Trieste, Grado, and sliding into summer

IMG_0532

in the woods above the Strada Napoleonica

 

Summer is here, and the weather is hot again. Getting up into the woods off the beaten trail was nice, as always. A lot has been going on in the world and I’ve done a bit of traveling. I’ve been wandering a bit in Trieste, as well, and finally got up to tour some of the Castello San Giusto and the cathedral with some of the folks from the local Internations group.

The original cathedral was built in the 6th century, adjacent to what had been a temple of the Capitoline Triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.

IMG_0640

Roman ruins at the cathedral and castle of San Giusto, tower dating to 1337

The original church is long gone. Two basilicas were built there between the 9th and 11th centuries, and the base of the current church and a bit of the artwork inside date back to the 12th and 14th centuries. Mosaics and paintings from several periods remain on the walls within.

IMG_0554

17th century wrought iron gate to the treasury

IMG_0546

cathedral interior – paintings from 17th century

IMG_0580

San Giusto Servolo and Christ Pantocrator, 14th century

IMG_0586

candles in San Giusto

IMG_0588

13th century frescoes from the life of San Giusto

To help preserve the artwork, lights are only turned on in some areas for a minute or two at a time if you drop a euro in the control box. The background of the mosaics in the two apses is brilliantly reflective in bronze tones, and was made by artisans from Venice and Constantinople. There is a central mosaic over the nave as well, made in the 20th century but with what look like similar materials.

The castle overlooks the cathedral and the city of Trieste. There’s a civic museum inside but the entrance for the museum and the castle are separate. I didn’t pay to go into the museum, just the castle grounds.

IMG_0617

detail from the castle bell

IMG_0624

bell ringer detail

IMG_0643

Trieste and the carso from the castle

IMG_0678

roses and lizard on the castle grounds

IMG_0654

Trieste observatory tower from the castle

That weekend, the Amerigo Vespucci was in port. She is the oldest commissioned ship in the Italian navy, a square-rigger built in 1930 and has been used as a training vessel that circumnavigated the globe in 2002-2003. The lines to go aboard were over an hour long every day that she was in port, so I never did have a chance to go and visit her, but one of the guys I was hanging out with that day had actually sailed aboard her many years ago. Her full crew and training compliment are 480 people.

IMG_0691

Amerigo Vespucci in port in Trieste

June brought the Cantine Aperte, and several of us met in Gorizia to head out on the wine road again. We tasted and snacked our way around the area. We stopped at one of the vinyards that had a restaurant open when we were there two years ago, but the restaurant wasn’t open this past year. They did, however, recommend a really nice restaurant not that far away.

IMG_0735

Dave, Sere, and the antipasti

IMG_0783

vineyard roses on a rainy day

IMG_0792

wine barrels

The day was rainy, with lots of breaks between the weather. We ate inside the restaurant rather than going al fresco, which was a good choice, as a huge thunderstorm blew through while we were eating. The rain pounded down on the roof, and the people outside had to deal with the wind blowing the umbrellas around.

A couple of weeks later, we were off to Grado, a small beach resort town on the coast between Trieste and Venice. The place was packed with Austrians. It has a gorgeous sandy beach, and a lot of really lovely looking restaurants.

IMG_0858

the beach at Grado

We toured the Basilica of Sant’Euphemia there, with early floor mosaics similar to the ones in Aquileia. The original basilica dated from the 4th century, though parts of the current one were built in the 6th and 7th centuries.

IMG_0829

6th century floor mosaic

IMG_0818

the pulpit of the basilica

IMG_0837

a quiet piazza

IMG_0845

boreto and polenta at one of the traditional castrum restaurants in Grado

Boreto is a traditional dish made by the families of the Grado fishermen with whatever fish they had to hand. There’s some garlic, oil, salt and pepper, usually, and the fish (or sometimes shellfish) is stewed and served with polenta. Depending on the fish, the flavor could at times be quite strong – as might the scent! We ate at the Ristorante Alla Pace, in the heart of their tourist district. The food was good, and it was our last outing with Gillian, who was done teaching English for the school year and would be heading back to Liverpool to consider what she wanted to do next.

And, because the world is often a cruel place, as well as containing a lot of beauty and wonder, Trieste had a vigil in memory of the 49 people who died in Orlando a couple of weeks ago. I attended and I think there were a couple of hundred other folks there as well. The memorial was sponsored by the local Arcigay group.

