May 2004 - July 2004 Italy and Croatia
Well, here I am finally in Rome after a 24 hour trip. Didn't get on the
Rome flight, went over to another terminal to try for Alitalia no go,
finally got on the plane to Venice.
It was only two hours late leaving because of storms, no problem- I am
cosy in business class drinking champagne and eating well. Even slept
for a couple of hours and had decided that I would stay in Venice for a
few days, since I would be arriving there.
I did discover just before boarding that the handles on my handbag were
breaking so on board I had to get Delta shopping bags to put my stuff
in. A very lovely sight.
Well, when I went through security on Sunday twice with my handluggage I
had no problems. Monday it was discovered that my leatherman was in my
toiletbag, had completely forgotten that it was there, so I had to check
that bag as well. Scary that it was not discovered earlier.
Anyway, here I am in Venice minus luggage, they don't know where it is.
Not very much to do except go sight seeing . I know that I am the
original shopping bag lady, but this was too much, I couldn't face
walking around with two plastic bags that said Delta, so scratched that
plan, now onto Rome.
Took the bus to Mestre station and bought my ticket. The train was
leaving 1 hour later, time for lunch. I discovered a lunch place across
from the station that served one of the best salads that I have had in a
long time. Life is not bad, even my Italian is sufficient to get by
In case I have a heart attack in Rome I am covered, I sat next to a
cardiologist on the train and made sure I got his contact number. So now
I feel better, not that I was worried.
Finally after 5 hours I arrived in Rome to a huge welcome from my new
room mates. They are two young women who couldn't be kinder or more
solicitous. The apartment is nice and my room very spacious and airy.
Everything feels good, wanted to keep you posted on my progress.
The cell phone is not working because the unlock code is in my checked
luggage, and I feel lost, but Lisa one of the young girls lent me hers.
Love to all of you.
I finally received my luggage Thursday night at 10.30 pm, after having
spent an entire day calling Alitalia, Delta and anyone else that I
thought might help me.
I didn't have the the Pope's number otherwise I would have contacted
him too. I spent the morning re-organizing the kitchen cabinets. Then I went
out quickly to replace the plastic shopping bags, I probably should not
have bothered - what I bought was no improvement once I put 3 items into
Not having the luggage was unsettling and I didnt feel as if I had had a
chance to make Rome mine yet, so decided to stay here rather than going
to Cinque Terre.
(This keyboard by the way is funny so forgive some of the formatting. )
The impressions so far are very diverse and interesting. I live right by
the Termini behind Piazza Vittorio Emanuelle. It is a fairly new
district, as far as Rome goes anyway. It is an extremely multi- cultural
area and the market which is only a block away has fascinating foods.
There are Chinese, Indian, Rumanian, African and I am sure other ethnic
food stalls. The vegetables are beautiful so is the fish, you have to
shop around amongst the meatstalls though . The cuts are so different from what I am used to, but I'll get it eventually. It is a very large market, not as colorful as Florence but
it has its own satisfactions.
This morning I discovered a stall that sold all baby lettuces and bought
a huge bag for 1 Euro. Found a wonderful Italian butcher, and am
starting to find my own vendors.
Of course the girls are ecstatic since I cook, I am even more pleased
since they do the dishes.
There is a local suburban train that stops in front of the house, it was
blue and white- now it is covered by really beautiful graffiti. I never
thought I would say that graffiti is beautiful, these trains are though.
Actually there is a fair amount of graffiti everywhere here.
Poppies everywhere. The wheat fields are dotted with them- they grow in crevices and abandoned lots. They are so vibrant it makes you smile just seeing them.
I finally had my luggage, to get the cell phone activated was another
whole travail, finally I went to the Vodafone office and got the
loveliest young woman to help me. I now have a phone that works, a phone
card that is activated so in case someone wants to reach me they can.
I leave a message on my friend Maureen's phone, but they had already
left for Marcella Hazan's birthday party. Just for fun I thought I would
check how much money I had spent on the card, it said that I had spent
3.30 Euros. No way, if that is how much a 2 minute phone call is costing
here, I am going to start using smoke signals.
Back to Vodafone I go, to ask what was wrong or if this is normal, of
course it is not normal I was told but nothing could be done until this
morning when the computers could track the call.
When I called this morning I got a most affable Italian man who
explained that somehow or another I had called information and that
costs 3Euros, but since Vodafone is a British company that believes in
customer service he was going to reverse the charge.
I have had enough frustrations to last me a very long time, so I climb
up the Spanish Steps towards Villa Borghese. Caravaggio's last painting
The Martyrdom Of Ursula is on display and I really want to see it.
The sun is shining, the walk is long and my feet are hurting, there is
a little train in the gardens that takes you around so I get on it. I
did not realise that I got on just around the corner from
Villa Borghese, at least I got to sit down for a while.
The artichoke plants in the secret garden are like bushes, everything
is in bloom it is so lovely. As I am sitting on the train I see all
these mounted policemen and women. I am impressed, the security in the
park is incredible.
I didn't know that there is an equestrian police competition going on.
