Tag Archives: Mount Vesuvius

Travel Memories – First European Holiday

00 Monarch Airlines

In the spring of 1976 I made arrangements for my very first trip to continental Europe and booked a Cosmos holiday to Sorrento in Italy with my girlfriend Linda.  We were due to go on the 12th June but at some point shortly before travel she fell for the charms of a reporter on the local newspaper and abruptly ended the relationship.

This created a problem because it was within the no refund period and so I was faced with the prospect of losing all my money.   I could have begged I suppose but that would have been undignified so instead we had a family crisis meeting and the solution was found when dad enthusiastically stepped in and agreed to take her place. That’s what dads are for, I would do exactly the same!

54 Look Capri

And so, on the appointed Saturday, we travelled to Luton airport for the Monarch Airlines flight to Naples.  Apart from the Isle of Wight this was the first time that dad had been overseas as well and to be honest he was slightly overdressed for the occasion in his rather formal sports jacket and tie.

There again this was still a time when passengers still wore their best clothes to travel, it was something special, airport departure was far more civilized without the dehumanising process of security checks and where officers at passport control called you Sir.

Airline travel was so different in 1976, the flight had proper seat allocations and the plane had comfortable reclining chairs with adequate leg room and stewardesses who wore smart yellow uniforms seemed genuinely pleased to see you and served a complimentary hot meal and free drinks.  These days they are called Flight Attendants in the same way that actresses are called actors.  I really don’t understand why women/ladies/girls don’t want to be treated as feminine any more.  I guess I am getting old.

Monarch stewardess

The plane landed at a rather Spartan military airport base near to the city of Naples and after I had already taken a picture of the plane on my Kodak Pocket Instamatic we were firmly warned against taking photographs.  It wasn’t an especially welcoming sort of place as we passed through a rather austere passport control and baggage reclaim hall both decorated in varying tones of slate grey and in dire need of a welcoming makeover and then made our way through to the coach that was waiting for us.

The twenty-mile drive to Sorrento took about forty-five minutes along a busy road running alongside the Circumvesuviana railway and on the way we got our first look at Mount Vesuvius which towers up dangerously close to the city, and then as we swooped down through cypresses, citrus groves and vineyards around the Bay of Naples we could see the Mediterranean Sea and the Island of Capri.

I think I remember being speechless.  The sea and the sky were so intensely blue that at times it was difficult to be sure where one finished and the other started.

06 Hotel Mediterraneo

This was breathlessly exciting stuff because previously we had never been further than Cornwall or Norfolk and the blue, almost luminous,  water looked a lot more inviting than the grey North Sea that’s for sure.

When the coach arrived in Sorrento it started dropping off the passengers at their various hotels and finally drove to Sant’ Agnello and a position directly on the coast on the top of the cliff and guests stopping at the Hotel Mediterraneo were invited to leave the coach.  This was our stop and we were immediately impressed with where we would be staying and I smugly congratulated myself on a good selection.

The hotel was six stories high and painted a dazzling white, so bright it hurt your eyes to look at it, with smart green shutters on the windows.  At the front it was surrounded by trees with attractive pink blossom and at the back there was a secluded garden full of citrus trees with oranges and lemons hanging invitingly low in the branches.

At the reception we checked in and the clerk handed over a room key attached to a bell-shaped key ring which would make it difficult to misplace and he had a surprise for me and handed over a letter from the pigeon-hole behind him.  It was my birthday (22)  in three days time and this was an envelope, which obviously contained a card, with an English stamp commemorating the bicentennial of American Independence.

This is one of the reasons that I am proud to be British – we can even celebrate our defeats without any bad feeling.  In 1966 we had a Royal Mail stamp collection commemorating the ninth hundred anniversary of the Norman Conquest.

The handwriting on the envelope I  instantly recognised as Linda’s and that made me feel rather sad.

07 Hotel Mediterraneo Garden & Pool

Our room was on the fourth floor and the hotel had one of those old-fashioned lifts that were little more than a metal cage that went up and down the shaft and you could see the walls flashing by through the grill.  This was the sort of lift that you don’t see any more because if you put your fingers through the frame it would rip them off and sensibly they have been consigned to history by European health and safety legislation.

