THURSDAY 8TH NOVEMBER 2012.
Up early this morning as we had to be on the 6-00am bus for Trieste Italy. Fortunately the bus station was just across the road from the hostel. We said our goodbyes to the Rudi and Sandra at the hostel last night because, as I said before, they do not appear until 9-00am each morning.
The bus ride was without event other than having two passport checks, one going out of Croatia and another going into Slovenia. There were no checks leaving Slovenia or going into Italy. Curiously most of the passengers on the bus were women. They looked like a group of CWA (Country Women’s Association) or Red Cross ladies going on an outing but they mustn’t have been because they were not talking much and didn’t seem to know each other.
It was very cold this morning with a heavy frost and it was the coldest morning we have had for five years as we spend winters in the tropics at home. A temperature gauge at the border crossing said minus one degree.
Once off the bus in Trieste we went to the railway station to find out about our ongoing journey next Saturday. We went into a café thinking we would have breakfast but abandoned the idea as I thought $9-50 for a measly bread roll was daylight robbery. Bev went to the supernercado and bought bread and we sat in the railway station waiting room and had cheese and apple sandwiches.
Last night we had communication with our friend Margit in Munich Germany and although we can’t stay with her because she only has a small apartment she has arranged for us to stay in a friend’s flat nearby. Bev and I have been to Munich many times and if readers have been following this odyssey closely they will know it was from Munich that we set out from in 1972 on our grand tour. Going back to Munich is like bringing our trip to a close.
We have seen Margit on a number of occasions since she worked in our pottery workshop twenty-five years ago.
So Saturday we take the 9-30 am train to Verona Italy then on to Munich to arrive 6-25 pm. As we get closer to Europe accommodation and train fares are getting more expensive. Gone are the cheap digs, buses and taxis of Turkey, Greece and Croatia.
After our cheese and apple breakfast and before leaving the station we had to visit the loo. The plan is Bev goes and I stay with the bags then we swap around. Whilst I was waiting a prostitute approached me, winked and motioned with her head that I should follow her into the loo. I explained that I wasn’t standing there looking for a pickup, I was waiting for my wife! I don’t know if she fully understood but she sauntered off and approached another man nearby. Such is life for some. In Italy at the moment the unemployment rate is hovering around 11.2 % so when jobs are in short supply some people like the lass today have to make a living as best they can.
Today was one of the rare occasions on our odyssey when we pre-booked our accommodation. Bev did the booking as I think she didn’t want to go to the effort of looking for accommodation like we did on the first night in Rijeka. The hotel was about ten minutes walking distance from the railway station so we headed off, dropped our bags and went walking along the waterfront.
The last time I was in Trieste was at the end of the 1970 Perth to London drive. At the time it was a relief to get to Italy as we felt safe eating the food. Our first luxury was a gelato. Up until then we hadn’t had an icecream since leaving Perth months before.
In 1970 Ian and I walked along the foreshore as Bev and I did today and one noticeable change is the number of boats and yachts in the marina. I’m sure that in the 1970s there were nowhere near as many. Today there are thousands.
When I saw this man I wondered if he owned one of the million dollar yachts, did he live aboard, was he cruising the world, was he a billionaire or was he just a poor local enjoying the morning sun. You never know, do you?
Bruce, or claw, anchors were designed for oilrigs in the North Sea. Smaller versions have found happy customers on yachts and boats everywhere. The only problem with this type of anchor is they are hard to store below deck, they are best sticking out the front of the bow like this one. The reason I know about anchors is that we have a small catamaran and one of the most enjoyable things for me when boating is getting the anchor set right. It really is a science, if you get it wrong you might have to be up in the early hours resetting it. Not a very pleasant activity if it’s cold and raining.
Affluence abounds all around Trieste, especially in the area around the Piazza Unita d’Italia (main square). The following photographs show what I mean.
