On Visitors and Hemingway

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

Sunset over Piazza della Libertà

The past couple of weeks have been very busy here. I’ve had paperwork to do for the renewal of my Permesso di Soggiorno, I finished the pre-submission edit of my manuscript to the publisher, and I’ve had company from the Netherlands during this time. (I’ve also taken up playing World of Warcraft for the moment, but we won’t mention that.)

The Permesso paperwork was slightly less complicated this time, and I have an appointment at the Questura on the 7th of October in the morning. This renewal should be for two years. I have no idea how long it will take or what other hoops they will want me to leap through.

Tuesday I go over to the school where I took the civics class and take a test for placement in an Italian language class. I know already they’ll put me in the very beginning class, but that’s okay. I’m still using the language when I’m able outside the house. People speak English to me and I try to reply in Italian. Sometimes I get stuck and it doesn’t work so well, but it’s a process.

Shortly after my previous post, possibly inspired by the impending Scottish independence referendum, there was a Free Trieste rally down in the piazza below my apartment. The movement has been around for decades but, with public awareness of this sort of thing on the rise, I’m sure they felt it would bring some more visibility to the issue. They had a parade from I’m not sure where, though probably Piazza Unità, given some photos I saw from a friend. They were selling Trieste flags and t-shirts, and there were several speakers. From what I could tell, short speeches were given in Triestino dialect, Italian, Slovenian, German, and English. My brother and I watched some of it from the balcony.

Trieste independence rally

Trieste independence rally

Editing is always a major headache, but my upcoming book being a compilation of shorter pieces from my last 20 years of writing meant that much of it was already done. I’m currently waiting on a foreword from someone before I send it off to my publisher for copyediting and layout. I have a bunch of lovely cover blurbs from people in my community who will be well known among the readers that I’m writing for.

I prefer to edit on paper. Trying to edit on a screen is headache inducing when you’re talking about a few hundred pages of manuscript. That meant having to deal with a printer that refuses to acknowledge its printer cartridge (long story, and very annoying) and waiting for my brother to bring his printer up from storage. But, at long last, the entire manuscript was printed out, and editing could continue apace. One of the pleasures of editing on paper is being able to take a stack out to a café, have an aperitivo, and stare at it with red pen in hand. It’s just not the same on a laptop. My writerly spirit is not fed by laptops, even though they are magnificent tools for the actual writing process and mean I don’t have to scribble and entire manuscript by hand.

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

Paul Kater at Molo Audace

On the 21st, my friend Paul Kater arrived from the Netherlands for a visit, on his way down to more vacation in Crete. Paul is a fellow writer, who has published a bunch of books in English and a couple in Dutch, primarily in the fantasy/SF and steampunk genres. I actually met him through the steampunk community, due to our mutual love for the band Abney Park. He had a girlfriend in Seattle for some years, and I actually met him there on one of his visits back in 2012. We were both delighted that he was able to come and spend a few days.

Paul arrived late on the train from Venice, as it was delayed a bit. I went to the station in the rain to bring him back here, then gave him some dinner and sent him to bed. The next day we toured around downtown Trieste. We had considered going up to the Strada Napoleonica, but the walk around town was enough for one day.

The 23rd we went over to the American Corner, where I’d agreed to lead a short story discussion of a couple of Hemingway pieces. It being the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, there have been events all over Europe, from what I understand. The AIA is doing a Hemingway month in honor of the whole thing. Paul and I were there, and three other people, all of whom had varying degrees of competence in English (their English was uniformly better than my Italian). We did discuss the stories, and read bits of them, and I spent a fair bit of time explaining English words and phrases that they hadn’t come across before, or that they didn’t understand. Our discussion ranged from Hemingway himself, to American colloquial language, to the changes in literary styles before and after the war. We talked about Modernism and Surrealism as well, and what was meant to be a one-hour discussion turned into two. Everyone asked if I was going to do a short story discussion again. I told them to talk to Denise, who organized that sort of thing. They all enjoyed it very much, and Paul was quite happy to have been along.