The room was on the back of the hotel overlooking the garden and although it was basic it was clean and comfortable and we agreed that it would do very nicely indeed.  There was a tiled floor and real wooden furniture, beds with crisp white linen sheets and a bathroom with an old-fashioned bath suite.  Being 1976 there was no mini-bar of course and no television and certainly no Internet access.  We allocated the drawer space, emptied our suitcases and made ourselves feel at home.

I was in Italy, my mind was racing, my heart was soaring and my senses were filled with a whole gazetteer of new experiences….

Sorrento Postcard

Review of 2015 – Top Ten Posts

Ireland Inch Beach

As we nail down 2015, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I look back over the last one.  I have ignored the WordPress annual statement to produce my own review.

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the escape button!

Just to go back a bit, in 2012 the site recorded 170,900 visits and I was optimistic that as I kept posting this number was just going to keep going up but then in February 2013 Google made some devastating changes to its search algorithms and the numbers halved overnight and have never fully recovered. I finished 2013 with 79,470, a decrease of 115%.

I thought it was important to keep going so in 2014 I posted 320 times and the total number of visits recorded was just over 101,000 so there was some significant recovery.  2015 has not seen the same level of improvement but there has been consolidation.  I have posted 311 times and the number of reported visits is 106,600, an increase of just 5.5%.

These are the Top Ten posts of 2015:

No. 1 

Gaudi Casa Batlo Barcelona Catalonia Spain

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

No change at the top this year and this post has recorded 8,715 visits which is over 3,000 more than last.  I posted this in August 2013 following a week touring Catalonia and pulling in a visit to Barcelona along the way.

I’d like to think that this is because it is a knowledgeable and scholarly assessment of Gaudi’s architectural contribution to the urban World but I think it is more likely because the image attracts visitors as it easily found in a Google search and people seem to like it because it has been copied several times!

No. 2

royal-garden-party

Royal Garden Party

5,870 hits, up from 3,300 and staying in the Top Ten for the sixth successive year which by that measure makes it my most successful post.

In total it has 17,800 visits which makes all time second after my post about  Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings. This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 3

Vesuvius Naples Italy

Mount Vesuvius

This one has been around a while as well and with 1,610 hits and a fifth year in the Top Ten is becoming a stubborn stayer.  A bit of a surprise to me really because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 4

Antoni Gaudi and me

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

A second top ten appearance again this year for the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi  (maybe I am an expert on Gaudi after all).  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and this year with 1,455 visits it has risen five places to number four.

No. 5

Angry Man Skelligs Viewpoint Kerry Ireland

Ireland, Ring of Kerry and I Temporarily Overcome My Fear of Dogs.

This is the first of this year’s new entries with a surprising 1,325 visits and no convincing explanation why that should be.

I visited Southern Ireland in June 2014 and wrote several posts that I personally would consider more interesting than this encounter with a grumpy street entertainer and a worn out old collie dog.  Once again, and rather disappointingly, I suspect it isn’t the words but the picture that grabs attention.  It was a map of the Ring of Kerry which I noticed displayed on the front of a shop.

No. 6

L'Escala Costa Brava

Catalonia, In Search of Norman Lewis

The second of this year’s new entries and I must confess that I am rather pleased about this one.

There are some posts that I have written that I would like people to read and this is one of few that have achieved that. Before visiting Catalonia in 2014 I read the book ‘Voices of the Old Sea’ by Norman Lewis which is an account of the Costa Brava in the 1940s and the approach of mass tourism.  In this post I attempted some research and some interpretation of the book and the area.  It has recorded 977 visits and in this case I like to think that this is because of the subject rather than the pictures.

