This is the Boat of Millions of Years

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painted linen from Gebelein excavation, pre-dynastic period, ca 3500 BCE

Lost Text

From the Book of Coming Forth By Day; the journey of the Boat of Millions of Years

praise and honor to the gods of this place
praise and honor to their eyes which are the sun and the moon
praise and honor to their tongues which speak creation
praise and honor to them who sail the boat of eternity

this is the boat of millions of years:
the night sky
my body

i am filled with stars and every part of me is filled with stars
the night sky
my body

my belly, my breasts
are filled with stars
my hands, my thighs
are filled with stars
my tongue, my lips
are filled with stars
the boat of millions of years is filled with stars

the sun rides in the boat of millions of years
nut is the sea upon which it sails
night is the sea upon which it sails
it is ra at the rudder
it is horus at the oar

praise and honor to the gods of this place
praise and honor to the openers of the ways
open thou the gates of the horizon
shine forth from the eastern pillar of heaven
sail forth upon the sea of day
sail forth in the reed boat of the sun
sail into the sea of night
day and night are the face of eternity
day and night are the eyes of the gods

this is the boat of millions of years:
the night sky
my body

 from Fireflies at Absolute Zero, by Erynn Rowan Laurie

The high-speed FrecciaBianca from Trieste to Torino only takes a few hours. It makes a stop in Milano and a few other places along the way, but overall, it’s a much more comfy train than the local/regional trains I’ve taken so far, and they actually do have plugs so you can power your electronics. The city is nearly at the other side of northern Italy from Trieste, near the borders with France and Switzerland. The final approach to Torino is through a tunnel and the underground, which gave the end of the trip a bit of an unearthly feeling, like monks in catacombs. It was fitting way to enter the city that houses that fascinating medieval forgery, the Shroud of Turin.

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Shrine of the Shroud of Turin

The shroud itself was not on display while I visited. They only haul it out every few years, for a little while, but the church where it’s housed is open to the public, and an enlarged replica of the alleged face of Christ from the shroud is hung over the platform where the shroud itself is shown when it’s visible.

In Torino, I met Dan and Marta. They arrived not long before me, on a plane, and greeted me at the Porta Nuova train station, which is apparently quite the architectural spectacle, but its façade was entirely obscured by scaffolding for repairs and renovation, so I didn’t get to see it despite the fact that I spent quite some time wandering about in it the day I returned to Trieste. It’s from about the same period (1860s) as the central train station across the street from me here in Trieste. The station is also a part of the Torino underground system, the Metropolitana di Torino.

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National Museum of Cinema in the Mole Antonelliana

The city of Torino itself quite impressed me. The food was excellent, the buildings were beautiful, and there was a lot going on, though much of my free time to explore was on Monday, when most of the interesting stuff was closed. I did get some ideas for the next day, though.

The region was originally inhabited by the Celto-Ligurian Taurini tribe, and to this day the symbol of the city is the bull, which is on the street light pedestals, the buildings, and a lot of other stuff around town. There are apparently still Celtic linguistic elements in the Piedmontese language spoken by the locals.

Our first night in the city, we had dinner at the Porto di Savona, which has a thoroughly annoying website complete with non-consensual music and sound effects that almost put us off the place entirely. It took forever to find the menu online, and had problems loading on both my phone and Marta’s. The reviews on Trip Advisor, however, were quite good, so we tried it anyway and they had absolutely fantastic Piedmontese food and a very nice staff. It’s been open since 1863. They’re located where Piazza Vittorio Veneto opens out from Via Po into an immense public square, apparently one of the largest in Europe. There was a huge screen set up across Via Po for the World Cup matches that night. The piazza itself, and Via Po, are lined with a covered arcade of shops on both sides for quite some way. The piazza ends at a bridge crossing the River Po and directly across the bridge is the Neoclassical Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio, built between 1818 and 1831.

We weren’t able to go into the Museum of Cinema, as it was closed on Monday. We’d been told there’s a spectacular view of the city and the Alps from the top of the spire. Instead, later that afternoon, Dan and I climbed the Monte dei Cappuccini, to the courtyard of the Museo Nazionale della Montagna, which had an equally fantastic view that included the Mola Antonelliana. Mara wasn’t up to the climb in the heat, but Dan and I got a lovely walk through the park on our way up and down from there.

