the last century. They certainly had a hard life.

I remember a hay baler almost exactly like this one that came and did some work on our tiny farm in southern Missouri when I was a kid. I got to ride around on it and watch the workmen tie up the hay bales. I loved riding around on that thing.

Among the other displays in the museum were lots of exhibits on WWII. They had tons of them, almost all of them explaining the war in Italy. It was very interesting, I thought.

I didn't take any pictures of the war exhibits, but they did make me want to go see Monte Casino because it was one of the biggest battle sites of the war in Italy during WWII. The road there goes up through the Apennine Mountains which stretch like a hog's back down through the middle of Italy from the Alps to the tip of the boot.
As I was getting close to the town of Casino it started to rain. I didn't want to set up my tent in the rain, so I asked a campground owner in Casino if he had a cabin to rent. He gave me a caravan (what we call a camping trailer) at just 10 Euros more than camping would have been. I thought that was a good deal.
The only other people at that campground were Michael and Debbie who had driven down from England in their Volkswagen camping van. They were nice people and fun to talk with, and we entertained ourselves telling stories and swapping ideas for places to visit.
This picture above is Monte Casino (the mountain) with the Abbey of Monte Casino (the white building) on top. I took it from my campsite. Try to imagine the Americans, British and Poles trying to take that mountain away from the Germans during World War Two.  The bombs and artillery absolutely destroyed the beautiful Abbey, which was a shame because the Germans were not in it -- they were all around that hill, but not in the Abbey. Debbie's guidebook says that something like 30,000 men lost their lives in that battle.

It was a fun road getting to the top, steep and with a lot of switchbacks. I enjoyed it, but I expect Debbie and Michael had to baby their camper to the top.
Since the war, the Abbey has been restored. They have had to do that several times in its two thousand year history, because it has been destroyed by earthquakes and barbarians, but never as completely as by the Allied bombs.

But it is beautiful now, and here is the neat thing: it was began by Saint Benedict who spent his entire life there, he and his sister, and they are entombed there now. It has been visited by bishops and cardinals and popes and head of state. It is really famous, and some people say it is the second most important site in the Christian religion. I don't know about that myself, but it is certainly worth a visit.
Not many Benedictine Monks left these days, I guess. But once upon a time they numbered in the thousands.
I was told that the ashes of Saint Benedict and his twin sister, Saint Scholastica, are in urns just behind the altar of this beautiful church. That kind of seems to be up in the air-- I certainly could not find the urns myself.
But here is an ironic thing-- an Allied bomb landed right on the altar steps, not more than ten feet away from the urns with the ashes of the two Saints, but it didn't explode. God works in wondrous ways, I guess. Pretty cool, huh?
Here is a picture of Michael, the Volkswagen camper from England. I wish Debbie could have been in the picture too. Michael loves motorcycles himself, and has five of them back home. If you read this blog, Michael and Debbie, thanks again for the good times at Monte Casino.
Today I am in Pompeii. There are two parts to Pompeii, the new, bustling city, and the ruins that were dug up from the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius. I don't care much for the modern city, but the ruins are always interesting.
I've been walking around and exploring all day. And back there in the background, not all that far away, is the thing that caused all the damage about 35 years after Christ died. You can't tell from this picture, but people have built homes on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius. The scientists say that it is the most dangerous mountain in Europe because it will erupt again. It is just a matter of time.

It is possible to ride almost to the top of Mt. Vesuvius, and hike up the rest of the way. I might do that if there is a day before I leave when the mountain is not shrouded in clouds.

Those Roman villas in Pompeii were very nice, by the way. Some of them were absolutely huge, covering an entire city block. They had indoor toilets, running water, and lots of shops to go to out on the city streets. Sometimes we think Romans were all warriors and politicians, but most of them were hard working plumbers, farmers, butchers, firemen, Etc.
Tomorrow, I think I will go into Naples to see the museum filled with all they things archaeologists removed from Pompeii. I have only been to Naples once before, and found it to be not a very nice place back then. But, I am willing to give it another chance.

There is a great internet connection at this campground, and I just used it to talk live with Patrice, my wife, back home in Illinois. It is only 8 a.m. there, but I am getting hungry for supper so it is time for me to go to the restaurant up on the hill. Some pasta sounds good.

More later,