Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trieste - Secondo (Second)

While Darrell was in meetings on Wednesday, I took a bus along the coast to Castle Miramare. This beautiful castle has an interesting history. It was built by Maximillian between 1856 and 1860. After WWII, the Americans used the castle as their base in this region from 1947 to 1954 in the post-war efforts.

Castle Miramare
The area is now a park, partially due to the foresight of Maximillian who had it reforested. The marine waters around it are also protected. There were school groups touring the small aquarium in the Castellita (little Castle) and learning about local species of invertebrates and fish.

I walked back to Trieste along a paved coastal path. Many people had parked on the side of the road and were picnicking and sunbathing. There were cafĂ©’s every few hundred meters if you needed a beer or an espresso. I loved seeing the older people playing cards in their bathing suits! This is at least part of "la bella vita" (the good life) in Italy.

La bella vita in Trieste
Thursday, I walked to the bus station via some Roman ruins. Notice the SuperCoop (store) in the background. The city just built itself around the ruins, and over ruins, and certainly used Roman stones in the new construction.

Roman architectural remains
I took bus 42 to the top of the limestone bluffs behind Trieste and entered the larger tourist cave in the world - 365,000 cubic meters. St. Peter's Cathedral in Rome could fit inside it. The cave is unique in primarily being one vast chamber. You can find a youtube video of someone base jumping in the cave. I walked down 500 steps into the grotto, behind a large group of noisy Italian middle schoolers and their harried teachers, and then circled around and took a different 500 steps out. It isn't exquisite like the well-preserved Kartchner Caverns in Arizona because it has been "explored" since its first discovery in 1840 by countless people.

Seeing into the depths of the grotto
After the 11 degrees C in the cave, it was great to get back out into the sunshine. I got a caprese sandwich from a street vendor and headed to the local "beach" where there is no sand, but very rounded beach rocks. It keeps the sand out of your shorts, but isn't too comfortable for sitting on! It is refreshing to see topless women without any self-consciousness because it is so normal and natural here. No one bats an eye and all body types are allowed!

The rocky beach at Trieste

That night was a delicious dinner at Lanterna, the lighthouse, which had been converted to an upscale restaurant. Another huge part of the la bella vita!

Trieste - Primo (First)

We arrived in Trieste a little after noon on May 18th. We walked the kilometer or so to where Darrell’s meeting was going to be held in a beautiful old stone building. Around the back of it was a newer cement addition where we stayed. On the ground floor was a gym and an area for kids to learn languages and play after school. On the second floor was a dormitory where most of the conference participants stayed. Breakfast was included, but it was only rolls with butter and jam and coffee. The joke about an Italian breakfast being coffee and cigarettes was true I guess!

Trieste is in the red area in the northeast of Italy
You can guess by Trieste’s location that control of Trieste has changed over time. It was a colony under Roman rule during the time of Julius Caesar. It was held by the Byzantines, the Franks, the Venetians, the Habsburgs, yada yada! World War II ended with Slovenia (part of Yugoslavia at the time) losing Trieste to Italy. Because Slovenia is now an EU country, there are no border controls between the two and relationships are friendly with lots of cross-migration.

After settling in, we walked along the harbor area, and had an espresso to perk up from our early morning. We met Jason Briner, one of Darrell’s past students who is now a professor at SUNY-Buffalo, and walked up to the main fortification over town, the Castle of San Giusto.

Jason and Darrell with a view of the city
The next day, Monday, Darrell had a meeting with a smaller group prior to the conference. I toured Trieste on foot. One of the prettier parts of the city is around the Grand Canal. There is only one canal, unlike nearby Venice, but there is nothing like water or parks to break up the hardscape of the city!

Grand Canal in Trieste
Tuesday was the conference excursion to the Italian Alps to observe glacial features. While crossing terminal moraines among the fields was exciting, lunch was the highlight for me. We were in one of the main ham areas in Italy, and there is lots of prosciutto being shipped all over the world from here.

Pre-proscuitto hanging in the chilled room
Italian meals come in courses. You can have antipasto before the first course. Then the first course, primo, is usually a pasta dish. The second course, secondo, is usually meat or fish. Normally Darrell and I didn’t get past the primo, but we had a small tortellini dish this time, and then we had prosciutto for the secondo. Desert was a nutty cake served with an espresso.


After lunch we ventured up higher and higher into the alps. We stopped at a ski resort when the bus couldn’t go further, and I took a picture of this unidentified flower for our friend Vera to identify. No pressure, Vera! It seemed like it had already gone to seed, but the flower may have just been seed-like because it looked hairy even before it opened up.

Alpine flower or fuzzy weed!
We hiked up to a viewpoint to see the small remnant glaciers, and listened to the local geologist tell us about the extent of the glaciers during the Little Ice Age. We are so lucky that the scientific world now uses English as their primary language. The conference attendees were mostly from Europe and Russia, so any other language would have lost us. It is fun to hear conversations in so many languages all around us!

View of the Alps - Slovenia is just over the ridge!