 

IMG_0878

memorial for the murder victims of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, in Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo, Trieste

Not long after, I headed out to London for the London Occult Conference. I came down with a nasty cold the day before I flew out, though, and didn’t really have the energy to cope with taking photos. Mostly I was concerned with staying upright and trying as best I could to keep my germs to myself. I did get to see two friends from Seattle, though, and a couple of friends from New York as well. I also had dinner with a couple of my World of Warcraft friends, which was fun. I’ll be heading back to London in late September for the Sherlocked con, and am hoping I’ll have a little more energy for that when I do, but my mom will be here for the three weeks prior to that, so I will probably be running my butt off to keep up with her!

And, lastly, a couple of bits of art for your edification and amusement.

IMG_2556

notice for an art exhibit of goddesses in Trieste by Rossella Paolini

IMG_2555

carved stone warrior based on the Papil Stone in Scotland by Dave Migman

 

 

 

Parliament of the World’s Religions, Salt Lake City, Utah

In 1893, approximately eight thousand people came together from many religions and spiritual traditions in Chicago, hoping to create a global forum for religious dialogue among many diverse faiths. In 1993, on the centenary of that meeting, another gathering was held, billed as the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Since that time, gatherings have been held at irregular intervals in Chicago (1993), Cape Town, South Africa (1999), Barcelona, Spain (2004), Melbourne, Australia (2009), and again this year in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was invited to speak there on a panel about reconstructing Pagan religions.

The journey started with a train trip down to Mestre to get to the airport on the day before my flight. I was in a particularly reflective mood and felt very open to the land around me as I traveled, thinking about issues of relocation, of inhabitation, of touching something larger than myself. I was feeling in need of connection while in the midst of a sense of rootlessness, and finding similarities to other places.

the train, Trieste to Mestre, October

give me time
to know this fallow earth of autumn
furrowed
mist rising from the waters
egrets wading
or still and watching
the complex, fractal augury
of starlings
curling across the sky

there should be time
for this slow decay
of leaves
gone from trees
of grapes
gone from vines

melting into loam
melting into wine

melting slowly into winter rain

 

Mormon temple

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City

The long flight was difficult and I was running on three days with about five hours sleep in total, but I was met by friends I hadn’t seen in about three years, and I was happy to have that opportunity. We drove into Salt Lake City and got to the hotel, then registered at the conference. The venue is large, with lots of glass, though I was a bit disturbed to see signs acknowledging the open carry laws. I am not someone comfortable around guns. I didn’t think of it as a particularly auspicious start, but most of the conference was better than this.

IMG_0169

you know you’re in America when…

According to the Parliament materials, 50 religions were represented at the conference, and there were about 10,000 people registered to attend. Many of the sessions were Livestreamed, and you can view them here. I saw one lone protester outside the venue, with a garbled message about how there had to be One True Truth, and if it wasn’t Jesus then it wasn’t anyone. I’m not sure his signs quite said what he thought they were saying, though. As a polytheist, I found it kind of amusing – I’m perfectly comfortable with there not being One True Truth. It is, in fact, a foundation of my worldview that such a thing doesn’t actually exist.

kirkanderynn

Kirk Thomas, Ar nDraiocht Fein

IMG_0034

Diana Paxson, Hrafnar

IMG_0033

M. Macha NightMare

On the first evening, I attended the Pagan meet and greet, getting together with a few old friends and acquaintances and just catching up with my body, trying to adjust to a new time zone again. Out in the main hall of the conference center, Tibetan Buddhists were working on a sand mandala, to be constructed during the course of the long weekend, and destroyed at its end, a symbol of the world’s impermanence. I visited every day, watching the progress, and the infinite patience of the monks.

IMG_0036

IMG_0043

IMG_0076

IMG_0135

IMG_0151

Very close by, the Jains had set up a small temple for people to visit. The Sikhs provided a free lunch every day for the attendees, called Langar. Each day, they sang in a group to bless the meal before people entered the hall to sit together and have vegetarian food. In the exhibition hall, the Sikhs had a booth where they would turban anybody who came and wanted one, explaining the origins of the practice. Apparently, back in the day, long hair and beards, and the right to wear a turban, were only afforded to the very wealthy. When the Sihks embraced the turban, it was a radical act of equality and a protest against the inequity of the society of the time. It was a fascinating process to watch, and the smiles everywhere were wonderful.

