A Cultural Tour In Trieste, Italy

Our professor took us on a historical trip through his city of Trieste last Saturday. We began at 8 in the morning and finished at 8 at night, huddled inside a Serbian Orthodox church with rain battering the stone ceiling and lightning flashing outside the stained glass. By the end, my ankles were ruined, feet stinky as a wet dog, and heart bursting with the pain of history and beauty of the present. We began in Piazza Oberdan.

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The building is an outstanding example of attention to detail on a neoclassical design. It is actually about 50 meters from my apartment and the winged lion and ancient stones are always a pleasure to pass on the way to the crowded bus.

Next, we made our way to the famous castle of the tragically fated, Maximillian I of Austria. He moved to Mexico in 1864 in an attempt to rule as Emperor. The Mexicans weren’t as impressed by his beard as I am, and killed him three years later. Nevertheless, the beautiful white castle he had built before he left still stands astride the waters of the Adriatic.

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We spent two hours with an Italian tour guide who explained EVERY inch of the place, perhaps not understanding my vexation bordering on contempt of king worship. Of course, it was beautiful, and that’s what you get when construction workers’ lives depend on creating masterpieces.

After a long traffic jam along the waterside, we made it to lunch at Ristorante Marina San Giusto. It was a perfect place. The chilly Bora winds had just started blowing, kicking up the water to appear as angry white topped waves. We ate a communal lunch of spinach gnocchi, fried calamari and squash, watermelon, wine and an espresso to help digest.

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Full of fried goodness, we ambled over to Il Piccolo, the local newspaper. It smelled like cigarettes and information inside. There wasn’t much work happening, as it was after lunch at an Italian newspaper.

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We ate a small gelato, and went to the amazing Museo Revoltella, a former house of the distinguished lady killer known as Barone Pasquale Revoltella. We were losing daylight now, and had to rush through the five floors of brilliance. I took lots of photos inside, but these are my favorites.

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Next, we hit up the major churches of the hillsides.

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There are also some scattered Roman ruins, some houses built right into the arches and pillars. This is a beautiful mosaic from Cathedral San Giusto.

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Mercifully, (to my knees and ankles) we finished as dusk approached. We had seen a large chunk of this crossroads town. It was the port of Vienna for years, a competitor to Venice’s might, set within the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Yugoslav borders, and finally returned to Italy in 1954. It retains much of the former inhabitants’ energy and style. But now, it is fully Italian, albeit with lots of Austrian pork, Slovenian beer and Croatian tourists.

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Rovigno ~ Croatia

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An ancient church rests on the lonely hill, looking out upon the blue waters of the Adriatic. Crumbling stucco houses among the slippery streets of worn away stones. Flowerpots falling over shuttered balconies and laundry hanging to dry in the afternoon sun. It’s the classic romance of a Mediterranean coastline. We arrived via ferry from Trieste, Italy and immediately found lovely apartment accommodation with some convenient bargaining in Italian. The beaches are more pavement and rock than soft sand, but the crystal water makes up for any lack of horizontal comfort. We made a family lunch with various meats and delicious Croatian beer.

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We found a tiny little church from centuries ago.

Then a big family dinner of spaghetti and sausage with wine and beer before wandering around the night streets. We found a new gelato place called Chocolat, and they were literally giving away free gelato, and it was outstanding! On Sunday, we ate a delicious lunch beside the water.

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We said goodbye to Rovigno, Croatia, and got back onto the speedy ferry to Trieste.

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Returning to My Alma Mater ~ University of Delaware

I needed to obtain an official copy of my transcript for my sojourn in Italy. Delaware’s campus is only a few miles south from Philadelphia through beautiful rolling hills and corn fields, so it was a perfect excuse to take a summer drive.

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After the relaxing morning driving with the windows down and smelling the country air, I arrived at the fabulous brick filled campus of UD. I immediately picked up the all important transcript and made my way to the famous Newark Deli and Bagels. I ordered the everything bagel with egg, cheese, sausage and bacon.

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You can’t see the bacon, because they forgot it, but then when I reminded them, I got about triple what I would have received on the sandwich. It’s delicious, and you can customize the bagel sandwiches anyway you like. After, I took a walk around my old stomping grounds.

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It was great to return and explore. I thought it would be different, but it was just a beautiful and completely welcome deja vu.

Kyoto Walkabout

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After visiting the Kinkaku-ji golden temple, which was surprisingly underwhelming, we took to the streets to explore and found an awesome Zen garden. Kyoto, like the rest of Japan is immaculately clean making for a pleasant stroll. The Zen garden was full of functional beauty. It was a peaceful place with an enchanting pine aroma and the sound of running water surrounds.

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The walk continues…

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I found these amazing temples and a cute street with a cute family where a cute girl was walking a cute dog. Walking remains my favorite way to explore a new city.

These were some of the stones we walked on, and a bad English sign making me wonder if they just mean “Don’t pee on the seat.”

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Japanese Ryokan

Weary travelers (who have plenty of money) can find an amazing experience at the classic Japanese inn, a.k.a.–Ryokan. It’s a combination of restaurant, sauna and community center. We checked in, stocked up on sake at the local 7-11, took a quick dip in the volcanic heated spring water pool and put on our robes for dinner.

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The dinner was quite an experience, served with the classic Japanese focus on presentation creating a mindset for better taste. The food was varied, delicately flavored and filling.

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I really liked the green tea.

 

After a post dinner soak and a schvitz in the sauna, it was time to get comfortable. There were several fluffy blankets and soft pads to make a bed on the clean floor. We used all six of the pads and blankets to make a marshmallow bed.

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The next morning was a big buffet breakfast complete with sticky fermented soy beans, fish and vegetables. It’s not the soggy eggs and limp bacon on most buffet menus. It was an expensive night, but such a full course of Japanese culture.

We were in the middle of nowhere and near a big lake on a quiet moonlit night.

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Great Ramen in Japan

This bowl of seemingly simple noodles was extraordinary. It looked like every other restaurant on the street, but what a dish! The pork was so soft and tasty, the noodles al dente, and plenty of green onion. I was so happy eating this.

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So great, look at the sesame seeds and bubbles of tastiness floating there.

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The left dish was egg wrapped around rice and drowned in a gelatinous goop (tastes better than my accurate description). The right dish was a pretty good ramen soup, but not nearly as good as that first one.

People in Osaka

The streets of Japan are eerily clean, almost as if it was cleaned for a obsessive recluse who they were trying to lure outside. There are bicycles putzing along, freshly washed Toyota’s, Honda’s and Mazda’s gleaming down the road and plenty of street food vendors. It has mountains visible from all angles. And, just like any big city, surprises around every corner.

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Look at that street! Good lines, no trash, no illegal parking, well done Japan.

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Look at that cat! So fluffy and cute, he ran away before we could touch him.

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Look at those cheeks! Mom is so happy and proud of her munchkins.

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These guys were rail-thin, and looked at their phones as they crossed the street.

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Bikes and buildings everywhere.

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Takoyaki–octopus fried with flour. I kept saying, “I’ll try it later, I’ll try it later.” And then I never tried it.

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I taught Jordyn how to make a fist and she punched me very hard and accurately. Something about a boxing gym makes people want to fight.

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The old guy bought us some sushi on the street and so we followed him back to his bar where we met his crazy wife who talked constantly and laughed loudly like a Japanese Fran Drescher. We drank several bottles of sake here.

I was impressed with the friendliness of the Japanese people. They didn’t bow as much as I thought they would, but they emphatically say “Hai” whenever you ask a question imparting such a sense of importance of your question, “Where is the bus stop?”