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May 16th 2018

Gorizia: a tour of the city and over the border

This morning breakfast was as elaborate as it was in Trieste, but just slightly different: no longer the grilled eggplants and zucchini or the grated fennel by Signore Stefano, but pickled vegetables, like sweet-and-sour of paprika (agrodolce di peperoni) or mushrooms in oil (funghi sott’olio), which are tastier here than I can prepare it, large green olives with little acidity and small gherkins with a lot of acidity. Of course there are many sweets, but where is my lemon pie…?! As for now I can still make my demands, when I’m home again breakfast will be reduced to one wholegrain sandwich with a slice of cheese and two cups of Lungo coffee – or will I stick to that strong espresso…?

Strengthened by this meal I walked into town, without a real planning. With some self-mockery I told myself, that this is the easy way: without a fixed trail, you can’t walk into the wrong direction!

My first goal was the Castello, which was built in supposedly the 11th century and which has been destroyed, rebuilt and enlarged many times since. It towers on its high rock over the town.

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Gorizia: the Castello towers over the town

Nearby are a museum (a.o. the Museum on the First World War) and a chapel from 1398, the Cappella di S. Spirito. On a sign near the high walls of the Castello a map of the complex is displayed.

The winged lion of St. Marc adorns the entrance gate. At the gun ports the large bullets of stone are still stacked…

The view from the borough is wonderful: one can have a look around at the entire surroundings. Deep down is the Chiesa di S. Ignazio from 1654 with its double towers finished off by onion-shaped spires.

When I arrived at the Piazza della Vittoria I thought that the church was even more imposing than from a distance. The interior of the church is impressive as to decoration and colour.

At the Piazza della Vittoria is also the famous Neptune fountain, made by Nicolò Pacassi (1716‒1790). There were fences placed around it with protective covers; craftsmen were restoring the fountain. Therefore I was quite astonished to notice that later on in the evening when I returned to the square for a glass of wine at one of the many restaurants with terraces a huge crowd had gathered around the fountain. There was a performance by a break dance group, and later on followed by speeches and live music. It turned out to be the festivities for the official completion of the restoration! Afterwards the fountain bathed in the floodlights.

My wandering went on to the Piazza Transalpina, the Square of the Transalpine Railway. Not only the name, but also the history around it drew me to that place: it is about the fading borders between Italy and Slovenia, with as key date May 1st 2004, the day when Slovenia joined the European Union. On the Slovenian side of the border is the town of Nova Gorica – on the Italian side of the border is Gorizia. Both town were until 2004 separated by, again, the Iron Curtain. There is a lot to see on the station square: not only the large, stately station building from 1906, but also panels with information on the events between 1947 (when the border between Italy and former Yugoslavia was closed, but in fact really closed) and 2004 (when Slovenia joined the European Union).

At the Italian side it looks like this:

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Gorizia: border stone between Italy and Slovenia at the Piazza Transalpina

At the Slovenian side it looks like this:

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Gorizia: border stone between Slovenia and Italy at the Piazza Transalpina

The Second World War was not the first time during the 20th century that there has been fighting about and around Gorizia. Also during the First World War enormous destructions were caused. This is shown on one of the information panels, from which here several pictures. The station building anno 2018 looks monumental again.

There is a mosaic on the ground around a metal round plaque, that symbolises the re-opened border between Gorizia and Nova Gorica: stones have been peacefully scattered  around in a wide circle.

In this context the plaque hanging on a wall in de Via Roma, near the Piazza della Vittoria, is remarkable. It contains a text by Pope John Paul II when he visited Gorizia in which he emphasised the importance of open borders between the Latin Europe and the Slavonic Europe.

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Gorizia: Plaque on a wall with a text by Pope John Paul II. concerning Europe

In the station building also Caffè Bordo is situated, where I sat down for a cup of coffee. I had been improving my “Italian by hands and feet:, but here I got a menu in Slovenian! With the help of a convenient website for translations Slovenian‒English (PONS) they served the cappuccino I liked: a phonetically spoken Kapučino.

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Gorizia: the coffee menu at Caffè Bordo at the Piazza Transalpina in Slovenian!

A short “glossary” of the coffee menu:
•            mali kava = a small coffee
•            kava z mlekom = coffee with milk
•            kava s smetano = coffee with whipped cream
•            bela kava = “white” coffee, (caffè latte)
•            cimetom = cinnamon
•            brez = without
•            ječmenova kava = barley coffee

Later I walked through the building to the other side. At that moment a freight train left the tunnel and entered the station. It was a diesel locomotive; the line is not electrified. From here you can travel all the way to Bled in north-western Slovenia – yes, a real treat for railway enthusiasts!

With a large detour I arrived at the beautiful “Palazzo Coroni Cromberg” from 1593. In the coach house a museum has been arranged. The park is impressive – they were busy redesigning the park. That’s why I walked on.

Not only in this park, but at many places in Gorizia there is green in abundance – on purpose or just by accident, like the fig trees that grow like weed on the walls of the Castello!

On my way back to the hotel I passed through the Parco della Rimembranza, a park with memorials from the First and the Second World War. There is a memorial for the fallen at sea from the Second World War; the anchor is that of the cruiser Gorizia, named after this town. Furthermore there are memorial for the Alpini and for the civilians of Gorizia who did not return from the extermination camps and from Yugoslavia.

In the middle of the park is a rectangular pond with flowerbeds at each side. At first glance the memorial literally looks like a ruin. It is as it were a double war memorial… In 1923 a round temple was built for the commemoration of the fallen during the First World War. This memorial is destroyed by the Germans in 1944. After the Second World War it was decided to leave the debris as they were like a new memorial. A picture of the original building is shown on the side.

From here is wasn’t far to my hotel. There is so much to see in this town – only for this reason I would like to come back once more. Tomorrow I continue m hike on the Via Alpina: the first part of Stage B5 from Gorizia to Cormòns.