A Travellerspoint blog

To Slovenia via Trieste

BY ABBY

semi-overcast 20 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Miramar castle by Trieste

Miramar castle by Trieste

Today was yet another travel day and we were all a little sad leaving our house this time. Today we would be crossing over from Italy to Slovenia. This would be our last time in Italy, as far as this trip goes, so we knew we would all have to keep on the lookout for one last gelato stop.

We saw the grandmother one last time on our way out and she bid us farewell. From here we set off to our midway destination, Trieste. We stopped five minutes from the town at a castle to go to the washroom. We thought about popping in for a few minutes, but then we decided against the castle and stuck to our plan of going to the city.

We spent our time in Trieste wandering around the streets and shops mainly, and every once and a while we'd look down at our map to find a specific location. The town is located on the water so we were able to walk by the boats and look at the ocean. There weren't very many green spaces, but the ones that we found we took advantage of by eating gelato in one, and resting up a little in the other. We got a little lost on our way back to the parkade, but thankfully a friendly Italian lady was able to help us out. Before heading to our car we stopped at the train station for a washroom and a grocery store. We stocked up for dinner as in Slovenia it was Independence Day and we were pretty sure that we wouldn't be able to find any open stores.

Trieste

Trieste

We crossed the border over to Slovenia, and soon enough our GPS announced that we had arrived at our destination. It took a little looking to find out what apartment building was ours, but our host's friend had decided to wait outside for us, so it was figured out in no time. The man showing us the place was very friendly and helpful, giving us some information about the town we were staying in and what we could do here. The apartment is very nice as well. It's organized and clean, and there is a comfortable amount of room. We're also on the top floor which is a bonus, and we have a balcony from which we can see the car park and a bit of a view.

In the evening Hannah and my parents watched a movie called My Left Foot, while I read and caught up with my friends. Tomorrow we will be heading downtown and walking around the streets there.

Posted by KZFamily 13:24 Archived in Slovenia Tagged travel italy trieste city castle slovenia Comments (1)

Venezia

By Hannah

semi-overcast 24 °C
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San Marco Basilica

San Marco Basilica

I have been anticipating our visit to Venice for quite awhile now. I've always had an affinity for Venice, ever since I read The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke years and years ago. When I saw it for the first time last April, I was not disappointed. I love its meandering alleyways and canals, its decrepit beauty and faded mystique. It's the perfect city to wander about in and truly get lost, whilst still maintaining peace of mind because you know you'll be able to find your way out of this maze due to the hundreds of signs, both official and graffitied, pointing you towards San Marco Square.

We took a forty-five minute train ride to the city, and then boarded a crowded vaporetto that took us to the Rialto Bridge. Gondolas floated down the Grand Canal, laden with tourists snapping photos and jabbering away to each other in various languages. Each elegant vessel was manned by a burly Italian man with a long paddle, a couple of whom even serenaded their passengers as they went. After taking a few pictures ourselves, we headed off to see San Marco Square, which, as I mentioned earlier, was very easy to find.

The San Marco Basilica was beautiful and imposing, its numerous domes and intricate facade barely impacted by the scaffolding marking the spots where the church's restoration was underway. The size of the line that protruded from the basilica was enough to put us off going inside, especially since three of us had seen it before. It was definitely a "book in advance" sort of thing that we'd missed the mark on. We strolled around the square for a little bit, admired the famous clock and bell tower, and then continued to walk through the bustling city of Venice.

Glassware

Glassware

We bought snacks from a bakery, and sought out a square where we could sit and enjoy them. There were a number of pigeons out and about as usual, and though most people find them rather annoying, one small toddler thought otherwise. We watched as she made a game out of chasing individual pigeons, all of which decided to run instead of fly away, thus prolonging the pursuit. She stumbled about, screaming with laughter, and her parents seemed quite content to leave her to it until they saw her picking up pieces of bread that the pigeons had been pecking at and toying with them near her mouth. Then she was whisked off, and our entertainment was gone. The pigeons seemed relieved, though.

The majority of Venice's buildings appear to be shops selling glass and masks. Sometimes a shop will sell both, which was always an exciting twist. I never got tired of poking my head into these stores. The rainbow of delicate jewelry, tableware, chandeliers and figurines each glass shop holds is always beautiful and interesting to me. Mask shops, on the other hand, are always a little darker and more mysterious than glass shops. The eyeless faces refuse to simply be admired, and will leer back at you. Some were glittery, intricately painted things, while others were adorned with feathers and leaves. Most were smooth, oval faces, but long beaks and cat ears would loom out of the shadows as well. I bought a small, painted mask on my last visit, but didn't have enough room in my bag this time around. I have this idea that I'll return someday with the sole purpose of purchasing enough ornate masks and glass statues to decorate my entire house. Either that, or I'll return periodically and slowly build up an impressive collection of these Venetian ornaments.

