Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Roman ruins

I love history and can never get enough of it. Visiting sights and structures from long ago makes it all seem so much more real to me. On a recent visit to Tarragona in Catalonia, Spain, much to my delight, I was immersed in it.

The entire city of Tarragona was deemed a World Heritage Site in 2000. And I can see why. Roman ruins are everywhere and appear naturally amongst more modern apartment blocks, restaurants, coffee shops and commercial buildings. It is fitting as, after all, they were there first.

Amphitheatres always intrigue me and the one in Tarragona, built in the time of Augustus, is quite intact and overlooks the Mediterranean sea. Imagine watching a play there. It is still used for reenactments of gladiator fights, plays and even weddings.

Imagine having lunch with a view of the sea and the amphitheatre!

Not far from the amphitheatre are the remains of the Roman Circus built in the first century which was used for horse and chariot races. It doesn’t take much to imagine the excitement of such an event.

A museum inside the Roman Circus held interesting artefacts

The old indoor market, Mercat Central, still sells fresh fish, meat, fruits and vegetables and was worth a visit. I bought some lovely tea to bring home.

Coming across the Forum, the remains of a Roman street and basilica, in a residential area, was incredible. It was as if timelines had blurred together. And I had the place almost to myself!

This would have been part of someone’s home two thousand years ago. I touched the walls and my Roman heart sang.
The base of a sculpture

Tarragona is famous for its Concurs de Castells where people called Castellers in matching outfits and sashes, compete for building the tallest human pyramid. This exciting and well-attended event is held every other October at Plaza de Toros, the former bull ring. (Bullfighting is outlawed in Catalonia.) I found posters for the event and in the middle of the Rambla Nova, the city’s main business street, is a bronze sculpture commemorating the .

A poster for Concurs de Castells. Look at all the people cheering them on.
Hubby contemplating climbing the tower of people.

Tarragona has wonderful buildings, fountains and statues everywhere and much to see is in walking distance.

Mosaic on the sidewalk outside the theatre

As if all this wasn’t amazing enough, we drove 4 kilometres outside the city on a quest to find a two-thousand-year-old Roman Aqueduct. We drove past the entrance three times but eventually found the parking lot. A short hike through the forest and there it stood as it has for centuries. I truly felt time stand still.

The Romans built things to last!

I touched the stones that centuries of folks before me have, and all that history ran down my arm and into my heart. I was so happy.

Walking through the unearthed remains of a once thriving city, I couldn’t help feeling ominous. People lived and worked in Pompeii until that fateful day, August 24, 79 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, dumping twenty feet of ash on the city, completely burying it. The city lay undisturbed and hidden until  1748 when it was accidentally discovered and later excavated. Today it is a must see on most bucket lists and I am pleased to be able to check it off mine. I remember learning about this disaster in elementary school and imagining the terror of the inhabitants. The feeling was still with me as I peered into the well preserved homes with original mosaics, shops, temples and gardens of the ancient Romans. Here is some of what we saw.

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius from the ship

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Original mosaic in a courtyard

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Public water fountain

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Public water fountains

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The forum

The forum

another mosaic

Another original mosaic

A bakery

A bakery

 

Mosaic and gardens of a wealthy homeowner

Mosaic and gardens of a wealthy home owner

Pompei, Italy

The Temple of Jupiter

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The dancing Faun

During the excavation, plaster was used to fill in the voids in the ash layers that once held human bodies. This allowed people to see the exact position the person was in when he or she died. Some of these macabre plaster casts were on display and drove home the horror of the catastrophe.

Pompei, Italy

Holding up a pillar in Pompeii, Italy

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Watching our steps as we traverse the uneven cobblestones

Walking along the old lumpy streets and dodging the many other onlookers was treacherous. One had to be careful, but I was pleased to be there, honouring the poor souls who lost their lives in one of the ancient world’s worst natural disasters.

I have since read the book, Pompeii, by Robert Harris. An excellent account of that fateful day from the point of view of an aquarius, someone who maintained the aqueducts. Having walked the streets, the book had special meaning to me.

Have you ever visited a place you had read about before? Did you feel the same when you actually saw it, as when you first learned about it?

 


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