 

Torino from Monte dei Cappuccini

Torino and the Alps from Monte dei Cappuccini

Piazza Vittorio Veneto and the Po River from the steps of the Gran Madre di Dio

Piazza Vittorio Veneto from the steps of the Chiesa Gran Madre di Dio

Interior ceiling, Museo del Risogriomento Italiano, Palazzo Carignano

Interior ceiling, Museo del Risogriomento Italiano, Palazzo Carignano

The next day, we went to the Palazzo Carignano, which used to be, among other things, the artists club in town. Now it’s rented out as a venue for presentations and conferences, from what I understand, and there’s a little café in the building that’s just outside the rooms where the artists once met. The paintings on the walls and ceiling are in the process of being cleaned and conserved, which led to a somewhat interesting effect in the artwork there. Dan’s talk and panel discussion was about his recent book, Panaesthetics: On the Unity and Diversity of the Arts; I’d hoped to get a copy of the book in time to have Dan sign it for me, but it was not to be. The visuals for the presentation were put together by his partner, Marta, though, due to the shortness of time, some of the material had to be cut. The panelists were an intriguing set of Italian academics of literature, art, and music, on of whom has translated Emily Dickinson and a number of other English-language poets. Afterward, I was invited to join everyone for dinner, which was a really lovely discussion. All of them seemed quite shocked that I wasn’t an academic myself, but I appear to have redeemed myself in their eyes when I mentioned I was a published author. Funny what a little talent with words will do for you.

Early on the third day, Dan and Marta hopped on a train to Aix en Provence, for the next part of their grand travels. I had the better part of the day alone, with quite a number of choices before me, and decided to go to the Egyptian Museum, founded in 1824, and which is said to have the most important collection of artifacts outside of Cairo. It claims to be the oldest Egyptian museum in the world. The collection is definitely impressive, though I think the full temple at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is a winner for sheer scale. The museum allows photography – I made sure to ask before going in – so I was able to get some pretty cool images. Unfortunately for my photos, a lot of the pieces were behind glass, so it was very hard to avoid reflections and lights marring the view of the artifacts themselves. I was told that a polarizing filter could help with that, but I have a very amateur CanonPowerShot SX260 HX, and you can’t put filters on one of those. I’m considering upgrading my camera later this year or early next, once I’ve paid down some of my credit cards and got a little more necessary furniture in the place.

Having finished what I am certain was only my first visit to Torino, I hopped back onto the train. It arrived home in Trieste about 9:30pm, and I then had to pack for my impending trip to Greece, having to be at the ferry terminal by 4:30am, so I got no sleep at all. But that trip is a story for my next post…

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Antiquarian bookshop, Via Po: Torino has a huge annual international book fair

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Outside the Gran Madre di Dio

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Metal gate outside the Teatro Regio, the Royal Opera House

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I believe this is the first time I’ve ever seen a monumental sculpture of a guy with a gas mask

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Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

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From one of the many Books of the Dead in the Torino collection

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A spell for the dead, to pass into the Duat

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Ram’s head

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Gallery of statues

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Street lights of Torino

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On buying ferry tickets

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I lost all my photos from the past couple of days, so have a consolation photo of Molo Audace at dusk

I spent Monday and Tuesday afternoons at the Italian civics class. It was at a school closer to me than the one I’d originally been assigned when I had the trip back to Seattle, with no big hill in the middle. The class is a series of videos available in 20 languages. There were three of us in the English session.

The videos had a lot of necessary information but they were so badly done. The narrators, an American woman and a British man, were obviously and awkwardly reading from a teleprompter. They would talk about informational slides that occasionally were duplicates of each other, not showing the information they were referring to, or not appearing at all. Still, now I’m done with that bit and have retained the 15 points toward my eventual permanent residence.

The school also does free classes in Italian for foreigners. The A1 level is 100 hours of instruction and the A2 is 80 hours. They will give an Italian language test at the beginning of the school year, in September, to place the students appropriately. I have to be able to pass an Italian test at the A2 level within two years to remain in Italy.

Wednesday, my brother was here to help me with the Tessera Sanitaria for signing up for a doctor. The videos were rather confusing about the health service and didn’t cover my situation at all, which was unsurprising. Most of the people going through this are here as students or for work, while others come to join a working spouse. Elective residence visas were mentioned very briefly but were not discussed in any detail.

Anyway, when we got to the Tessera, we asked about joining the Italian health service. Since I don’t work and have not contributed to the Italian system, they would want a percentage of my annual income to go to the system (a reasonable request, actually), but that percentage equaled about $1,000 more than I’m paying in insurance right now, so I elected to remain on my insurance. I was, however, given an assignment to a woman doctor who does speak English – I think for dealing with medical issues, it’s pretty important to have as few barriers to communication as possible. She has an office down by the Barcola, so it’s not that far away, but it’s a long walk. Buses go by there regularly, though.