We stopped for lunch at one of Venice's many overly expensive restaurants. Everything on the menu cost about 30% more the moment we sat down, so we reasoned that it was like paying for a seat, and therefore settled in and made as much use of it as was reasonable. We had pizza and calzones, both of which were good, if not quite as good as the prices suggested they might be. After lunch, we hopped on a boat to go see the islands of Burano and Murano, known for their lace and glass respectively.

Burano

Burano

I'd been to both of these islands before, though stayed only briefly on Murano. I'd seen a brief glass blowing demonstration, poked around the attached shop for a bit, and then headed off to Burano. Needless to say, I was more familiar with this island. I had encouraged my parents to take us here, remembering it as a quaint and colourful place. The rows of multihued houses were just as bright and cheery as they had been the year before, reminiscent of the rainbow of clapboard houses in St. John's, Newfounland. There was plenty of lace being sold, as well as gelato, specialty pastas and glass. The streets and canals of Burano are much more open than those of Venice, but it is still easy to get lost, though not necessarily in a bad way.

Murano is much less outwardly polished than Burano is, but it makes up for it with what's inside. I think that the Muranese keep the best glass for themselves, and rightfully so. Often we weren't even allowed to take pictures of these masterpieces. One notable collection of figurines was a painstakingly crafted orchestra, all in powdered wigs and red tailcoats. The tiny glass conductor lead nearly fifty tiny glass musicians, who I imagined were playing Vivaldi's Four Seasons or a Beethoven symphony. I wanted to take them all home with me, but the size of both my bag and wallet prevented me from doing so.

We rode the ferry back to Venice, and decided to walk to the train station rather than catch a vaporetto. When we finally arrived at the station, we discovered that we'd missed the last train by fifteen minutes, and the next one wouldn't be coming for another hour and a half. After a few frustrated attempts to try and find an earlier one, we accepted the fact that there were far worse places to be trapped. In all honesty, I didn't really want to leave. I'm quite sure I'll be back. We used our last hour in Venice to buy and eat our last Italian gelato.

Posted by KZFamily 11:09 Archived in Italy Tagged burano venice italy beauty murano decrepit Comments (4)

A Slice of (Italian) Life

BY MURIEL

sunny 30 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Fossalta ice cream shop

Fossalta ice cream shop

The heat of the last few days has made us feel more and more like doing less and less. Therefore, today was a day of sitting on the patio with cold drinks, doing laundry, reading and researching about Venice and just generally hanging out. A day such as this one does cause me some guilt, however, especially when I see that the 85-year-old father of our host has been outside watering already at 7:00 AM. He has beat us up every day this week, even on the day when we arose early. He putters around the place, moving supplies in a wheelbarrow and taking care of the plants. Eighty-year-old grandma is not far behind, tending to the washing and helping her husband. I have had a chance to talk with many of the family members: both sons, the parents and the grandmother. It’s been interesting to hear of the parents’ jobs (both in IT), the sons’ exams (the one ending high school has three full days of written exams and one day of oral exams), and the grandmother’s day-to-day life. While this house hasn’t been situated right amongst the tourist activities, it has allowed us to see and hear about real aspects of Italian life. The town is a sleepy one, with one main street, along which life seems to revolve. There are a few pizzerias, a bar, a fruit and vegetable store, a grocery store, a church, a park and an ice cream place – all the essentials. We took the questionable bikes out again but just to get to the gelateria a kilometer away. Joining the other locals, we found that the town gelato was some of the best we’ve had. With our appetites for all things Italian fulfilled, we got to bed early, anticipating a much crazier day tomorrow in Venice.

Posted by KZFamily 09:05 Archived in Italy Tagged food italy hot fossalta_di_piave Comments (1)

The Italian Party

BY MURIEL

sunny 31 °C
View Koning/Zemliak Family Europe 2012/2013 on KZFamily's travel map.

