Destinations: Trieste- Subterranean to subculture

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- There’s a book that says the best way to begin telling a personal story is to allude to the biggest things you have done to heighten the reader’s anticipation. I didn’t finish that book and I’ve never been very good at following recipes.

With that out of the way, here’s a list of things I didn’t do on my recent trip to Trieste, like go to the ancient Roman theater or the World War II concentration camp.

I also didn’t go to Miramare Castle, one of Trieste’s most famous stops. However, I did get close enough to snap this picture.

By now, I hope you realize I am not an Ivy League historical academic and I didn’t drive an hour and a half because of my love for Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Habsburg’s romantic taste in nineteenth-century castles.

Instead, I visited Trieste for peace of mind and found it in more places than I thought I would. What drew me here was what lies beneath the earth’s surface and getting away from the noise of life has always allured me.

I sought the monastic silence of Grotta Gigante, or “giant cave.” Its vaulted ceiling arcs 351 feet high and the main cavern is 213 feet wide and is 430 feet long.

This cave is the heavyweight champion of caves. If there was an MTV Cribs in Gotham, Batman would be jealous. It holds a few world records, one of which is for housing the two longest pendulum instruments used for detecting tectonic movements. The results of this research aids in determining weak areas in the earth’s surface susceptible to earthquakes. She’s seen the earth’s fair share of trembles in the past. Her fourth most devastating was the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

After my 500 step descent, I encountered a family high on adrenaline that had just been mountain climbing near Verona and were taking a rest day when I met them before the 500 step return to the surface.

Back on the surface, I enjoyed the fresh air along the Trieste coast and made some friends.

This trio reminded me of my summers spent in Colorado as a camp counselor. They epitomize the laid-back outdoor lifestyle. The only thing missing was a round of hacky sack. Before I crashed their space, they were enjoying Trieste’s beautiful beachfront park in the touristy Barcola neighborhood. This is the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon strolling down the long promenade walkways with your sweetheart on your arm.

One of my new friends quickly sprung from his relaxing hammock to show me his slack line skills which took him three years to polish. We had a refreshingly real conversation despite minor difficulties with language. Before I left, he invited me to a rock concert later that night. New friends and new plans … not bad for being new to town on a Friday afternoon. More on the concert later.

If you prefer the water to the land, you can take in the breathtakingly blue waters of the Adriatic through scuba diving, snorkeling or by boat. Even just sitting on a park bench along the beach to listen as the sea continuously rolls in and out, gently crashing against the rocks, would sooth the worst hardened curmudgeon to a peaceful ease.

You can experience the fine cuisines Trieste has to offer through street vendors …

… or by dining in a classy restaurant.

Maybe just take in a street performance.

In truth, I see Trieste as a very timeless and romantic city.

The inscription reads:
“I loved you the first time,
I love you the last time,
I love you forever.”

When I got to the concert location the doors were locked. I found out through Facebook that the concert he invited me to was actually for next weekend.

The silver lining is I’ve got plans at the end of the week … at least I hope.

When describing Paris in the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway wrote, “If you’re lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” All great cities have this life-enriching quality and I believe I am as lucky as Hemingway for having Trieste in my backyard.

I’ll leave you with a final thought: Sometimes life’s stresses can make you retreat from the ones who you love the most and even stick your head under the ground (sometimes literally). When this time comes, give yourself a break. Relax. Without taking too long though, return to the love of those around you. If you are searching for purpose in life, talk with a human being. Smile more. Make their whole day. They are far more interesting than rocks.