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A Trip to Trieste

Trieste – August 2006
We took a trip to Trieste. Trieste is a border town, and I like border towns.
We took a bus in Trieste to visit some caves and it ran right up to what was once the imposing Slovenian border post and then turned down a lane instead of passing over the line. Trieste was an important port in the Austro-Hungarian empire and still retains much of the architecture. It’s at the foot of cliffs leading down from the Karst, or Kars, or Carso (depending on your language), a limestone plateau with lots of caves, that drops down steeply to the sea. So Trieste is very picturesque.
We went to Trieste on the train from Porto San Giorgio; a journey of three trains in fact which, amazingly, all arrived on time. All went well until the final leg, when three unfortunate events happened, all disconnected, except for the connection that unfortunate events always come along in threes.
First, I trod on the toe of an African woman and she became most angered. A kind of:
One day this bold Russian had shouldered his gun
And assumed his most truculent sneer.
To the train he did go,
Where he trod on the toe
Of Abdullah Bubul Emir.†
Young man, quoth Bubul, has life grown so dull,
That you wish to end your career?
Vile infidel know you have trod on the toe,
Of Abdullah Bubul Emir.
† These words are an adaptation of the song by Percy French, usually known as ‘Abdul Abulbul Ameer’, or variations on that. I have used as a basis the sheet music published by EMI London in 1980 under the title of ‘The Best of Percy French’. It seems to be closer to the original than the more widely-known version as sung by Frank Crumit. So there.
Sort of anyway, except that I’m neither bold nor Russian and it wasn’t Abdullah, probably more likely something like Bridget.
This unfortunate incident out of the way we decided to have a picnic on the train.
In Britain everyone eats on trains but in Italy practically no one does. But we were in a secluded set of seats so thought we wouldn’t cause too much offence, but then the ticket collector came along and he was a tall thin officious misery, and he looked rather disapproving, but we gave him our ticket and he told us it wasn’t valid.
What do you mean, I asked him, look, it says here; and he said no, it hasn’t been validated. In Italy (and France) you buy your ticket but before getting on the train you must feed it into a yellow machine on the platform, which stamps it to validate it. We’d remembered to do this for the first two of our journey-legs that day, but completely forgot it for the third, for although it was one journey, we had three tickets. We explained that on account of a tight connection at Mestre it had completely slipped our mind, so he huffily validated it with a pen and clipped it and gave it back to us without charging a fine (which he can, apparently, but tends to waive for foreigners).
Then at some point later in the journey I dropped my glasses case onto the floor, and immediately picked it up. This may not sound like anything worth reporting but when we got to the hotel I found that my glasses case was empty. When the case hit the floor it must have opened, the glasses scudded out under a seat or something, and then it closed again, so that in Trieste I had a case but no glasses and could therefore not read anything.
We went to the station next morning and eventually with asking variously we found the lost property office and asked if any glasses had been handed in. Yes, said the man, and opened a cabinet to reveal the most motley collection of sunglasses, with frames from pink to baby blue, but specs there were none.
So we went to look for a glasses shop to buy some reading glasses, but it was Monday, and on Mondays, all the glasses shops in Trieste are closed (this may be one of those stupid archaic regulations that the Italian government has not found the time to reprieve, and that glasses shops are closed all over Italy, on Mondays). On Tuesday we travelled back to Le Marche, and here I had a spare pair of glasses. But apart from that silly episode of life playing a run of stupid practical jokes upon a person, all went well and was fun in Trieste.
Looking down onto Trieste from the cable tramway that takes you straight up onto the carso.
The old tram at its topmost terminus.


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