Well, there were a lot of beautiful horses and police men around. I also
felt safe, that was in case I would have felt unsafe to start with.
The afternoon, I had an even lovelier experience- the municipal rose
garden is by Circus Massimo. All the roses are blooming. I learnt that
there are 50.000 varieties of roses- this rose garden has 800. Most
roses today do not have any scent, it has been bred out of them. The
Rose garden is on the site of a very ancient Jewish cemetery, there were
actually 2 gravestones with Hebrew writing in the garden.
The view is quite spectacular from the garden overlooking the Palatine
Hill and the ruins of an old palace.
Dinner around Fiore de Campo in a new restaurant that was quite good.
Crocodilo is the name. They had a lovely Montalcino for 10 Euros and the
pastas were in the 10 Euro range. My new room mate Lisa and I had a
To the disappointment of Terry I have not had my bottom pinched, but
have been given a couple of second looks by a few men. Which of course
have improved my self-esteem immensely.
Tomorrow I am off to Ostia Antica,with one if not both of my room mates.
Last time I was there I didn't know what I was looking at except it was
old and Roman, I had 3 hours to kill at the airport so I took a taxi.
This time I will take the subway, I still know that it is old and Roman
but now I have a guidebook.
Ostia Antica was very nice. Barbara, my 20 year old room mate, came with
me. It was so exciting being with a young person, who despite the fact
that she grew up in Campania has never been to any of the old sites. She
was like a little kid running around and thoroughly enjoying every site.
After three hours I was done in, and by the time we got back to the
apartment my legs were like spaghetti.
During the night I developed a cold, my nose is now competing with the constantly running
public waterfaucets, and I think the nose is winning.
My ESL or TEFL (teaching English as a second language) classes have started. There are 21 of us split into two groups. I think
I will like it. We observed the first class yesterday and it was
interesting to see how I could relate the teaching to my Italian classes.
The methodology was so similar, even the subject, discussing movies and
the different words, pertaining to movies and kinds that are made. The
students were two teenagers, they were quite good.
Have another class tonight to observe.
Since I had discovered that the phone had been programmed to the wrong
number it was back to Vodafone. Now it is really taken care of, correct
number, correct amount of money and tutta va bene.
I am so tired and all I want is to go home, I hop on the bus that takes
me to the front door. Except it is the wrong bus, now I am in the
outskirts of Rome so I stay on the bus for the return trip. The closest
bus stop is 3 subway stops away. I am too tired to walk so I go down to
take the train.
They are doing a police check on tickets, so I explain about the wrong
bus, and that I didn't know (which was true) that you can only ride
once on the subway on a 75 minute ticket.
Anyway he gives me a fine, and tells me that if I pay on the spot it is
51 Euros. I didn't have the money but proceeded to go upstairs to a Bancomat,
because otherwise the fine would have been 100 Euros if I paid at the post office.
When I reach the top of the escalator, his colleague was waiting for me.
She told me in Italian to forget about the ticket. They can not find me
in NYC and her colleague is a jerk. So off I went and grabbed a cab
home. Only in Rome, guys, only in Rome.
Off to another class.
June 3 2004
is now the 4th day of school. We have 90 minutes of English grammar and 90
minutes of teaching techniques and class room management each day. We
also have to sit in on classes that the REAL teachers are teaching. Next
week we start teaching, under supervision. I do pity the students that
will be assigned to me, but I will muddle through, I hope.
I am the only non native English speaker in the class, apart from the
fact that I don't remember any grammar at all. The problem is
remembering and not trying to analyze a sentence. What I think should be
future is really present simple. Simple, no not at all, but I am working
There has already been some drama, one male student threatened to kill
another one, in a most serious manner. The school was able to obtain
separate accomodation for the threatener. In the end, nobody really
cared about the whole incident. It is really interesting to see how the
class is falling into groups and little cliques.
The student body is quite a mix of Americans, Canadians and Australians.
Most are very nice and I have already become part of a small group, well
at least I get invited to join them for meals and to go for drinks. I
haven't had the energy to go out at night, maybe when this cold passes
I'll accept The days are very long, but we also have long breaks in
Since most of the students come for evening classes, we have to remain
in order to observe the teaching. As I suspected, there is no one even
close to my age, but somehow it doesn't seem to matter. Some of the
girls are having a blast at night, they managed to hook up with Secret
Service men who are here as the advance team. One of them is from
Texas and is a true believer in our President. She is so thrilled and
excited about perhaps getting to see him.
Yesterday was Republic Day, a national holiday, with marching bands on
Via Fori Imperiali. We had classes for part of the day, but I saw some
of it on T.V.
On the way home one could observe the advance security team for G.W. in
action. They were lifting up man covers and filming the interiors. The
city is gearing up for his visit with a lot of demonstrations planned,
as well as some kind of parade to commemorate the US liberation of
Italy after WWII.
Fortunately I will take the Metro tomorrow, with my monthly card in my
hand, to avoid the blocked off streets. There are supposed to be 10.000
policemen out to protect the city.
