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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Landrum in Europe: …And Then Came the Volcano

May 27th, 2010 (continued)

After we explored the ruined city of Pompeii, it was finally time to climb Mount Vesuvius!  Our tour bus made the nearly-treacherous drive up the mountainside on incredibly narrow roads (and yes, this was a full-size tour bus – it was pretty scary!).

The views of Naples and the bay were gorgeous, from the base of the mountain to the top.

As we got closer to the top of the mountain, our guide pointed out old lava flows from eruptions past.

The gray, sandy-looking mixture is where lava once flowed
Better view
After tackling the winding mountainside road, we finally made it to the parking lot where we departed our bus and began our climb up a volcano!

He's totally ready to climb!
I am too!
The incline was pretty steep and the mountainside could be slippery if you weren't careful with your footing, but it was a relatively nice climb up.  It definitely elevated our heart rates though!  I took a few breaks to take in the scenery because it was absolutely breathtaking.

Naples, the bay, and the islands of Procida and Ischia in the distance

More views of the old lava flows

Closer view of Naples, the bay, Procida, and Ischia -- the island farthest away
Closer view of Naples -- you can see our cruise ship (the biggest one) if you zoom in
After maybe a twenty minute climb, we made it to the top!

We made it!
Our guide began a mini geology lesson on Vesuvius, talking about what kind of volcano it is, how it formed, when it’s erupted, etc.

**And now begins my own little geology lesson, so feel free to skip!**

Mount Vesuvius is considered a stratovolcano, or a composite volcano, meaning that it is a tall, cone-shaped volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava and other materials.  Composite volcanoes are the most common type of volcano.  Another famous composite volcano is Krakatoa, located in Indonesia.

Vesuvius is considered incredibly dangerous because of the some-three million people near the volcano (around 600,000 in the “red zone”), and also because Vesuvius is prone to Plinian eruptions – very powerful continuous blast eruptions (explosive eruptions) that eject large amounts of pumice and gas.  This could potentially be devastating to the surrounding towns and cities close to the volcano.

The volcano “explodes” because lava close to or at the surface hardens into rock.  Liquid lava still remains under this layer of rock, and when an explosion occurs, the hardened layer of rock goes with it, shooting up into the air and onto the volcano’s surroundings.

Longer eruptions begin with producing clouds of volcanic ash, which can sometimes turn into pyroclastic flows (a fast-moving [close to 450 mph] current of superheated gas [in some instances up to 1000 degrees Celsius] and rock; the flows generally hug the ground and travel downhill, demolishing anything in their path.

Its eruption in 79 AD, which destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum, is its most famous eruption, but it has since erupted close to fifty times, the most recent in 1944.

** Now back to the less nerdy parts of this post!**

While our guide gave the geology lesson, I was busy taking some more gorgeous pictures of the view:

Please forgive the shakiness in the videos in this post -- it was very, very windy at the top!

As well as pictures of Vesuvius’s crater:

As I mentioned in the “geology lesson,” you can’t see the actual liquid lava in the crater, only the hardened lava-turned-rocks.  You can, however, see steam vents around the crater itself.

Not very clear here, but there is steam!
After our guide finished speaking, we were free to keep walking around Vesuvius’s summit or head back down to the parking lot.  Mr. L and I chose to explore for a little while longer, stopping for some photo opportunities along the way.

It's a long way down!
Walking around the crater to the southern side of the volcano

Sorrento out in the distance
View of Sorrento, the bay, and the island of Capri in the top right corner

We also found this picture of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and Vesuvius at the summit, along with a poem.

Very roughly translated, it read (some of this is probably incorrect -- if it is, blame Google Translate!):

“O Mary, Queen Mother of the Church of Naples, you who, at the foot of the cross, you received from Jesus, the apostle John as a child, and see accompanying from Vesuvius young people and families in our land.  Hail, Holy Mother, the prayer of those who make eye contact with the mountain, the thought turns to you and hope.  With you, Mary, we want to meet Jesus, seize his ways, announce to the world his love.  Amen.”

We took a few more minutes at the summit, taking pictures of the view, the rocks, and ourselves.

The Landrums on Vesuvius

Yes, I just so happen to like rocks!  :)
Then we made the much easier trip back to the parking lot.  I snapped a few more pictures of the little store area at the lot and we drove back to port and our cruise ship.

Puppies on the volcano
Vesuvius souvenir shop -- the closest building to Vesuvius's crater
Various photos of Vesuvius
Goodbye, Vesuvius -- see ya in another life, brotha!
One last view from the bus
Back to the Jade!
After boarding, we went up on deck to take a few pictures of the city of Naples and Vesuvius.

Vesuvius as seen from the Jade -- it was pretty cool knowing that we'd just been up there!

Castel Nuovo, a castle in the middle of Naples -- it started construction in 1279 and is Naples's main symbol of architecture
Island of Ischia and the Mediterranean
Afterwards, our period of relaxation began, because the next day was a sea day – meaning no ports or itineraries, and we were definitely looking forward to the break.  We kicked back our heels and enjoyed the rest of our evening in Naples before we had to say goodbye.


