Pompeii Rises from the Ashes

pompeii columnsOn August 25, AD 79 the great city of Pompeii laid at the feet of Mount Vesuvius. It began with a light rumble that came upon the city, knocking off ceiling tiles and tipping jars from shelves. No one knew that the rumble was a sign that Mount Vesuvius would erupt. People went about their day. Adults were shopping in the forums. Children were playing in the courtyards.

Out of the 20,000 citizens who lived in Pompeii, 2,000 were slaves. Most Pompeiians were craftsmen or traders providing for themselves or their masters.

The people of Pompeii worshiped many gods and goddesses.They prayed for them in a public temple or a private shrine in their homes.

Most of the shopping and restaurants were located in a place called “The Forum”. Here the people enjoyed visiting with others as they went about their day.

Their diet consisted of bread, lamb, fish, and fruits including peaches, apples, pears, and grapes. They liked to drink goat milk and wine.  The people consumed grains, fruits, nuts, olives, lentils, local fish, and chicken eggs. Only the rich enjoyed more expensive meat and salted fish.

pompeii bathsIn their free time, they enjoyed going to the public bath. There were separate quarters for men and women. Here, they could bathe in the hot waters, get a massage, and hear the latest gossip. In the central courtyard was a large exercise field.

Around 9:00 a.m., there was a small explosion of tiny ash particles that sprinkled the city. The ground continued to rumble. Gradually the larger chunks of pumice and rock began to fall on Pompeii.

At 1:00 p.m., an enormous cloud made of ash, pumus, and rock apeared over the top of Mount Vesuvius. Pliny the younger watched from across the water and in a letter to Tacitus later wrote, “The cloud was shaped like an umbrella pine, with a long trunk that branched at the top. Soon, ashes were falling; hot and dense. Next came pumice stones, black and scorched by fire.”

Within thirty minutes the cloud was over ten miles high heading straight for Pompeii. The cloud was so dark it blocked out the sun. According to Pliny, “Soon the courtyards … filled with ash. The buildings swayed with heavy tremors. The sky turned blacker than night. Then flames and sulphur fumes sent everyone into flight.”

At 5:30 p.m., pumus and rock two inches in diameter began to fall on Pompeii. By 8:00 p.m. most all buildings had burned down or were buired by ash. By 12:00 a.m, the first story of the buildings were blocked by ash.

Two hours later, the second phase begins – six pyroclastic surges of hot gas and ash that blew down the mountain. Each surge was larger and spread farther than the one that preceded. The surges ranged in speed from 60 -180 mph. In the end, over 18,000 people died.

pompeii tragedyFor over 1,500 years, people had forgotten about Pompeii. The ash that had buried the city provided good soil for farming olive trees and grapevines. Periodically, farmers and canal workers would uncover statues, beautiful marble, and brick walls.

In 1863 archeaologists found cavities which they poured plaster into to make a cast. This revealed the people had been caught by surprise and their bodies were buried in the ash and debris. Skeletons were also found.

Scientists discovered that “a person who died during the surge of hot gas and ash after dawn on the second day of the eruption was more likely to create a cavity in the volcanic material than someone who had died the first day during the pumice fall.” (Deem 2005) Soon the casts were put on display for all who visited.

Since then, about 60% of Pompeii has now been excavated. Though excavations have now stopped, the focus today is on restoration and perservation. Today there are more than two million people who come to visit the ruins each year.

Mount Vesuvius is still an active volcano. Scientists are monitoring the activity to help warn the people who live in the vicinity. If the mountain were to awake, the hope is that the people could be evacuated in time.


  • Caseli, Giovanni. In Search of Pompeii: Uncovering a buried Roman city. New York: Peter Bedrick Books. 1996.
  • Damon, Cynthia (translated). Pliny Letter 2.16. http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/pompeii/PlinyLetters.htm
  • Deem, James M. Bodies from the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. 2005.
  • Osborne, Mary, Pope. Pompeii Lost and Found. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 2006.

Scandinavia Day Thirteen: Fishing in the North Sea

We woke early once again … Arvid had warned us that we would be on the go everyday … and drove out to meet another cousin, Eivind, his daughter and parents at their summer cottage.  The plan for the day was to go fishing.  On the North Sea!!

Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by Eivind and his family. I was taken aback by how familiar Eivind seemed to me.  Funny how your mind plays tricks on you like that.  Anyway … his mother served us a delightful meal of smørrebrod and went out of her way to make hot dogs for the kids in case they weren’t fond of more traditional foods.  I tried to explain that it wasn’t necessary but she insisted.  As we dined, she brought out a couple of doilies she had made special as a gift for me.  I got all choked up!  She reminded me so  much of my own grandmothers.  I was so touched.

