A Message From the Crab.

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Greetings, readerly beings! It’s about time they gave me a chance — ha! I’m all about chances — to write one of these. But at least they picked the best one, eh? A crab knows beaches better than any vertebrate.

And the beach was where we went next. Sorrento, to be specific, on the Amalfi Coast.

The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of western Italy that’s about three hours south of Rome on the Tyrrhenian Sea, which is a little subsection of the Mediterranean that’s hemmed in by the Italian mainland on one side, and the islands of Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica on the other side. Its biggest city is Naples, and it was in Naples where we got off the train.

Naples is in no way like Rome. It looks like a purely modern city — crumbly in places, but modern — even though it was really founded by the Greeks in 600BCE. Also, it was called Neapolis, the New City, even though it’s one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. (Neapolis wasn’t its first incarnation, either — only the one that gave it its name. It had been already settled for several hundred years by then.) But it definitely looks like a New City, with buildings that mostly date back no further than the Institutional Classical style of the early 20th Century.

We were picked up in a car and taken to Sorrento. Our driver was a fan of American movies and kept gabbing to the humans about what New York was like, because he’d seen it in all the flicks and wanted to go there someday. Meanwhile, I’m trying to climb high enough on the window frame to see Mt. Vesuvius.

A volcano, with two peaks, at sunset.  A city sprawls dangerously close at its feet.
Mount Vesuvius towering over Naples — Massimo Finizio, CC BY-SA 2.0 IT, via Wikimedia Commons

Vesuvius, which is right along this section of shoreline, is, of course, the volcano that blew up Pompeii and Herculaneum. Everybody visits Pompeii, it seems, but Herculaneum is left pretty completely alone except by the occasional archaeologist and flocks of Italian schoolchildren. But we’ll be going there tomorrow — and not to Pompeii. My human friends like taking the path less traveled… I’m not the only one in the party who takes chances.

The road to Sorrento was a mixture of beautiful and irritating. When I could see much at all, it was gorgeous… patches of stunning flowers interspersed with tantalizing views of the seashore at the foot of the cliffs we were steadily climbing. But the road traversed many long tunnels — it wound among the mountain range, and the builders went right through the rock as often as they went around the side of it. It took us minutes to get through the longest tunnel, but Naomi’s the one with the anxiety disorder. I take to burrows just fine. But I did find it a little frustrating not to be able to see the shore half the time.

A wall made of roughly cut blocks of white stone.
The color of these rocks give the hills their local name: the Mountains of Milk.

The car eventually pulled up on a bustling, narrow street — the main street of the busy little tourist town of Sorrento. The hotel was one floor up, because all the ground floor space was taken up by storefronts, but it was a nice little hotel. We had an all-white room with a little balcony overlooking the center street, with two twin bed/sofa combos for J plus a big bed for Naomi — I slept in my usual burrow in the corner pocket of Naomi’s purse. J had one of his sofas made up as a bed, while using the other to spread out everything that he liked to hang out with during the day. The two of them were clearly enjoying having a restful place with excellent air conditioning, and they weren’t likely to want to go anywhere else for the rest of the afternoon. So I headed out on my own, clambering down the roadside cliffs to the beach.

Sorrento, Piazza Tasso — Berthold Werner, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The American-obsessed driver had told Naomi that there was a cable car that took passengers from the town to the seashore and back, but I didn’t bother. Anyplace a crab can’t get by scrambling is probably not worth going, so I went my own way and fetched up on a nice little stretch of mixed pebbles and sand. More sand than I’ve typically seen on Mediterranean beaches, which are often pebble beaches entirely, but this one had some of each. Enough sand that I could find several tasty sand worms to munch on, at any rate. Which is as much sand as a crab really needs.

The walls run from the road right down to the shore, a drop of a few dozen feet; and they’re lined with arches at beach level. The water was stunning — incredibly clear turquoise blue, and with barely any waves at all. In between, the sand was as golden as the vivid sun overhead. I got out my sunglasses and just basked for a good couple of hours, till a faint coolness told me the afternoon was beginning to turn up evening.

An orange dungeness crab wearing blue sunglasses, sitting on a beach towel
Selfie — on the beach at Sorrento. The background’s a bit out of focus. (via craiyon.io)
View of Sorrento from above the harbor Kim Traynor, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When I got back to the room, I found that Naomi and J had gone out in search of pizza for supper. Having already had my supper of those sand worms, I climbed up to the balcony and made my own way into our room to rest till they got back. I’ll finish the scraps from their pizza for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Herculaneum tomorrow! I guess I’ll probably have to let Naomi tell that one. But you will ask her to let me write more often now that you’ve seen me do it, won’t you? I thought so. See you soon, then!

— Chance

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