Slovenia and Northern Croatia

Hello friends! This time a small trip to Slovenia and northern Croatia, especially around Istria.

 

First stop Zagreb, the capital of Croatia.
The tiled roof of St. Mark’s Church with the coats of arms of Zagreb and the former kingdom of Croatia-Dalmatia-Slavonia.
Like many buildings in Zagreb, it’s still uninhabitable after the 2020 earthquake.

 

In the center of Zagreb there is a lively nightlife.

 

Ljubljana, the quiet and relaxing capital of Slovenia.

 

The most interesting place to go in the evening is, definitely, Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Center, a squat created inside former barracks. It’s the main meeting point for Slovenian alternative artists. They have embellished it with graffiti and works of art.
Where there is Anarchy, there is Beauty.

 

EZLN basket.

 

Lake Bled, surrounded by green hills and a castle, is one of the most pleasant places in Slovenia. In the middle there is an islet with a church.

 

Fisherwoman by Lake Bled. In the background, the church on the islet.

 

- Magic mirror on the crossroads, who’s the fairest one of all?
- For sure not you, Dekaro.
- Fuck off.

 

The central square of Koper. From here I begin to travel in Istria, going south.
In general, Istria has plenty of towns with Venetian architecture, overlooking the sea. Sometimes you can see also Roman ruins and Austro-Hungarian buildings.
A pleasant surprise is that they understand Italian more than English. As for me, I learned only one word of the abstruse Slavic languages: “pivo”. And that’s enough for me.

 

View of Piran.

 

Venetian architecture in the central square of Piran.

 

Church and bell tower in Izola. Like Koper, it was an island until a couple of centuries ago.

 

Again in Croatia, in Poreč.
A stunning Byzantine mosaic in the Euphrasian Basilica, founded as early as the 4th century.

 

Rovinj, one of the most beautiful cities in Istria.

 

Roman columns in Rovinj.

 

Roman triumphal arch, at the entrance to the old town of Pula.

 

The Roman amphitheater of Pula.

 

A cat walks along the cobbled streets of Krk, the main town of the same-name island.

 

The clock in the Krk’s square.

 

Rijeka, Fiume in Italian, a city famous in Italian history due to the so-called “Impresa di Fiume” (‘Endeavour of Fiume’), when a variegated group of fighters, led by the Italian poet and writer Gabriele D’Annunzio, occupied it from September 1919 to December 1920 in an attempt to annex it to Italy (it was disputed by the nascent Yugoslav state).
Even today, historians are divided on the evaluation of those 15 months, also because in the following years, fascism glorified that venture. However, if we really want to apply a political etiquette, it is perhaps the anarcho-syndicalism. In fact, the “Carta del Carnaro”, the constitution given to the city during the occupation, was drafted by the anarcho-syndicalist Alceste De Ambris and proclaimed direct democracy, decentralization of power, collective sovereignty of all citizens without distinction of sex, race, language, class and religion, hospitality for anyone wishing to live in Rijeka, and so on. Not surprising, the only foreign state that recognized the “Regency of Carnaro” was the Soviet Union.
But apart from the constitution, it was the experience lived by the citizens of Rijeka who resembles anarchism, with exceptional freedom for the time, thanks also to the large influx of young people, intellectuals and artists that reached the city.
Perhaps this was one of the main reasons that in the end, paradoxically, it was the Italian army that had the international task to ”free” the city with cannon fire.

 

For those my age, it’s hard to hold back tears of emotion in front of the memorabilia at the Peek & Poke Computer Museum.
In this photo, you can see the Commodore 64 with the Football video game and the Sinclair ZX Spectrum with rubbery keys. There was also the legendary VIC-20, my first computer when I was 12, and the Commodore 128, my second computer (the latter is actually also on display in my little house in Benevento, former Maleventum).

 

Market in Rijeka.

 

Cat overlooking via Medulica at night.

 

Night thunderstorm.
 

