Posts Tagged ‘Carso’

Went for a long jog to the ‘glade’ on the Carso this morning. Maybe 5k. Took 32 minutes. Am tracing the same route we took by bike on Sunday – that way I know how far I still have to go (+4k) before I can sit down and order lunch at the trattoria in Grapado. That’s motivation.

not a bad running track

not a bad running track


Next time I’m going to aim for the car park (where those cyclists stopped us and asked if Stef had his wheel on back to front.

Made it!

Made it!










When I get home after jogging, I have to sit down and sweat. Never seen anything like it. Is this healthy???


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…I don’t like Mondays… Actually, it’s looking all right this morning – even though it’s raining, cold, all the shops are shut…

We had a fantastic weekend. I used to find weekends in Acton really frustrating – I’d want to be outside but there was nowhere to go without getting in the car first or taking trains or buses or tubes which would turn everything into a ‘trip’, and getting the kids out of the house would be impossible.

Here there are so many trips we can do from our back door.

On Saturday we bought mountain bikes for the kids (we are spending money like water here – but they had grown out of their bikes and we left them in London) and on Sunday morning we set off through the gate, onto the path through the woods, onto the Carso. We can cycle for miles through the woods – no cars! Lots of gravel and rocks and sharp stones but the kids navigated those well enough. For Micky it was her first time using gears. A bit ambitious on the way out – nearly 5k and lots of uphill – and Micky at some point locked her bike up and took a ride on Stef’s, only to decide it was easier cycling, return to her bike, and make the final stretch to the trattoria in Grapado, just as the skies opened up…

We cycled past a couple of professional-looking cyclists, one of them said something like “You’ve got it on backwards” (in Italian). I thought there must be something on Stef’s bike ( a light fitting, perhaps? ) that was specific to left-hand driving or something – but no, his front wheel was on back to front!!! He’d been cycling it for miles like that without noticing. English bike shop had put new handlebars on for him – and fixed the wheel on back to front!!!  We joked a lot about that (English quality engineering etc.) – especially since they recommended buying bikes in Slovenia (because they brought in a lot of English bikes…). Anyway, they fixed Stef’s bike there and then. Funny, how so many people (even Triestines) comment on the bad humour of the Triestines – they never smile, they’re impolite, it’s hard to make friends… Very definitely not our experience so far. 

Coming home was miles quicker downhill and the kids were really enthusiastic about their bikes.

In the evening our neighbours (unfriendly Triestines??) took us out for trip on their motor boat. He is a speed fiend and has just bought this massive motor boat with loud American engine (“all the police in the bay are after me..”) – and we saw the Triestine coastline from the sea. Sabrina pointed out an oval shaped rock looming down into the water – ‘E la Madonna del Mare’ – and it’s true, she looks like a woman wearing a veil. They say she jumped into the water to kill herself, and her body remains there, in the rock on the cliffs..Davide reckons the sea between Duino castle and Miramare is the most beautiful- like Sardinia, you can see everything underwater.  Stef and the kids jumped off the boat for a swim – I was about to but saw a massive jelly fish and lost my nerve. Anyway, it was cold and late..

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Living in Trieste means you can be in Slovenia in 5 mins and Croatia in less than an hour. We got to the heartland of Croatia in a couple of hours (we’re staying at Casa Matiki, just past Kanfanar). The scenery is a continuation of the Carso – a rocky limestone plain that forms the crenellated ridge above the narrow strip of coastline that is Trieste and continues  throughout ex-Yugoslavia. When we lived in Trieste twenty years ago, this scenery felt barren and austere; now it feels full of life and hope. It’s not the scenery that’s changed. April and May must be two of the best months, the grey rocks and green fields forming the perfect backdrop to blossoming fruit trees, and the low-lying yellows, reds, blues and purples of occasional wildflowers. Plus this weekend it has been hot and sunny.

The B&B we’re staying at in some ways defies and confirms the post I wrote earlier on the virtues of a good view: from our balcony we overlook a bright yellow truck and the girders of a construction factory; beyond that travels a busy road. But if you look the other way, it’s truly picturesque; a gentle green hillside garden full of flowers and blossoms, a chicken run, a wendy house, and further up, far from the road, the perfect outdoor pool. There’s a rustic table and bench in the shade and a swinging garden seat; and a basket ball pitch in the orchard. Between the main house and the renovated apartments there’s a tasteful rustic courtyard where Paco and Obama (two rescued dogs; no need to say which one of them is black..) greet the guests and feed on the homemade bread and omelettes left over from breakfast.

Sonja, who runs the place, makes you feel at home in the literal sense of the phrase: I felt I was back in Acton! She’s full of ideas and plans and community missions. In her sixties, she runs the place single-handedly. This includes changing all the beds, cleaning the rooms, baking bread, making marmalade (apple and coffee flavour, plum and green pepper), feeding the sheep, horses and donkeys, overseeing new building projects and running the whole online business.  I spent an hour helping her write a couple of e-mails in English today: she didn’t know how to cut and paste let alone save a file in a certain folder and yet the place is fully booked and immaculately run. It was guilt that drove me to help actually – earlier we had enthusiastically taken the dogs for a walk down to the sheep pen and the horses and donkeys had escaped. We came back with Sonja in the early evening to round them up. So I made signs for her saying ‘Please keep this gate closed at all times’ and, since I was sat at the computer anyway,  ‘It is absolutely forbidden to chase, disturb or touch the chickens’. Next to the sheep pen is evidence of Sonja’s creative entrepreneurship: she has converted part of the concrete barn into a room for ‘relax’: she envisages massages and meditation and general hanging out for her guests. The piece de resistance will be a keyhole staircase that twists up into the roof where guests can take siestas on fresh hay: the traditional method for farmers taking a break throughout Croatia. 

It was at Sonja’s insistence indeed that I set off this morning for a full body massage at the hands of a white-suited young man (my husband nervously dropped me off, saying ‘I leave her in your capable hands’). We didn’t talk much. I had never had a proper massage before and didn’t know the extent to which physical intimacy would ensue. Suffice it to say his well-oiled hands went to places very few men have been. Yet they didn’t feel intrusive or sensual – just incredibly knowing. I realised that I was completely in the moment: aware of every muscle that was being touched, every joint that was rubbed, every nerve that was released, and felt myself following the movements of his hands and tracing their effects. I wondered about all the bodies this man knew so intimately: the moles he would notice, the raised veins, the dry skin, the ridged nails and the care he would take to restore them to dignity.  It felt like such an important job and a work of  skillful empathy. 

In the evening we went to a restaurant on the nearby Fjord (Limski Kanal) with a German/ Polish family who have been staying here for a week. Their two girls are the same age as ours – and though they don’t share a language, they communicate well enough. Mostly by diving into the pool together and tipping over the air mattress. And they hid easter eggs around the garden.

Tomorrow we leave but Sonja has given us permission to spend the day by the pool (why would we want to go anywhere else after all?) and I want to continue my discussions with her: maybe Casa Matiki could be the base for my next writing retreat? It has most of the requisite ingredients (though getting here will be an issue) – and a whole added load of quirkiness.

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