We did take the tram up to the Strada that afternoon. We didn’t do the loop trail, but just walked the main road itself, with some really incredible views. The day was perfect for a walk, sunny and just warm enough to be pleasant without being overbearing. We spoke to a couple from New Zealand on the tram. They had been going to take the tram all the way up to Opicina, but I explained that the town really didn’t have much and if they didn’t mind a walk, the Strada was really the thing to do, so they popped off at the Obelisk stop with us and had a wander. I hope they thought it was worth it.

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Castello Miramare from the Strada Napoleonica

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Seal of the city and territory of Trieste on the cliffs of the Strada Napoleonica

On Wednesday, Paul and I took the bus out to the Barcola and walked up to Castello Miramare. We once again had a really glorious day for it. The walk was beautiful, as the sea tends to be, and I hadn’t been up as far as the castle before. The approach from the waterfront includes a stretch of marine reserve that is partly maintained by the World Wildlife Federation. The WWF has an office in one of the buildings on the castle grounds, though we didn’t visit that. We paid for tickets into the castle and did the walk, though for much of the way through, we were behind a German-speaking tour group. It’s ridiculously impressive and wildly overdone, but parts of it are incredibly beautiful. We didn’t walk the entire grounds, but we did wander up one of the park paths to the café and have some lunch before heading back into town on the bus.

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Castello Miramare from the end of the Barcola

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So many fish in the sea!

Thursday, my brother saw Paul off to the train for Treviso for his flight to Crete. He was heading out at an ungodly hour of the morning, and I wasn’t awake, but we’d said our goodbyes the night before. That afternoon, my brother and I went and finished taking care of the Permesso paperwork at the post office.

Friday I was at the AIA again, where they were doing a Hemingway readathon of A Farewell to Arms. I was there from the beginning to the bitter end, and there was booze afterwards. Early on in the day, three English-language classes showed up, and most of the kids were persuaded (coerced?) into reading a page each. I read several times of the course of the day, and my brother showed up to do a little as well. We started at 9am and ended around 7pm, I think. I enjoyed it enough, but I’m still really not that fond of Hemingway just generally.

Early next month, my Italian language classes start. My friend Oggie from El Paso will be here later in the month, and then I’ll be going for a weekend in London where another friend is speaking at a conference there. I’m not sure what I’ll do with my Sunday that weekend – it depends on whether there are things happening with the conference people that day, whether Amy’s busy, and if I would rather visit the British Museum or try to see some of my friends at the Comicon in London that weekend instead. In any case, there will be more excitement and more photos to look forward to!

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Outside the castle, a view of the Adriatic

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Planters on the balustrade

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No doubt an Arabic influence

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Library porn!

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An unexpected moment of Art Deco from one of the imperial relatives who lived here in the 20s/30s

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The door hardware reminds me of so many doors I saw in Prague

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This satiny stuff? Is wallpaper.

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Gryphons on the stairway

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Japanese and Chinese rooms were set aside for smokers

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This fountain was inside and upstairs

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Squirrel!

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Foliate mask fountain on the castle grounds

 

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Voi Siete Qui

You Are Here

You Are Here

Yesterday my brother and I took the tram up to the obelisk and walked the loop trail up to Monte Grisa then back along the Strada Napoleonica to the tram. Neither of us had been there before, so we weren’t certain about the trails or what we’d find outside of some websites with a little information about the Strada Napoleonica itself. The loop trail is just a little under eight kilometers, or about five miles. There’s some height gain, but not a lot. It’s easy going, though some bits are quite narrow and more a well-worn track than a wide path. Given my dizziness issues, next time I do the loop trail, I’ll bring my hiking poles to keep me slightly steadier.