No. 7

wieliczka salt mine

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

This post has also been a consistent performer with five years in the top ten but in terms of visits is this year’s biggest loser, down almost 3,200 hits to just 790, dropping four places from last year’s number two and if that slide continues I expect it to be gone next year.  I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 8

Benidorm Hotel Terrace c1960 

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

I posted this in March 2010 and it finally made the top ten last year and I am glad to see it there for a second year. It has stayed in this year with 740 visits.   It is actually one of my personal favourites  and is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of  Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

No. 9

Volare Domenigo Modungo Polignano a Mare

Italy and Puglia, Domenico Modungo and the Eurovision Song Contest

The last of the new entries and another one that I am pleased about. This is the story of the Italian singer Domenico Modungo.   Domenico who? I hear you ask.  Well, let me tell you that Domenico is renowned for writing and performing what is claimed to be the most famous, most copied, most successful ever Eurovision Song Contest entry and most lucrative in terms of revenue, Italian popular music songs of all time.  Think about it…have you got it…

“Nel blu dipinto di blu” or most popularly known as “Volare”.  With 656 visits it has only just about crept in to the top ten but I am happy to see it there.

No. 10

Tourists The Grand Tour of Europe

Travel Journal

Seventh place with 636 hits and four years in the top ten which demonstrates the importance of an ‘About’ page.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year are:  Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum, The Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral and Weekly Photo Challenge – Signs

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,785 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

On reflection, not a bad year but I still haven’t been Freshly Pressed (Discovered).  Do I care? Well, maybe a little bit!

I’d be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2015 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

home-statistics

Review of the Year – 2014

Ireland Inch Beach

As we nail down 2014, please excuse my annual self-indulgent post to begin the new year as I look back over the last one.  I have ignored the WordPress annual statement to produce my own review.

The top ten most visited posts on my Travel Blog always surprise me but then I don’t pretend to understand how search engines work.  I say visited pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough or sufficiently naive to claim that a visit equals a read.  I know that a lot of people will arrive here by mistake and swiftly reverse back out via the back button!

Just to go back a bit, in 2012 the site recorded 170,900 visits and I was optimistic that as I kept posting this number was just going to keep going up but then in February 2013 Google made some devastating changes to its search algorithms and the numbers halved overnight and have never fully recovered. I finished 2013 with 79,470, a decrease of 115%.

I thought it was important to keep going so in 2014 I have posted 320 times and the total number of visits is recorded as just over 101,000 so there has been some significant recovery.  My other companion blogs, Scrap Book Project and Another Bag More Travel have recorded about 105,000 hits between them.

Interestingly, WordPress statistics reports are consistently lower than third party statistics counters but I am reporting here on the official site numbers.

These are the Top Ten posts of 2014:

No. 1 

Casa Batlo Barcelona Gaudi

Catalonia, Barcelona and Antoni Gaudi

A newcomer to the top ten and straight in at number 1 with 5,430 visits.  I posted this in August 2013 following a week touring Catalonia in the North-East of Spain and pulling in a visit to Barcelona along the way.  I’d like to think that this is because it is a knowledgeable and scholarly assessment of Gaudi’s architectural contribution to the World but I think it is more likely because the image attracts visitors as it easily found in a Google search and people seem to like it because it has been copied several times!

No. 2

Cathedral Wieliczka Salt Mine

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

This post is down from number 1 in 2013 to number 2 this year with 4,010 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.  Once again it is probably the image but interest in this post however is on the slide because someone stole the image and their version of it now comes up before mine in a Google search.  How annoying is that!

No. 3

Buckingham Palace 1

Royal Garden Party

3,300 hits, staying in the Top Ten and up three places from number 6 represents a very successful year for this post.  This one has been around for a long time ( since June 2009) and has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one. I think people assume that I have connections with the Royal Family and can be of some assistance.

No. 4

Lenin Mausoleum

Moscow and Lenin’s Mausoleum

This post stays in the Top 10 for a second year with 2,225 visits after an original posting in July 2012.  Cameras and mobile phones are strictly forbidden inside the Mausoleum because the Russian authorities don’t want snapshots of the great man turning up on the internet in people’s Blogs or Trip Advisor reviews so they have to be left in a locker room and if anyone tries to defy this and is caught by the thorough security checks then there punishment is to be sent to the back of the queue!  I shamelessly stole this one – well, people steal mine!

