We awoke in good time, for today we were leaving our Camperstop, not too far from
Cassino railway station, and heading up that there hill to visit Monte Cassino Abbey, and what I thought to be the Commonwealth War Cemetery, but no. The Chef tells me the Commonwealth War Cemetery is down at the bottom, it's the Polish War
cemetery that's up near the Abbey. I was a bit miffed to find out the Polish had managed to bag the plot with the best views, however after today's experiences I can assure you it's easier for us to visit our boys graves than it is for the Polish to visit
I deliberately ditched almost all of the water onboard, I certainly didn't want to have grey water sat in the back waste tank lifting the front drive wheels off the ground,
any more than I wanted the weight of the fresh water to affect our best efforts to reach the top.
Off we went then, intent on getting to the top before it got busy. That way I could
set my own pace on the way up and not get stuck behind some old granny forcing me to come down the gearbox and struggle at low speed.
True to form, the Satnav took us down some
very narrow potholed backstreets before we joined the main road to the top. I have to say the road was wider and much better than I expected. Yes, there were some very tight hairpin bends, but the fact that I could let the vehicle go wide because there was
nothing coming the other way was an immense help. Even The Chef, who I expected to be gripping the edge of her seat tightly, didn't find it too scary, but I tell you, we were a long way up by the time we reached the top.
It was €8 to park in a coach parking space which I didn't think was too bad. The walk around the Abbey was very impressive, mainly because the Abbey was the location of a German fortification, and in 1944, to shift
them, Allies had to bomb the crap out of the place. But here we were just seventy-four years later admiring the wonderful interior of the rebuilt chapel.
Towards the end of our
visit it was starting to get much busier. We made our way back to the motorhome intending to be cute and follow a coach back down, the thinking being it would plough a path for us given its size, and we'd just follow. Well that worked for a very short space
of time before I noticed its 'PL' number plate as it made a careful left turn towards the Polish cemetery. Then we were on our own. I just kept yielding to the coaches coming up, the least thing they wanted was for some nerd to cause them to slow or stop,
and then have to get going again on the very steep gradient.
Once at the bottom we made our way to the 'Panoramic' supermarket where I'd invested in a new hovercraft propeller just
a couple of days ago. We were looking for a few more large bottles of water and a fresh crusty baguette.
A word of explanation at this stage. We have a charcoal filter fitted to
the tap in the kitchen area, and I am always very careful to ensure that tank and pipes are kept clean. However for safety reasons we always drink bottled water on the very long sections of our travels, so for this trip it was to be from Calais to
Parma. However we discovered this time that the bottled water makes remarkably good tasting tea and coffee, and so we're sticking to it as a little treat, providing we can buy it at the right price from large supermarkets.
After our look around the store we returned to the motorhome for lunch and to kill a bit of time before setting off for the Cassino Commonwealth War Cemetery (they close for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00).
On our arrival at the cemetery we made our way inside. What a treat, we had it all to ourselves, well apart from the gardeners who were installing an irrigation system to the grass and graveside
flowers and plants, which I'm sure would be very helpful given the really hot summers here.
Firstly I shall copy and paste information regarding this cemetery, which I lifted from
the wonderful Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website:
times: Winter: 8.00am -12.00pm & 1.00pm -3.30pm Summer: 7.30am -12.00pm & 1.00pm - 4.00pm Due to regular theft and damage to the Memorial Register and Visitors Book, they are accessible only during the hours when the gardeners are present (as stated
above). Wheelchair access to the cemetery is possible, via a ramp at an alternative entrance, which can be located approx. 200 metres from the main entrance. There has been incidents of car thefts around the area therefore visitors are advised to lock their
vehicles and to not leave any belongings unattended. For further information and enquiries please contact email@example.com
On 3 September 1943 the Allies invaded the Italian mainland, the invasion coinciding with an armistice made with the Italians who then re-entered the war on the Allied side. Progress through southern
Italy was rapid despite stiff resistance, but by the end of October, the Allies were facing the German winter defensive position known as the Gustav Line, which stretched from the river Garigliano in the west to the Sangro in the east. Initial attempts to
breach the western end of the line were unsuccessful. Operations in January 1944 landed troops behind the German lines at Anzio, but defences were well organised, and a breakthrough was not actually achieved until 18 May, when Cassino was finally taken. The
site for CASSINO WAR CEMETERY was originally selected in January 1944, but the development of the battle during the first five months of that year made it impossible to use it until after the Germans had withdrawn from Cassino. During these early months of
1944, Cassino saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign, the town itself and the dominating Monastery Hill proving the most stubborn obstacles encountered in the advance towards Rome. The majority of those buried in the war cemetery died in
the battles during these months. There are now 4,271 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at Cassino War Cemetery. 289 of the burials are unidentified. Within the cemetery stands the CASSINO MEMORIAL which commemorates over
4,000 Commonwealth servicemen who took part in the Italian campaign whose graves are not known. The CEMETERY and MEMORIAL were designed by Louis de Soissons.
It was a lovely peaceful
place, this wonderful organisation really does our lads (and lassies in some cemeteries ie. nurses) proud. I begrudge not one penny of my taxes which go towards running the CWGC. I wish I could say the same for the House of Lords etc etc.
I assumed that our boys don't get too many visitors out here, and so I wanted to lay a bouquet of flowers, but we couldn't find a florists, and even if we had, they would probably have been having
a lie down for the afternoon. So we had to settle for a single red rose which I placed on the Cross of Sacrifice.
It was from all of us, to all of them. As simple as that.
We then headed out of town on the toll road heading down towards Naples. The plan is to spend the night on a Truckstop and then in the morning have a lovely hot shower before dumping
our grey water and heading for Herculaneum tomorrow morning. We've chosen Herculaneum over Pompeii because having watched an interesting TV programme about it, there was no doubt, far more was preserved there than in Pompeii.
Beside, call me old fashioned if you like, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius all those years ago whose volcanic ash completely immerse the town and freeze its inhabitants doing whatever it was they were doing at the time should be left a private matter.
Imagine it, you hear this loud thunderous roar and think to yourself 'Hello, sounds like a nasty storm brewing'. Just then you feel the need for a bit of a comfort scratch around the old scrotum
area, when WHOOOSH - buried in ash. Thousands of years later some do-gooder discovers you and the rest of the town buried and frozen in time. They then squirt hot wax up your bottom to preserve your remains before putting you on public display. So a man having
what he thought was a quick private scratch of the 'ol privates is captured forever, for the entertainment of tourists. I tell you, the end of privacy started long before Facebook.
This evening we are parked up on a Truckstop within striking distance of the Naples area, where it is still very warm but the strong wind is bouncing us about a lot. The weather here is on the change, and we're expecting light rain
for a couple of days starting tomorrow. I think it will be nice to feel the cooler temperatures, plus the motorhome gets a well needed wash courtesy of Mother Nature.