The Grand Canal in Trieste, Italy.
As far as I remember it’s the first time that an Italian city appears in Dekaro Diario! (it could be a symptom of senile fatigue coming. :D ). But let’s not exaggerate: Trieste became definitively Italian only in 1954.
Jokes apart, Trieste is a wonderful city, where you can stroll among majestic buildings of the Habsburg Empire, houses of wealthy merchants, and churches, also Orthodox.

 

Icon of the Madonna on a street wall.

 

And that is the poet and writer I mentioned before: D’Annunzio, sat next to a girl, pretending to read solemnly. He was in fact an astute womanizer.

 

Backlight from “Unità d’Italia” square.

 

Happily back to Malta, in the apartment where I live now, with an amazing sea view! In the evening, I sit on the balcony, watching the sunsets, always unique. The ideal place to have a little drink and meditate on the impermanence of existence.

 

In the meanwhile, Dekaro Diario turned 10! It was in fact 2012 when I started it, on the occasion of a long trip to South and Central America. Therefore, I believe that it’s time to conclude this blog. I will make one last episode at the end of the year, it will be Oman, and we say goodbye. Maybe I will do another kind of blog in the future, before the inevitable departure, but I don’t know yet. We’ll see.

 

Cyprus

Hello friends!! Here I’m again, for a very short trip to Cyprus, a week in which I managed to sneak between the Delta and Omicron… of this f*****g Covid.

The history of Cyprus is too long to be briefly summarized, having been conquered and influenced by all the great Mediterranean civilizations: Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Romans, etc … but I want to briefly summarize the recent history that led to the division of the island in two parts.

After independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, strong tensions broke out between the Greeks and the Turkish minority (about 30%), mainly settled in the north. To limit the clashes, in 1964 the capital Nicosia was divided into two parts by a UN peacekeeping force, with a green pencil line (hence the name “Green line”) drawn on the map by an English general.
In the following years, however, a certain stabilization began to be reached, thanks to the presidency of Makarios who, although a Greek, was esteemed by the Turks, after an initial mistrust.
But in 1974 the colonels who came to power in Greece after a coup d’etat organized a coup also in Cyprus and removed Makarios (most likely instigated and financed by the United States which did not look favorably on him because of their usual paranoias… It seemed ugly not to meddle and mess up even in this small part of the globe!).
Since it was evident the intention of annexation with Greece shortly thereafter, and having been declared in the independence agreements that the annexation of Cyprus to Greece or Turkey was not allowed, Turkey felt entitled to intervene. After five days the Turkish army managed to land in the north and soon crushed the Greek army, advancing to the current borders.
The only good thing is that this humiliating military defeat against the Turks and the fear of a real war against Turkey had as consequence to bring down, after only a few days, the fascist regime of colonels that had been in power in Greece since 1967.
Once democracy was restored on the island, the Northern Turks never agreed to return to their previous status and proclaimed the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Turkey.

At the moment a solution is not in sight, but year after year the tensions are gradually diminishing. Since 2003 it is possible to pass between the two parts of the island through checkpoints and generation after generation the old grudges are gradually forgotten.

 

This time my travel companion is Alex, a dear friend in Malta, where we live. Like many Italian emigrants in Malta, we have both sold our souls to the devil, in fact, we work for online betting companies, but in my case I still have a clean conscience, being in the department that protects customers… but this is an argument that would go too far and anyway out of the topics of this blog.

At Paphos airport, we rented a Japanese automatic car with abstruse gear controls (prone to suck swearwords even to a quiet person like me) and we went to Nicosia, along the road that runs by the south sea. On the way, we stopped a few minutes on the “Aphrodite’s Rock” beach.

 

According to the legend recognized also outside Cyprus, it is here that, emerging from the foam of the waters, was born Aphrodite, the goddess of Love and Beauty.

 

Elderly people in Nicosia, on the Greek side.

 

Cyprus is full of clubs of all kinds. However, many were closed or completely empty due to the mix of Covid and low season. Here we are in a pub in the Greek part of Nicosia. It was very punk aesthetically… a pity that the prices were like Grand Hotel.

