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Oplontis and Villa Regina

I took a day off work to go visit Oplontis and Villa Regina last Thursday. These are the two smaller ruin sites, after Pompeii and Herculaneum, that were destroyed in the volcanic eruption of 79 AD.

I visited Oplontis first. It was one large villa (some incredibly rich person’s show-off summer place by the sea) that is largely excavated, except for part that is still buried under the neighboring road and a gun factory. The villa is known for its many peacocks that are painted all over the place as well as mythological themes up the wazoo. The walls still have a majority of wall paintings and the floor tiling. Archaeologists have put a ton of walls and columns back in place as well. And the villa has a gigantic swimming pool.

Then I went to Villa Regina, which is quite tiny compared to Oplontis and especially Pompeii. Outside of a large room full of partially buried, gigantic wine amphorae, there is not much to those ruins. The best part of Villa Regina was the museum on the property. It is not too big, but it houses some very important artifacts found at the site as well as some from Pompeii. You can see a full loaf of bread, various grains and nuts, fishing nets, shells, pots, a plaster cast of a dog, a cast of the woman who was living at the villa with her scarf over her face (as she was suffocating to death from the volcano’s deadly fumes), glass tear jars and perfume jars, paintings, etc.

These villas are nothing compared to the grand, albeit empty Pompeii, and the small, dense, tiled, and fascinating Herculaneum. My order for my favorite ruins is happens to be directly proportional to their sizes-Pompeii, Herculaneum, Oplontis, and lastly, Villa Regina.

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Our last New Years in Naples

Naples does the New Year right. The only day to be in Naples if you must be in Naples is the New Years. The fireworks started to consistently go off around 9pm, but were crazy from about 11:45pm to 1am.

We were planning on going off base to a friend’s place, but Justin was on call and we were not able to find a ride to return in time. So we packed a backpack with mimosa mixings and booze and headed for the highest point on base with a view-the roof patio of the TLA (hotel). There was surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, no one there. We had a whole huge area to ourselves, which was nice.

Our best New Year in Naples was our first one when we were in the middle of it all on our balcony at our Gricignano house. Our second New Year’s here we were on the top of a parking garage at the airport, and this last New Year’s on a hotel roof deck. The good parts about the last two spots were that we had a view as far as the eye could see of thousands of fireworks (and we did not eventually choke on smoke forcing us back indoors). But it does not compare to being surrounded by fireworks only feet away, still the view as far as the eye can see, and having to scream at each other because it is so loud.

I apologize the video is long and not too interesting, but it’s just in case you’re interested.

Can you find the Norwegian cat?

Can you find the Norwegian cat? Check out the new addition to the “Hidden Animals” post.

Balkans Vacation 2013

I went all over the Balkans the past couple of weeks…aka the former Yugoslavia plus Greece and Turkey. I bused around via an Australian company called Busabout. The bus takes you from city to city, lets you wander for a day or two, pick you up again and move on.

I traveled to Turkey (Istanbul, Gallipoli, and Eceabat), moved into Greece (Kavala, Meteora, Thessaloniki, Athens, and Parga), Albania (Gjirokastra and Tirana), Montenegro (Budva and Kotor), Croatia (Dubrovnik and Split), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar and Sarajevo), Serbia (Bosnia and Nis), and Bulgaria (Sofia and Plovdiv). This sounds like a lot of countries and cities…and it is…but they are all pretty tiny and neighbors of each other.

There was so much history in the area from practically the beginning of time that my brain kind of turned to mush once I hit Serbia. I won’t go into too much history or this post will never end, so you can look it up yourselves. I will give you bits of information I found particularly interesting in each place.

Turkey is full of mosques! Duh, right? They really are everywhere, wherever you look! Baklava…mmmmmm. I learned I hate Turkish delight, sad, because every desert shop was filled with nothing but the stuff.