IMG_0048

Jain temple

IMG_0056

blessing Langar

IMG_0159

Langar service

There was a room where shrines for many religions had been set up, and some of the Pure Land Buddhists had a chanting ceremony several times a day on the hour, where you could go to sit and participate with them.

Japanese Shin Buddhists

Japanese Shin Buddhist ceremony

In the exhibition hall, there was a stage with music, dance, and storytelling performances from many different cultures. There were spiritual art displays throughout the venue, and conversations going on in every corner.

Sunday's performances in the exhibition hall

Because of the sheer size of the Parliament, it was impossible to attend everything. In fact, I went to very few things simply because I was tired and had to pace myself. I went to a session on protecting women’s rights – the session was supposed to consist of two speakers, though only one was able to attend. I very much wish more of the Parliament could have been streamed, as there is so much I would have loved to see. At least I can watch some of what I missed, and I’m grateful for the opportunity!

IMG_0082

T. Thorn Coyle, Gus diZerega, Diana Paxson, post panel discussion

As a part of the Parliament, films were also screened, and I attended two of them, dealing with Native American issues and with veterans. The first was a documentary about the Doctrine of Discovery, which is the result of a Papal bull granting European Christians the authority to own anything they landed on, despite it already being occupied by Native peoples. This profoundly racist document is still cited by the US Supreme Court and other governments all over the globe. Its existence as a driving force of colonialism effects nations all over North and South America, Africa, Australia, and an incredible number of other places.

The other was a documentary called Healing the Warrior’s Heart, on Native sweat lodges at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, and their effect on veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As a vet with PTSD, this was right up my alley, and I talked briefly with the producer afterwards about some things that my own spiritual community does to deal with these issues.

panel

our panel on reconstructed polytheist religions

The panel I was on was not a part of the officially filmed sessions. We do, however, have a rather shaky youtube recording of most of the panel discussion in three parts. Probably best just to go with audio and not bother watching the video, as it was filmed on Rob’s iPad. The title of our session was Rebuilding the Altars: Reconstructing Indigenous Pagan Faiths for Today. I will note that I have some serious issues with the use of “indigenous” here, but that I was asked to speak on the panel before we had a title or a panel description. That said, I think some important things were shared, and we did have a good turnout for the small room we were using.

Despite the focus on women’s issues, racism, indigenous issues, and religiously based violence at this Parliament, we still had sessions on the program that were profoundly homophobic, transphobic, and problematic regarding women’s rights. One session on the “gender war” brought about by “gender feminists” was quite insistent that it was okay for women to vote but we shouldn’t want, you know, bodily autonomy, and that people loving people of the same gender was destroying families. We are making progress, but there is still so very much work to be done. It can be hard to remain optimistic in the face of things like this, but it is necessary to continue. Change does not come unless we insist on it. Nobody ever won their rights by sitting there accepting the status quo.

IMG_0103

Goddesses from around the world

IMG_0113

and sacred images of the feminine

IMG_0120

from an installation at the conference

After the Parliament, I was in town for one more day, as I didn’t want to fly home on the last day of the conference itself. The day of my flight, my friend Lorrie and I went out to the Great Salt Lake to have a look. Having been raised and living most of my life by various oceans, I recognized the scent of salt water, but this was very very different than any of those larger bodies of water. The scent of it was very “chemical” to my nose, and just smelled off to me for reasons I could not quite put my finger on. The lake is far saltier than any ocean, but less so than the Dead Sea. The only life in the water is brine shrimp, but that does support a large population of water birds, and it is a major stop on the migratory flyways of many bird populations. The mountains are beautiful and the light on them was really glorious. There was some rain, and occasional bits of rainbow made themselves known.

IMG_0172

at the Great Salt Lake

IMG_0175

IMG_0185

this may look like tidelands, but it is not

After such an intensive trip, emotionally and spiritually, it was really good to get back home to Trieste. I’m looking forward to next month’s Irish music seisiún at Taverna ai Mastri d’Arme. I’ve been to two so far; I’ve heard that Trieste has one of only three traditional concertinas player in Italy at the seisùn, and he goes to Ireland annually to study with players there. My friend Anna keeps insisting that I sing, but I don’t know enough lyrics to participate. I did, however, promise to memorize a couple of Gaelic songs again and sing next month. Did I mention I was in a Scots Gaelic language choir in Seattle for several years? About a dozen years ago now, anyway. It’s been a long time, but perhaps I ought to get back on that horse.