Sadly, Ben was out of commission today. Not feeling well, he elected to spend the day recuperating at home. That meant that it became A Girl’s Day Out, with the remaining three of us making a plan. Knowing that the heat has a lot to do with how we feel about a city, we chose a smaller community close to the water, Caorle. It is noted as a tourist haunt but the description of the beach promenade and brightly coloured narrow streets beckoned us anyway. Abby seemed a bit jumpy once we got in the car and I asked her who she was more nervous with driving the vehicle, me or her dad. She said she felt about the same level of nervous tension, but for different reasons: “Dad gets more agitated when something unexpected or wrong happens but at least, I know he knows how to drive. You seem a bit too laid back when something happens so I don’t know if you’ll react quickly enough.” Words to grow my confidence for sure! I was determined to show her that I could navigate well ... well enough, anyway.

Caorle

Caorle

So, we set off, bound for Caorle. Five minutes into the drive, I suggested we could just park at the first town we saw and still tell Ben we had a great time at the original destination. I think Abby was actually considering it until I indicated I was only joking. The drive was beautiful, past green vineyards and yellow wheat fields, each belying the heat of the day. We, enjoying our air conditioned car, could put off the inevitable for a while longer. We passed through a number of small towns before we reached the seaside, which was about 40 minutes away. Even though we often insist on parkade shopping when Ben is in the driver’s seat, I elected to go easy on myself and park at the first downtown parkade we saw. It would come back to haunt us later in the afternoon when I had to pay over four dollars an hour for the privilege. However, for the moment, we were happy that it netted us close access to the centre of old town and the tourist office.
We spent an enjoyable time amongst the clothing and jewelry shops, taking good advantage of the fact that the lone male was not along. Lunch consisted of a slice of pizza and the best darn breaded calamari we have ever had; if that was the quality served up by a little hole-in-the-wall place serving us on bar stools, I can only imagine what the high class Italian fish restaurants serve. Winding through the shaded multi-coloured alleyways, we navigated our way to the promenade. I was bound and determined to locate the breakwater here, famous for its sculptures. Originally meant just as a breakwater of large stones, in 1992, an artist decided to carve a couple of figures in the stone. The idea soon took off and now there are artists coming from several countries to add to the 100 plus carvings on display. When the sculptures proved elusive, much to my kids’ chagrin, I persevered in hunting down this phenomenon by asking random people “Sculptura?” Abby chastised me by indicating that I couldn’t hope to have myself understood in Italian by merely adding ‘a’ to the end of a word. Personally, I thought it was a plan with some merit so persisted despite not gaining success with the first people I tried (they were German anyway). It turns out that ‘sculpture’ in Italian is ‘scultura’ so I wasn’t far off. Within a short timeframe, these two older Italian fellows caught my gist and gesticulated towards the carvings. They then engaged us in conversation for a few minutes, providing much advice during the short dialogue: “You must go to Venice; it is so beautiful. But don’t buy anything there! And don’t forget, Italy is the best country in the world. Where you from? Canada, well, Italy is still the best. We are from here. Why go other places? This is true Italy! Right here, and Venice. We are in the Republic of Venice right now! But it is still real Italy. Not like Sicily – Sicily is Africa! There are many Muslims there. Firenze is OK, is the real Italy too. You understand? You enjoy Italy; don’t forget, it is the best!” They were real ambassadors for their country and brought wide smiles to our faces. The sculptures were quite varied and very interesting. As much as possible, they distracted us from the heat. Once we reached the end of the promenade, however, we had to retrace our steps. By that time, most of the stores were closed for the midday break. We searched for a gelateria, noting that, sadly, many of those were closed too. But, we only needed one to be open and zeroed in on it once located. We reckoned that the few open gelato storefronts must make a killing during this self-imposed daily shut down.

