POST 8 OBSERVATIONS from the SADDLE of a BIKE
TRIESTE to CERVIGNANO by BICYCLE and by TRAIN to VERONA.
The three hour bus ride from Pula to Trieste was without event, the action started once we arrived. The bus terminal was a grubby place so we didn’t dwell there and we were soon out and taking a nostalgic spin around the Piazza Unita d’Italia. Bev and I have been to Trieste a number of times and the reason one is pulled to Trieste is it is simply a major terminus for northern Italy.
After indulging in a little nostalgia we attempted to find the start of a bike path that runs from Trieste to the Alpe Adria Radweg cycleway. This bike route runs from Salzburg in Austria to Grado in Italy and we hoped to intercept it somewhere during the next day.
In most cities of the world it is difficult to find the start of bike routes and now after searching for a number of cycle paths I have come up with a simple solution: if the authorities painted a thin dotted blue line through the city from where the bike route enters to where it leaves the city all the rider would have to do is follow it. This is never done and I think it’s because most council authorities who are responsible for marking cycleways feel their duty is done once they get the rider into the city.
In desperation we commenced riding northwest along the waterfront hoping we would come across the bike path by chance. We threw caution to the wind as all we wanted to do was escape the madness of Trieste and ride, ride to where we didn’t know.
Early in our escape I realised we had no food in the pannier but fortunately we came across a corner store where we bought zucchini, carrot, onion and potato, the basis of a bathroom cook-up. And, to my pleasure, soft succulent persimmons. Persimmons are my favourite fruit and seeing them sitting waiting to be bought was a temptation. Carrying soft persimmons in a pannier is no easy chore but I managed.
The persimmon is one of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyro. The most widely cultivated of these trees is the Oriental or Japanese persimmon, Diospyros kaki. Ever since our travels commenced in the Mediterranean region in the 1970s I believed that persimmons were a native of the Mediterranean, but following research my beliefs are now disproven.
Diospyros kaki is a native to South-east Asia, including Japan, and it was introduced to southern Europe in the 1800s. The Italians call the persimmon ‘kakai’ after the Japanese. Persimmons are, in Australian terms, ‘good tucker’ as they are high in fibre, vitamin c, manganese, iron and contain A beta-carotene.
From the corner store we continued northwest along a bike path that led us to Miramare Castle. Getting into the castle reserve was easy enough; the difficulty came when trying to get out. Because we were following a dedicated bicycle route we assumed it must go through the castle grounds. As we couldn’t find the bike path and not wishing to backtrack we ended up on a main road, which headed for Venice. It was a very busy road but we realized we must be on the right route when cyclists passed us travelling both ways. All we could do was press on to somewhere where we could stay the night.
After the hard slog from Trieste, covering around 20 kilometres, which felt like 40km, most of it in traffic, we reached Sistiana, a small town on the Adriatic coast. Then began the search for accommodation at a reasonable price. Finally after enquiring at a couple of hotels, which were above my budget, we found Hotel Dolina on the outskirts of the town. The hotel was managed by two delightful and helpful young blokes who went out of their way to accommodate us.
A clifftop walk between Sistiana and Duino follows the rugged coast with spectacular views and the relics from World War 1 and 2 outposts.
During WW2 the Duino Cliffs facing the Gulf of Trieste coastline were lined with fortifications and signalling stations to monitor the movement of ships. During WW2 Sistiana Bay became the base for pocket submarines of the German Navy and the fortifications were modified and used as anti-aircraft emplacements.
The instrument on the tripod is a range finder. Range finders were used to measure distance by triangulation to a target.
The New Castle of Duino was built in the 14th century, virtually on top of the ruins of the Old Duino Castle. During WW1 the castle was used by the occupying German military. Since the end of the 19th century it has been in private hands.
The Adria Cycleway officially began from Monfalcone, a town further west from Sistiana. After another hectic ride with traffic along a main road we were extremely pleased to find the peace and quiet of a wonderful paved bicycle path. There followed an interesting 47 kilometres. The scenery was hampered by a low sea fog, which remained for the whole day.
In summer the concrete tables of the Marina Julia would have umbrellas and people sunbaking and drinking. Not what I would call an active or desirable beach activity.
Twenty first century Grado leaves a lot to be desired, however that is not the opinion of all who visit. Again it would be overcrowded in summer and there is little space. Beaches are private and unless you belong to one of the many clubs there is no access to the beaches.
Grado is actually on an island and it was necessary to ride across a four kilometre causeway north to the mainland. Unfortunately there was a strong wind blowing in our face, but we had the assistance of our Add-e motors, which took the edge off the wind.
At the far end of the causeway we met with Swiss fellow cyclists Sandy and Adeline. They are on a two-year journey and have ridden from Switzerland with the intention to ride to Greece, leave their bikes and then travel to Asia. We do hope they visit us in Australia. If we had been twenty years younger it would have been exciting to tag along with them.
At the advice of the Swiss girls Bev and I made a diversion to the Aquileia Basilica, a prominent landmark with a long ancient history. In its heyday (2ndcentury AD) Aquileia had a population of around 100 000 people. It was founded by the Romans in 180-181 BC.
The buildings associated with the basilica are classified as ruins these days. The 4th century mosaic floor depicting scenes from the Old Testament was not discovered until the early 1900s when flooring that had been laid in later centuries was removed.
Near the base of the Aquileia Basilica tower in the Piazza Capitola there is a sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf and it was worthy of a longer study, as it is an important part of Roman history.
The Capitoline Wolf, a bronze sculpture of a mythical she-wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus of Rome, is to Italy like the dragon of Ljubljana is to Slovenia (subject of the introduction to post 7). According to legend King Numitor, grandfather of the twins, was overthrown by his brother and the usurper ordered the twins be cast into the Tiber River. However they were rescued by a she-wolf who suckled them until a herdsman rescued them and cared for them. This sculpture is one of twenty-seven depicting this subject scattered throughout the world. Italian Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator (1922-1943), was responsible for sending a number of replicas of the Capitoline Wolf to international personages to remind them he was creating a New Roman empire.
Continuing our ride north we arrived in Cervignano where we could catch a train to Verona. Buying a ticket for the train was almost a non-event as the saleswoman panicked and said ‘No English’ and waved Bev away when she was asked about tickets. What to do? How to buy a ticket? Fortunately for us, a young Italian woman approached us and suggested she help. Our good Samaritan then negotiated with the ticket seller even though the ticket seller had put a closed sign up when waving Bev away. If we hadn’t had help we may well have had to overnight in Cervignano hoping there would be an English speaking attendant on duty the next day.
As it happened, we arrived in Verona late and after a frustrating search for a bed we finally found the YHA. We found the YHA statement, ‘We will find you a bed no matter what’, rather comforting. To this point we had not used our Add-e motors at their maximum wattage but to get to the entrance gates of the hostel we did, as it was located on a high hill overlooking the city.
That’s the end of this post, the next will deal with Verona. We trust you enjoyed the ride from Trieste and hope you stay with us. If you want to be alerted each time we do a new post click on FOLLOW and make a comment if you wish.