I picked up a 10-trip bus pass at a Tabacchi. It was about €11. I haven’t used the bus yet, but am feeling a bit more confident and will probably do so soon.

Thursday I went back to the school with a Croatian woman I met at the American Corner. We spent a fair amount of the day together. She speaks English, Dutch, and French. She said that she left Croatia before the war that split Serbia and Croatia and that the language changed after that, with the Croatians wanting to remove words and influences from Serbian and other languages. When she goes back to Croatia, as she has been living in other countries for a long time, people say, “you haven’t been here in a while, have you?” We both signed up for the Italian class, and she signed up for an art class.

On the way back to my place, she took me by Prunk Carni, which is a Slovenian butcher and grocery store on Largo della Barriera Vecchia, across from the Coop, giving me a tour and explaining what some of the things there were. They have game meat in regularly – venison, squirrel, bear, and other things. They have wine in barrels, sold by the liter, and you bring your own bottles. She showed me which of the dairy case things was sour cream, and talked about some of her favorite things, like nettle syrup and various sweets. I was really happy to have a guided tour, as I would have been completely lost without her explanations.

Friday night I went to visit my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband and father in law. She lives at the top of the Scala Dublino, right above the Trieste observatory, which was built in 1753. Gino said something about the building having been sold by the University last year and converted into a hotel, but I couldn’t find anything online confirming that. Gino’s father, Aldo D’Eliso, was a translator for the American army during and after the second world war; he wrote an autobiography that talks about his origins in Bari, in the south, and his move to Trieste with the British and Americans between 1929 and 1954. He was very kind and gave me a copy of the book. I haven’t read it yet, but talking to him was quite interesting. I spoke some Italian over the evening, but a fair bit of English as well. Since Giulia had donated a copy of my poetry book to the American library recently, Luisella had borrowed it and both Aldo and Gino have read it and very much liked my work. Luisella said she is reading it next.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Piazza Unità for a caffe latte and a brioche. The heat here has been pretty intense for my tender northwest sensibilities lately (up in the 90s and humid), so breakfast al fresco was just the thing. There were a lot of fire engines on the waterfront, and a stage set up across the piazza. On the way home along the Riva, I saw a long line of firefighters – the Vigili di Fuoco – carrying what seemed like an endless Italian tricolor over the bridge at Ponterosso toward Piazza Unità. It was quite a sight, but I was feeling a little under the weather so didn’t follow them down to the piazza to watch whatever was happening. I took some photos with my phone, but lost all the photos I’d taken over the past couple of days in a tragic iPhoto accident when a software update did me in while I was transferring them. When I got home, I did a little web searching and found out that the Vigili were having their annual conference here in Trieste this weekend, and this was part of their ceremonies.

Today I’ve been finalizing plans for the end of June and early July. My friend Dan has a lecture in Torino on June 30th, so I’ll be taking the train there on the 29th, then back here to Trieste on the 1st of July. On July 2nd, I’ll hop on a ferry to Greece to visit with my friend Stephen Green, a ceramics artist I met on Twitter in 2012. I was couch-surfing across Europe after my Brigid pilgrimage to Ireland and made a stop in Penrith, staying at a B&B to meet him and his partner at a ceramics festival where he was vending. We hit it off quite well and hoped to meet again at some point. Now that I’m in Italy, they have invited me to stay a couple of days with them on the island of Ithaki while they’re there on holiday. I’ve spent gods know how many hours this past several weeks trying to figure out how to get there for the least expense. Flying would be extremely expensive, and there’d still be the issue of getting from whatever airport I landed at, out to the island.

Almost all the ferry websites I encountered are difficult to navigate, often with outdated information about routes and prices. I’ve got myself a ferry ticket from Trieste to Patras, an overnight trip out and a two-night trip back with Minoan Lines. From what I can tell there are local ferries to the islands from Patras on Strintzis Ferries and I should be able to get to Vathi on Ithaki without too much trouble, as there are daily trips. I have an email in to Strintzis, as they had an actual 2014 schedule and rate sheet posted, but the website they link to for online purchase of tickets is pretty much non-functional and doesn’t give me the right options.

My brother agreed to take care of my dog for me while I’m traveling. I’ll be taking my laptop along, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to post anything while I’m traveling. There will definitely be photos gu leòr when I return!