IMG_0030

Ergo bibamus, ne sitiamus, vas repleamus!

When last we left our intrepid poet and her sibling, they were in Venice awaiting the arrival of a long-lost cousin.

We hadn’t seen Lisa since she was maybe nine. There had been a rough divorce, I left home shortly afterwards anyway, and she’d spent years not really wanting to be in contact with the rest of us, from what I understand. Funny how 30-ish years changes people.

Lisa and her husband arrived on the train after having been on the road for some days already, doing a tour of Italy. They’d been in Rome and Florence, I think, among other places, and having a grand time. She’s been living in Hawaii for years and works in the medical field these days. We helped them find their hotel, waited while they dropped things off and got themselves together, then went off to find some food. We were so busy catching up with each other that nobody thought to take any photos.

We introduced them to spritz Aperol, which they found instantly addicting, and they spent the rest of their time in Italy having them every day. It was a delight to become acquainted with her once again after so many years, and we’ll stay in touch. She’d love to come back and visit again – maybe next time she’ll come to Trieste!

A few days later, I flew from Ronchi airport, here near Trieste, to Stanstead in order to go to the I:MAGE conference at the Warburg Institute in London, where I wanted to hear my friends Amy and Pam do presentations. The day-long conference was part of almost two weeks of other activities surrounding esoteric art and the occult, including a showing of contemporary occult art at the Cob Gallery in the Camden area of London.

IMG_8798

river boats at the Camden Market above the locks

The city is half an hour or so away from the airport, and I took the bus in. My hostel was in Camden Town, in walking distance of the conference, but also of the British Museum, Camden Locks, and the Camden Market. The place was cheap and clean, but it was also above a bar (where hostel clients got free breakfast and a discount on selected food and drink). The crowd was, primarily, quite young, but that tends to be the sort who stay in hostels. That, and rather more adventurous adults who want to travel cheap and don’t mind sharing rooms with strangers.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed skyscrapers until I got to London. Trieste is beautiful but very modest in terms of tall buildings. There are some apartment blocks up near the Cattinara hospital that are quite tall, but most of the city is pre-20th century, so the buildings are rarely more than five or six floors. I don’t mind that at all, but it was nice to be in a proper city again.

London is immense. There was no way for me to see more than just a tiny part of it in the weekend I was there. That said, I was thrilled to walk streets and see things that I had been reading about or seeing on TV or in the movies my entire life. I walked along Montague Street near the museum, where Sherlock Holmes had his rooms before Baker Street. I walked by a building where Charles Dickens once lived. I had cheap street food at Camden Market, surrounded by a swirling mass of humanity from all over the world.

at the British Museum

at the British Museum

The conference itself was really good. I had a lot of fun and met some fantastic people. One lady, Susan Alberth, wrote a book called Leonora Carrington: Surrealism, Alchemy and Art, which I picked up a copy of at the reception that night at Treadwell’s, a London fixture in the occult scene. I’ve been interested in the Surrealists for a long time, and a lot of my poetry is influenced by that artistic movement, so it was a delight to hear a presentation on Carrington, and to meet Susan. She’s very interested in Trieste, as well, so she may come visit at some point.

The next day, I spent time at the British Museum, at the Witches and Wicked Bodies exhibit, as well as seeing some of the other things I’d always admired from afar. I saw the material from the Sutton Hoo burial, wandered through the exhibit of materials from Sumeria, stood for a time with Hadrian and Antinous, and was dazzled by even the tiny fragment of the museum that I was able to experience.

IMG_8828

Andrea Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods

IMG_8835

detail, Agostino Veneziano’s Lo Stregosso

IMG_8848

detail, Martin Schongauer’s Tribulations of Saint Anthony

IMG_9013

detail, an Italian Isis from about 120-150 CE

IMG_9100

one of the Lewis Chessmen, carved from walrus ivory

IMG_9170

guardsman from the Palace of Darius, Persepolis, Iran

IMG_9178

Zoroastrian senmurw on a gilded silver plate

After that, I made the long hike up to the Cob Gallery for the I:MAGE exhibit. In addition to the collection for the conference, they had a one-day-only showing of an image by Aleister Crowley that has been in a private collection for decades. Considering that many of those in attendance were Thelemites, the rare showing was a bit of excitement for them. Personally, I’m more interested in the work of Austin Osman Spare, if we’re going in that direction. For one thing, I think he was a much better artist.

