Saturday, February 25, 2017

Via Roma & Cassino War Cemetery

Closing out our visit to Italy, we drove from Sorrento to Rome, stopping at the Cassino War Cemetery along the way.
Cassino War Cemetery and Monte Cassino
Just like the previous mornings when we visited Pompeii and the Amalfi coast, we had breakfast at 8 am. Unlike those other days, the dining room was set to include a Russian family that had checked in last night to the suite upstairs. So today's breakfast was more like a buffet than family dining. Anyways, we needed to get on the road back to the airport in Rome, and we did so at 9:30 am.

The car was covered in light gray road dust from the rain yesterday, which does a great job of hiding any of the scratches from last night. We seemed to be making good time on our return drive, so we detoured to see the Cassino War Cemetery.

Cassino War Cemetery
During the WWII Battle of Monte Cassino, 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 capture of Monte Cassino came at a high price. The Allies suffered around 55,000 casualties in the Monte Cassino campaign. German casualty figures are estimated at around 20,000 killed and wounded. The total Allied casualties spanning the period of the four Cassino battles and the Anzio campaign with the subsequent capture of Rome on 5 June 1944, were over 105,000. (Source: Wikipedia)
The entrance to the Cassino War Cemetery
The majority of those buried in the war cemetery died in the battles that spanned from January to May, 1944. There are 4,271 Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War buried or commemorated at Cassino War Cemetery. We stopped in because there are 194 Canadian servicemembers honoured on the Cassino Memorial. While we didn't have any relatives buried here, Kacey has one buried in the Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery & Memorial in the Netherlands.

What I found most fascinating was how many non-European countries you could find there: Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and India were well represented.
  
Canada & England

  
Australia & New Zealand

 
India & South Africa
 Also, I'm pretty sure I found a Buddhist among the (I assume) Hindus and several Stars of David among the crosses. It's definitely a reminder of how much of the world was engulfed in conflict at that time.

Unknown
Jewish
Buddhist
Now, you might have already noticed this, but the British had a slightly different tradition, using their regimental emblem on the grave marker instead of a common English/Welsh/Scottish symbol.. So, lots of things with rifles, or swords, or cannons. But then you get a few like this:
In the middle of the cemetery is a water feature. In the water feature there were about a dozen goldfish. It was a nice touch.
Walking around the water feature, I noticed that their drains were actually carved stones, with a star covering the inlet opening. very well thought out.
Is it a flag or a drainage feature?
Kacey asked me if we should stop at a Scottish restaurant for lunch, and given that we had just been at a Commonwealth cemetery, I was slow to realize that she was actually referring to McDonald's. Fortunately, I was able to use a kiosk to order our meal (in English), so I didn't have to figure out how to say "McNuggets" in Italian. We got everything that I'd ordered...hooray, technology!

We ate in the car as we continued onward towards the airport, and it now looks like we are running on a pretty tight schedule to make our flight. Along the way, I saw a few signs for "A1 - Appian Way" which reminded me of the three years I spent in Latin class during high school. Aside from most of the Lord's Prayer in Latin, the Appian Way is one of the few things that I still remember, mostly because I imagined the Roman emperors saying "It's my way or the highway...which is also my way."

It was tight getting to the gate. We had to turn off the highway to get gas and ended up navigating a spaghetti bowl of on-ramps and off-ramps using the GPS. We dropped the car off in the rental car return area, then speed-walked to the check-in counter in Terminal 3. As is our luck, our check-in counter was about as far away from we came into the terminal from the garage as it could be. I guess there isn't a lot of demand to fly from Italy to Saudi Arabia. We made up some time as we breezed through an almost empty security area, using the time we saved to savor a glass of Italian wine in the concourse. Priorities, people.

We finished our drinks right about when our plane's status changed to "now boarding," so we headed off to gate 43 of 61. You might think that "Gate 43" would be closer to check-in than "Gate 60", but you would be wrong. The numbers branch off such that gates 31 to 44 require riding a train to the gate area.
Gate 43: Way out in left field. Source: Delta
The only vendors in that remote area were duty free goods. It seems somewhat pointless to buy duty free alcohol just before flying to a country that prohibits it from entry. Also, you can't really buy water or snacks here, but you can buy perfume and spirits. Who are they marketing to?


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