Tag Archives: Recreation

Disused Trieste & the Tram to Opicina.

One area I always like to walk past in Trieste, is the Porto Vecchio (old port.) I love looking at the abandoned warehouses and disused machinery. They’re all fenced off but you can still get pretty close. Trieste was the only port in the Austro-Hungarian empire, so was extremely important and very industrial and became even more so when the train lines arrived. Today there is not so much of a ship-building industry so this large area, which stretches for miles, has been abandoned and left for dead. Having been the ‘heart’ of Trieste, the decline began in 1918 and I’m not quite sure when it was finally closed. I think there are plans know to ‘re-develop’ the site and turn it into some kind of shopping centre. What a surprise…DSC02386

This Crane is the ‘Ursus’ – was used for ship building, lifting machinery etc. It’s size pretty impressive.DSC02389

Those are the abandoned warehouses in the background.DSC02395

It floats!!DSC02400

These buildings stretch down the coastline for miles and miles… i don’t know how how many but I know its loads. Obviously, its all fenced off and there’s no public access – many people probably are unaware of its existence.DSC02406

These green avenues are where grass have grown over the trainlines. DSC02414

There was a gap in the fence here, so I decided to step through and have a look. As soon as I was on the other side, I became aware of an unpleasant noise the buildings where making. A cross between groaning and dripping. When the wind blew, it went straight through the buildings, causing this noise. It was as if they were translucent, or not solid, or ghosts (there is probably a word for this kind of physical state but I don’t know it.) It was very unnerving and felt as if they might crumble to the ground at any moment. I was too scared to move any closer so I went right back to the other side of the fence and felt ridiculous that a tiny metal barrier between us made me feel so much safer!DSC02418

I wonder how long this Christmas star has been up there?DSC02419

Another place I have been wondering about is the Tram to Opicina. This historic line opened in 1902 and is another ‘one of a kind’ feature to Trieste – it is the only hybrid electric and funicular tram in the world. Over the years it has been through many renovations and modernisations but in the last 10 years these have been more frequent and the line has been out of action since September 2012 and will probably start running again sometime in early 2014. So as I won’t be able to ride on tram, and as there is a famous song dedicated to it, (featured in my last post) I thought I would follow the tracks from the Station in Trieste all the way to Opicina. I wasn’t sure how possible this was going to be or how long it would take – but I wanted to find out. Luckily it was completely possible, it took me maybe 2.5 hours. I’ve made a video to document my journey  – coming up later on! The station sits in one of the main squares, graffiti’d and looking pretty battered. Within 5 minutes following the tracks, I was out of the centre and following a steep incline! This is the funicular part of the tram line – so the steepest part was over first.

This was the first stop I reached – already after 1 year it has become completely overgrown and almost hidden with these vines.DSC02442

Amazingly, this relic has survived. I found one in each of the stops I past – undamaged. It says: Informing users that from 3 september 2012, the line 2 service will be suspended. The service will, however, continue with the same hours of service from a substitute bus 2/DSC02443

I also found this broken sign on the floor beneath some detritus. It should have been on top of the stop. It says stops by request – i.e. if you want the tram to stop you have to press the button.DSC02445

At points on the walk I was alone and other times I was joined by runners, dog walkers and people passed me the opposite way. As the area is not so pedestrianised anymore, urban wildlife is flourishing, I was constantly accompanied and greeted by cats, lizards, rodents, grasshoppers, etc.

As I ascended, I was beginning to wonder how legal this activity was as I kept seeing these signs – access forbidden to unauthorised persons. At one point a past a still-functioning Trieste Trasporti office either side of the tracks – as I walked passed the workers were completely unfazed by my presence, so I assumed these signs were out of date. I thought it would be pretty cool to work somewhere semi-deserted.DSC02453

Whilst following the tracks I couldn’t help but imagine a tram whizzing round the corner – it seemed so unnatural to not be cautious about it. Well, turns out, one actually did come round the corner! It didn’t whizz though, I had plenty of time to get out the way! I suppose they must take the trams out for a spin sometimes so they don’t get rusty. The driver even gave me a wave.

About after 1.5hrs I saw this – Ivy hanging over a door. This is a signal that an Osmiza is open for business. I think I will have to do another post about Osmize because there is a lot to say about this tradition. For now I’ll say that they are a kind of informal cafe/bar/restaurant often in peoples homes where they sell there own produce e.g. ham, wine, cheese, olives, eggs etc. and you find them by following these Ivy branches! The name Osmiza is from the Slovenian osem – meaning eight – as they were originally only allowed to open for 8 days a year. Anyway, more on that another time. I stopped off here for lunch before continuing on to Opicina.DSC02462

This is one of the trams in the station at Opicina.DSC02485

Here is the video I made of my journey, I managed to capture the moment of the tram appearing – I felt like a right trainspotter! I hope you aren’t sick of the song by the end!

Its been quite difficult to describe this place and experience, you may have noticed I used phrases such as ‘kind of abandoned’ and ‘semi-deserted.’ It is and it isn’t abandoned at the same time. There are still people working there, I even saw the tram working, even if it wasn’t in use for its intended purpose and there is the knowledge that it will eventually return to a working service. Maybe, because the tracks are not being used for their intended purpose, the place has had an opportunity to temporarily change function and meaning i.e. its now very overgrown and dishevelled in parts and is being used by dog walkers, runners, explorers etc. I suppose the place is going through a liminal phase that will cease to exist once the service is reinstated, back to normal, giving the impression that there was no ‘in-between’ period. So although I am disappointed not to be able to ride on the Tram di Opicina that I’ve heard so much about in books, songs, word-of-mouth, I also feel quite lucky that I’ve had the chance to follow the tracks on foot.