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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mr. and Mrs. Landrum in Europe: First Came the History Lesson…

May 27th, 2010

After having a relaxing day of no itineraries aboard our cruise ship, it was time to get back on schedule and tackle our last shore excursion of our Mediterranean cruise.

Our ship was docked in the port town of Naples, the birthplace of pizza.

Mr. L and I were there for another reason, however – to visit Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the European mainland to have exploded within the last 100 years, and also to visit one of the cities Vesuvius destroyed, Pompeii.

Ever since taking my two Geology courses in college, I’ve been fascinated by the inner and outer workings of our planet, so I was completely and utterly thrilled when I realized we would be able to climb an active volcano during our honeymoon.  Volcanoes are also one of the big reasons I’m so excited to live in Hawaii – I can’t wait to explore the geological intricacies of such a beautiful place!

Some might call me crazy, but climbing Vesuvius was easily one of the most amazing experiences of my lifetime.  It really puts so many things into perspective, including how fragile life is and how easily it can be taken away.

On that same note, once I get to Vesuvio later on in the next post, I’ll let you know when I dive into “geek speak,” so feel free to skip the geology lesson if you’d like :)

Our morning began bright and early, and after getting ready and having some breakfast, we went back to the Stardust Theater to wait for our 8 AM excursion group to be called.  We had decided on the “Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii” tour, which included a few hours visiting the ruins of Pompeii and a few hours climbing Mount Vesuvius.

We chatted with some people sitting near us in the theater, and after they heard which excursion we’d decided on, they laughed and told us something along the lines of “Good luck – you wouldn’t catch me climbing a volcano!”

Our group was finally called, and we made our way off the ship and onto our tour bus for the day.  The original plan was to go to Vesuvius first and then Pompeii later in the afternoon, but after learning about a roadblock caused by some workers on strike on the windy mountain road to Vesuvius’s summit, our group leader and driver decided it’d be best to tackle Pompeii first.  Later we’d be very glad of this decision, because even in the morning, the day was beginning to feel rather hot and Pompeii didn’t have much shade.

Don't worry Vesuvius, we're going to come back to you in a few hours!
We arrived in Pompeii, and our guide for the day led us to the entrance of the ruins.

Looking back onto the modern city of Pompeii and the mountains behind it
He spoke for awhile about the disaster on August 24th, 79 AD that led to the destruction of Pompeii and its neighboring town, Herculaneam (which, by the way, will be where we visit next if we ever find ourselves in Italy again – I hear it’s much less crowded, smaller meaning easier to navigate, and more impressive than Pompeii).  We admired the still-standing buildings and columns surrounding us, as well as the impressive yet humbling view of the monstrosity that caused all of this destruction, Vesuvius.

Columns with original Latin writing still visible
Section of the Forum

View of Vesuvius from the Forum -- very impressive!
We walked along the well-worn cobblestone paths that people of nearly 2000 years ago walked daily…

If you squint closely you can see the marks left by ancient wheeled carts!
…and we were able to see one of these people frozen in time because of the power of Vesuvius.

The expression on his face was incredibly sent chills up my spine to think of his last moments
Gorgeous frescoes painted on the walls where the body was kept
We explored more of the ruins, including those that used to be houses and places of business, all with Vesuvius ever-present in the background.

We were able to actually go inside one of these houses, Casa Della Fontana Piccola, to see how the people (at least the wealthy ones!) lived.

Outside of the house
Marble flooring still intact within the villa
An impluvium, an area in homes which would catch rainwater falling from the sky
Skylight in the villa's roof
Beautiful painted frescoes on the walls in the back of the villa, as well as the open roof
Fountain and more fresco paintings
Some other notable sights we were able to experience included --

A bakery:

The marble was absolutely beautiful and perfect for rolling out dough

A brothel:

You can tell it's a brothel thanks to a certain phallic object near the top of the building
The Temple of Apollo:

Front view, with the top of Vesuvius in the distance
Statue of Apollo, the god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, plague, music, poetry, arts, and more
Bust of Diana, the goddess of the moon and the hunt
The Landrums in Pompeii

Storage area where many, many more artifacts are kept:

Another cast of a body
You can also see the cast of a dog's body encased in glass here -- archaeologists believe it was chained outside the House of Vesonius Primus, a Pompeiian fuller, according to Wikipedia.  See a close-up picture at Wikipedia's Pompeii page here.
And even the stray dogs that now live in Pompeii's ruins:

Pompeii is enormous, and we definitely weren’t able to explore it all in one day, let alone the few precious hours our excursion provided us with.

Before we knew it, the tour was over and we headed back to the un-ruined, modern city of Pompeii for some lunch.

Remnants of a delicious Neapolitan pizza from a local pizzeria that you can tell we devoured
With our bellies full, we said farewell to Pompeii and headed to its destructor, Monte Vesuvio.

Our last look -- goodbye, Pompeii!


Miss something?  Catch up here!