Sunday, July 20, 2003

Items from the past, continued.

July 20, 1983. (14th anniversary of the first Moon walk.)

A full hour after the scheduled time, a train came. We got on. The scenery was good -- rolled past houses, farms and fields. Plenty of little stops. When our stop came, our stop at tiny Paestum, the train didn't stop. Paestum flew by, and we headed unwillingly south. Steve said with great sagacity, "I knew it!"

The next stop was five minutes later at a place called Agropoli, and we got off. We checked the schedules, and, theoretically, a train going north stopping at both Agropoli and Paestum wouldn’t come until 2:30. It was about 11.

So we hung out in Agropoli, a town built from the coast up a high hill and back down again to another beach. Greek origins? A smaller town in Magna Graecia? The name made me think so. Steve wanted to swim. Others had the same idea, despite the sewage outlet not far from the beach. First we ate some bread & cheese & bananas and drank all-important aqua minerale.

I had no towel or bathing suit, so I headed for the hill by myself, which seemed to have some curious ruins on top. It looked like a fort, which would be a natural for such a steep hill. I following the streets and climbed without regard to direction, except that I was going up. It was very hot. I sweated viciously and drank a lot of water.

The view was good. I saw the beach and the behind it, fields, and behind that, mountains. Suddenly the road ended as a road for cars, but continued as a footpath, which lead to the part of the city carved from the top of the hill. Now the footpath became a series of stone staircases that lead three of four different directions, going under the name 'via' this and 'via' that, as if they were ordinary streets. Doors along the way had address numbers, too.

The stairs and walls were old and dark and stained. But for the televisions and the small electric street lights, I could have imagined I'd been dislodged from the 20th century, like Martin Padway. I came to a piazza with tables and chairs and a group of kids playing board games. I rested there a while, and noticed on the walls signs with lettering that looked for all the world like Hebrew, some newly painted. And I saw such signs elsewhere on the hilltop. Was this once a Jewish quarter? Was it still a Jewish quarter? It was hard to imagine such a thing. I sat for a long time in the piazza, looking over the sheer cliff down to the Mediterranean...

... Paestum was magnificent! Ned N. [my Latin professor] did not steer me wrong about these ruins.


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