Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Full Last Day

We were really productive today, having had breakfast by 8:00 and off to catch the bus number 44, which we were told initiated at the train station. We waited for 45 minutes for a bus that the schedule showed was due every 25 minutes. I am beginning to believe that the schedules are for decoration only, not for informational purposes. When it finally arrived, it was near full, so getting a seat was impossible, and evidently it did not start at the point we were told to get it. Our first destination was the Castello di Duino in Duino-Aurisina, an hour ride from Trieste proper. The initial attraction to this castle was not the description of it in the tourism brochures, since that was scant, but what they did highlight was the exhibition of the over 100 handbags from the ages. Now that sounded too campy to go unnoticed; it roused our curiosity into making the trip. As all things Italian, or touristy in many countries, there are no signs alerting you when you are close or at the attraction to which you are traveling. This of course was no exception. As we closed into an hour’s ride, Ron kept asking people about the Castello, though the bus driver was not a fount of information. It was beyond surprising, but pleasantly so, to find out how many people, especially older people spoke English. The last advice we received was from a gentleman who told us we had eight kilometers to go. These buses not only travel main roads and highways, but through villages, they drive with great dexterity the narrow one way alleys through residential areas, negotiating tight spaces that I would be reluctant to try with a compact car. They do it seemingly without any effort, but remembering this convoluted route is what impressed me the most. In some areas, they would literally stop every block to pick up or drop off passengers. It was beyond my comprehension why people could not walk an extra block to save the bus one stop. We reached the Castello with the bus dropping us off at the entrance, but what called to us was the café where we caffeined ourselves first. On then we went to the castle, where the admission was a rather high seven Euros for me and a discounted five Euros for Ron or any senior with an ID. Looking like the romantic notions of a castle, with turrets and gardens, it was impressive from first sighting. I am still not totally clear who owns this castle, but it is still in the hands of Italian royalty, though the royalty was booted out by Mussolini. I remember the last king was in exile in Greece and his last wish was to return to Italy to die; he had cancer, but the government at the time refused. It seems there are close connections between the royals here and those of Greece, which includes Prince Philip of Great Britain, since he was a Greek Prince before marrying Elizabeth. Some of the signs around the castle refer to the Princess, who is currently doing this work and or that and has made this decision or that, using present tense verbs and current dates to fortify them. She not too long ago, decided to open the bunker on the grounds to the public. Here is where British soldiers hunkered down during the war. It was deep, deep, deep, underground and after descending the first seventy-five steps to the first level with only one little room, we were too faint or heart to venture down the next one hundred steps to discover what was to be revealed to us. Instead we walked the gardens which were as lovely as one would expect, but with huge what were probably stately trees, now toppled obstructing paths, so they were closed off. The views of the bay were breathtaking and with the family still living in part of the castle, it is with great envy of their vistas that we toured the building. As you enter the castle, one room is dedicated to the royal lineage. Of course this take charts that fill walls showing family trees, letters back and forth from this famous person to another and so on ad nauseum. However, also in this room were selections of the handbags on display. These were quite interesting in design, color, and shape. Walking up a spiral staircase, we were allowed entrance into various rooms replete with the original décor of their time of splendor. Looking at the frayed draperies, it is apparent that the royal family did not open part of their home to the public for altruistic reasons, but out of financial need. Apparently, one of the princesses was an author and had written a children’s book that had been translated into other languages, pre-dating the former princess Fergie by a few years. This same princess was also a psychoanalyst, quite a profession for a princess. She was a friend of Freud and paid the ransom for having him released from the Nazi camps. All in all, the trip was well worth the efforts, aside from the broad and enlightening display of handbags, some of which brought back nostalgic memories of family members. We went back into the ticket office to buy a little gift and noticed a sign that they had suffered a tornado on August 8, 2008, less than three weeks prior to our visit. When we asked about it, we were told that is why the trees are down in the garden. The tornado also too off part of the roof in one area and did some other damage. No one else in the area had any damage at all. Ron had hopes of finding an assortment of cheeses and olives for a picnic. Right outside of the castle gate is a grocery store, where he was able to fulfill his needs somewhat, though the variety was not overwhelming. Once we scouted the area, the only place for a picnic was the bus top. With buses coming so irregularly, I did not want to miss the next one and have to wait for close to an hour for another. Just as he prepared his spread, the bus arrived. I stood in the door to hold it open while he gathered his goodies, and we were back on the long haul into Trieste. This time, we were closer to the start of the line, so scoring a seat was not an issue. Once back, we thought we would be smart and get off one stop later than our early morning start, hoping it would bring us back to the bus station. However, it drove on by with the next stop blocks beyond. As it turned out, it was fortunate. We passed a shop run by Chinese where they had alarm clocks for sale for two Euros. This was a concern since neither of us remembered an alarm and the one on my phone is not loud enough to wake me when in a deep sleep. At the bus station, we bought our tickets for the airport for tomorrow so we would not have to be concerned, checking the schedule while we were there. With great resolve, we plunged forward to cross town and find the number 8 bus to take us to the Holocaust Memorial, the former rice granary. We knew the bus stopped along the waterfront, but we were not sure where. We walked a few blocks before spotting the sign. Again, the decoratively placed schedule showed the bus was planned for every twenty minutes. In the time we waited, the sun hot and beating on us, three of the number nine buses passed us. After forty minutes, the number eight arrived. Ron asked the driver if this was the right bus and received a grunt in return. We were hoping for some advice like I will let you know where to get off. There are no lists of stops and stops are not marked in any way. We knew it was about a twenty minute ride according to the tourism office, so after twenty minutes into it, we would start to worry or play twenty questions with other passengers. Our game was nipped in the bud. At exactly twenty minutes, the bus stopped, the engine turned off, and everyone got off. End of the line. Ron braved asking the driver once again for directions. The driver said five hundred meters straight and then left. At first we thought we could have gotten off the bus five hundred meters ago and saved a hot walk back; however, the bus had come around a corner before this street, so it really was not possible. We passed some old factory, a stadium, and a supermarket and the outlook of finding this place was not good. Another fifty meters, we would be approaching a highway. A woman was sitting on the ledge of the building at the only left hand turn we had encountered, so we asked her for directions. She sparkled when she responded and told us in Italian that it was straight ahead and on the right side at the end of the block. NOTE: This information is not complete and will be revised later. There is no admission charge for this memorial. It opens at 1:00 pm and closes at 5:00 pm, though there are no gates to shut it out from the wandering public. The room with cells held tiny rooms with two bunks in each. The next room was the “Hall of Crosses”. Except for a room full of tall beams with Y supports at the top, there was not explanation as to what its original purpose was. A dramatic modern sculpture represents the chimney and smoke from the crematorium that once existed behind you as you stare at the art. When you turn, you notice a roped off area with a recessed floor covered in a different material that at first looks like a pool. This area is laid with metal sheets to represent the area where the original crematorium stood, while the gutter leading from it to the sculpture is the pipeline connecting the two. There is one open section beyond this where organizations have plagues for different causes commemorating those who lost their lives. The one that impressed me most and caught my attention was the pink triangle for the homosexuals.

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