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Excursion to Val Rosandra

On Wednesday I decided to go and check out Val Rosandra – a valley and natural reserve that straddles the Italo/Slovenian border about half an hours bus ride from Trieste. I brought along my violin to experiment with playing in an unpopulated area and vast open space without an audience. I was also planning to make a video response to my friend Tom Vinall’s PIC project. I wanted to follow the Sentiero Dell’Amicizia (path of friendship) – a hiking trail through the valley that links the Italian and Slovenian communities as my project touches on ‘border identities’ and how different places influence each other culturally.

I was a bit lost when I first arrived (turns out I got off the bus at the wrong stop.) I had ended up in a car park but saw signs for Carso (the name of the mountains) pointed towards a wooded area. I got talking to a couple who were interested in my violin – after a while I asked them if I was heading in the direction of the pathway. They looked at me in horror and told me I was heading towards a 10km up-hill climb complete with steep drops and rocky ravines. Not quite what I was looking for. They walked me through the village and pointed me in the right direction but said that the walk was ‘un po’ pericoloso’ and to be careful.

DSC02167(The Village – Bagnoli)

DSC02169 (This sign marks the start)

DSC02173 DSC02176

The White strip in the middle is a large waterfall – I experimented playing near it to hear the interplay of man-made alongside natural sounds.DSC02181

I made my video response shortly after this section (I tried it by the waterfall too but my camera could not take the sound of water!)

These red and white markers let you know that you are still on the path – there were loads of different paths to take – I think I might be a bit more adventurous next time I visit…DSC02192

Signs and information in Trieste and around are mostly in both Slovenian and Italian. For some reason I found it quite hard to work out which was which here. I assume the singular titles in the middle must be the same in both languages.DSC02195

This is where I arrived – the village of Bottazzo or Botač, inches away from the border.DSC02196DSC02201There was another (undefiled!) sign at the end of the trail.

I found small cafe in the village of Bottazzo, which appeared to be the ‘hub of the community’! Having seen only two other people on my walk and being in a very quiet corner of the world, I was surprised to see the garden bustling full of people having a hearty lunch. I quickly realised they all knew each other and thought they were some kind of German hiking club. I was very wrong. Feeling a bit lonesome, I paid for my drink and said goodbye to the couple who owned the cafe. They looked at me and then my violin aghast and declared ‘but you haven’t played yet!’ As though they had been somehow shortchanged – I suppose there must be very few people who ‘hike’ with a musical instrument that end up in their cafe! Of course, I wasn’t going to turn down their request but I was suddenly feeling slightly nervous to play unannounced for the huge audience outside! So I played for them and they turned out to be a very appreciative audience – then, whilst everyone was still listening, one of the leaders asked me where I was from and about my project etc. We spoke in Italian and he translated it into German for the rest of the group. I couldn’t find a point to interject that I could speak German, or I assumed everyone spoke English anyway – to kill two birds with one stone. It felt a bit like an interview, it was quite surreal suddenly having (what seemed like) a huge audience listening to me.

As I spoke more with the leader, I found out that they were, in fact, a group of experimental art students from the University of Linz doing a trip through Slovenia, Croatia and NE Italy! He told me that they had chosen to visit these places to explore the effects of the constantly changing borders over the last 100 years on art and culture, languages, traditions etc. They were particularly interested in Trieste as it is, geographically, a place of extremes – being a coastal city also surrounded by the Carso mountains, located right on the Slovenian border, hence the visit to Val Rosandra. And its also affected by the infamous Bora wind, which I am yet to experience. It was extremely reassuring to hear that other artists were working within the same context as me and it confirmed to me that I’ve chosen a context that is universal yet also quite pioneering and not a strange, niche interest with not much research! This meeting also led on to me joining the group for their itinerary while they were in Trieste for the next few days – very kind of them to let me tag along – I’ve had a really enjoyable and informative few days! I found out more about their area of study – they have a theme for the year of ‘Nations, Notions and -Scapes.’ They gave me a copy of a kind of ‘module reader’ which has given me some good sources and things to research. I am becoming interested in the term -scapes, coined by Arjun Appadurai, in relation to global culture.

So after the impromptu concert, I was presented with a plate of pancakes and a small glass of grape and honey liquor by the chef. Hooray! I started on my journey back through the valley – I had arrived feeling a bit ‘billy-no-mates’ and left with an abundance of new friends and a newfound assertion in the significance of my project. It was all made possible because of the presence of my violin. My violin has become a kind of ice-breaker or magic key to connect and get to know people. The encounter was so spontaneous and such a coincidence it was almost unbelievable – it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my violin with me, if I didn’t speak Italian, if I didn’t speak German. I felt reassured even further that my previous skills and experience suit the chosen context perfectly.

Feeling so confident, I decided to take a different route back through the valley. This was cut prematurely when I was greeted on the path by two enormous goats with huge horns (this is where I can’t hide my urban upbringing – there is probably a name for enormous goats!) They were probably more afraid of me than I was of them but I didn’t want to risk upsetting them! Other routes will have to be saved for next time – there is so much more that I’d like to see here – maybe I’ll go as far as to cross the border. Back on the ‘path of friendship’ three women approached me from the opposite direction. One of them said something which roughly translates as ‘Girl! What are you doing out here by yourself? Aren’t you afraid?’ (Ha! this could be straight out of a Grimm’s Fairytale) I said no. Another of them saw my violin and said ‘she’s come out here to play music in the beautiful nature.’ The original interrogator was satisfied with this response and seeing the violin said ‘oh yes, of course she has.’ And then they scurried off, as though the violin explained everything.