No. 5

Vesuvius the crater

Mount Vesuvius

1,330  hits and a fourth year in the Top Ten but dropping three places and presently running out of steam.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 6

Andalusia 196 Seville Cathedral

The Twelve Treasures of Spain – Seville Cathedral

This year’s second new entry with 1,050 visits.  The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited.  Third in the competition was the mighty Spanish Cathedral in Seville, Andalusia..

No. 7

Travel Journal 2

Travel Journal

Seventh place with 1,005  hits which demonstrates the importance of an ‘About’ page.

Completing the Top 10 this year are three more newcomers:

No. 8

Ballyvaughan Ireland

Weekly Photo Challenge – Signs

I try and regularly take part in the Weekly Photo Challenge and often use it to provide a link to an older post.  I get a respectable amount of visits but they are rather like a Mayfly and only live for a day but for some reason this one has just kept on going.  Only posted in October 2014 it has attracted 905 visits and has muscled its way into the top 10.  It is a signpost in the village of Ballyvaughan in Southern Ireland and I can think of no reason why it has been so successful.

No. 9

Antoni Gaudi and me

Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Antoni Gaudi

A second top 10 appearance this year for the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi  (maybe I am an expert on Gaudi after all).  After I had taken a look at the official Twelve Treasures of Spain I thought it might be fun to draw up my own personal alternative list.  I included Antoni Gaudi in a general rather than a specific way.  I posted this in March 2013 and it has made its way into the top 10 with 820 hits.

No. 10

Benidorm Bar c1960

Every Picture Tells a Story – Benidorm c1960

I posted this in March 2010 so it has taken a long time to get to the top 10.  It is actually one of my personal favourites.  It has crept in this year with 765 visits but I have no explanation about why it should suddenly spike like that!  It is a story about the Spanish seaside resort of Benidorm inspired by some photographs that I came across of my grandparents on holiday there in about 1960.

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were:  Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country, Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines, Danger in Naples, Camorra, Vesuvius and Pollution, Onyx UK  and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge and Twelve Treasures of Spain – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 1,475 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said: “The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

I’d be interested to know about other people’s most popular posts in 2014 and the possible explanations why?  Comment and let me know.  I’m a sucker for statistics!

Italy, Postcards from Sorrento

Sorrento Postcard

In the spring of 1976 I made arrangements for my very first trip to continental Europe and booked a Cosmos holiday to Sorrento in Italy and went there with my dad.

I mentioned before in a previous post that the currency was the Lira and  the notes were so worthless (I seem to remember that the smallest denomination was 1,000) that it was normal practice for shops to give change in the form of a postcard.

Sorrento Postcard

Sorrento Postcard

Read the full story…

Italy at Mini-Europe

mini-europe-italy

Mini-Europe is a theme park located near Brussels in Belgium and has reproductions of monuments in the European Union on show, at a scale of 1:25. Approximately eighty cities and three hundred and fifty buildings are represented and Italy is represented by six mini-models.

In terms of the real thing I have visited five out of the six.

Reflection in a Venice Canal

First of all, and rather inevitably, Venice the second most visited city in Italy after Rome and Mini-Europe provides a model of St Mark’s Square, the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace.

Alexander Herzen said of Venice that “To build a city where it is impossible to build a city is madness in itself, but to build there one of the most elegant and grandest of cities is the madness of genius”  but at least at Mini-Europe it is sensibly on dry land.

Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Doumo

Next is the Leaning Tower of Pisa which is probably one of the most instantly recognisable buildings in Europe and probably the whole World.  I can certainly remember it from a school encyclopaedia article and when I was a young boy I was always intrigued by the concept of a building listing so perilously to one side that it was apparently just waiting for a strong wind to topple it over.

I had secretly suspected that the pictures had exaggerated the buildings predicament so I was astounded when I actually saw it for the first time and was able to satisfy myself that this tower really does lean over a very long way indeed.