After lunch, we walked down to the dock and donned life vests.  I honestly don’t recall the last time I tried to fish with any success, I believe I was about the same age as Sweetie is today.  I hoped they weren’t relying on my skills for our evening meal.  One of the most intriguing things was what we used to fish … I neglected to take a picture myself but I was able to find these images online … the image on the left shows a traditional wood contraption (by welsh-witch at DeviantArt) while the image on the right shows a more modern, plastic one just like the ones we used (from Shelby & Kjerstin’s Scandinavian Adventure).


Sweetie was delighted to make the first catch of the day.  Buddy, fortunately, didn’t give in but forged ahead confidant that he, too, would be successful.  Good thing … for he brought in the largest fish.  Sadly, the adults went home with empty hands.

When we got back to the house, Asbjørg & …. were awaiting us.  The munchkins immediately ran up to … to share with him the fish they had caught.  It was heart warming to see how quickly they had bonded with one another.

We then drove down to Tore’s home where we met the rest of his family (his son and wife) and enjoyed a small family reunion.  Another cousin, Paul, joined us and we feasted on a lovely dinner.  
Papachango (as I’ve begun to affectionately call my spouse), however, was whisked away shortly after our arrival to attend a soccer game with Reidar,  Brann vs. ??    From what the boys told me later, it was a great game with Brann bringing home the win!! Yippee!

Scandinavia Day Twelve: Our Ancestral Home in Grotness

We awoke and enjoyed a delightful array of breakfast foods that Arvid laid out for us … bread, a little shrimp leftover from the night before, canned sardines, cereal, a variety of cheese spreads and jellies.  We enjoyed our meal and then packed a light lunch to take with us.

We then drove east and somewhere along the way met another cousin, Tore Furevik and his daughter Ingrid, whom accompanied us on the days adventures.  For better comfort, DH moved into the car with Tore and I was then able to sit in the front as Arvid drove … much easier for conversation and map navigation – which became my duty.

We met up in Tørvikbydgd (I believe) and took a ferry across the Hardangerfjord to Jondal. It had been drizzling all morning so the views of the fjord were less than desireable but no one complained.  Growing up on Oregon coast … cloudy skies and rain was familiar.  Upon docking, we continued on our journey and now drove south to Grotnes.

 In Grotnes, we met yet another branch of the family tree each descended from Hans Asgaut Samsonson Grotnes (1830-1906) and Guro Olesdotter Oyre (1832-1922) …  Marit and her daughters Elisabet & Ashild.  Hans Asgaut and Guro had ten children, one of which was my great, great grandmother, Martha Kanutta who was born 26th May 1860, and carried the name of the place they lived at the time, Grotnes Hill.  She was the third child of ten (Marit and her girls are descended from the fourth child, Arvid and Reidar from the ninth child, and Tore and Ingrid from the fifth). 
At the age of nine Martha became a baby tender on a farm called Akre near Grotnes.  She took care of the farm hands’ children as both father and mother had to work.  As she grew older she became a milk maid, also doing such work as wool carding, weaving, and knitting. She worked at this place for about eight years.  Lars Kanutta Berge (born on the 1st of July 1855, in Lofthus in Hardanger) came to the farm two years after Martha and worked there for six years.  They were then married and few years later emigrated to America following Martha’s eldest brother, Samson.
It was here that we were given a tour of the original homestead (Hans and Guro’s home is pictured above).  You can see the fjord in the background.  From what I understand, the house had been remodeled at some point along the way and additional rooms were added.  Originally, it only a single room.   

From here, we drove a little farther south to a small private dock where we boarded a small fishing vessel  to continue farther along the fjord to Ænes to see the church where Hans Asgaut and Guro were married.  It was an incredible experience … and though some small changes had been made to the church as well, it was like we had traveled back in time.  Arvid explained that Hans Asgaut was ahead of his time in that he was an avid journalist.  He wrote extensively about his daily life as well as kept copious details about his business transactions.  He was a cobbler by trade and would row a small boat back and forth across the fjord to reach his customers.

On the return voyage, the sun peaked out for a short time and we ventured out onto the deck of the ferry where I took this picture of Arvid, Ingrid and Tore.  We stopped in Norheimsund for dinner … pizza … where I was delighted to hear Eros Ramazzotti music play. Our gracious hosts had done so much to plan this wonderful day and truly treat us like royalty … so DH and I had to get a little sneaky in order to pay for the meal.