Giro d’Italia

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Flag of Trieste. I stood on the base of the flagpole by the soldiers to view the end of the race.

I should start by noting that the police finally came by to verify my residence, in the person of a tall, thin gentleman who looked about to either retire or fossilize. I wasn’t sure which. He came by on Saturday morning and I was still half asleep. I tossed on some jeans and my bathrobe and let him in. He asked a couple of questions and I answered as best I could in Italian, because he had very little English. Sadly, being half asleep meant I was groping even for words that I knew, but all went well and he filled out his form and was on his way.

Triestino bicyclists

Triestino bicyclists

This morning, the coastal road and the Riva were shut down for the end stage of the Giro d’Italia, an international bicycle race that originated in 1909 and which has been mostly annual throughout its history, with breaks during the two world wars. According to a book I got handed about the race, in 1946, it was ridden through bombed out villages, rivers were forded by carrying bicycles across them, and the riders came into Trieste under gunfire by an anti-Italian group trying to block them from entering the city.

Fans of the Columbian team

Fans of the Columbian team

This year’s Giro started in Belfast, Ireland, then everyone flew to Italy for the remainder of the race. It’s been making its way around the country for about the last three weeks.

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Bersaglieri bicyclists in their dress uniform hats

Before the race’s riders arrived in the city, a team of Bersaglieri rolled in on bicycles. They’re a type of Italian light infantry unit. The guys on bicycles were older, and looked mostly like vets, though there was also a small brass band, obviously active duty, who played as well, while at a jog. They are apparently quite famous for this as their performance style. I wasn’t able to get a photo of them, sadly, as I was in the wrong place and they literally went by too fast for me to get a shot.

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The Frecce Tricolori over Piazza Unità d’Italia

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Passing over the Piazza again at the end of their show

There was a substantial crowd in town for the race, and by the time the riders were making the last loops through Trieste toward the finish line, Piazza Unità was packed. As the riders were coming into the city and along the Riva, the Italian military aerobatics team, the Frecce Tricolori, based in Udine, flew in for a show.

The crowd grows thicker and more excited as the race draws near its end

More Piazza Unità crowds

The Giro takes place in 21 different stages. The last leg is 172km, from Gemona to Trieste, led by the Columbian cyclist Nairo Quintana. I actually found myself a good vantage point for the end of the race, at the base of one of the big flagpoles at the seaside end of Piazza Unità. I was able to see a tiny bit of the actual race route through the stands, and the cyclists coming into the piazza right beneath where I was standing, so overall it was a good choice.

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Columbian Nairo Quintana, 2014 winner of the Giro d’Italia, entering Piazza Unità

The day started out gorgeously sunny and warm, and the weather held until the first half-dozen cyclists rolled into the piazza toward the stage, where the trophy would be awarded. The clouds burst, then the crowd parted. I was smart enough to actually bring an umbrella, even if it was a thoroughly crappy one. It kept me dry enough to get over to Ginger for a post-race pot of tea, then home again.

Flags over Trieste

Flags over Trieste

A Visitation, and the Barcola

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A buliding along the Barcola

The last ten days have been both busy and kind of annoying. I’ve been waiting around the house all morning, every morning, waiting for the police to arrive to verify my residence. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet. I was told “sometime in the next two weeks” by the woman at the Anagrafe, though that, I think, means sometime between then and this Friday. Regardless, I have things to do, and really wish they’d get here so I don’t have to keep waiting. My brother tells me that they don’t necessarily wait very long after they ring your bell, and if I happen to be in the shower or, gods forbid, out taking my dog for a quick morning walk when they show up, I could miss them entirely.

The other part of the reason it’s frustrating is because I was told I had to go sign up for health care, and the only time that office is open is in the morning, when I have to be here waiting. Italian governmental offices are often open for only a few hours a week, and if you can’t get there, you’re kind of screwed. Fortunately, there’s not a hard time limit on the signing up for health care – I can do that anytime in the next couple of months without being too concerned.

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Faro della Vittoria

I was recently visited by a couple of people I met online – Daniel, a Harvard professor of literature and music, and his partner Marta. They spent a couple of days in Trieste, and are currently in Florence. He’s supposed to do a talk in Turin on June 20th on his most recent book, which sounds really fascinating, and right up my alley. I’ve ordered a copy and will see if I can get to the presentation. While I’m not much of an expert on Trieste, I did show them around to some of my favorite places for walks and food and coffee; they really enjoyed the food and the city. Daniel has done work on James Joyce, so we visited some Joyce sites. He’s also doing a book on Giuseppe Verdi, so we wandered around to Teatro Giuseppe Verdi and saw the Verdi statue near Viale XX Settembre, and they went to see Castello di Duino during the next day when I wasn’t available to hang out and show them around.

