Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Pompeii

On my second day in Italy I traveled to Pompeii, which was my entire reason for going to Naples as it's very easily accessible from there. As I've said I'm a huge nerd for ancient history and have previously visited Ephesus and seen a lot of Ancient Greece, so Pompeii has always been an absolute must for me to visit at some point.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

I don't want to make an assumption that everyone already knows what Pompeii is, so in case you don't: Pompeii was a city that was engulfed by Mount Vesuvius which erupted in 79 AD and completely obliterated it. Despite being so long ago it's still considered one of the most catastrophic eruptions in European history. Pompeii was buried underneath up to 20 feet of ash and pumice and considered a lost city until it was rediscovered in 1599. It's important historically as due to the way it was buried there was absolutely no air or moisture so everything was perfectly preserved which has given so much insight to how people lived in Ancient Roman times. As people were engulfed and smothered, they became mummified and froze in the position of whatever they happened to be doing at that time.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

You get to Pompeii by the Circumvesuviana train which will drop you off right by the entrance, or you can get the regular train line which will drop you off at the main station a half hour walk away. I wasn't quite sure what I was doing and accidentally got the main train, but I was able to take a shuttle to the entrance for only €3 and it ended up dropping me off at a side entrance so I was able to avoid a lot of the queue. They offer a lot of various guides, from audio to actual tour guides, but honestly I'd say keep your money and don't bother. After you've bought your ticket if you go to the information point you can pick up a map and a guide pamphlet both for free, and the pamphlet is really extensive and gives a lot of information on all of the various sites. Everything of interest is clearly numbered, which correlates to the pamphlet so you always know what you're looking at.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii

The only issue I had going round was that some of the rooms and houses you can go into are accessed at only certain times during the day, and these aren't advertised. There was one house I wanted to go into, but it took me until the end of the day to make my way around to that area as Pompeii is so vast I and was pretty gutted to see that it had closed at 1pm despite Pompeii being open until 6.30pm. It's just something to be aware of.

Pompeii is absolutely beautiful and expansive, and I don't know if it's just because I've visited Ephesus and other Ancient Greek sites, but to be perfectly honest I felt kind of underwhelmed by it. I know it's likely a case of previous tourists ruining it for everybody, but everything was cordoned off so you just walk down the streets and poke your head into barriered off buildings. There were very few that were freely accessible which really killed any atmosphere as everyone was just herded down the same designated areas.

Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii
Pompeii Pompeii
Mummified people, and a photo of how they were excavated. The one at the back was playing with a baby when they were smothered, which shows how quickly it happened.
Pompeii
Pompeii

I was also disappointed that the buildings were mostly empty shells. Most of the draw of Pompeii is due to it's fate, and yet there's no evidence of it. Despite being buried under so much ash and pumice which preserved so much, it looks no different than any other ancient ruin site. I don't mean to sound morbid, but I expected it to look frozen in time as it had been and to see the mummified bodies. There were a few plaster casts of bodies under glass cases in reconstructed environments, but that's hardly the authentic experience you travel all that way for, you can see that kind of thing in a museum absolutely anywhere. I have heard that Herculaneum, a town near Pompeii that suffered the exact same fate, it actually better but unfortunately I didn't have time in my schedule to visit both. It's apparently much smaller and less crowded and has some actual skeletons in it, so I'd recommend visiting that one instead honestly. I particularly wanted to visit Pompeii though because of the amphitheatre (let me know if you saw this was coming 😅)

Pompeii
Pompeii

The amphitheatre in Pompeii is where Pink Floyd performed for their 1972 film Live At Pompeii. Lots of additional shots of Pompeii are included throughout the film, so it was really cool seeing those things in context as I wandered around, but the amphitheatre is obviously the biggest draw. I was a little worried that access wouldn't be allowed as so much else was blocked off, but you were permitted to walk through the centre of the amphitheatre so I got to stand in the spots. It felt kind of surreal seeing somewhere I was so familiar with through a TV screen finally in real life, it looks exactly the same despite the 46 year time difference.


Pompeii
Pompeii

Pompeii

You couldn't walk around the inside of the amphitheatre as, like everything else, it was barriered off, but as I passed I saw they had some displays for Pink Floyd in there. Unfortunately there was absolutely nothing to say when it was open or how to look around as it was obviously some kind of exhibit, so I had to be satisfied with craning my neck and seeing what I could of it.

Pompeii
Pompeii
The black and white panel is loads of frames from Live At Pompeii if you look closely.