When we returned, Arvid’s son and grandson were at the house.  MeiLi was smitten with her cousin with whom she enjoyed playing games, browsing the web and generally being silly.  She asked for his address and will hopefully begin a lifetime correspondence.  

Scandinavia Day Eleven: Edvard Grieg’s Home & the Floibanen

We awoke aboard the Hurtigruten and enjoyed a light meal that I had packed onboard.  We spent the morning enjoying the views from the observation deck and working on our journals.  Oddly, another passenger – an older gentlemen (a description I now am not certain applies to this man) – whom sat a few chairs from us stared at us the entire time (for hours!).  He would occasionally turn to his companion when he was addressed but he didn’t take part in conversation of any sort and even stranger, made no discernible facial expression.  I wanted to go up to him and inform him that he had it all wrong .. the attraction was beyond the window … not aboard the ship.  Please stop staring, sir!  I should have taken his picture, I now suppose.  Anyway …

In the early afternoon, we came into Bergen harbor.  Bergen was perhaps the most anticipated destination of our entire Scandinavian tour as it is here that we would be staying with family and meeting many relatives that we in fact had never met previously.  It took awhile to disembark as the crew insisted we in order of the level our cabins were located to alleviate confusion with our luggage.  We thereby were able to see Reidar (the one cousin we had in fact met a few years ago when he came to Oregon) from the observation deck as he waited on shore for us.

We were welcomed with a warm hug (he is much like a gregarious and jolly uncle) and our tour of Bergen was underway.  He first took us to Troldhaugen, the home of Nina and Edvard Grieg. Built in 1885, the couple lived there the last 22 summers of Edvard Grieg’s life.  In May of 1928, Troldhaugen became a museum.  After WWII, permanent employees were hired to manage and operate the museum which then consisted of the villa, the composer’s hut and the gravesite.  In 1985 the concert hall, Troldhalen, was inaugurated and in 1995 the museum building opened.  We enjoyed the permanent exhibit in the latter, purchased a CD of Grieg’s music and spent a little time exploring the grounds and original buildings.

We enjoyed seeing the photographs and gifts Grieg and his wife had received from friends and family.  Most notable was a painting of children playing that he and his wife had purchased after the death of their only child.  Proving he was a little boy at heart, Reidar reached out and played one brief note on Grieg’s piano, receiving a scowl from the interpreter leading us on the tour.  I was just glad it wasn’t my little one .. he later said, “I couldn’t resist. I was in his home. I needed to play even if just one note.”

From here we ventured to the Fløibanen Funicular, one of the most popular attractions in all of Norway.  Only 150m from the Bryggen wharf (which we had explored briefly beforehand), the ride to the top of Fløyen mountain (320m above sea level) takes only a few minutes.  The ride itself was spectacular and the views improved as we got closer to the top.  Unfortunately, it was raining while we were there but it certainly didn’t dampen our spirits.  Had we had more time, it would have been nice to take advantage of the vast number of hikes on the mountain.

Thereafter, we drove out to Frekhaug to meet Arvid, Reidar’s brother, for the first time and to enjoy dinner together. Arvid came out to greet us with big hugs and told the kids that it was tradition for children to run around his house three times before coming inside.  I joined in and the four of us were off on a giggly jog of the perimeter.  The kids loved it and forever they were smitten with one another.

Arvid prepared for us shrimp and a roast chicken. “Just in case you didn’t like shrimp, I needed something else,” he explained. “They aren’t traditionally served together.” Shrimp is a traditional Norwegian dish in the summertime.  Pre-boiled and served cold, you simply peel them one by one and eat them.  Following Reidar and Arvid’s example, we spread butter on a piece of white bread, laid out a few shrimp and then squeezed a little mayonaise (from a tube) and a twist of lemon on top.  I think this might be my favorite Norwegian dish .. simple and delicious.

Scandinavia Day Ten: Cruise on the Hurtigruten

Early in the morning, we boarded the  Hurtigruten  for the final 2 days of a larger 12 day cruise.  The weather wasn’t cooperative and throughout most of the day, it was raining lightly and the skies were gloomy.  The kids and I thereby spent much of our time on the observation deck working on our journals.  
We enjoyed two ports of call while aboard the Hurtigruten ….
Kristiansund … where at the end of the 17th century, Dutch sailors brought the knowledge of clipfish production and for a number of years the city was the largest exporter of clipfish in Norway, exporting goods mainly to the Mediterranean countries.

Molde … where the Nobel prize winner Bjornstjerne Bjornson attended school and Henrik Ibsen vacationed.  While we walked about, we observed another couple attempting to geocache … we followed behind them in hopes that we might also be able to find the cache (sans clues … MeiLi is really good at find the hidden niches) but turns out they weren’t successful either.  