The question here is how did the masons make perfectly circular tapering columns like this? Did they place a blank in a gigantic lathe. Are they whittled from huge chunks using chisel and maul. Or are they a cast composite material made to look like marble? Regardless of how they were made, it would have been a mighty expensive operation.
I assume the theme here indicates the range of insurance the company provides. There is an artist clutching a handful of brushes (left), the base jumper about to take the plunge and the Rotary International symbol (far right).
On buildings around Trieste there is incredible detail such as these two incredibly intricate mosaics in the following photographs. You need to click on these two images and enlarge them to full screen to see just how intricate they are.
The history of mosaic goes back some 4,000 years or more with the use of terracotta cones pushed point-first into a background to give decoration. By the eighth century BC, there were pebble pavements, using different coloured stones to create patterns, although these tended to be unstructured decoration. It was the Greeks, in the 4th century BC, who raised the pebble technique to an art form with precise geometric patterns and detailed scenes of people and animals.
The Lloyd Triestino shipping company was originally called Austrian Lloyd. It was set up in 1837 and is said to be the oldest shipping company in the world. Its name was changed to Lloyd Triestino in 1919 when the Trieste region became part of Italy. Until recently the company’s headquarters were housed in the grand building you see here.
Trieste oozes dollars, not just billions but trillions. I find it difficult to comprehend how wealth such as displayed in the above photograph is accumulated. As I stood looking at this scene I asked myself who owns all these yachts, how often do they go to sea, who owns the cruise liner and where does the profit from cruise passenger fares go. I also wondered why the EU is propping up the Italian economy when there is such wealth in the country. There are things going on I simply do not understand.
Meanwhile ordinary Triestians go about their business.
Squid fishing is done at night. The light from the bank of lights topside attracts the squid to the surface and they are then hauled aboard.
In 1973 Bev and I used to drive one of these little beasts in England. To be strictly correct, Bev used to drive. I couldn’t because the brake and clutch were set so close to each other that my foot hit the clutch and brake at the same time. One of my fondest memories of the Baby Fiat was when we took the late Smoky Dawson (noted country music singer in Australia) out to inspect a thatch roof building in Berkshire. As we drove the narrow English country lanes he sang his latest composition ‘Working on a Five Year Plan’, a song relating to the fact that when you get older you can only make plans five years ahead.
Our hotel lodging tonight is on the first floor of one of the many neo-classical buildings in Trieste. Looking out the window on my left is a nude marble maiden and to the right a yawning gargoyle stormwater spout waiting for it to rain and, straight ahead, a sculpture depicting an era long past. It’s good to be surrounded by all this classicism.
Tomorrow we are going to Venice for the day. While we do that you can read the following extract from my 1970 overland diary, which relates to when I was in Trieste last.
The circumstances leading up to the 1970 trip were as follows: We (my friend Ian and myself) travelled with an Englishman who had driven a Landrover from London to Colombo in Ceylon. Ian and I joined him, as he wanted a couple of adventurous blokes to share expenses back to London. We drove through, Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia, across northern Italy to London. Our travelling companion was a bit of a wheeler and dealer and he was always looking for business opportunities along the way. I think he was going to set up an import business in England at the end of our overland trip.
The reference to monkeys in the following extract relates to two Slender Loris that he bought in Bangalore in southern India.
14TH OCTOBER 1970
YUGOSLAVIA – ITALY
ITALIAN CUSTOMS ON THE BORDER
Because we had come through so many Middle and Far East countries the Italian officials must have thought we had plenty of opportunities to pick up contraband along the way so a very serious search of the Landrover commenced.
First the seats were removed which exposed the two tool box compartments. The only contraband in the tool box was Bill’s stash of gems (ours are hidden in the coffee jar). The officials found them and scrutinised them very closely; a senior man was called in to make comment. The verdict was they were not illegal imports but Bill was warned that they should not be sold in Italy otherwise import duties would apply. I don’t know how they would know if they were sold as ownership was not entered into his passport. Next, the two monkeys (we know they were not monkeys but to save a lengthy explanation we call them monkeys) were discovered. Fortunately for Bill the officials were fascinated by them, I doubt if they had seen anything like them before. After more internal searches of the Rover mirrors on sticks came out. Things were getting serious when the officials began walking around the vehicle poking their mirrors under the Rover. Back in Afghanistan we knew something illegal was going on as Bill spent some time under the Rover and we believed it had nothing to do with routine maintenance.
