Sailing the Wine Dark Sea (part 5)

Being an ex-pat American living in Israel, I generally leave it to others to pontificate about the merits and demerits of Brexit, as in England leaving the European Union. I don’t pay much attention to the European Union period, at least most of the time. However, having an ‘open border’ does come in handy once in a while.

Day 8 of our cruise brought us to the very top of the Adriatic to the venerable city of Trieste, our next scheduled stop. However (a big ‘however’), the Golden Iris did not dock in Trieste, but in Koper, which is a half an hour bus ride away AND is in Slovenia (which is not the same as Slovakia). If you ask me why our ship couldn’t or didn’t dock in the port city of Trieste, I don’t know; it never occurred to me to ask, nobody else thought to ask, and nobody bothered to explain why. We just did, and that meant crossing the border between two countries, which at some time pre-E.U. might have meant the usual bureaucratic border control folderol. These days? You just keep going on the highway, and nobody thinks twice about it. Even the fact that we were using a Slovenian guide to show us around an Italian city didn’t seem at all out-of-the-ordinary.

While we were on board the bus, our guide provided some information about Slovenia, a country with a population of just over two million, which had been a part of the former Yugoslavia (whose 20th century creation and ultimate dissolution is beyond the scope of my articles). A source of pride to all Slovenians is their healthcare system and higher education, all available at no cost. On the other hand, income taxes eat up half of their salaries. You may decide for yourselves whether this model is a good one or not, just don’t tell me that these services are ‘free.’

We were off the bus in Trieste, and our first stop was the synagogue (not that you should be surprised!). After having visited the itty-bitty houses of worship in our previous stops (see earlier posts), it was a pleasant change of pace to enter this cathedral-sized shul, one that is apparently still in use – unlike similar sized ones where I come from. Sometimes people get carried away in their enthusiasm. When this synagogue was built in 1912 (replacing four smaller ones), the Jewish population in the city was a little over 5,000. It would have taken a lot of them showing up at one time to fill all the seats. These days they probably use the smaller ‘chapel,’ which is still larger than what we came upon in other cities. I would have been more than happy to provide a photograph of the place to impress you with its architecture and physical dimensions. However, for security reasons, photographing the insides was prohibited. Talk about too little, too late. You can always go on the internet and find pictures of the place. I also suspect that if someone wanted to do bad things to the synagogue, they would find a way to record whatever they needed to. But I digress.

We reassembled at the main square, piazza Unità d’Italia, and from there to the Jewish ghetto, or at least where the ghetto used to be before Mussolini engaged in ‘urban renewal.’ Unless you were told that this is where it used to be, you’d never know. Somehow, in doing their demolition, the bulldozers uncovered the remains of a Roman theater, the only real live, authentic antiquity in the area.

It must have looked better back in the day

The rest of the area is made up of the trendy shops you’d find in any respectable city, and we did a bit of wandering before getting back on the bus.

My kind of place!

Last stop, the Miramare Castle on the outskirts of town, ‘the charming residence of the Archduke Maxmilian of Hapsburg.’ The weather was less than pleasant, and, once again, it was a long schlepp from where the bus let us off to where we needed to go, well out of the comfort zone of some of our fellow travelers. The palace and its surroundings bring one back in time to when people who had money had a sense of style, or at least had the good sense to hire people who did.

Inside looking out
An interior view
A view of the grounds

There’s a lot more to see in Trieste, including the Carlo and Vera Wagner Museum of the Jewish Community in Trieste, but the Golden Iris was going to sail at 3PM and we had to go through passport control to get back on board.

The standard procedure on a cruise like this one is that you hand in your passport when you first board the ship. You’re given a ship card, which serves as your room key and your credit card if you buy anything – even a cup of coffee – during the cruise. When you leave the ship at a port of call, your card gets swiped, and when you return to the ship, your card gets swiped. That way, there’s a record of who got off and who got on – in case somebody doesn’t show up. That’s all you have to do – most of the time. Yes, there’s always a sign about not bring liquids back on board, but that’s usually enforced with the same vigor as the “It’s forbidden to take food out of the dining room” signs in Israeli hotels.

We had been told at the beginning of the cruise that our passports (if we were back in Venice, that would be ‘passa-portas’) would be returned to us before we disembarked at Trieste and would be collected again  after we left Dubrovnik, our next port of call. (Good luck with that one. Remember you’re dealing here with a shipload of Israelis.)

Sure enough, we had to go through a complete security check to get back on board the Golden Iris in both places. So much for the seamless European Union.

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