We got up early today to visit Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum and Pompei. A very busy day. We decided to go see Vesuvius first and although our guide book said that we could catch a city bus near the train station that went to the top and was very cheap, we were told by locals that the next city bus did not come for 3 hours so we should take their private shuttle bus (which was super expensive, 5 times the amount of the city bus). There was a large group (around 10) of all English people, ourselves included, who were skeptical of this claim and held true to our guidebooks since they had been so reliable up to that point. So we were instructed to go to the "information centre" down the street to verify this information. A few of us went to this centre and there was a sketchy Italian fellow working there who had a hand-printed bus schedule (talk about sketchy!) that verifed that the next bus did not come for 3 hours and he also instructed us back to the train station where the expensive privately owned shuttle buses were. Basically we just kept getting sent back and forth and always ended up being told to take the shuttle bus by whichever local we asked in the area. I'm pretty sure that they're all in on the scam together. However after we waited to see if a city bus would show up, we had no luck and were forced to take this expensive shuttle bus (all 10 of us). We were grumbly and unhappy but it made everyone friendly since we were commiserating. :)
The shuttle bus drove up the mountain super-fast and it was pretty scary but we arrived alive. We had to hike up a good chunk of the mountain in order to get to the top and look inside the volcano but it was well worth the hike. Of course it would have been cooler if there had been lava but we probably wouldn't be alive now so it's most likely not worth it. :P We got to walk all along the crater and made friends with an English couple named Gail and Darren who gave us tips on visiting London (Gail informed us that all the museums in London are free... that definitely makes it seem more inviting). We saw some beautiful sights while walking around Vesuvius, we had a nice view of the city and there was a mist covering the city, it was very cool. :)
After Vesuvius we walked down to Herculaneum which proved to be incredibly small (especially compared to Pompei) and we were able to see all of it in about an hour. It had a lot of their frescoes still intact and I enjoyed wandering around the ruins trying to figure out what structures used to be there. We then took the metro to Pompei where I got mixed up and made us get off at the wrong stop (the stop we needed was "Pompei scavi" and we got off at "Pompei"). On our long walk from the wrong station we met fellow travellers, Athena and Aaron, who joined us for our entire visit to Pompei. They were really cool, Aaron was Australian and Athena was from New Zealand, and we walked around the ruins of Pompei with them and we shared 2 audioguides between the 4 of us. We got to hear stories about how Aaron and his friends mourned the death of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, by getting drunk and screaming out "We love you Steve!". They were very entertaining and they loved our story of the "Princess of Germany" and even suggested an alternate ending where she leads us through the sewers of Paris to her castle in Germany (which is really the mental hospital).... They also had a scary encounter with trying to take a taxi in Rome, there was some kind of cabby battle with weapons and hurt people and one person in the mob stood up for them and told them not to hurt Aaron and Athena. Their original cab driver came to after being knocked unconscious and rushed them out of there and to safety. Now that sounded scary!!!! (and yes we agreed that they could use our princess story and we were allowed to share their cab story). So the lesson is, don't take cabs in Rome!
I also forgot to mention the funny, vaguely smelly homeless man on the train to Pompei. He was pretty funny. He was just enjoying himself, not bothering anyone, just being clearly drunk, singing to himself and laughing hysterically occasionally. Some teenagers came on board the train and decided to spray some strong smelling hair spray in order to scare homeless man into the next cart, they also had an empty baby carriage which they were waving in his direction to speed up the process. Homey had a plan though, he went into the next train compartment and the teens followed him, then he made a quick pirouette, brushed past them and slammed the door to the area the teens were in and returned to the original cart to continue his drunken singing and laughing. There are lots of crazy but amusing people in Europe! :)
-Jenny and Tyler, big fans of homey