After the reception, Amy and I wandered off and had some dinner at a pub nearby, called The Spread Eagle. A number of (in)appropriate jokes were made about the name, but the food was good, and the company was excellent. The next day I grabbed a bus back to the airport and headed home to Trieste.

London was amazing and I’ll definitely be going back.

The next weekend, my brother and I went off to Osoppo to the Halloween Fest to see Corvus Corax. He doesn’t have his car so we rode for over an hour on his motorcycle to get there, in the falling dark. We met some of our Italian friends there. I didn’t have enough money for both of us to go to the concert, but my brother said that didn’t bother him. He could hear the music perfectly well from the campsite our friends were staying at, and there was a nice campfire, so he’d be okay.

The concert was supposed to start at 7:30, I think, but didn’t really get started until much later. The first group up was La Corte di Lunas, an Italian group from Udine who were quite good. I’d certainly pay to see them again, though they weren’t the reason I’d gone.

lead singer, La Corte di Luna

lead singer, La Corte di Lunas

Once they left the stage, a couple of guys from Fabula, a German band, played near the booths while the stage was changed up for Corvus Corax, who have a massive set of instruments. (I mean this in the best way. I have severe percussion envy.) They’re influenced by Corvus Corax and Dead Can Dance, among others, and put on quite a nice show for about fifteen minutes. Later in the evening, they joined CC on stage for one tune, and were obviously having a fantastic time. If I’d had any cash, I’d have got a cd from them, but it was near the end of the month and I was broke.

the guys from Fabula

the guys from Fabula

The crowd for the festival was small, but we were definitely enthusiastic! Corvus Corax is the Linnaean name for the Common Raven, and the band is based out of Berlin. They play medieval Latin drinking songs from the Carmina Burana, among other things, and they rocked the house. They put on a hell of a show, and their part of the concert ended after midnight. There was a third act coming up, but we had over 90 minutes on the road on a motorcycle ahead of us, so my brother and I headed home after that. I was just thrilled to be able to see the band live, as I’d wanted to for years. It was the perfect cap to a very eventful month.

IMG_9266

possibly the most badass hurdygurdy in existence

IMG_9278

redefining the pipe and drum band

IMG_9301

in which the poet suffers serious percussion envy

IMG_9335

when these guys walked in, it was like some esoteric priesthood of the pipes

IMG_9351

cymbals can be badass too

IMG_9358

check out those wrist mics – no, I mean really, what a great idea

IMG_9364

this guy always looked like he was having so much fun with the drums

IMG_9377

horns – not just for drinking anymore

IMG_9452

so badass it requires two players

IMG_9463

I’d want these guys behind me on a medieval battlefield, yes I would

IMG_9493

giving horny a new definition

 

Making a Month of It: Part 1

How do I even get started with October? I’m going to have to give you two posts about it, I think, as this is going to get unwieldy otherwise.

The entire month was pretty much full of visits and travel and planning for visits and travel and recovering from visits and travel, though not in that order. Some paperwork issues have been resolved, Italian classes are finally (sort of) scheduled, and art and music has been viewed and appreciated.

Starting with the bureaucratic necessities, my new Permesso di Soggiorno was approved for two years, and I should be receiving a text from the Questura sometime in the next few weeks to come down and pick it up. A letter arrived for me, dated a couple of weeks prior to the approval, telling me to come down to the office with more papers – that had already been done. Ah, the efficiency of the Italian post. I elected not to freak out on it when I saw the date. What this means is, I will go through the process one more time for another two years when this one is up, then I can apply for my permanent residence, which you can do after you’ve been in Italy for five years.

I took the Italian language placement test and, as expected, fell into the A-1 level. The teacher, Fran, was quite convinced I should be in A-2 and seemed to desperately want to put me there, despite my not having the irregular verbs down too well, and having some trouble understanding some of the conversational stuff. Class lists finally were posted this week, after almost a month of waiting. I’m on a waiting list for an A-1 class, but Fran called and said I could come and sit in as I liked on her A-2 classes until my A-1 class came open, so two nights a week I’ll be going down to the school on Ugo Foscolo to sit in on a class rather more advanced than where I genuinely ought to be, starting this Thursday, because Monday is the local saint’s festa and school is closed. Looks like she got me into A-2 despite myself. Sneaky, that. I’m perhaps understandably nervous about the whole thing and I know I’m going to be desperately behind everyone else but, if I pay attention and work at it, by the time the official A-1 class comes along, I should be able to blow it out of the water.