 

A military vehicle in Kyrenia, in the Northern Cyprus.
This photo, however, is misleading because in reality also the north is very quiet, it was perhaps a military parade. In fact, just before it, four F-16s had passed about 50 meters above our heads, with a frightening roar! Soon later we saw that it was an exhibition.
Kyrenia doesn’t differ much from cities in the south, apart from many flags of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus all around, and much lower prices. Unfortunately, little of the historical part remains, everything replaced by modern clubs, discos, casinos, and commercial chains.

 

The ceiling of the recent great Hala Sultan mosque in Haspolat, built with generous Turkish funds.

 

Back in the Greek part, in the mountains of Troodos, for one of the most pleasant experiences of the trip: the wine ​tasting in the cellars. The production of wine in Cyprus dates back to about 6000 years ago and according to some historians, it was the first place in the world to produce it.
During the tasting we were offered various types of wine, gradually increasing in gradation. Some were really good.
If the police had stopped us for the alcohol test, our driving license would have been suspended until 3485.

 

Hidden into the Troodos mountains there are Orthodox churches that are very humble on the outside but which hide splendid frescoes inside. In this case, it is the church of the Archangel Michael, in the village of Pedoulas. It was built and painted in 1474.

 

The archangel Michael.

 

Autumn.

 

A cobbled street with plants and flowers in Laneia, a scenic little town in the Troodos’ mountains.
Yes, once again Alex can be just glimpsed from behind, but don’t worry, you won’t miss anything extraordinary, I mean, he is not a George Clooney, to use a euphemism. :D

 

Food stall by the road.

 

Cyprus is full of cats. A joy for all lovers of this cute feline. At the moment, the first proved friendship in the world between man and cat was discovered here, in a tomb dating 9500 years ago in which a cat was found buried next to the deceased.
Later there were also specific reasons that brought the cats to the island. For example, the story of the “Holy Monastery of St. Nicholas of the Cats” tells of how, during its construction in the thirteenth century, ships full of cats were brought from Egypt and Palestine to fight the poisonous snakes in the area.
Now the snakes have been defeated and the cats have successfully completed their task. They can therefore stay all the time lazing around and eating food kindly offered by Cypriots and tourists

 

A “perfectly balanced” cat!

 

We keep drinking excellent Cypriot wine. Here we are in Limassol, a big and ancient city on the south coast. Here too, however, as in all the Cypriot cities I have visited, very little remains of the past.

 

After the fourth day Alex returned to Malta (there was a compromise with his girlfriend, Ciapparina, who at first did not want to send him, but in the end allowed a maximum of 4 days) and in the remaining three days I visited some suggestive archaeological sites.
These are the ruins of the archaeological area of Neo-Paphos, founded in the 4th century BC. At the time it was the “new” city in the area. In fact, the city-state of Paphos is so ancient that is even mentioned in the Odyssey.

 

The site is also famous for the extraordinary mosaics on the floors of some Roman villas from the early centuries AD. Unfortunately though, perhaps because it was low season, they were covered to be preserved, except this one and another which depicted the birth of Achilles.
This mosaic depicts the mythical fight between Theseus and the Minotaur within the labyrinth of Crete. In the upper left there is Ariadne, in the upper right an impersonated Crete and in the lower left the labyrinth itself impersonated.

 

A little north of the archaeological area of Paphos there is a necropolis called “Tombs of the Kings”, dating back to the 4th century BC. There are no kings buried, it was actually used by the local aristocracy.
This tomb has a colonnaded atrium with niches around.

 

A cargo vessel that ran aground in 2011 in Peyia, 10k north of Paphos.

 

Another very ancient city is Kourion, near Limassol. This theater was actually almost completely rebuilt on the site of the original one. Kourion was an important city-state of Mycenaean colonizers who settled here in the 13th century BC.

 

Also in Kourion there are mosaics on the floors of the villas from the Roman period. This is inside the so-called “House of the gladiators” due to two mosaics depicting gladiators. It was probably a gymnasium.

 

And once again the rainbow comes out on the road to greet me… a positive way to see the fact that it’s always raining!

 

Well, I was already planning another trip but the whole world is turning Covid-red again. Ok, patience. As someone wrote on Facebook: “Live each variant of your life as if it were last”