Thursday, August 9, 2012

Slovenia Journal 1: Trieste

Photo: Zinn
There’s a 12:23 train from Venice Mestre Station which gets into Trieste two hours later. On the platform two young men in their twenties, one with an umbrella, protruding from his backpack, and the other with his head shaved and a tattoo on his leg, smoke thin rolled cigarettes. On the train, an older man begins chatting with two women, one of whom has an acne scarred face and a tank top with Saint- Tropez embroidered in fake rhinestones. The older man is an obvious interloper who’s interrupted their conversation, but they don’t seem to mind. The appearance of barges on the Adriatic is the first sign that Trieste is imminent. Then there’s the statue atop the tower hanging over the old stock exchange which now houses the chamber of commerce. Finally there’s the site of densely populated hills running into sea. Being a port city Trieste, like Bari, is a center of trade. But besides fishmongers, Trieste other natural resource is the James Joyce and Italo Svevo tourism industry. Joyce taught English at the Berlitz school in Trieste (and began working on Ulysses there). At Berlitz one of his students was the Jewish writer Ettore Schmitz aka Italo Svevo, whose work he championed. A site Joyce lived in, is now the Victoria Hotel. 404 is the Joyce suite. Joyce is to Trieste what Warren Buffett is to Omaha. Though he only inhabited the city from 1904-1920, his relatively short stay made him one of the city’s major attractions—culturally that is (and stealing some thunder from Dublin). Joyce is a kind of rock star of Trieste and pictures of him are ubiquitous along with signs for Udine, the gateway to Slovenia and the Friulean alps.

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