Lisa, one of my roommates, works for Ernst & Young and is hoping that
the office will be closed. People are quite apprehensive and less than
thrilled about the visit. I think the general mood is fear that despite
all the precautions , something will happen.
We are trying out some of the restaurants around the school, more out of
convenience than anything else. So far, we have batted 100 on finding
really bad ones. My only defense is that I left the decision to others,
I figured give them a week before I show my true controlling nature.
In one, the waiter insisted that we should order a wine which was much
more expensive, then he told us that service was not included and it
should be at least 10%, all this while he is leaning over the shoulder
of the woman collecting the money for the bill. Another place said that
they don't have tap water, we had to order bottled water. I just asked
them how they did the dishes? Somehow we got our tap water in a
On Thursday we had several hours off in between classes . One of my
class mates and I decided to see Bernini's "The Ecstasy of Santa Theresa
of Avila" at Sta. Maria della Vittoria. It is such a master piece, one
wonders how he could have made the marble so alive.
We got off at Piazza Bernini and walked up the very steep hill. The
sight that met us was very frightening to me. A human wall of
Carbinieri stood facing the direction of Piazza della Repubblica, where
a peace demonstration was taking place.
The carabinieri had on crash helmets, and held big shields in front of
them as well as being fully armed. Am not sure if my reaction was due to
having lived in NYC for so long or the fact that this kind of armed
force aimed towards civilians is very disconcerting.
Mary who is from Toronto was not disturbed at all, she just thought it
interesting. As it turned out there never were any serious clashes
between the police and the demonstrators as far as I know.
One morning I was running a little late and decided to take the Metro
to school. The expression "sardines in a can " can not even begin to
describe the experience of standing in an unventilated subway car, being
held upright by a mass of human bodies. I now get up earlier and take
the bus. The Metro is very efficient and fast, but there is no air
conditioning, and the windows are very small so it gets hot.
Saturday morning I spent with Lisa. We went to the market to pick up
vegetables and salad greens. We also bought basil plants and
dirt that I planted on the kitchen terrace. The apartment has 3
terraces, one off my room, one off Lisa's room and one off the kitchen
overlooking the courtyard.
The kitchen terrace is where I become a Roman house wife. I cut my
rosemary for cooking, hang the laundry up there to dry. I love
taking down the sun dried sheets. I do sleep like a queen in a very
large, comfortable bed with hand embroidered heavy linen sheets and
pillow cases. The stitches are so small one needs a magnifying glass to
see them. It is actually a pleasure ironing them.
I have also discovered how to sweep my room. Because of the great cross
ventilation, when the kitchen and my terrrace doors are open, all the
dustballs fly into the kitchen and stop in one spot. We were all
laughing so hard when we saw this, especially since nobody knew that
there were that many dustballs under the bed.
June 8 2004
Second day of the second week. We have started to teach and to observe the
other students teach. My two classes, this week, are not until tomorrow and
Last night I hit a wall, couldn't do my home work and found it impossible
to write the evaluation of the class that I had observed. This cold is
dragging me down, but that is no excuse for how I was feeling. I got up at
6.30 this morning did my homework convinced it was all wrong, only to
discover that I had it all right when we went over it. I also went to the
teacher and told her how hard I found it to write the evaluation, she did
give me some guidance and it feels a little better now. I do know that I
feel insecure because of being the only "foreigner" in the class, however I
am discovering that my grammar is pretty accurate. Since I had 3 hours to
kill before my next observation I took a walk around Castel s. Angelo,
needed to clear my head. It is a lovely walk with the Vatican in the
The Sengalese are lined up along the water selling handbags, I bought one
because I had realized I needed one. He started out by asking €75.00 I
ended up paying €20 which is what it would have cost in NYC. All in all it
was a profitable walk which I ended by a Spromuto di Limone.
Rome is quite splendid, there is a lot of construction going on, it is all
hidden by canvas that has been printed to look like the monument or
building being repaired. It is some kind of photo technique, that I know
has a name but I can't remember it at this moment, from a distance it
really looks like the building. What does give it away, is the large
advertisement by the sponsor. In Piazza Cavour the restoration of the
monument is being sponsored by L'Oreal a little surreal.
I have been taking pictures and will try to get them posted on line in the
next few days.
Sunday was spent on another outing, Lisa and I went to Villa d'Este. It was
quite the excursion we took the Metro to Rebbibio. She had told me that the
big jail was there so I looked at everyone on the train wondering if they
had a near and dear that was incarcerated. Nobody appeared to fit the bill,
well so much for stereo types. It was the last stop on the Metro and rather
dismal looking. From there we took a local bus to Tivoli, it was the last
stop on the line, and took a very long time. The trip went faster because I
started to speak with these four young Americans who had been traveling on
an organized tour.
Villa d'Este is quite spectacular once you get inside, past all the
souvenir stands that line the street approaching it. The rooms are
decorated with frescoes, there was also an art show, which we decided to
skim. The gardens and the fountains were waiting.