Greece, awesome…so much to see and do. It’s funny how they were at the top of the world back in the hay day. I think they figured they’d done the best stuff for the western world and decide not to progress any more (for the past few thousand years)…you still cannot flush toilet paper in the toilet or drink the water. Sadly Athens is starting to look a lot like Naples with all the graffiti and crumbling and unfinished properties…due to the tanked economy. Did you know in Greece if you don’t finish building your house you don’t have to pay property taxes? So many people finish their house then leave one part looking unfinished so they can claim they are not done.

Albania, I think my favorite country on the trip. They just got rid of communism about 5 years ago, so it is like a different world there. If a building is unfinished they will hang or pretend to be killing a puppet or stuffed animal from the construction, so evil spirits won’t enter the place. There are bomb shelters everywhere…I visited one and there was a squatter living there, lol. Albania is dirt cheap! People only started driving in the country a few years ago as well…cars used to be reserved for only the top government officials, it was buses for everyone else. I climbed a former communist leaders mausoleum (which Albanians have desecrated with graffiti and smashed the windows). You can crab walk up the side to the top to get stunning views of the city, and slide back down like it’s a playground. They build a tower a few years ago that was supposed to be the new highlight of Albanian architecture and a feature of the city (also in the very heart of the city)…once they had built the entire structure’s framework they realized it was leaning so they gave up and left it…the leaning tower of Tirana! Also due to mass migrations out of Albania and some genocide here and there Albania needed to boost their population. 20 years ago the average amount of kids per woman was 11. Nowadays it is 7.

Montenegro, party party party! I was at a club on the 4th of July and they happened to shoot off fireworks…probably not for me, but just because they know how to have a good time. =). I swam, boated, visited the fortress, and everything in between.

Croatia…hmm what to say…Dubrovnik was nice, walked along the wall surrounding the old city. Stunning views galore!

Bosnia and Herzegovina was neat. Had some amazing ice cream in Mostar as I wandered about. I visited the spot in Sarajevo where WW1 started with the death of Franz Ferdinand. Sarajevo was pretty interesting in general. Their last war during 1992-96 left people in the city unable to go out at night or risk getting shot by snipers. The people were unable to collect dead bodies to have funerals (or they whole funeral would get bombed and therefore have lots more people dead), so they would bury people as sneakily as possible in any field or park. So all of the cities parks and even just grassy corners of streets are filled with tombstones nowadays…and they are everywhere! You can still see bomb blasts and gun shot marks all over the buildings in Sarajevo.

Serbia was kind of boring. There was a nice park with great views of Belgrade across the river though. Dinner was good.

Bulgaria was great in Plovdiv. Lots of neat Ottoman architecture and windy little get lost-in streets. Sofia was kind of bland. There was a protest going on in Sofia in the main center. They were protesting their dislike for being a member of the EU…as their economy is not as good as it used to be before they joined.

Enjoy the photos and videos!

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Can you find the Roman pup?

New addition to the Hidden Animals post, check it out!

The Johnson Family Visits Naples

So the Johnsons were here for a week and a half. We wandered around downtown near the port and went to my art show in Castel Dell’Ovo. We went to Castel Del’Nuovo, Herculaneum aka Ercolano, and we climbed Mt. Vesuvius. We went underground Naples one night and walked through some Roman ruins underneath some housing that was illegally built on top, yet the city cannot remove the people and finish excavating.

The last weekend they were here we went up to Rome and saw the bone church (Santa Maria dell Concezione, used thousands of skeletons/various human bones to decorate 4 rooms…look it up online, they did not allow photos), Vatican City, Piazza dell Popolo (a main piazza in Angels and Demons), and Justin and I went into Doria Pamphilij Museum while the Johnson’s went to the Colosseum.

Most of the trips went smoothly, minus getting rained out for Capri the first weekend…which the Johnsons made up during the week while Justin and I were at work. My favorite thing was probably climbing Mt. Vesuvius…though seeing Deb’s reaction when entering the bone church was pretty priceless. Enjoy the proof of our past couple weeks:

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