Trail to Monte Grisa

Trail to Monte Grisa

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oak leaves

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blackberries

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possibly some kind of wild allium

The Tempio Mariano di Monte Grisa is a church. It’s that odd cheese-wedge looking bump on the Carso that you can see so well in all my photos from Molo Audace. The locals call it Il Formaggino, the little cheese, for just that reason. It’s just as ugly close up as it is from a distance, but kid of interesting anyway. The trail up to it is quite popular, and we ran into a lot of people out running or walking dogs, along with some cyclists and mountain bikers.

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Monte Grisa and the bar

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Monte Grisa interior

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15th Station of the Cross, above Trieste

Along the trail from the obelisk toward the church, there are periodic signs to direct you when you come to turns or intersections with other trails, the maps marked with “voi siete qui” – you are here. You eventually start running into the Stations of the Cross, which begin and end at the church.

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this is how Piazza Oberdan looked when we got on the tram

This was how it looked from the Carso

This was how the city looked from the Carso

The weather down in Trieste was mostly cloudy but when we got to the trail things had cleared up. It was sunny and a lovely, moderate temperature that held the entire time we were walking. The views were absolutely spectacular from several points along the walk, including from the cliff side of Monte Grisa itself.

There’s a bar at Monte Grisa, like so many other places in Italy. They also sell tchotchkes, and there’s a small gourmet foods section, too. Presumably this helps with the church’s maintenance, though there seems to be some indication of missionary efforts as well, which does make me rather uncomfortable for a variety of reasons.

wind rose and local points of interest at the viewpoint

wind rose and local points of interest at the viewpoint

Once you pass, Monte Grisa, the path narrows to a little track that takes you out to a viewpoint structure, then down the hill again to the Strada Napoleonica. The Barcola lies directly below, and you can see three countries from the Cliffside – Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia, further to the southeast.

We were both very pleased to have started out with the Monte Grisa part of the loop, as the views along the Strada toward the city are just incredible. The character of the trail changes, from rock climbing cliffs to shady lanes through pine woods. Walking out the Strada with my back to the city wouldn’t have been nearly so nice.

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wildflowers on the Strada Napoleonica

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Faro della Vittoria and the railway bridge

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Cliffs along the Strada

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Trieste from the trail

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rock climbing class in progress on the Strada

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Faro della Vittoria and Trieste

The Tram to Opicina

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Vineyard viewed from the tram to Opicina

Along with the editing and other work I’ve been doing on the book lately, my brother has been preparing to leave his place in Montereale Valcellina and move here to Trieste. He’ll be staying with me for a while, until he finds work and his own apartment. With luck, that shouldn’t take more than a few months. He’s supposed to be arriving today at some point, or early tomorrow, depending on how far along he is in the process of storing his stuff.

When he was here last weekend, we took the now functional tram from Piazza Oberdan up to Opicina. Maintenance has been an issue, and the tram hadn’t been operational for the last several years, but the trips started up again around the end of July, from what I understand. It is considered bus route 2 in the Trieste transport system. They are operating now about every twenty minutes, from 8am to 7pm. You can use a regular bus ticket for them, and it’s well worth the very inexpensive price for the ride.

The poet rides the tram. Photo by Jim Laurie.

The poet rides the tram. Photo by Jim Laurie.

The views of the city and the coast from the tram are really spectacular between the trees. The funicular track goes up through the steepest part of the route, where the trams are pushed or braked by separate funicular cars that the tram rests against. They are picked up or dropped off at the top and bottom of the funicular track section. There are stops on the funicular section, consisting of tiny shelters on platforms, with stairways leading up into the streets nearby. Most of the steepest area is wooded. From where I live, and around the places I usually travel, you can’t see most of the city. From the tram, one gets a much better feel for how large Trieste is. It’s only a third of the size of Seattle, but it’s much larger than it feels from downtown and the Old Town, where I spend most of my time.

Tram stop in the funicular section

Tram stop in the funicular section

Of course, given that the trams haven’t been operational for quite some time, people forget about the tracks and park there, even though the areas are clearly marked. We had the joyful experience of sitting near one of the stops while we waited for about twenty minutes – tram operator tooting the whistle loudly, frequently, and long – until some young twit came out of the grocery store where he’d been shopping and finally moved his car out of the way. People were fairly sanguine about it. Most of the tram was filled with tourists going up to the obelisk that marks the trail for the Strada Napoleonica, but there were also locals heading up to Opicina and a few of the other stops along the way. Several people made phone calls to inform others that they’d be late.