What a wonderful sight, the weather was perfect not too hot and sunny and
the terraces going down towards the fish pools with fountains sprouting
water everywhere. There were still a lot of roses blooming and other
flowers on the terraces, around the base of the villa the peonies were at
their showiest. We spent a couple of hours ohing and ahing, while we
figured out how to plan a wedding there, the only thing missing was a groom
for Lisa. I'll work on that, though.
You don't want to be hungry in Tivoli on a Sunday, the few places that were
open had food that looked less than appetizing, we then decided to take a
bus back to the station and eat around there. While we waited for the bus
the sky opened up, fortunately I am water proof and Lisa had an umbrella.
We decided then to continue to the city, and eat there, somewhere around
Termini. Eating out in Rome is not especially expensive, I had a good size
antipasto plate for €5.50 and the pasta was about the same price.
The school is extremely time consuming, so I have not been able to do
much sightseeing. Have not even had a chance to go out and eat very
often. It seems that I run across the street to pick up some pizza or a
sandwich or go straight home at night and cook. All of this of course
has added a few pounds to my weight, since I also don't walk as much as
I had planned.
Have had some wonderful experiences here, I had run out of some rather
vital medication which was being mailed to me, but hadn't arrived. I
went into a pharmacy to ask if I could buy it, no problem at all. When I
then asked if this was without prescription in Italy she looked at me
like I was from the moon and said "of course not, but where would you
get a prescription as a tourist"?
It is things like these, that make me love Italy.
Last weekend I was invited to visit Anna-Lisa's parents, Marisa and
Domenico. They live in Umbria, in a house that overlooks a fantastic
hill side town called Todi. I took the bus on Saturday morning, we had
to change to a smaller one just before Todi. As I approach the smaller
bus an older woman calls out "Signora Fanny" I was sure she was speaking
to someone else since I knew that I was not at my destination. It turns
out that she was a friend of the family and had heard that I was coming
on this bus.
The welcome I received was amazing, they had planned a most intense and
interesting weekend for me. It was a beautiful sunny day and very hot.
After having had coffee at home we went into Todi which is enchanting,
we climbed up and down streets, I saw where Marisa works and met some
of her colleagues, I also saw Domenico's birthplace right in the center
of town. We then returned home for a delicious lunch. Domenico is an
avid hunter, first we had papardelle with a wild boar sauce, then we had
a wild boar stew. There is, in my opinion, something very special about
eating food that is home grown, hunted or in general not purchased.
After lunch we then went to Orvieto, which was such a disappointment. I
had visions in my head of a town very similar to Todi, instead it is
pretty run down and very touristy.
The Duomo is of course magnificent but that was it. Before we returned
home we went to see the Agro Turismo that Leonardo, Anna-Lisa's
boyfriend has converted. It is beautiful, with incredible views, within
driving distance of all the sites in Umbria and of course very close to
Todi. There is a large swimming pool as well as 4 separate apartments.
Sunday morning was an overcast and rather dreary day. I did some
homework after breakfast, then we left for Assisi which I totally
loved. It is such an attractive city. We had a wonderful lunch at a
really good restaurant then went to see what I had been dreaming of for
years- the "Giottis" what a most wonderful experience.
It is so special when what one sees is more beautiful and special than
ever imagined. We ended the day by going to Spoleto and having coffee in
the square in front of the Duomo.
It rained on and off all day but it didn't matter we had all had such a
good time and so many beautiful sights to digest. I am sure that every
Italian feels that their part of the world is the most beautiful,
However, Umbria is incredibly beautiful with mountains and fields and of
course poppies everywhere.
By the time I got on the train I was pretty tired, neither Marisa nor
Domenico speak English which meant that we conversed only in Italian. I
now know what the English students feel like. It is so frustrating and
tiring not being able to find the right words. Somehow we managed to
communicate pretty well and I was invited back for next weekend.
So everyone, I am off to Todi once more and will try to send off some more stuff
June 21 2004
A long story about my teaching experiences.
This is going to be quite long. I have now been in Rome for 4 weeks and the classes are almost finished. We are ending our 3rd week tomorrow. It has been and is quite rough going. I find that it doesn’t matter what language I am studying I have certain limitations, many of them self imposed. I definitively get very frustrated, especially since it seems that all, or at least most of the other students don’t have too many difficulties in grasping the grammar. I know I said, before I left, that as long as I pass I’ll be happy, not true anymore now I also want good grades.
We have tests all of next week so we will see how well I have learned. As for the teaching, that has been extremely rewarding for the most part. So far I have only taught Intermediate and Advanced students. The first class you don’t get graded on, but I got very positive feedback. My second class of teaching was fantastic, we have to make lesson plans together with the regular teacher. In the middle of my class I realized that the students were lacking knowledge of some vocabulary, so I switched midstream, while still teaching the subject which was travel. I created an imaginary suitcase that had to be packed with clothing. I can promise you that none of the men will ever refer to a suit as a dress again. I did it almost textbook style and got an A on the class. I walked out of class with a great rush and knew that I had taught really well. What a great feeling that was, well I was brought down to earth very quickly, my next class was a teenager. We team teach that means that two of us split a 90 minute class, we do 45 minutes each and this particular lesson I followed second. As soon as I stood in front of the student she put up an emotional wall, there was nothing I could do to make the lesson enjoyable. She was a most reluctant student, she did learn her idioms and grammar but what a struggle. Needless to say I did not receive an A.. I know I was not good and made some real mistakes in how I conducted the class, the only thing I can say in my own defense is that the regular teacher gave me no feed back on the student and I only learnt later that she does best with extremely informal teaching.