We talked a lot about art, literature, film, food, and music as we wandered the streets and got rained on. There was a big thunderstorm the first night they visited, and we walked along the riva in the evening, as the storm was moving in, with lightning flashing over the Adriatic. The lights of Piazza Unità were, I think, even more impressive than usual under the darkening sky. By the time I headed home from the apartment they were renting via Airbnb, the hail and the worst of the rain had passed, but my umbrella still got destroyed by the wind. I’m still not used to dealing with them, after so many years in the Pacific Northwest.

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La Mula de Trieste and Miramare

Earlier this week I was over at the AIA helping out with some cooking for a volunteer appreciation evening. I spent a couple of afternoons in the kitchen and had a lovely time. I enjoy cooking for people, though I wouldn’t want to do it for a living. This evening I’ll be going over for a roundtable discussion on LGBTQ activism in the US from the 1970s to the present, hosted by one of the humanities professors at the University of Trieste.

On Sunday, several of us met a woman from the base at Aviano and her two young kids, to show them around the city. Most of the people stationed at the base never leave Aviano; there’s an unfortunate streak of paranoia that the military encourages in its people and their dependents that can be hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t actually been in the military. When I was in service in the 1980s during the Cold War, it was Russian spies under every rock, even when I was stationed in Hawaii. Now, just substitute “terrorists” for “spies” and you rather have the idea of it. Anyway, she had a great time, and her kids loved the train trip, so perhaps we can encourage people to overcome the propaganda and actually enjoy the gift of being stationed in Italy.

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Statue in Pineta di Barcola

Yesterday I ambled down along the coast to the Barcola, Trieste’s “beach,” which is mostly a paved waterfront walk that stretches for several miles from the north end of the city up to Miramare. (There’s a far better, though still short, Wikipedia entry on the Barcola in Italian here.) What natural waterfront exists is stony, like the majority of the beaches I know from the Salish Sea, and from parts of New England. The walk was probably 8 kilometers out and back, and I was really aching by the time I got home, but the glorious view was absolutely worth the time and the aches. The Barcola is where the Triestini go when the weather is nice, to walk or to swim, or just to lie in the sun. On the weekends when the weather is good, it’s apparently nearly impossible to find a place to put a towel down, and the buses are stuffed to the gills from early in the morning until late evening, with the coastal road pretty much entirely parked in along the sides.

As is, unfortunately, fitting for a popular beachfront, getting a drink was really expensive. It was €3 for a tiny bottle of peach juice and I’m sure it would have been more had I used a glass instead of having the bottle porta via (to take away). Some of the little bars along the beach will let you use their tables for €.50, but it’s always better to get a little something from the place if you’re going to sit. I tried sitting on a bench to scribble in my notebook, but my fountain pen went dry in the middle of a sentence, so I had to put it away. I usually carry a backup pen, but didn’t have one in my bag yesterday. That’ll teach me to be unprepared. What kind of a writer doesn’t carry more than one pen? (This one, obviously.)

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Castello di Miramare

I also had my first conversation entirely in Italian with a random person as I walked back along the beach toward Trieste. I didn’t quite understand everything, and probably gave a couple of kind of odd answers, but we mostly understood each other. Most of my (brief) Italian conversations have either been with people I know, or in places where I’m paying a bill or buying groceries, and they’re very limited. This was one of those “where are you from, what do you do” kinds of conversations you have with random strangers. I struggle with words when I’m not sitting down and writing, with a dictionary close at hand. Even when I know the words, I have to search for them in my head. “Non ho molte parole” is a phrase I’ve taken to using of late – “I don’t have many words.” That, along with “parlo solo un poco italiano” (I only speak a little Italian) tends to be my fallback when I’m struggling. It’s hard, feeling so limited in my ability to talk with people. Combined with my innate introversion, it makes it very difficult for me to actually talk with strangers, but I’m fighting the impulse to say nothing, rather than make mistakes. Sounding like an idiot sometimes is preferable to total isolation, much as I dislike the idea.