Sagra food tent

Sagra food tent

Returning home in the afternoon, we found Ben valiantly hoping for a recovery so that he might join us in our evening`s plans. We were slated to meet up with Italian friends for an evening out. I have a good friend, Ornella, whose relationship harkens back to junior high days in Prince George (a mere thirty-five years ago!). Her parents had emigrated from Italy to Prince George back in 1959 and had their family there. On various family vacations back to the old country, Ornella`s younger sister, Stella, fell in love with Italy (and with an Italian!) so emigrated to Italy herself when she was about 20. Her mother has since returned to Italy as of five years ago and now lives across the street from Stella. When Ben and I had traipsed through the area many years ago, Stella and Lorus were kind enough to put us up for a few days. We were looking forward to meeting them, their daughter and Mrs. Bazzo once again.
Stella had asked whether we wanted to experience a tourist town or join in on a local event. As we could always find a touristic place ourselves, we gladly opted for the local excursion. It did not disappoint. There is a tradition in Italy for several villages to host a ‘sagra,’ a food festival devoted to a certain type of food common to the area. It can be as specific as a single food, such as an onion, or particular to a way of cooking. Many times, it can also be combined with a saint’s feast day. In this case, the focus was on meat, which was a hit with us, and involved a lot of barbequing. Proceeds from such events are applied towards community needs.
Stella escorted us to the event, while Nona was a passenger in my car should I get lost (a distinct possibility with all these back roads). We arrived at a large, gravelled area, divided into sections for parking, eating and entertainment, as far as I could make out. Hundreds of people were milling about and all manner of Italian was being used, or so I surmised from the expressions, tones and gesticulations. As we made our way to the two large tents set up for eating, our friends were greeted by their acquaintances every few steps, people showing off new babies, others calling out hellos, and cousins exchanging hugs. It was great to be absorbed into the very strong community atmosphere. Rows and rows of communal benches had been set up in the tents, hundreds were already sitting and chatter and eating were in fierce competition with one another. Because of the popularity of the event, we had to wait about half an hour for seats to clear. That gave us time to review key events of the fair: inline dancing by groups in marvellously bedecked costumes and a sports competition between teams for what I can only describe as ‘soccer on soap suds.’ They had prepared a large rectangular area fully enclosed by netting on the sides and top; on the bottom was soft white plastic, onto which was squirted liters of water and soap suds. As you might imagine, this generated havoc with the usual awesome skills of the Italian footballers, creating a real gong show of slipping, sliding and bubbles. However, those Italians are ALWAYS serious about their football, even when the ball is a glow-in-the-dark version and copious amounts of foam are involved. The locals who had formed teams still decked themselves out in new uniforms for the event and, when we saw one goalkeeper allow an easy goal by leaving his net for too long, his teammates looked quite put off and immediately relieved him of his net duties. Sagre often feature a competition of some sort and this was obviously Motta Di Livenza’s choice of contest.
Once we obtained the much-valued table seating, Stella translated the various offerings from the menu: grilled options such as chicken, pork chops, miniature quail-like birds, spareribs and sausage platter, jackrabbit, mixed fish platter; and sides like gnocchi with duck sauce, fries, salad, calamari, or beans. The emphasis was on the meat so Stella encouraged us not to order large portions of the sides as we would all receive polenta as well. When our plates came, Hannah was treated to three smokey-like sausages and several spareribs while Abby and I each received a whole chicken. I believe I did my meal justice, leaving Abby, who was too chicken to eat her whole plate, in the dust. Hannah, a renowned carnivore, similarly conquered her offering. Sagra food is typically very reasonably priced and this was no exception. It is definitely the way to eat out in Italy. The meal passed with great food and conversation. It was great to visit with my friends again; Stella is very much like Ornella in looks, mannerisms and speech so it really felt like I was seeing my old friend whom I haven’t seen in quite a few years. Stella and Mrs Bazzo were so comfortable to be around that my girls had a very relaxing time as well.

Sagra meal

Sagra meal

The next education in the art of attending a sagra came after the meal, when we went to an adjacent building where you could feel the excitement in the air. There, people purchase little rolled up pieces of paper; each paper has a number or street name on it. If it’s a number, it could correspond to one of about 100 physical prizes, the largest being a plasma TV; however, every paper was a winner as they gave you a little something to take with you regardless. Feeling optimistic, we quickly worried what we were going to do when we won the TV; with some relief, we determined we could give it to Stella and Lorus should we win. The optimism was misplaced as it turned out but we did get a grab bag full of useful items: yoghurt, a scrub pad, tomato sauce, juice, cookies, a chocolate bar, and even a bottle of wine! It was good fun.
The evening ended with an Italian jazz band taking the stage. They were quite entertaining and the girls enjoyed the camaraderie between the eight band members. Also, it didn’t hurt that they were young Italian guys! We all really enjoyed the evening but tried think of ways to downplay it for when we came home and told Ben about it, as we knew he would feel badly that he missed the sagra. When we arrived home, however, we couldn’t keep all the experiences in and ended up regaling him with the great opportunity we had to partake in a slice of real Italian life. We’ll just have to go again.

Posted by KZFamily 08:32 Archived in Italy Tagged food italy hot sagre motta_di_livenza Comments (3)

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