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…
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.
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!
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.
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/
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.
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.
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.