Next week at some point, I’m supposed to go with my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband Gino, up to the university in Miramare. He teaches in the Physics department and has offered me and my brother a tour of the facility and a chance to see the particle accelerator. Science geekery FTW! We just have to schedule a day when everyone is available and the place is open to the public.

And I shall leave you with a picture of the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3, from his first day in Italy.

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The Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3

Catching up, and my Permesso di Soggiorno

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. My dog lies on a quilt, on the floor in the library, as I still don’t have furniture yet. Next month there will be a loveseat and a couple of chairs for him to choose from when the afternoon sun creeps across the floor but for now, he is enjoying the open space.

My visit to Seattle was short and filled with an overwhelming amount of stuff and many wonderful people. I’m glad I got to see those I did, and sad that I missed others who, for various reasons, weren’t able to be in the same place I was at the same time. To all of those I visited, I am honored by your presence.

I have a string of photos from before and after my Seattle trip, from Duino to the Bavisela. We’ve had some lovely weather here in Trieste in the past week since I’ve been back, and I was able to see the mountains across the water for the first time since I arrived, which was a joyful moment. Duino definitely left me with a sense of why Rilke wrote the Elegies.

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Performers at Piazza Unità

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Duino – the old castle

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The poet contemplating Rilke at Duino

While I was in Seattle, I got notice that my Permesso di Soggiorno arrived. I went in with my brother to pick it up on Wednesday. His is a large sheet of paper, while mine is a plastic card with a chip, like a credit card. It’ll be much easier to carry without worrying about damaging it. My brother only stayed a couple of hours, as he had things to do in Aviano the next day. If the Anagrafe office had been open, we’d have gone in to register my residence with the city together, but this was not to be. I had to go in yesterday alone. Once again, a combination of English and Italian got me through the process.

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Duino castle from near the WW2 bunker

Sometime during the next two weeks, the police will come by my apartment to make sure I actually live here. I have to be at home in the mornings between 7am and noon. She asked what hours I preferred; I wasn’t sure if I could ask for later in the morning, but I suspect that the more time they have, the more likely they are to just get it over with. Once they visit, that will be the end of this particular part of the process. A month from now I’ll have my Carta d’Identita. My Permesso expires near the end of December of this year, so around October, I’ll need to start the process again but, with luck, next year’s will be valid for two years and I won’t have to worry about it so much.

The woman at the Anagrafe office told me to go to have the garbage tax for the apartment shifted over to my name, but we did that with the landlady back in February when I signed the rental contract. I was also instructed where to go to sign up for Italian national health care. I wasn’t told how to do it or how it works, but I did look up the website and click over to the page for foreigners, and it looks doable, though for that I’ll want my brother along to make sure things are clear for me. I’m going to need to find a woman OB/GYN at some point, along with a general practitioner, but I can probably talk to my regular doc about that when I see that person the first time. Issues for Women Of A Certain Age are arising and I need a consult with somebody.

Over the weekend, as noted above, we had the Bavisela. This is Trieste’s marathon, and it’s also a shorter walk/jog for people who don’t do marathons, starting from Duino and ending up at Piazza Unità. Saturday night I went walking out along the waterfront to see what was happening. They’d set up booths for the usual fair type stuff, and a ferris wheel. There was also a stage near Molo Audace and I happened along about the time a band was taking the stage for the evening. They were young guys in suits and narrow ties, kind of rocking an 80s look. They’d have seemed at home doing some Cars or Talking Heads, but they were playing stuff from Buddy Holly to the Rolling Stones, with a diversion for the Happy Days theme. They were enthusiastic, though the vocals needed some work, but they had the crowd up and dancing, and I had fun just hanging out watching the show. Every time I considered taking a ride on the wheel, both Saturday night and on Sunday, the line was too long for me to bother. It would have been a nice view of the city, though.

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Mountains over the Adriatic

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Bavisela crowds in Piazza della Libertà

Sunday morning, I didn’t go to bed until about 5am, but the people in the B&B upstairs were up about 5:30 thumping and bouncing so hard they were literally rattling my doors down here. Most of the time, the B&B guests are reasonably quiet. Occasionally I get thumpy ones, but these were tapdancing elephants. It was egregious and lasted for a couple of hours. I finally gave up around 7:30 and got up, showered, and staggered out to greet the day.

There were already crowds out in the piazza below my window, heading out of the city on buses for the starting points. I got out with the dog briefly but then took him inside so I could go for a walk. He’s not a city dog as yet, and it was a little overwhelming for him with the huge crowd. When I got out alone, I headed toward the center of town, feeling like a salmon swimming against the stream among all the orange-clad participants. I was the only person heading in that direction. The main street into town, Via Miramare, was closed, as was the waterfront main drag, the Riva III Novembre/Riva del Mandracchio/Riva Nazario Sauro. I may never see these main streets that quiet again until next year’s marathon.