Passing a tram headed in the other direction. In some sections, the track is doubled so they can pass one another.

Passing a tram headed in the other direction. In some sections, the track is doubled so they can pass one another.

One of the sights easily seen from the tram is the Trieste synagogue. There’s a huge circular rose window with the Star of David plainly visible from the heights. I’d like to go and see it at some point. Photos I’ve seen of the inside are really quite beautiful.

Trieste from the tram. The synagogue can be seen in the center lower right.

Trieste from the tram. The synagogue can be seen in the center lower right.

I’m also intending sometime soon to go up to the Strada Napoleonica to have a hike. I’ve been told it’s a really good trail. There are apparently places that are popular with rock climbers, though I’m not into that sort of thing myself. Heights and I only get along sporadically, and I am just not fit enough to deal with climbing even if we did. That said, I’m very eager to do the trail and spend some time looking down over the city and the coastline.

Bottom of the funicular section entering downtown Trieste. The small part right in front is the funicular tractor.

Bottom of the funicular section entering downtown Trieste. The small part right in front is the funicular tractor.

Opicina itself, at the top of the line, isn’t very large. My brother and I walked a little bit and had an espresso up there, though not much was open, given we’d gone up on a Sunday. The tram station has a bar and some tram-themed gifts and information. There’s a plaque with some of the history of the tram line as well.

Plaque at the Opicina tram station

Plaque at the Opicina tram station

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Garak the gecko

Ready for his close-up

Recently, my apartment has been shared with a gecko. Or perhaps more than one gecko, as one really can’t tell with these things. It’s a common wall gecko, Tarentola mauritanica. A while back, my dog had caught one and bitten its tail off, but this one was hale and hearty, hanging out near the top of the wall and driving the poor dog insane. I have decided to call the gecko collective Garak, as one does if one is a geek. Given that I am a committed arachnophobe, geckos are my preferred option for control of potential indoor bug populations. I’ve seen Garak about the place several times, usually in the evening or late at night. I’ve had the windows and balcony door open most of the time this past month until I go to bed at night, so they may be coming in and out, or they might be hiding behind the bookshelves and such during the day. In any case, yay geckos!

Yesterday I got invited to go up to the local communist meeting house to see Gino perform. He teaches at the University of Trieste, and I met him back in June or early July. He played some songs in English, then his cousin came up to play keyboard with him and they played some songs that Gino had written. I hadn’t realized we’d be outside, so I was wearing my shorts and a tank top as I went up on the bus to Cattinara, where Cristiana picked me up. The temperature was relatively mild and by the end of the evening I was a little chilly, but not very uncomfortable from it. Gino’s pretty good, and I enjoyed the evening. Cristiana was there to photograph and video the performance. I talked a little with some of their friends, though the people spoke very little English and I speak only a little Italian. I told them a little about Seattle; they hadn’t know that wine is made in Washington state, though they’d heard about California wines.

Communists like music too

Communists like music too

At the end of the evening Gino said, “So, you see, Italian communists aren’t bad people. We don’t eat children or anything.” I admitted that I’d never thought they did, though I realize that US politics tends to demonize communism where it’s mentioned at all these days. I told Gino he had to come by my place for a visit at some point, as he has read my poetry book and really enjoys it. I told him he could check out some of the other things I’d done and have a look at my library.

And, as we are mentioning Seattle, I’ve had a new offer on my condo. The previous sale fell through because it had taken too long. With this one, the people who are going to buy it are renting the place until the sale is finalized so, for a month or three, I will be a landlord. Sort of. I’m hoping this will be over quickly and that I let go of it at last.

Gino performs Sultans of Swing

Gino performs Sultans of Swing