Siena piazza del campo

Nearby is the Palazzo Publico from Siena which I visited one day in pouring rain in March 2006 so didn’t see it at its very best.  I had always wanted to visit Siena ever since I saw the film star matinée idol Stewart Grainger swashbuckling to equine victory in the ‘Swordsman of Siena’ and to see the venue for the famous annual Palio horse race.

This is probably the most famous festival in Tuscany and was first recorded in the year 1273 and is a colourful medieval pageant that takes place twice a year on 2nd July and 16th August.   It is so-called because riders race each other for a Palio or winners banner and it is a competition where seventeen seriously crazy jockeys hurtle bareback around a confined square with dangerously adjacent buildings and perilously close spectators; I have concluded that they are probably taxi drivers for the rest of the year.

Vesuvius the crater

Although Mount Vesuvius doesn’t make it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List, having been edged out by Mount Etna in Sicily it does get included at Mini-Europe where it regularly erupts to the delight of the visitors.

Guests may think this amusing but if it really was to erupt again then the consequences are potentially disastrous.  It is difficult to be precise but scientists think that Vesuvius formed about twenty-five thousand years ago and today the volcano is rated as one of the most dangerous in the world – not because of its size but because of the proximity of millions of people living close by and if it was to go off again with a similar eruption to the one that destroyed Pompeii in 79 then it is estimated that it could displace up to three million people who live in and around Naples.  The volcano has a major eruption cycle of about two thousand years so the next eruption is dangerously imminent.

Trulli Houses Alberobello Puglia Italy

Next are the Trulli houses of Alberobello which I visited and stayed in on my latest Italian journey.  Although our accommodation had been restored and modernised to make it suitable for holiday accommodation it was a genuine traditional house with whitewashed walls and a stone cap roof and there was a framed photograph inside that was eighty years old to prove it.

Trulli houses are unique to this area of Italy, they are rather like an igloo with a conical roof and a single windowless room inside with shallow alcoves for bedrooms and storage.  Where they first came from is a matter of some debate. One theory is that since Trulli can be built up and pulled down in a hurry, in past centuries their owners would demolish their own buildings whenever the tax man came to town to assess property duty, and then rebuild them when he had moved on.

So that is the five of the six and the one that I haven’t visited so far is Vila Capra at Vicenza which is a shame because a couple of years ago I stayed close by in Padova and visited nearby Verona.

Six good choices but surprisingly missing anything from either Rome or Florence but if you really need to see these places in a model theme park then they can both be found at “Italia in Miniatura” at a similar tourist attraction near Rimini in Italy itself.

Ancient Rome

Review of the Year 2012

Writing Paper and Pen

Please excuse me a self-indulgent blog to begin the new year.  The top ten most hit blog pages in 2012 on my Travel Blog have mostly surprised me but then I don’t understand how search engines work.  I say hit blog pages rather than read because I am neither conceited enough of sufficiently naive to claim that a hit equals a read.

In 2011 the blog recorded 151,493 hits and the upward trend continued until May when there were 17,845 in one month and I was optimistic that this number was just going to keep going up but then it stopped and fell back and has never recovered.  I have finished the year with 170,900 hits which is an increase of 13%.

A reason for this may be that I have been removing old posts and archiving them in a separate blog called ‘Another Bag, More Travel’.  The main blog was running out of space so being a skinflint and not wanting to pay for extra space this was my cunning solution.  This blog has recorded 43,600 hits so if I add them together then the annual increase on my travel blog pages is increased to 43% which is much more respectable.

This however is nowhere near as good as performance on my memories blog ‘New Light through Old Windows’ which has increased by 84% from 100,671 views in 2011 to 185,700 in 2012.

These are the Top Ten blogs of 2012:

No. 1 (for the second year running)

Norway, Haugesund and the Vikings.  

Minnesota Vikings

I travelled to Haugesund in January 2011 and visited a Viking monument and blogged about it.  This post has had 14,755 hits which is over 10,000 more than the post in second place.  Over 9,000 hits have been recorded from the single word ‘Vikings’ in various search engines!  I have concluded that this is because there are a lot of people using the search engines to find content about the Minnesota Vikings American Football Team and they are probably disappointed when they come across my page about a wintery day spent next to the North Sea in Norway. Without any shame I have exploited this opportunity by adding a paragraph about the Minnesota Vikings.