Before that class on Friday we had an Italian class. I am in the Intermediate class and we were handed a worksheet with sentences of conjugations to transform them into something else. I didn’t understand the instructions nor the sentences so I sat like an idiot while everyone else seemed to be writing full speed. From then on it went downhill, one student monopolized the class wanting to know everything about Passato Remoto and we finally spent 10 minutes on a real lesson. I was completely frustrated and depressed because I felt so stupid. I wrote a report, which we have to do on everything done at school, where I said it was the worst kind of teaching I had ever seen. It turns out that the purpose of the lesson was to show really bad teaching.
However my last class was a breeze, I had such a good time and time flew by, and I received another A. Next week I am teaching two nuns who are total beginners.
Yesterday I taught the two nuns, a Mother Superior and her Secretary. They are almost complete beginners, but we had the best time. It was truly enjoyable, they have a very good sense of humour and since the secretary is so used to do everything for the Mother Superior I had to tell her to stop speaking for her. The Mother Superior made a really fun joke about it.
Anyway all the exams are over, don’t know how well or bad I did. I have done all but one of my teaching assignments and so far have 3 A’s and 1 B. It has been very difficult at times but at least I now know what a relative clause is. Actually I know more than that and find that I enjoy the grammar as well as the physical teaching.
June 30 2004
My adventure is now really beginning, I am totally alone with no reservations and a very loose itinerary. It is very exciting. I will be in Venice for 2 nights and then on to Trieste and Slovenia.
There is a lot more to report about Rome but somehow I haven't gotten around to putting it on the net. I graduated last Friday with Merit it is the second to highest degree (didn't do so well on the written exams) whatever I am now qualified to teach English as a second language with a diploma to show for it.
I took the plane to Venice this afternoon it only cost 10 Euros more to fly Volare, than the train, and it certainly was more comfortable than the 5 1/2 hours on the train. Leonardo da Vinci Airport is very large and also really interesting with a lot of shops, Mc Donalds and other fast food places. What makes it different from American airports is that you can have a fairly decent lunch without breaking the bank. I ordered a Foccacia Fantasia, which was really two thin pieces of bread triangles filled with a really large salad that had Small boccancini, Prosciutto, olives and tomatoes for 3.20 Euros, with a bottle of water it came to 4.80 less than half of what I paid for a really poor salad near Piazza Venezia. I know this is very important information to share.
I arrived in Venice and took the bus to Piazzale Roma. My first view of Venice in over 25 years was "wow" it is exactly as when I go back to Stockholm I have forgotten how beautiful it is. All the little streets interspersed with the small canals. While I was looking for my hotel I had to ask at least 5 times where it was. Everyone was so courteous and friendly, a very marked difference from Rome. People were nice there too, but here it is with a smile and a genuine sense of helpfulness. The fact that I was directed totally wrong and walked for over an hour while glowing away. (Ladies glow and horses sweat or something like that) It is hot and sunny here, my hotel room is on the top floor with no elevator but a lovely view of the roof tops of Venice. I had copied the list of restaurants from the list by Shannon Essa, and took the Vaporetto to San Marco. I bought a day card which lets you travel as much as you want on all the Vaporettos. I am staying very close to the Station and felt the long ride around the Grand Canal would give me a good sense of the lay of the land. After having seen San Marco I went to one of her recommendations, The food was good, but very small portions I had Polenta with Seppe. Consequently I went to a few of the other recommendations and they were great. I had one of the best Spaghetti with Vongole at one of her recommendations. Taverna su Travaso. What a great find after having spent a few hours at the Doges Palace including the prison and bridge of sighs, I thought my feet needed amputating and I deserved a rest.
Am now back in Canareggio, at an internet cafe, that is also a bar, playing very loud rock music in the background is the semifinal with Holland and Portugal in soccer. Of course I have been watching and was really upset (no not really) when Sweden lost in a sudden death shot. Harry please explain what that means. I haven't watched a soccer game in years, after all this is the European Cup, and it is just like bicycling and other things, you never forget something you grew up with.
The music volume has just increased by 10 decibels and they have switched to Rap or something. Have got to finish this before my head turns to something else. Was not able to send but fortunately had my disk with me. This will be a little disjointed as I am continuing where I left off.
