The early morning drive from Rome to Naples and further on to Pompeii was swift and pleasant as far as the highway journeys in a fast car go. The little town drowning in souvenir merchandise greeted us happily and beckoned us into a parking lot, shining a wide yellowteethed smile… hold on a second, how often are you being happily invited to a car park without anything fishy going on?! I roll down the window – quanto costa? – 3 euro per hour, my friend. Sorry, dude, this friendship is not going to last – I reverse rather angrily right back into the traffic and we take the next turn into a spacious parking lot of a Carrefour market where we shop for our lunch (mozzarella, ham, bread, olives and some such nonsense). Oh, and by the way: a sign on a cooler attracts our attention, being written in English: “everything for your sandwiches”. This is where we realize that Italians actually don’t really consume the cheese that we consider to be of “normal” hardness, you know, like your Gouda or your Jarlsberg – because this is exactly the first time we see something like that on sale. Normal (not tourist) shelves have anything in the ranges of either soft – like mozzarella and whatever else – or hard (Parmegiano). Obviously, there are hundreds of different labels in either category, I won’t pretend an expert. Here at the shop we ask if we can keep the car in their parking – sure, for a couple of hours – no problem! He-hee, free parking – great. Italian “couple of hours” could easily be stretched to six, can’t they? Later we realized that – well – all the papers on the rental car are of course in the safety of our apartment in Rome, the car is parked, technically speaking, under a “no parking – tow away” sign, the keys to the flat are inside the car and it’s Sunday. This realization gave our step an extra perky spring on the way back, but of course, everything went well, no worries.
The excavations (it’s my second time) give me two distinctive peculiar feelings. One – there’s some dark mystery about the place which they aren’t showing or telling the tourists. Like, okay – all this is open for public, the streets are given names, great. We marvel at the ancient life. But there’d always be some closed door here, some barricaded passage there, plus, excuse me, a large part of the place is still under ground. Somehow you almost expect an alien spaceship parked around the corner, I don’t know. This time there’s also a lightning storm somewhere around Vesuvius, which keeps us entertained with rolls of distant thunder, adding to the mystique of the situation. Secondly, I keep secretly thinking to myself, I could easily live in a place like this. Like, in this or that villa with an inner courtyard, a little fountain or pool, you know – across the street from the public baths. I could stand here, in my little mosaicoed doorway, beer in hand, checking out girls walking from the market place… And you know these shops they had with marble counters and jars – I can almost smell the pickled olives – I’d frequent that one, with the counter going all around, biggish – for sure you’d bump into your neighbors here – oh, hey.. err.. Romulus, hot summer this year, huh? – Yeah, I know – come over with the wife, we’re barbequing after dark. – Oh, okay, thanks, I’ll bring wine. It’s really small of me, but that’s almost all I can think about in Pompeii – how I would have fitted in.
And one last thing. Can somebody finally tell me: the modern day pedestrian crossings – you know, the white striped walkways next to any crossroads in a city. Tell me they weren’t modeled after the long stones they had in exactly same patterns around their crossroads. Those are to let you decent people cross the street above all the waste and sewage and also let the animals and carriages pass along the lane. You can almost see the traffic lights and CCTV cams on these corners.
Walking around under the scorching sun for the whole day isn’t actually a picnic. By the time you wonder over to the other side, where the “garden of the refugees” is – with the molded figures – you almost feel like stretching next to these guys. And the farthest point – where the local Colosseum is – it’s like you don’t care they dragged blooded gladiators through this passage – seriously, if somebody’d care enough to drag me, I wouldn’t object too much, just don’t bump my head on that rock there…