No. 2

Onyx UK and an Inappropriate Visit to the Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge Naked Dancers

Straight in at no. 2 with 4,416 hits.  I have written a few times about my recollections of working in waste management in the private sector in the 1990s.  All of the posts manage a respectable number of hits but this one gets the most.  I don’t suppose for one minute that people are interested in my stories of mismanagement, incompetence and rubbish collection but they do like to read about dancing on a nightclub stage in Paris.

No. 3

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

Dropping a place from last year at No 2 with 4,342 hits. I posted this in April 2010 after returning from a visit to Krakow in Poland.  It was a good trip but I am not sure why so many people would hit on it.  It is not as interesting as my trip to Auschwitz or the Crazy Mike Communist Tour.

No. 4

Norway, Europe’s most Expensive Country

Haugesund Norway

3,975 hits and up from eighth to fourth place  This was a second blog about my trip to Haugesund in January 2011. It contains some interesting facts and figures which might explain the number of hits that it has received but I am not really convinced that this is the reason unless top European economists are using it for research purposes!

No. 5

Mount Vesuvius

3,326 hits and a second year in the Top Ten and up two places.  A bit of a surprise because this is the account of a day trip to Mount Vesuvius whilst on a holiday to Sorrento in 1976 with my dad.  From my memories of the same holiday I posted several blogs about visits to CapriNaplesPompeiiThe Amalfi Drive and Rome but these have only achieved a handful of hits between them.

No. 6

Pula, Croatia

Pula Amphitheatre Croatia

2,916 hits – twice as many as 2011.  A bit of a mystery to me how this one gets so many visits.  I have blogged two or three times about Roman Amphitheatres – RomeArlesMeridaSegobriga and about larger Croatian cities at Dubrovnik and Split but this one gets the hits and I don’t know why?  The Pula is the national currency of Botswana so perhaps they are intended as exchange rate enquiries?

No. 7

Royal Garden Party

Palace Invite 3

2,625 hits and staying in the Top Ten despite dropping 3 places from last year at no. 4.  This one has always been popular especially around the Spring and Summer when invitations to the Royal Garden Party are going out and when people are wondering how to get one or what to wear if they have one.

No. 8

Travel Tips when Flying Budget Airlines

1,800 hits and new this year.  I first wrote on this subject in 2009 and it immediately started getting hundreds of hits and then in 2011 it just stopped completely.  I reviewed and reposted it and changed the title from the specific ‘Travel Tips when Flying Ryanair’ to the more general title that it has now and hey presto the hits started coming again.

No. 9

Onyx UK and the Dog Poo Solution

The third new entry in the Top Ten this year with 1,7066 hits and the second post about life in the Waste Management industry.  Some people have accused me of writing crap but others clearly like to read about it!

No. 10

Andrew – The About Page

The final new entry this year with 1,358 hits and which demonstrates the importance of an About page.

If you have read one of these posts or any of the 921 others on my site ‘Have Bag, Will Travel’then Thank you very much!  I guess it proves that George Bailey (It’s A Wonderful Life) was right when he said:“The three most exciting sounds in the world are anchor chains, plane motors and train whistles.”  

Dropping out of the Top Ten this year were: The Colossus of Rhodes, Cofete Beach, Spartacus the Gladiator and Love Locks on the Ponte Vecchio

A Life in Ruins – Pompeii, Victim of Vesuvius

76 Pompeii

“Pompeii is no longer a buried city. It is a city of hundreds and hundreds of roofless houses, and a tangled maze of streets where one could easily get lost, without a guide, and have to sleep in some ghostly palace that had known no living tenant since that awful November night of eighteen centuries ago.”  Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

The next day we were back on the road, this time with a trip to the ancient city of Pompeii  so after breakfast and picking up our lovingly prepared packed lunches in their brown paper bags we waited for the coach to arrive to drive us there.

