Trieste, Grado, and sliding into summer

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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.

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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.

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17th century wrought iron gate to the treasury

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cathedral interior – paintings from 17th century

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San Giusto Servolo and Christ Pantocrator, 14th century

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candles in San Giusto

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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.

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detail from the castle bell

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bell ringer detail

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Trieste and the carso from the castle

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roses and lizard on the castle grounds

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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.

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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.

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Dave, Sere, and the antipasti

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vineyard roses on a rainy day

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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.

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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.

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6th century floor mosaic

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the pulpit of the basilica

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a quiet piazza

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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.

 

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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.

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

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

 

 

 

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A Fangirl on Baker Street

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Piccadilly Circus – the statue is not actually “Eros” as is often assumed but is supposed to represent Anteros, then renamed The Angel of Christian Charity by various Victorian prudes

This weekend, I was in London for Sherlocked, the official con for the BBC Sherlock series. I’ve been watching the show since it came out, but have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was just a kid. I remember watching the Basil Rathbone movies, and I adored the Jeremy Brett series from Granada TV back in the 1980s, as well. When the production company decided to put together an opportunity to see props and meet actors and production crew, I was happy to get my pennies together for a trip to see it all.

Ryanair recently changed its flight times from Trieste to London, so instead of arriving at a reasonable hour, I got in at near midnight. I was able to get a train to Liverpool Street Station, but had to take a cab to my hotel – I was sharing a room with another fan, a young woman from Latvia. There were people from all over the world at the con, united by a mutual love for the show.

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the London Underground

The con was the same weekend as the London Marathon, and held in the same huge conference space as the marathon registration, so we were mixing with the runners, as well as people attending other conferences. The ExCel center is immense, and the conference areas feel rather like warehouses. It’s not a comfortable space, unfortunately, and there was road construction going on near the train tracks, so getting in and out proved problematic for at least some folks.

Friday, my roommate Vita and I were going down to Speedy’s, a café that is one of the locations where the exterior for 221B Baker Street is shot. Just by coincidence, we ran into a friend of mine, Jenn from Spokane, who was there with a few other fans; she had put together an informal locations tour, so we joined them for a few hours that afternoon. Neither of us had realized the other was going to be at the con, so it was great to run into each other randomly, and we spent some time together over the course of the weekend.

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the poet, with Jenn from Spokane – a random meeting five thousand miles from home

A lot of the con itself consisted of waiting around in lines for the panels, for photos with the actors, and for autographs. I was, more than once, tempted to moo at things. That said, I did have a good time at the event. I got to see different parts of London this time than on my last visit, though I didn’t really have a lot of time for sightseeing beyond the locations tour.

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View from St James’s Park toward the Horse Guards and Whitehall

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Buckingham Palace from the park

We wandered from Speedy’s to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, where Sherlock leapt to his supposed death to protect his friends from Moriarty’s henchmen. We stopped at the park where John Watson met Mike Stamford, who introduced him to Sherlock Holmes. There was a stop outside New Scotland Yard, where Inspector Lestrade works. We wandered through St. James Park, near Buckingham Palace, and out to where the exterior for the Diogenes, Mycroft Holmes’s silent club, was filmed. Our tour ended at Baker Street itself, though I didn’t get a chance to go to the Sherlock Holmes museum there, much to my disappointment. By that time we’d been touring around for about four hours, and we had to get back to the venue so that we could check in with registration and get our con badges.

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Sherlock Holmes, at the Baker Street station of the London Underground

I had dinner with some of my fellow fans every night. I met one of my favorite British fans, and got a chance to have a photo with one of my favorite actors from the series – on the Baker Street living room set, no less. I was able to talk briefly with a woman who was doing her thesis in fandom studies on Sherlock fandom, with whom I’d done an interview last month for her study.

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props from Sherlock: the fictional Sumatra Road underground stop sign, and the bomb Sherlock defused beneath the Houses of Parliament. Just incidentally, among the Sound of the Baskervilles, a scion of the Baker Street Irregulars, I’m known as The Giant Rat of Sumatra…

I really had a great time at the con, and with the people I met there. Arriving back home, my brother picked me up at Ronchi Airport on his motorcycle in a light drizzle, and we got back to Trieste just a little too late to get dinner out before the nearby restaurants closed for the night.

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fangirls, fangirling. SARAAAAAAHHHH!

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moment of geeky fangirl glee – me with Rupert Graves, who plays Inspector Lestrade in the show, sitting in the 221B Baker Street interior set

The month of May will have some more international travel for me. One of my friends from Canada is staying on the Croatian island of Mljet, just off the coast from Dubrovnik, for a month, and he’s invited me to come for a week to look over the poetry manuscript he’s finishing up. We’re planning on doing some hiking, and maybe some kayaking, as much of the island is a Croatian national park. It has a couple of salt lakes on it and, from what I’ve seen of the photos online, the island looks very beautiful. I’ll be taking a bus down; it runs twice a week from Trieste and is a 15 hour trip one way. I’m expecting to take some really good photos there!

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Tower of London grounds, on my way from the DLR train to the Underground to make my way back to Stansted Airport

Once I get back from Croatia, I have a poetry reading from my book Fireflies at Absolute Zero over at the American Corner library, on May 25th. One of my Triestina friends is going to translate a few of my poems, so they will be read in both Italian and English.

This poet has been busy, yes she has.

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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.

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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.

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Andrea Mantegna’s Battle of the Sea Gods

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detail, Agostino Veneziano’s Lo Stregosso

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detail, Martin Schongauer’s Tribulations of Saint Anthony

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detail, an Italian Isis from about 120-150 CE

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one of the Lewis Chessmen, carved from walrus ivory

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guardsman from the Palace of Darius, Persepolis, Iran

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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.

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possibly the most badass hurdygurdy in existence

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redefining the pipe and drum band

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in which the poet suffers serious percussion envy

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

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cymbals can be badass too

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

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

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horns – not just for drinking anymore

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so badass it requires two players

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

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giving horny a new definition