Thus endeth the bureaucratic report.

There were six big events this past month: a birthday party, the Barcolana, two visits, a trip to London, and the Corvus Corax concert at the Halloween festa. Well, and the flood. Post the first will cover things up to the end of the first visit. Lots of photos ahead. Post the second will have our second visitor, London and the I:MAGE conference, and Corvus Corax. Further photos, I promise.

One of our Italian friends, Denise, was having a significant milestone birthday and threw a huge party with about 150 people in attendance. It was circus themed, with a band and some slackline walkers, and a clown. This wasn’t the scary weird dress up clown like people get for a kid’s party, but a guy who was doing something a little less over the top. I got volunteered as a decorative coat rack for one of his bits. And a shoe rack for another. Probably because of the green hair, I’m guessing (mine, not his). People were encouraged to dress up, but I had green hair anyway, as I’d re-dyed only a week or two prior now that I didn’t have to worry so much about the bureaucratic tangle.

IMG_2151

lazing about on the slackline

IMG_2168

maybe not quite so slack after all

IMG_2176

circus cake!

The Barcolana, Trieste’s immense sailing regatta, came and took over the waterfront for more than a week. There’s a gallery of photos from this year here. I am continually impressed by Italian street fair food. In the US at fairs, you get deep fried everything and beer. Sometimes you get deep fried beer. I shudder to imagine it. Here in Trieste, you get an amazing variety of seafood (some of which is fried, some not) and prosecco. I’ll take the prosecco, thanks. I had very yummy mussels, and on another day there was a lovely rack of ribs, though they don’t do it here with a bbq sauce like they do in most parts of the US. The ribs were mildly seasoned and dry so, while they were a bit messy, it was nothing like the appearance of having bathed your hands in slightly congealed blood as sometimes happens with a spicy sauce.

IMG_8538

on the water at Barcolana

We spent time wandering the waterfront, checking out the boats, some of which were really beautiful. There were fancy restaurants set up in a couple of places along the water, and a Land Rover dealership had a test track set up on one of the piers. The Barcolana is a high-end crowd, as you might imagine. I saw flags and registries from all over the world on the sailboats. The race itself began fairly early on race day, and was so far out on the bay that there wasn’t much to see from the waterfront. I had been too sleepless to get up, but my brother went down to the water and said he could barely see anything but a line of sails in the distance. If I was reading things correctly, the local paper headlines said that over 1500 boats had registered this year, a record for the event.

IMG_8535

the fair on the waterfront

IMG_8555

drive-by lobstering

IMG_8564

fireworks outside my window

The day before our first visitor arrived, we had a huge storm blow through. Thunderstorms last a lot longer here than I was ever used to in Seattle, but this one went on quite literally all night, and the thunder didn’t just stay off in the distance. Rain came bucketing down for hours in an immense deluge. When I got up the next day, the underpass on my street for the train station was flooded almost to street level. I’m guessing that’s a good 12 or 15 feet of water, at least. I saw a few news photos of some of the streets of the city flooded with rushing water like rivers, as well, though I didn’t see it here in Piazza della Libertà. The water here had somewhere to go, obviously. The underpass was closed for over a week. One unfortunate woman died in a landslide in Muggia, just around the bay, due to the flooding. Other areas of Italy were much harder hit. The water was still very high in the underpass when my first visitor of the month arrived.

IMG_8596

a very happy Oggie sailing into Venice

My dear friend James aka Oggie arrived from El Paso and my brother and I met him at the airport. We grabbed one of the water buses (a larger private company contracted with the airport, not the vaporetto) into Venice, so he got to see it by water even before he’d dropped his suitcases. The day, and the view, were gorgeous. He was thrilled. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone squee that hard about something in a very long time.

IMG_8630

behind the green gate, here’s the alley into our B&B

After dropping us at the B&B and settling us in for lunch and a little walking about, my brother headed back to Trieste and I stayed for a few days in Venice. Oggie got a room for us, which was supposed to have two beds but did not, due to a misunderstanding. Thankfully, we’re good friends and he doesn’t snore, so we made the best of it and shared the room amicably. The B&B was just off a canal, behind a gate and down an alley, in a really glorious spot like something out of a novel. I hauled Oggie off to a couple of restaurants I’d eaten at before, and we explored a few new ones as well.