Fortunately nothing untoward was found so our passports and car documents were stamped and we found ourselves in Italy.
About 5 kilometers up the road Bill pulled over and had a smoke, being in a state of anxiety after an obvious harrowing close shave with the Italian border officials. Ian and I went grasshopper hunting and caught two days’ supply for our little monkey friends, Tiger and Mildred. An interesting point about grasshoppers at these high altitudes is that they have no wings. All their travel is done by hopping. Now it’s getting colder we are giving Tiger and Mildred a hot water bottle each night and when it’s extra cold we give them a small shot of Vermouth in their milk before tucking them in.
After feeding Tiger and Mildred we fed ourselves with salami, tomatoes, bread and a bottle of Yugoslavian Union beer. While Bill packed up the food Ian and I walked 4 kilometres to Trieste. Walking gave us time to discuss the implications of being caught with Bill if his contraband was discovered. The episode when crossing the Italian border earlier today scared us a bit. We will definitely not be sticking too close to him when we pass through customs on entry into the UK.
Trieste is an Adriatic sea port, it is a very Italian. Describing Trieste as very Italian I mean it is very flashy, this area must be the playground of the Italian super rich as there were some very expensive yachts along the foreshore and most of the cars were showy continental models. Ian likes continental cars and he thought he knew them all but today he saw models he had never seen before. While we were waiting for Bill we sat and ate gelato ice-cream, which we bought from a really friendly gelato shop owner; he prattled on about his brother who lives in Australia and he couldn’t believe we didn’t know his brother. The gelato ice-cream was our first since leaving Perth.
Bill picked us up and we headed for Milan, we joined the Trieste-Milan motorway just on dark and around eight we left the motorway and took to a lay-by for a camp. The roads today have been good. I think the rough and tumble of the overland drive is just about over as we are heading into Switzerland tomorrow where we have been told everything is perfect.
Following is my 1970 diary entry relating to the buying of the monkeys.
BANGALORE SOUTHERN INDIA.
SUNDAY 13TH SEPTEMBER 1970.
Ian and I ventured out early but we didn’t get far before we were bailed up.
Just outside the main entrance to the hotel there was an old bloke, who, for a fee would set a mongoose and a cobra into a death battle. He said the mongoose usually won and if it did he would skin the snake on the spot, take it to a tannery and have it made into a belt by the end of the day. We declined the offer for a couple of reasons, because one, we didn’t want to see the animals set onto each other, and second, we didn’t like the idea of a snake skin belt.
Bill, on the other hand, did a deal with the old boy, not for a snakeskin belt but for two monkey-like creatures. After much haggling and negotiation he acquired them for a few dollars, saying ‘There are a number of private zoos in England who would pay top money for them’. The old bloke from whom Bill bought them told us they are easy to feed because they eat insects and birds. Ian came up with names for them, calling the smaller one Mildred and the larger male, Tiger.
The Indian name for the monkey-like creatures is Maymoon or Jepshardy, the English name is Slender Loris. They are a nocturnal primate found only in the rainforests of southern India and northern Sri Lanka. Insects are their mainstay although they will eat grass, flowers and shoots and occasionally bird eggs and nestlings. Slender Loris engage in urine washing, they urinate into their hands and rub the urine over their feet and face. It is thought the urine soothes the toxins excreted by insects as they are being consumed.
The old trickster from whom Bill acquired Tiger and Mildred decided he could extract a few more rupees from us by playing magician. For a few rupees he ate razor blades, nails and screws, not actually swallowing them, but rolling them around in his mouth and ejecting them without any apparent harmful effects.