So here are a few from my last few weeks, from Koper, Treviso, and Udine. Food, clouds, fountains, and other details.
In November I went to the Irish music seisún in Trieste. I sang Chì mi na mòrbheanna, and my friend Gowen (playing his drum, above) joined in for the chorus, as he was familiar with the song. I’d been encouraged by my friend Anna to sing there, though it has been years since I sang with a group or in front of other people. I was nervous, and a bit out of breath by the end of it, not having had a lot of practice in all those years. It takes a certain amount of muscle control and stamina to do it proper justice, after all, and not practicing means losing some of that muscle tone. I did mostly okay, though, and was relieved when it was over!
December found me in Gorizia, a town that is now divided by the Italian/Slovenian border, with Novo Gorica on the other side. I was visiting with some folks from the Internations website – a woman from England, and two Italians who were born in Gorizia when it was still part of Slovenia. We walked the streets of the town, visited the castle, and had a huge lunch at a local restaurant. The platters were inexpensive but immense. I ended up taking a bucket of sausages home for later; my brother and I ate them for two days. Next time, fewer dishes and more people!
The Internations group met again yesterday in Udine for lunch. This time there were six of us. Gillian from England organized, while a local Udine Italian and his Russian wife recommended the restaurant. They were in attendance with their two kids. There was a Slovenian woman and a man from Scotland as well. The food was fantastic and plentiful, as was the talk. It’s a pretty nice bunch of people I’ve met from the website so far. We talked about getting together again next month in Udine for Chinese food at a new restaurant there and, when I told people about the seisún, they said they wanted to know when the next one was, so we will probably meet at the Taverna for that as well. After lunch, some of us wandered back in the direction of the train station. We stopped at a covered tent arcade that was sheltering a small chocolate festival, where I got to practice a little of my Italian.
Yesterday also saw demonstrations all across Italy in support of legalizing same sex civil unions. There was a small crowd in one of the piazzas; I heard there was a larger demonstration in Trieste, as well. The US State Department had sent out an email advisory to Americans living here about anticipated peaceful protests in many cities around the country. Italy is the last western European country that does not have legal provisions for the protection of same sex partnerships, but things are slowly changing for the better.
My travel plans for the year are coming together. I’m hoping to go down to Naples and Pompeii in February, but got word the other day that a good friend of mine will be presenting a paper at a Celtic Studies conference in Maynooth in late March. I thought I might have to choose one or the other for the beginning of the year, but one of the folks at the American Corner told me about Flixbus, a German bus company that has inexpensive fares, and some really amazing promotional sales, for cities all over Europe. Joe and his girlfriend had just got back from Naples last week, where they’d traveled for one Euro each (yes, you read that correctly) on the bus. Their normal fares are better than Trenitalia or the plane, so it is looking like I will be able to afford Napoli in February and Ireland in March after all. Right now, I’m pulling together my plans and looking at booking my travel next week for both destinations.
September promises a reprise of the Sherlocked convention in London. My friend Jenn from Spokane is planning on attending again, this time accompanied by her husband Nick, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. Sarah, one of my English friends, will also be there, so we are talking about splitting room costs for the con.
In October I will be back in Ireland for a pilgrimage hosted by Vyviane Armstrong and led by Morgan Daimler, to sites associated with the Morrigan. Morgan has been doing some really excellent translation work with early Irish tales, and publishing collections of her work, which I very much recommend. We have been in correspondence off and on for many years, and I’m looking forward to meeting her in person. With any luck, I can also spend a couple of extra days in Dublin book shopping! Be still, my Celtophilic geeky heart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.