IMG_8574

door knockers of Venice, you amaze me

IMG_8579

floating veggie stand

IMG_8614

art along the Grand Canal

IMG_8656

if you’re going to denounce your neighbors to the secret police, do it in style

The next day we’d intended to see the San Marco basilica and got tickets for a guided tour. I asked repeatedly if it included San Marco. Yes, they said.

It included the neighborhood, not the basilica. It was a lovely tour and the tour guide was quite charming, but it was not what we thought we were getting. In other words, I think I’m doomed to never actually set foot in the building. Perhaps I’m too devilish to let in. As we wandered along the tour route, we saw that there was going to be a performance of Vivaldi in period costume, so we got tickets for that. Oggie had desperately wanted to see something at La Fenice, but it was not to be. The prices left him gasping, as I rather expected. But we did, the next day, take a tour of the opera house anyway, which was much less expensive. He was thrilled to just be there in the building. The bar there is actually pretty reasonably priced, so we had a spritz after the tour.

IMG_8715

the royal/imperial/whoever’s in power this week box at La Fenice opera house

IMG_8739

detail from the box, with the crest of the Savoia family – endless mirrors

IMG_8764

spritz Aperol at the Fenice, as you do

Oggie is a garrulous, charming southern gentleman. He speaks four languages, including Spanish and French, so his Italian, for all he claims he can’t speak it at all, was far better than mine. He was speaking Russian with one of the women working at the B&B one morning. I had a few moments of desperate embarrassment when people found out I live here and that my Italian was, sadly, far less adequate than his. I’m doing my best but I just don’t have that kind of language talent. I did end up using the little I have rather more than I usually do here in Trieste, where my brother tends to translate somewhat more than I actually need, so I get lazy. This isn’t useful for me, but the upcoming class should help a lot.

IMG_8674

I’m always fascinated by the Venitian street lamps

IMG_8677

the eyes of an older Venetian sailing vessel

IMG_8702

Popethulu Ia! Ia!

IMG_8791

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in period costume

After our three nights in Venice, we hopped on the train and came back to Trieste. I’d wanted to take Oggie up on the tram to the Strada Napoleonica, but it never quite managed to happen. I was too exhausted by the constant walking and playing tourist in Venice, so we did a little walking around the city here, and I took him to see the Roman arch and the theatre, as well as the waterfront, and we had tea at Ginger, where he charmed the ladies who work there.

For his final day with us, we rented a car and went out to Aquileia. He has an interest in early church history and was very interested in seeing the basilica there, as there was once a Patriarchate based in the city, that is now defunct. He was absolutely thrilled with the mosaics, the archaeological dig, and the crypt below the church, and spent quite a while talking with the lady in the gift shop about details.

IMG_2230

basilica and tower at Aquileia

IMG_2285

do fools rush in where angels fear to fish?

IMG_2343

mosaic detail on the basilica floor

We had hoped we might have a little time to go up to the Strada, but it was late by the time we got back, and we wanted to go to one of the osmize, the local farm restaurants, that were having a festival for a few weeks. Many of these restaurants are open only a few days a year. They’re required to serve only things they produce themselves, so it’s wine and meat and bread and eggs and perhaps a little veg, for the most part. The three of us ate a really fabulous meal at the osmiza Sardo David in Zgonik (Sgonico) for less than the cost of food for one in Venice. They are an old Austrian/Slovenian tradition from when the area was under Austrian rule. Because they are open so rarely, there are websites that will tell you which ones are open that day.

We drove up in the dark, as it’s become autumn in earnest now. Osmize are identifiable by the green branches hanging outside. Traditionally it’s pine or another evergreen, but this one had a bough of ivy outside, and I’ve seen others with branches of deciduous trees as well. Most of them ask that you call first, to make sure they’re not fully booked. Depending on the day, they may not be very busy, but it’s wise to be sure, at least to let them know you’re coming. I think a lot of them are very local and don’t see a lot of tourist trade. Everyone else in Sardo David that night was local.

IMG_2447

amazing food at osmiza Sardo David

The next day we were to meet our cousin Lisa, who was vacationing in Italy from her home in Hawaii. Oggie was going to head out to Padua, then to Milano to see another friend, so we all got the train down to Venice together, and he hung out with us until we were scheduled to met Lisa and her husband at the train station. We bid him farewell at the post office, where he had to mail things back to the US, and went off to meet some family.

IMG_2426

Trieste’s Science+Fiction film festival is this weekend but I’m too exhausted to leave the house