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Everybody and their dog at the Bavisela

The weather today is really lovely, sunny and warm, and soon I’m going to finish my tea and wander out to sit on the pier and scribble in my notebook. Tomorrow I will probably hang out online with friends and watch the Eurovision finals. About Eurovision this year, I have only one thing to say: erotic butter churning.

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Detail from Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi

Carnevale Europe

I really overdid things in the last couple of days.  My brother came down Friday and Saturday and we walked a lot. We also attended the carnevale parade. There is apparently a European Carnevale that is hosted by a different city every year, and this year was Trieste’s turn. They had bands from several different countries this year, and a parade on Saturday afternoon. I’ve seen them running around town in packs in their costumes, and found them playing in the piazzas.

I’ve been told that the big Trieste carnevale will be happening on March 1st and 2nd in Muggia, just up the coast from here, right before you run out of Italy.

Carnevale is not something I’ve ever really experienced. It’s not as huge a thing here as in Venice, but I’m under the impression carnevale in Venice is only to be experienced, not described. I grew up in New England and then lived most of my life in the Pacific Northwest, where carnival and Mardi Gras are not actually a thing. Not that nobody celebrates, but it’s usually a thing that happens at bars if it happens at all, and the city doesn’t really participate in it the way things happen over here, so this was an interesting experience for me.

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Trieste from above the stairs

On Friday, the espresso machine my brother gave me arrived, early in the day before he got here. We were both pleased, as it meant we didn’t have to wait around my place for the delivery. I had it set up and almost ready to go when he arrived. I’d gone out while I was waiting for him and picked up a couple of espresso cups so that I’d have something to put coffee in if we wanted to use it.

Once he arrived, we went out and got me some internet. They’ll come with the wireless modem and do the installation next Friday the 21st, which means unlimited internet again for a reasonable price, rather than having to continually add money to a pay as you go account for every 7 gigabytes. This will cost me about half of what it cost in the US, though you only pay every couple of months.

It seems like bills here all happen only every couple of months. I’m used to paying things monthly, so having to remind myself to hold money back for bills later is something I’m going to have to get used to. Not knowing how much gas, electric, and water are going to cost yet, I haven’t any idea how much I’ll need, so I’ve been trying to be cautious about how much I’m spending for anything not strictly necessary. Once I’ve seen a bill or two, I’ll be able to budget more effectively, but at least I know what the internet bill is going to look like.

After we dealt with getting me connected, we wandered around seeking dinner and people-watching. We spent some time in and around Piazza Unità after dark for the first time since I’ve been here. It’s really incredibly beautiful at night. Finding food, however, was a bit of a challenge as not only was it Friday night, it was also valentine’s day, so a lot of the more interesting places were booked solid until late in the evening. We ended up sitting outside under heat lamps at a waterfront seafood place. I had the grilled seafood assortment, which was really quite nice.

Yesterday we headed out for a walk and climbed the Scala dei Giganti. It’s a large set of stairs set over a tunnel that looks like some sort of otherworldly creature consuming vehicles that pass through it. Above the stairs is a park, and above that park is Castello San Giusto. We got a call from my landlady as we were climbing the stairs, asking us to meet her about some furniture she’s got in the attic to see what I wanted to use, so we didn’t get to do more than have a brief walk around the back of the castle and down again before we had to be back at my place. I’ll head up again once I’m a little more recovered and my legs are working properly again.

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Scala dei Giganti

After perusing the attic furniture, which had belonged to her grandmother, she invited us in for coffee and gave me an old phone book and a map and business directory for the city. Both of them are quite outdated, but the maps are a larger scale and cover more than the tourist map of the city I’ve been using, and stuff like the big pharmacies in the phone book will still be mostly where they’re listed, so the information is certainly useful.

The carnevale parade was due to start somewhere around 2pm from Piazza Oberdan and meander its way down to Piazza Unità. I’m not sure when it started, but the first groups began arriving sometime around 4 or 4:30 in the afternoon. We’d been outside and walking or standing for some hours by that time. The day had started out nice but the temperature dropped steadily through the afternoon so, by the time we’d seen the parade, we were both very cold. My brother headed off on the train again somewhat later, but we had a pretty good day. I was amused when the first band through was playing Rasputin at the stop with the film crew. The version of the tune I know is by Boiled in Lead.