There were other stops along the way to Bergen, but most were so short that passengers were not allowed off the ship to site see.  The Hurtigruten also serves as a sort of water taxi along the Western seaboard and delivers cargo and mail along its routes.

Interestingly, we must have been the youngest people aboard the Hurtigruten.  Upon departing from Molde, we decided to relax in one of two hot tubs aboard the ship.  When the other passengers observed us, they were dismayed and remarked, “We’ve been on the ship for 11 days and didn’t even realize there was a hot tub on board.”  Seemingly, there was soon a small parade of passengers coming down to gauk at us.  

Scandinavia Day Nine: Nidaros Cathedral & Trøndelag Folke Museet

Trondheim … over 1000 years old and Norway’s first capital city.  Today, the city is the 3rd largest in Norway with over 170,000 inhabitants.  The name of the city at the mouth of the river Nid has changed several times.  The oldest known name is Nidaros, which means ‘town by the estuary’.  In the late Middle Ages it was called ‘the market town in Trondheimen’, later shortened to Trondheim, ‘home of Trønder’.  Under Danish rule, it was generally known as Staden or Byen (the city or town).  In January 1930 the Norwegian Parliament voted to change the name to Nidaros, but the residents did not agree.  After a compromise, Parliament decided in March of the same year that the city be called Trondheim.

We arrived in Trondheim shortly after 7 a.m. by train.  As we were relatively close to our hotel, the Radisson Blue, we opted to walk.  We checked in and soon thereafter came down for the breakfast buffet.  Refueled, we ventured out once more to explore the medieval charms of this ancient city. We stumbled upon the Kristiansten Fort (currently under renovation) … Gamle Bybro – the old bridge, first built on the site in 1681, the same time the for was under construction when a sentry & excise house stood at either end (the west side of the excise house still stands) … the Trampe Bike Lift (not presently in operation) – first lift in the world specifically for bikes.

We then journeyed to the Nidaros Cathedral and Norway’s national shrine.  It was started in the year 1070 and is built above the tomb of St. Olav.  In the same area is the Archbishop’s Palace, which was the Archbishop’s main seat from the middle of the 12th century.  The Nidaros Cathedral and the Archbishop’s Palace are located side by side in the middle of the city center. The cathedral is the most important Gothic monument in Norway and was Northern Europe’s most important Christian pilgrimage site during the Middle Ages. Today, it is the northernmost medieval cathedral in the world, and the second largest in Scandinavia. It houses several exhibitions:  Norway’s Crown Regalia and the Archbishop’s Palace Museum containing sculptures from Nidaros Cathedral, among other items.  We opted to observe only the exterior.

 We then boarded a bus to Sverresborg to see the Trøndelag Folke Museet.  The museum was a disappointment, however, due to it being the off season (no one was in costume and the staff we did see were undergoing ‘spring cleaning’ and we thereby had to step around ladders, buckets of mop water, etc.) but we did enjoy the small stave church.   A stave church is a medieval wooden church with a post and beam construction.  This church falls under this category but lacks the tall arches so familiar to most.

After the museum, we were all feeling a little down .. it was our first day of rain and we wanted to do something memorable but also wanted to relax.  We took the bus back into the city center and opted to get a quick bite at Burger King.  We then returned to the hotel to put our bags away and began to walk to the pier … I’d came across an advertisement in one of the circulars … and DH and I opted to surprise the munchkins.

All along the walk, the kids were asking questions to try and discern where we were going.  Even when we arrived at the exterior of the building, they didn’t know what it was.  It wasn’t until we stepped into the foyer that they figured it out.  “A pool!”  They were ecstatic!  Unlike the U.S., the hotels did not have a pool.  Unbeknownst to us, however, they didn’t rent towels and we’d neglected to bring towels from the hotel.  We thereby had to buy a towel … $20 for a small 2′ x 2′ … MeiLi and I graciously allowed the boys to use it and we walked around a little to air dry and then used a blow drier to finish the job.

The Pirbadet – is the largest indoor water park located on the seashore Trondheim.  most of the attractions are in one large room, meaning young and old alike can enjoy time together.  Our favorite activity was the well-being pool, situated beside a panoramic glass wall offering a spectacular view of the Trondheimsfjorden, where we enjoyed being massaged by the powerful bubble jets along the outer wall and relaxing on the bubble bench. MeiLi loved the youth pool with a lazy river, wide slide and jacuzzi.  An evening at the Pirbadet was just what we needed.