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"Through the eyes of..."

from Italian Journey by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1)


Vesuvius


March 2, 1787...In spite of the inclement weather and the clouds lurking on the summit, I went up Vesuvius today. I went to Resina by carriage and started up the mountain by mule, passing through vineyards as I rode. I then walked across the 1771 lava flow, which already showed a growth of tough moss, and then continued up along the edge of the lava flow. High up on the left, I saw a hermit's cabin.

The ash-cone of the volcano was two-thirds concealed by clouds, and it was a difficult climb. I finally came to the old crater, which is blocked now, and then to more recent lava flows from two months ago, two weeks ago and even one that was only five days old. That one had not been a strong flow and was already cool. I went across and up through the recent ash that was still giving off fumes. The fumes were drifting away from me, so I went ahead to try to reach the crater. After 50 paces, I could barely see my shoes through all the dense fumes. I had a handkerchief over my mouth, but it was useless. I could no longer see my guide and it was unsteady going over the bits of recent lava. I decided to turn back and wait for another day, one with better weather and fewer fumes. Now I know how difficult it can be to breathe in such an atmosphere.

The mountain was calm other than that; there were no flames and none of the rumblings and showers of stone from earlier weeks, before our arrival. I have now looked around and will try again as soon as the weather permits…

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