Friday, April 20, 2007

Lots to catch up on!

Sorry it's been a while since I last updated the blog. With moving into the house, it's been a little busy, and I've not had instant access to the base since we now live about 25 minutes away. However, our computer is now up, so I should (emphasis on "should") be updating more frequently now. I've got tons of pictures to post, so this should be a good one. I went to Rome for Easter Mass, and we've got pictures from our trip to Pompeii.

Easter Mass:

This is what Saint Peter's Square looked like just before mass. Look at our picture below from last time we went to visit, and you'll see the difference. It was a serious throng of people - I'd guestimate about 30K.

This was how we saw the pope during mass. He was so far away that we couldn't even tell which guy he was except for his bright robe. Here, he was blessing the sacraments before communion.

This was after mass, when he made his speech. It would've been great at this point to understand Latin, but it was still pretty cool. Our translator was attempting to tell us everything he was saying, but glossed over the part he said about the injustice of the war in Iraq. I dunno, maybe she figured a bunch of Navy personnel and spouses really didn't want to hear that part. Either way, I miss Pope John Paul.

This picture was just for the viewpoint. Look at how teenie that camera-man is compared to the massive statues!

A lot of people carried flags of where they were from. We saw some from just about every country you could imagine. We even saw someone from Texas!

This is my girlfriend Mikelauren. She and her husband, Steve (right beside her), came to Gaeta at about the same time as us. They're awesome. Funny thing is, he's a Florida fan and she graduated from Georgia! Mikelauren says, "Love is blind, right?" But it's okay, we still love them (at least they're SEC)!

Easter Mass was fun. Mikelauren and I had a bit of an adventure before it started. We got there an hour before-hand and found our seats. Well, she and I decided that we were going to be smart and go to the bathroom before it started, so we wouldn't be in agony by the time it was over. Well, we waited in line for about 45 minutes, when the Italian carabinieri (Italy's military, they also act as security/police here - it's weird) shut down the bathrooms. Seriously, they were closed for the thirty thousand people there until mass was over (I shudder to think of the massive rush that must've gone that way afterward). So fifteen minutes before mass, we're left to fend for ourselves. Well, we managed to get to a caffe just outside of the Vatican and rush back about five minutes before mass, only to find ourselves blocked off from our seats and crushed in a throng of people up against a barricade. 45 minutes (and several elbows to the side, stepped-on feet, and rude Italians) later, they finally let us two girls through. We had told them we were part of a group, and that we already had seats (they kept telling us that there were no seats left), but they wouldn't let us in until our tourguide said she'd call security in Gaeta and have them tell her what to do about it. Miraculously, at this point, they said that it was okay. So after that, we were able to get back to our seats. We definitely didn't enjoy that 45 minutes, but it was an adventure, and we kept telling ourselves that we'd have a great story to tell about Easter Mass in Rome.

After mass, we went to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant (most of them are), and had lunch. It was amazing!!! We had an entire four-course lunch, Italian-style! They had our antipasti waiting on us when we arrived, as well as water (they like "fizzy" water here in Italy, so you have to ask for "naturale," or spring water) and red wine. The antipasti was a couple pieces of salami (one was very spicy, but thank God I could tell that before-hand), pickled vegetables, a couple pieces of mozzarella, olives, and bread. I wasn't too excited about the pickled veggies, but the rest was very good! Then they brought out beef-stuffed canelloni and a small piece of lasagna. They were awesome! Our third course was a small piece of pork loin, and a couple pieces of lamb (not sure what cut, they were so tender they fell apart on your plate), along with rosemary potatoes, a favorite here. I cleaned that plate no problem! Last, we had a fruit cup that had various fruit soaked in white wine and topped with a small scoop of ice cream. The whole meal was amazing, and surprisingly, I wasn't stuffed afterward. The good thing here is that restaurants will give you all day to eat if you need it. You have to actually ask for each course and the check, as they leave you alone to leisurely enjoy your food. Lunch took about 2.5 hours, and it was a lot of fun. the group that went was a great group and we had fun just chatting and getting to know each other. Unfortunately, Neal had to work on Easter, but we are going to have to do this again next year so he can go too.