The Grand Canal is really the hub of Venice early in the morning it is a sight of delivery boats, anything from groceries to building materials. I wonder if they have the same system as in NYC that deliveries can only be made at certain times. I never did see any more delivery boats during the later hours. Around 8 am the Vaporetto is packed with commuters, one forgets that this is not just a tourist mecca but also a working city. Late afternoon, was spent going on a tour of the Ghetto, seeing some of the synagogues. I didn’t know that the word ghetto comes from Venice, it was originally a Venetian word for iron foundry and in the 1400’s when the Jews who had emigrated from Germany couldn’t pronounce the soft G it became a hard G, They did live in a ghetto because all the Jews had to stay in one area within this gated community, being locked up at night, fascinating history. May or may not elaborate more on my impressions of Venice. Now I have one more city in the world to love, and no the canals are not smelly.
Am now in Trieste and have totally lucked out. Am staying in a lovely B*B right in the center of town for 30 Euros.
What a difference between this and Venice. I like Trieste it reminds me of Sweden, then of course it would having been part of the Austro Hungarian Empire and more northern than southern. Had a wonderful lunch of Sauerkraut and Pork and am off to see what the evening will bring.
Trieste and Ljubjana
This is a little out of order because the last two e-mails I tried to
send, I couldn't so this is on a disk waiting to be posted when I
find a computer with a disk drive.
Anyway, I left Venice after a couple of really enjoyable days and took
the train to Trieste. As you may know I had planned to then take a bus
to Rijeka (Fiume) and then proceed by boat to Dubrovnik. The one good
thing about traveling with no set plans is that you can change your mind
So here I am in Ljubljana, I met a travel agent who told me that it
would be easy to get to the coast from here - which it is. I am taking
the night train to Split tonight via Zagreb.
Trieste is a very nice city. So different from what I had imagined, it
is very northern in feeling. I suppose that is because it was part of
the Austrian Empire for so long and only joined Italy in 1860.
I really lucked out with my accomodations a lovely B+B right in the
middle of town for 30 Euros a night with my own TV. Somehow I am a
little sightseeinged- out, so I basically spent my days walking around
and took the funicular. it is Europe's oldest still running, to Opice
which is on the border to Slovenia.
That is where I met the travel agent who also told me about the small
fishing village outside Trieste. Friday night I went to see if I could
get to services in the Synagogue but arrived too late. I don't go in NYC
but after having seen the ghetto and the Synagogues in Venice I thought
Well as luck would have it, I found the one and only winebar in Trieste
and had a great evening. They thought I came from the south of Italy
because the way I pronounced "si me piace". Of course as soon as I said
something else they knew I wasn't Italian.
The next day I met Paolo who lives in Trieste, with
his 11 year old daughter. We spent a very nice evening together and had
dinner in a typical Triestine restaurant where they serve nothing but
slow cooked shoulder of pork, all the other cuts pork and sauerkraut. It was
Since my room was so cheap and nice I decided to stay an extra night
and took the boat to Pirano in Slovenia, for the day. It was a very good decision.
As soon as I arrived I took the local bus to Puntaroza which is the
beach resort, rented a chair and dove into the ocean. Before I knew it I
had fallen asleep and had a lovely nap then it was time for lunch.
I chose the restaurant right on the beach and selected the shrimp salad
-it sounded so nice. Well it wasn't shrimp -it was one of those things
created by the Japanese that is made of Pollock, coloured and shaped to
look like shrimp.
When I pointed this out to the waitress, her response was that I should
have known by the price. Well excuse me, how could I know when
everything is listed in the thousands. I had taken some money out of a
cash machine but not knowing the exchange rate I only withdrew 20.000 it
turns out that it was about $100. She exchanged my fake shrimp for
calamari and also informed me that she could not give me credit but
somehow would adjust the price.
I have no idea it she did or not I had a very good lunch and really
didn't care. I was at the beach finally, the wine was good and people
around me seemed to enjoy themselves. Some battles are just not worth
Back to the beach and another snooze. One thing I discovered about
traveling on your own, when you are at a beach, that area on your back
that you can not reach gets sunburned. Fortunately not badly burnt but
enough to feel it.
I left around 4 pm to walk around the town. It is very nice with many
Venetian- looking houses, since it was owned by Venice a long time ago.
It is full of little alleys and many outdoor restaurants and bars. The
seaside part is surrounded by big stone boulders where people were
sunbathing and swimming off. I am so glad that I had chosen the beach.
As well padded as I am those cliffs would have done me in without a
cushion to sit on.
I had some nice conversations with Marta, the landlady and her husband,
where my Italian totally failed me was trying to explain the healthcare
system and the new Medicare laws. She knew about the reforms that
Hillary Clinton had tried to pass, but since I was on really thin ice
linguistically and knowledge- wise we switched to discussing their 4 1/2
year old son a much safer subject.
When I left she wouldn't let me pay for the breakfasts that I had eaten.
Here in Ljubljana I got a room at the top of the stairs in a private
house. All the hotels were full. Apparently this has become a tourist
mecca, yet very few non slavic languages are heard. The land lady was
very nice but she insisted that I wear felt slippers in the house,
and we spoke German, since I don't know Slovenian. I could deal with
a room at the top of the stairs but those slippers were too much. I
don't know why both in Venice and here I have managed to live on the top
floors, either my knees and hip will greatly improve from the exercice
or get worse.
