Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trieste Means Wind

October 17, 2012 – Trieste Means Wind

It’s the wind that greets me as I come into Italy. Strong, wild, and exuberant. I bow my head and push against it as I make my way to the hostel. I feel like I should have more emotion; tears, laughter, butterflies, excitement, fireworks. There should be music. Maybe an impromptu musical with dancing and four part harmony, or a flash mob. At least an outburst of Pavarotti. I’m in Italy. After years of dreaming of this moment, I’m really here. There should be some deep stirring in my soul that twines itself into a circle of completion. But I just feel like me. Content, lucky, happy and amazed with my own life.

You’re anticlimactic, I tell myself in a tone of voice that implies I should be ashamed of myself. I’m resorting to talking to myself (more than usual) because for the first time in eighty-one days I’m truly alone. It’s a little disconcerting. It’s also freeing. It’s also lonely. It’s also exhilarating. 

I follow the instructions listed on the hostel confirmation email and only have to stop and ask for directions once. Fortunately, the Italian I’ve managed to learn includes “Where is…?” That question coupled with hand motions and an address are sufficient for now. The lady I ask rattles off in Italian that I’m only a block away and points me back in the right direction.

Stuck in the middle of the street between an unbroken stretch of dark-stoned buildings I find the Alla Stazione Guesthouse. I get buzzed in and walk up the four flights of stairs, past the rickety, ancient elevator and am greeted at the hostel entry by the management. With my meager Italian and the lady clerk’s better English, I get checked in to my private room and shown where the bathrooms and common areas are. Thus settled in, I leave my heavy bag and go out to explore. I have a day and half here and too much to see. Although I’d never heard of Trieste before I found out it was a great crossover from Croatia to Italy, I’ve researched enough to know there are churches out the ear, nearby Roman baths and ruins, the Grotta Gigante, San Giusto’s Castle and Duomo which claims (according to some person’s blog or the internet’s wide storehouse of knowledge, I can’t remember which) the widest campanile, and--as the advertisements always say--much much more.

I need a lifetime for this.

After climbing down the four flights of stairs and letting myself out the street door, I head left. I only have the hostel’s little handout flier map, so I make sure to look behind me as I go so as to be able to find my way back again. I’m going out with the intention to orient myself a little and to find something for dinner. I’m a bit travel weary, quite a bit hungry, but not willing to lose out on daylight.

A block down, in the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, there’s a fountain with three figures holding up a gigantic, neck-bowing shell. They’ve got webbed feet or mermaid tails, expressions of accepting despondence, and perfectly proportioned figures. The water spills out over the shell lip and the wind blows it into my face, over my camera lens. I rub the drops off and take a step back.  It may not be a Bellini, Michelangelo, or Donatello (or it might be) but it’s impressive. Sheesh, I haven’t even gone 300 meters and I’ve already found something worth stopping to admire. I realize I’m going to have to learn to close my eyes as I walk or I’ll never make it anywhere due to being distracted by fantastic structures. 

Such as the blue dome I can just make out over the rooftops. I tell the sculpture goodbye and head blueward. Down the street, around a corner and there it is.

The Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Spyridon has five, not just one, blue domes with complementary gold-yellow paintings decorating the front façade and the building’s sides. I know nothing of this saint except that I think his name is funny. He’d probably think the same of mine. Inside, I stand for a moment under the cupola where a gold-glittery Jesus looks down on me with an expression I can’t quite read.

I stare back at him with an equally unreadable expression. Then I glance around. Peter would not have been able to say (as a Sunday school song sings), “Silver and gold have I none,” if he’d been head of this church. It’s gaudy, intricate, and extravagant. I’m not inspired into worshipfulness so I head back out into the blustery arms of the great outside.

I’m eyeing the Divo Antonio Thaumaturgo (whatever that is) when I feel a soft squish underfoot and a following splash against my shin. Red splatter stains my skin, and my first thought is blood. Blood but no pain. That’s strange. Then I see the poor stepped on tomato carcass just by my shoe and I laugh aloud.

“Welcome to Italy,” I say.

It seems a very fitting welcome.

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