Between the cold, the climbing, and the walking, though, I have been left achy and sore and barely mobile. I’m not always the best at gauging where my limits are when I’m doing something interesting. I took a very hot shower before I went to bed to warm myself up and an equally hot one this morning, but I haven’t been up to going out anywhere, even to pick up a few groceries down the block. Tomorrow I should be back on my feet again more reliably, though.

And here, for your enjoyment, are scenes from the Carnevale in Trieste.

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Forest spirits

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Performers in the parade

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Masks at the Fountain of the Four Continents

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More from the parade

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Flowers having a spritz at Specchi

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Masks in Piazza Unità

Rewind: August, 2012

I’d only been to Europe once before, in 2007. I’d been given a trip to Ireland by a friend who ended up having to move the same week as the tour she’d booked. She couldn’t get a refund and called me up out of the blue, saying, “If you can get yourself to New York and back, you can have this trip to Ireland. I want someone to have it who would really appreciate it.”

I said yes, of course. I had the time, and managed to pull together enough money for a round trip ticket to New York in very short order. I wouldn’t be lying if I told you it took magic.

Last year, I went back to Ireland, this time to lead a pilgrimage to sacred sites. Since I would already be in Europe, and since the pilgrimage organizers were paying for my flight to Dublin and back to Seattle, I asked if it mattered where I flew home from. “No,” they said. “We don’t mind, we’ll book your round trip ticket.”

“How does Venice sound? Then I can visit my brother.”

They were agreeable, so I spent a couple of months planning my couch-surf across Europe as we planned our pilgrimage and our writing exercises.

My second trip to Europe was as much a gift as my first. In July and August of 2012, I traveled around Ireland with the pilgrimage for ten days, then took a ferry to the Isle of Man, where I spent the better part of a week in a backpacking tent, with gales blowing every night. I sailed to Liverpool and took a train north to visit some friends in England — Pendle Hill and the Lake District and Penrith. I flew from Manchester to Brittany and stayed with friends there, in a village whose population consisted of ten people and eight dogs. A few days later, I was on a plane again, visiting friends who teach English in Prague.

My brother lives in Italy. He’s been stationed at the Air Force base at Aviano off and on for the better part of twenty years. He drove up to Prague to pick me up and we road tripped south through Austria, spent the night in Salzburg during the Mozart festival, and the next day ended up at his place in Montereale Valcellina, a small town at the foot of the Dolomites, not far outside the base.

I spent four days in Italy. We went to Venice, and out to Aquileia, had a snack in the walled city of Palmanova, and visited the small mountain town of Poffabro, where I took the photo that heads the blog here. I walked the shores of Lake Barcis. I saw an entire river emerging from the side of a mountain, and walked along a stream rising from the deep underwater cave of Gorgazzo.

I had wonderful food and met some delightful and very friendly people. The mountains were gorgeous, the scenery was beautiful, and I was enchanted by Italy, though after Prague I will admit I was a bit cathedraled out. We visited Murano instead of St Mark’s, and I don’t regret it. I think I would not have appreciated St Mark’s half as much after St Vitus’s cathedral at Prague Castle. I needed a rest before I dealt with that much artistic intensity again.

I wanted to spend more time in Venice, and thought that perhaps in a year or so I might be able to spend a couple of months there to see all the things I didn’t have time for in our one day lightning visit. I talked with my brother about the idea after I got home to Everett and he said, “If you really mean it, I’ll help you find a way to do it. Just let me know.”

I never imagined that I would actually be moving to Italy a little over a year later.

I get on a plane in six weeks. I’ve been selling nearly everything. I’ve packed my library for shipping — you can’t expect a poet to live without her books, after all. They are the bulk of what I’ll be taking with me.

When I arrive, I’ll be living with my brother until I get my own apartment. He’s in a small town and I need to be in a city, where I can walk to things, and where I can get public transit for the things I can’t walk to. But I love cities, and the thought excites me and sets my heart alight.

I’ll need to come back for my dog once I’ve settled in my own place, as I can’t bring him with me initially. I’m already dealing with paperwork and looking at my options for transporting him. Even after having been in the military many years ago, the process of getting my residence visa and dealing with everything that needs doing before I get on that plane has been a huge project; it’s one I’ll talk about in other posts. The work of it won’t be over when I arrive in Italy. There’s so much still to do.

I hope you’ll join me for the journey.