We went to Pompeii last Saturday, and it was fun! Unfortunately, it started sprinkling as soon as we got there, but most of it stayed back until about the last hour we were there. Pompeii is much bigger than one would imagine, with an estimated 20 thousand people living there at the time that Mount Vesuvius erupted. Though we had about four hours there, we have decided to go back, because you could spend days walking around and seeing the different sites. Unfortunately, not all of the homes are open that once were. Due to the effects of tons of people walking through each day, some of the homes have had some serious damage, and have been closed off to the public. However, it was definitely worth going just to see the town itself and how it was laid out, and of course to see some of the frescoes and art.

This was the right side of the entrance to Pompeii. At one point, it was a fortified city, so this was it's front wall. (Later it was conquered by the Romans, and this wall became a border of the city only.)

This is the left side of the city. From what the tour said, Pompeii was once a coastal town, and the four posts on the lower left side of the picture would've been at the water side.

This is the basilica. During this time, a basilica was where civil business was taken care of (not a church). Christians apparently adopted the name later when they designed their churches in this similar pillared style. It would've once had pillars all around the rectangular area, with some of it covered.

This is from the "House of the Faun," given that name because of this statue of a dancing faun. Unfortunately, our camera was running out of battery at that point, so we didn't get many other pictures of this massive home.

This mosaic was also from the same home. This is a reproduction of the tiles that were found underneath. Very detailed, and amazing to see in person!

This was an open forum area, where youth were able to play sports. One of the Caesars (can't remember which, sorry) also began holding youth Olympics here, training them for battle later in life.

This house was one of the largest in Pompeii. As best you can tell, it looks like a governor or similar person must have lived here. If you turn the corner to your right (there at the sawhorse), there is a depiction of Venus in a frescoe on the wall. It was beautiful, but for the sake of any young ones who see this, we're going to leave that (nude) picture out.

This was some of the original marble that would've served as a counter in a shop. It covered the top of the counter, except where there were three holes, where we assumed the shop-keeper kept his wares. From the picture, you can tell it is gorgeous, but even the picture can't do it justice. It is amazing how beautiful it has remained.

This was one of the large homes. Unfortunately, as you can tell, we couldn't go in because the roof was being held up with scaffolding. But as you can tell from the flooring, there were some amazing mosaics and artwork that Pompeiians lived among.

This was one of the shops. There were many like it, and we assumed that the shop-keeper lived here too (there's a small doorway to a back room in most of them, as you can see here on the left). The counter is the same here as the marble one above, only without the marble left.

This was a home in Pompeii. You can see the doors that replaced the ones lost in the eruption. This was one of the most lived-in looking homes in the whole city. You sort of expect someone to walk out of one of the doors at any minute.

This was the smaller theatre, mostly used for plays and musical performances where the crowd would need to be close-by. The marble tiled flooring is still there, amazingly preserved given how many visit Pompeii each year.

This was another forum for sports. It was the original place where the gladiators fought, before the main colosseum was built. The porticoed area covered shops (think concession stands), and further behind that was the area that the gladiators prepared in.

This was the larger theatre. This served for larger crowds, and had boxed seating for politicians and those of higher status (they even had sky boxes in Roman times!). It is grown over now, but the seating area used to be all stone.

This was a frescoe in one of the homes. We were never able to figure out what home it was, or what the picture was of, but it was beautiful, and the largest one we found on one wall.

This was inside one of the homes. The square in the ground would've been a fountain in the foyer area. Often, several generations of the same family would live in one residence, and this would've been a common area. There were also usually skylights above the fountain, but the rest was covered. However, roofing is left on very few homes in Pompeii.

Another home. This one didn't fare so well, but you can still see the fountain area, as well as the walls to the different rooms.

This was the backside of the city. Obviously, it is relatively well-manicured now, but we just thought it was beautiful on the rolling hill there. Pompeii was built on lava beds, which were very uneven, but extremely fertile. Some of the architecture here is studied for the unusual ways they made up for the geography, compared to the typical building styles of the day.

One of the famous Pompeii bodies. There are several of these on-site, but these are the only two displayed where you can look up-close and really study them. The others are kept in the main town square area, in a locked-up shop with other archeological finds.

We hope you enjoyed the few pictures here. We took tons of them, but these are some of the best, and they give you an idea of what Pompeii is like. For those of you that are considering a visit to Italy, we would definitely suggest stopping here. It is amazing to be here in an area that was originally developed about eight thousand years ago!