Ljubljana, is very pretty- at least the old part around the canal is. It
is a city which seems to have more outdoor cafes and restaurants than
any other place I have visited
I had one of the best meals on this trip overlooking the canal. It was
venison grilled with prosciutto wrapped around it, served with a
raspberry, blueberry sauce and some kind of a roulade the soaked up the
juices very nicely, that plus a green salad and a 1/4 carafe of very
good red wine cost $25.00.
One can really eat and drink for little here. Though I was told that
this particular restaurant catered mainly to tourists and the well- to-
do. I was also told that Slovenian students get a discount in certain
restaurants. There are a lot of places that advertise as student aiders,
am not sure what they do, but since it is a large university town it
seems like a good idea.
However the public transportation is quite costly, unless you live here
as is clothing. Now I know why there were so many Chinese owned cheap
clothing shops in Trieste.
Today I went to the market, with all the vegetable gardens that people
seem to grow, there was still an abundance of fruits, greens and, of
I had lunch from a cart that sold little fishes dipped in cornmeal
and then deep-fried, served with freshly chopped garlic and parlsey.
That and a beer set me back $5.00. Then I took a little train up to the
castle. For a city that claims it rarely gets above 20 Celsius in July
somehow it has manged to be around 35 degrees since I arrived.
I am really looking forward to Split and the beach, it is just too warm
for me inland. However I will make sure that I find a sympathetic soul
to smear my back.
Slovenia and Croatia
The landscape through Slovenia to Zagreb was very beautifu,l but I was happy to be on that train, some places are just not meant for you to be in and Ljubjana was that for me. Stepping out of the station in Zagreb made me very sorry that I had only 3 hours between trains to spend there. It appears to be a very beautiful city with great looking buildings. However the weather was not going to let me walk around it was pouring cats and dogs. I made it across the square to a restaurant I had read about, thought I would have some wine and a bite to eat. The doorman asked for a ticket which of course I didn’t have, and then indicated that I should go around the corner. There was a large private party, with waiters passing wine, which was taking place in the rain. It turned out to be a celebration of the first management buyout in Croatia. I started talking to some of the guests and was introduced to one of the new owners who invited me to partake of the buffet which was very good Unexpectedly, I had my wine and something to eat. That is how I happened to go to a party in Zagreb and have a good time despite the weather. I was sorry to leave for the train.
The sleeping car sent me way back memory lane it was just as I remembered it from my childhood. It was small with a sink in the corner. Fortunately I was all alone and slept reasonably well. The attendant served Turkish coffee in the morning which was very nice if a bit different.
We arrived at 9 am in Split and true to Lonely Planet there were women meeting the train who had room to let. I was approached rather shyly by a woman who spoke in a torrent of Croatian. We agreed to a price but not until I had, how I don't know, made it very clear that I would not climb stairs. She assured me that there was a lift. The apartment is in a postwar building, on the 6th floor with an elevator. It is across from the very large market place and beyond that Diocletian Palace. He was a Roman emperor who built his summer palace here. This is really the city center and totally amazing. There are 220 buildings and 3000 inhabitants. It is a Roman palace from the 3rd Century, a town built in the 7th century and all beautifully preserved.
The apartment was quite small and I was given the bedroom, with again wonderful linen sheets and a comfortable pillow. I knew it was going to be fine but when she opened the doors to the terrace I also knew that I had hit the jackpot. The view was stunning overlooking the harbour, old town and the mountains beyond. Having breakfast every morning on the terrace was a real treat. Mariya is a lovely woman but speaks Croatian non-stop. Because of her glaucoma she is unable to look anything up in the dictionary I bought. She may be a brilliant conversationalist or just a chatterer, I suspect the latter.
Despite all the cross ventilation it was very hot at night so in my wanderings about the city I bought a fan. You would have thought I had given her the crown jewels.
Last night I had one of the musical highlights of my life, at least while traveling. I walked around the old town and saw an orchestra setting up in the Peristyle in front of the Imperial palace. It was to be the first rehearsal of the opera “Norma” by Bellini.
The only stage decorations were tall blue columns, the chorus were dressed in light beige linen costumes with some blue accessories. Norma sung by Gabriella Morigi is a glorious redhead dressed in a peacock blue outfit. The effect was glorious, as I am sitting right in front of the orchestra sipping wine and watching how an opera is staged. The conductor keeps talking to the orchestra and interrupting the singers, the director is screaming. Too bad that the music festival starts when I have left. Some of my pictures did come out though.
Today is a day for excursions. There is a public bus that goes to another walled town called Trogir which has been Greek, Roman and Venetian during its 2300 year history.
As soon as I got off the bus there was the market place, I couldn’t resist buying wild strawberries. Trogir is very cute but inundated with tourists, mainly East Europeans. It was too crowded so I decided to head for the beach. It is a walled town with marble streets and a genuine old medieaval fort. You can almost see the knights come charging out of it. I also probably had one of my worst meals there, a sea food pasta that was truly yucky.
