Europe 2013 Journal
Day 5 07-08-13 – Herculaneum
7:46 a.m. Just back from breakfast. It's going to be another very warm—read “hot” I fear—day. Had a devil of a time getting to sleep last night. No reason, but it seemed like it took hours. Up at 6:00 or so. Nice shower—speaking of the facilities, not the pleasure derived therefrom.
The efficiency and friendliness of the staff continues to amaze me, though sometimes, especially for me who is extra-alert to being treated differently because of my age, getting close to overly attentive. (I mean, I'm quite capable of seating myself and spreading the napkin over my lap.) There are four—count 'em, four—food service areas for breakfast, each with a different “theme” (full buffet of mostly hot foods and a separate table of rolls/cereals, etc. inside; a bar where they will fry eggs to order and a table of yogurts and cold items on the deck.
Today is Herculaneum, which I'm really looking forward to. Again, I do hope it isn't wall to wall people. I've always found it interesting that, during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. (August 14, as I recall), Pompeii was destroyed by ash whereas Herculaneum, being slightly closer to Vesuvius, was buried by lava.
Having run out of short-sleeve shirts, I'll try washing them this afternoon.
5:37 p.m. At sea, headed for Palermo, Sicily. Just went to the observation deck to take a few photos and see we are out of sight of land. No wi-fi. I can see working around that minor inconvenience will take some adjusting to.
Went, as promised, to wash out a few short-sleeve shirts, discovered I'd lost the laundry detergent. Will try to pick some up in Palermo.
I have never felt, reacted, or been treated “older” as I have been on this trip. People are constantly treating me as though I were a hundred and four, offering to help me get up (!!), to apparently steady me, etc. I dropped my camera on the bus, and the young lady in the seat across the aisle got up and said “Let me get that for you.” I got it myself something. Very kind of her, and them all, but, really! Tom is a natural talker, and very open with everyone. As usual I have almost nothing to say and just sit there like a doorstop.
One observation on Italian roadways: the government's “Keep Italy Beautiful” program (if they had one) has been a dismal failure. There is more trash strewn along any given mile of any Italian road than the average American garbage dump.
Oh, and I also saw a girl waiting to buy an entry ticket to Herculaneum who was wearing sandals and bright off-red toenail polish. However she had no toenail on the “little piggy” toe of either foot. Just thought I'd pass that on.
The trip to Herculaneum was fun. Much, much smaller than Pompeii (not only in population...6,000 as opposed to 20,000...but in area). Much—probably most—of it still lies buried beneath the modern city and cannot be excavated unless they tear down the buildings now there. Unlike Pompeii, which was buried under 30 feet of heavy ash which crushed the buildings, Herculaneum was destroyed by a mud flow, which by its nature swallowed the buildings rather than crushing them. Thus many are in far better condition than those in Pompeii.
When the eruption began, in 79 A.D. the people fled to the waterfront, hoping to be rescued by boat. The commander of the Roman fleet, in fact, was on an island 20 miles away and, seeing the eruption, immediately set out for Herculaneum. The people of the city took refuge in a large warehouse at the water's edge, where they suffocated in the toxic fumes from the mountain. 400 bodies were discovered inside the warehouse, and many of them are still there. The fleet never made it, either, most perishing in the same black cloud.
I was surprised to learn, on checking my Navy letters, that I've never been to Palermo...only Augusta and Catania. The mind plays strange tricks.
Tom assumed the ship had 220 electrical system. It does not, and he forgot his converter, so I leant him mine, which I hope he returns at dinner.
8:50 We ate dinner on the open deck at the stern of the ship and watched the sun go down over the Mediterranean. Truly lovely and I thought of how many millions of people would love being in my shoes. I am, despite my constant bitching, blessed.
I've talked before of my ghost, Robert, who shows up every now and then. I like Robert, but he loves to play very subtle little tricks. Two days ago, I lost one of my hearing aids (they cost $4800 for the pair), and was not a happy camper. Beside my bed is a dresser, on top of which I keep a box of kleenex and, when I'm not using it, my computer. Returning from dinner, I went to the dresser and my computer. Moving the computer, there was my hearing aid. It had not been there before dinner. It had not been there for two days. But now it was there. Thank you, Robert.