The site of Pompeii is a ruined and part buried Roman city near Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the commune of Pompeii.  It is part of a larger Vesuvius National Park and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO twenty years after our visit in 1997.  It is the most popular and most visited tourist attraction in Italy with two and a half million visitors a year and I have now been lucky enough to visit the famous excavation twice.  The first time was with dad on this visit to Italy and the second time was nearly thirty years later with my son Jonathan in 2004.

It was only a shortish drive to the historical site and we arrived in the late morning and after going through the entrance gates waited just inside by the souvenir shops to be joined by our guide for the day.  It was a warm day already and when she arrived she was under the shade of an umbrella, which she subsequently used as a means of group identification and we set off into the ruined city.

At the time of the eruption the city is estimated to have had approximately twenty thousand inhabitants but Pompeii, along with nearby Herculaneum, was completely buried and destroyed, during a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius over two days beginning on 24th  August 79.  The volcano buried the City under a layer of ash and pumice many metres deep and it was lost for nearly one thousand seven hundred years before its accidental rediscovery in 1748.  Since then, its excavation has provided a detailed insight into the life of a city in an area in which many wealthy Romans had their holiday villas at the height of the Roman Empire.

  Pompeii Vesuvius Italy

At around one o’clock in the afternoon on August 24th, Vesuvius, which had been dormant for centuries, began spewing ash and volcanic stone thousands of meters into the sky.  When it reached the boundary between the troposphere and the stratosphere, the top of the cloud flattened leading the Roman historian Pliny the Younger, who was observing from a safe distance across the Bay of Naples to describe it as resembling a stone pine tree.

For people in Pompeii, who had no idea what was about to happen, the bad news was that the prevailing winds were blowing towards the south-east which caused the volcanic material to fall primarily on the city and the area surrounding it and the residents were covered in up to twelve different layers of ash, pumice and soil.

According to Pliny the volcano burst open with an ear splitting crack and then smoke, mud, flames and burning stones spewed from the summit of the mountain, sending a rain of ash and rock through the surrounding countryside.  The mud seeped down the sides of Vesuvius, swallowing nearby farms, orchards and villas and basically anything else unfortunate enough to be in the way.  Adding to the destruction were poisonous vapours that accompanied the falling debris and it was these fumes that first caused deliriousness in their victims, and then suffocated them.

Pompeii victims plaster casts of the dead

There is no doubt that Pompeii is a fabulous place to visit with many marvellous houses and buildings and so big that it is impossible to do it all in one day and it is an interesting fact that today visitors can actually only see one third of the site that was open for viewing in 1976.

We saw the Roman Forum and the administrative buildings, the public baths, the brothels, the shopping centres and the outdoor theatres.  Most of the priceless exhibits have been removed of course to the museum in Naples but there were some copies of the most famous and there are still wall frescoes and paintings to admire.  In 1860 an archaeologist called Fontana found some of the famous erotic frescoes and, due to the strict modesty prevalent during his time, quickly reburied them in an early attempt at archaeological censorship in case anyone should be offended.

Even then there were some rooms that women visitors were not allowed to enter just in case the paintings caused offence but the men were allowed to go in and once inside the guide explained in more detail that this was actually because the impressively large penis on one particular statue had been broken off so many times by excitable female visitors that they had had to be prohibited from entering this building. I don’t know whether that was true or not!

“It was a quaint and curious pastime, wandering through this old silent city of the dead–lounging through utterly deserted streets where thousands and thousands of human beings once bought and sold, and walked and rode, and made the place resound with the noise and confusion of traffic and pleasure.”Mark Twain

For the first time ever in a foreign country this was a truly excellent experience and simply one of the best places possible to visit.  I had chosen Italy for the holiday because I had studied Italian history at University, written my thesis on the nineteenth century Piedmontese Prime Minister Massimo d’Azeglio and had taught myself to read Italian to study his autobiographical notes.  I had acquired a passion for the place and now at last I was here and Pompeii was just absolutely wonderful.

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