I don’t know why people think I speak their language? A group of Hungarians insisted on asking me for the bus schedule to Medina and the beach. Having been exposed to the language I got the gist of what they wanted, since I was also taking the bus I showed them where to go. I am not sure why, wherever I travel people seem to ask me for directions or information and it is never in English.
The beach in Medina is very long, it consists mainly of concrete piers with ladders into the water and pebbly beaches interspersed. At the end of the pier there is a waterchute. The water is very salty and refreshing. In Croatia they have the cutest changing booths with advertising on the beaches and there are also fresh water showers. All in all life is good.
Took a day off from traveling and went to the beach in Split 10 minutes from the apartment is a long sandy beach, perfect for small children. I rented a chair and had a most relaxing day. There was a little boy about 2 years old who took such delight in the water, he kept on running in plopping down with a triumphant grin, getting up and repeating the process time and time again. Unfortunately I never could catch that smile with my camera. The water is not too clean because of it being so shallow and all the children, so on another day I decide to walk a little further to a pebbly beach. One of the great thing about all the beaches is that you can always rent a chair and umbrella for about $2-$5 per day.
After the beach I go to an Internet place to catch up on mail etc. There is a young Swedish boy sitting next to me and when we are both done I meet his parents. The have rented an apartment in Trogir and are in Split for the day. I tell them about the Opera and the setting it is in and invite them to join me for another rehearsal. At the café/bar which is always there, we go and get a table. We are all hungry, but they don’t serve food, however the waiter, since I am now a “regular” orders a Pizza from a Pizza Place, it is great. The parents have never heard an opera and are not familiar with the genre. They were totally excited and really loved the experience, even their two sons had a good time. I think it helped that the setting was an old Roman emperor’s palace. It was a really nice evening.
Time to go to one of the islands, since Brac is what everyone is raving about and I don’t have enough time to explore all of them I decide to go there. It is famous for its long beach and also its white stone quarries. The White house in Washington is supposedly built with stones from Brac. I take a boat in the morning, the one for Bol which is the famous beach on most tourist brochures had already left so I went to Supertar the main town on the north side of the island. The ride takes an hour, I am sure it is a very nice town, I don’t feel like exploring it though, it is sooo hot. I catch the bus to Bol which is on the southern side of the island and from there a short ferry ride to “The Beach” The water is gorgeous so clear but the beach is pebbly, fortunately I have my water socks from “Payless” and go swimming.
It is just too uncomfortable to walk on the stones. Next to me is a German couple well past middle age, she is extremely well endowed and padded, and has decided to be top less, she was one of the very few women on the beach who had made that decision. Actually I saw only a few women, usually young and beautiful who where topless.
Marija has decided I need a bikini, my trying to camouflage the extra pounds bathing suit is no good in her opinion. So off we go to the market where I find a bright red one that fits great. From now on I will join the beach crowd in an Italian made bikini.
She is also now feeding me dinner, one night she had fried some fish with salad. Another night we had grilled chicken I am not sure if Croatian has words similar to Italian or if she has a mixture of languages. We have some nice conversations, I know she has a sister who gave her the incredible tomatoes; she is a widow of many years and has a son who is married. She is 69 and weighs 75 kilos lives on her pension and augments her income by renting out her bedroom. I tell her about the opera, am not sure if she has ever been to any of the performances that take place over the years, but I tell her to get dressed and off we go. The area around the Peristyle is blocked by guards, she hesitates, I charge on and once again we get a table. Marija is beaming, she loves it. There is nowhere for the performers to go when they are not on stage so they mingle with the rest of us. She is having the time of her life talking to one of the chorus members. I have now seen three rehearsals, but never had the energy to stay up to the end, I know she could have, but by 11 pm I am tired.
Marija also insists every morning that I should have a shot of Slivovitz, she claims it is good for me. Sorry but I don’t always do what is good for me and this is one of the things. She doesn’t drink at all, except her glass in the morning and I am not even sure she does that on a regular basis.
It is my last day, I am taking the SNAV to Ancona in the late afternoon..
After having tried to see the inside of the Cathedral which is a marvel of sights, but there was a mass conducted I decided to go to the former house and now museum of the sculptor Ivan Mestrovic which is on the outskirts of Split. Some of his work is extremely powerful and moving.
Do I regret that I didn’t get to Dubrovnik? No not really, since I was so happy in Split. However I do know that Croatias is one place I want to return to I would like to explore further down the coast as well as seeing Zagreb.
The trip to Ancona took only 4 hours, but it was a mixed experience. They do not accept credit cards not even in the duty free shop, nor Croatian money. One of the employees changed some Koner for me, at a very inflated rate, so I could buy something to eat. I should perhaps have suspected this since I had to pay cash for my ticket. The boat had been bought from a Swedish company so all the signs were in Swedish. The ride was comfortable. We arrived in the evening it took a little while but I did find a nice hotel in the center for €50 night. Spent the next day walking around, it was another city I did not care for. Which was interesting because I had met this really nice Australian woman on the train, going to Ljubljana, who loved it and could see herself retiring in Ancona.
To each his own I suppose.
Back to Rome and NYC.