I'd imagine Pompeii is much more exciting if you haven't visited anything similar before, but for me it just felt much the same as what I'd previously seen with absolutely nothing of what I expected that makes Pompeii unique. If you are going to visit, definitely look into Herculaneum as I think it's much more historically interesting, and your ticket to Pompeii grants you entry to both so it's no more expensive. You can also take a guided hike up Mount Vesuvius if that's your thing!

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Their Mortal Remains - Rome

Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains

Although I've always wanted to visit Italy for the reasons I already stated, it was the Pink Floyd exhibition that actually nudged me into booking a trip sooner rather than later. I saw Their Mortal Remains numerous times in London and it meant a lot to me; it’s difficult to get across just how immense and utterly immersive it was, and obviously Pink Floyd mean so much to me anyway. I'd spend a minimum of four hours there each and every visit and it was so immersive it felt like being transported to another world. It had closed in October of last year and I was eager to visit it in it's new location, partly to get my fix of it, and also to see how it compared. I expected it to be almost the same, but with additions specific to Italy.

Their Mortal Remains

The exhibition opened in Rome in January and was due to end on 20th May, which is why I flew into Rome for one day and traveled on to Naples. I really loved seeing it again, but to be completely honest it was a let down. There were lots of things missing to the point entire displays had gone, and they’d reconfigured the layout because of that which stopped it flowing as well as it had at the V&A. Which I understand from the point that people had lent their stuff to the exhibition and wanted it back instead of having it go on a world tour, but it’s still disappointing. It took me an hour and a half to get around it, where as it took me over 4 hours each time I saw it in London because there was so much to take in.

Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains

Things that were missing included the model of the Bedford van, Gerald Scarfe's large painting of the hammer march, Syd's bike, Rick's instruments, both The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse Of Reason rooms had been more than halved, the Point Me At The Sky section was gone, the circular screen projection showing the animation for One Of These Days was gone, there were none of the telephone boxes filled with social history for each time point, and I'm sure there were other smaller things I might have missed. There were also lots of decorative items missing, such as the centre labels for each album display and lots of projections such as the Wish You Were Here logo on the floor and several other elements.

Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains

There weren't many additions, but the main and most noticeable were the inflatables from the Animals 'In The Flesh' tour. They had part of the Nuclear Family, and best of all and the highlight of the exhibition for me: Algie the pig. The inflatable pig is so iconic for Pink Floyd imagery, and it’s difficult to appreciate the scale of it when it’s usually floating so high above so it was great to get that perspective. Animals is one of my favourite albums too, and I’ve always loved the imagery as I’m such a fan of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In London they had a small model of Algie floating above Battersea Power Station which served as the 'walls' for the display of the Animals section of the exhibition. Aubrey Powell (of Hipgnosis) stated that they didn't have the ceiling space at the V&A for the inflatables, which I can understand.

Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains
Their Mortal Remains

The biggest disappointment was the final room. In London it was incredible - there were screens on all four walls with lights coming from the ceiling and it really gave the impression of almost being in a live event. It played the music videos for High Hopes, Arnold Layne, and the Live 8 performance of Comfortably Numb which was their last before Rick passed. It was emotional and an incredible sight, you can watch a video I filmed of it here. The Rome version of this room was utter crap, as you can see. It's so bad I don't even want the photo in anything other than a link! There was no immersion to it, it was just one screen on one wall looping the Comfortably Numb footage over and over. It was also so loud that you could clearly hear it from the very first room, whereas the V&A had obviously soundproofed which may sound like a nit picky thing, but it's that word again: immersion. Rome had absolutely none, whereas London had it in spades.

Seeing Their Mortal Remains in Rome has made me grateful I saw it as many times as I did in London, and removed any desire to see it again in any other country. It does make me sad though that the people who were waiting for the tour won't be getting the full experience.



I'd already bought most of the gift shop when it was in London, but I did manage to find a couple of things that I hadn't seen before. I knew I wanted the tote before going as it was the one thing specific to Rome, and I also really love the artwork of Algie floating above the Colosseum. I thought the Dark Side of the Moon etched prism was something really unique, and as I collect crystals I like how it blends in with them on my shelf until you take a closer look.





I've wanted one of these Bedford van models for a while and they sell for an absolute fortune on eBay as they're quite difficult to get hold of, so I felt right jammy seeing a whole stack of them in the gift shop and honestly expected them to cost a lot more than they did. These models were originally supposed to come as part of the Early Years box set, which as you can see in the background it's designed after (and if you scroll back to the top of this post, you'll see Nick loading his drums into the real version). There was some kind of manufacturing issue that stopped them coming as part of the box set, which in turn has made them highly collectible. I'm not quite sure why to be honest, but I'm very pleased to have it in my collection none the less as the van is such an important part of Floyd history.
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