The Golden View

She threw herself into the air, urging the swing higher, higher, impatient as ever. For a moment, at the apex, before gravity pulled her back, she imagined she was a bird. A swallow perhaps, rising above the 14th-century cathedral, St. Guisto’s hillock, past the zona industriele, the fish cooperative with the sagging bunting strewn over the yard, the festival of fish winding down, the mackerel, sprats, mussels and sardello saor all consumed, the terraces where children play in the slanting sunlight, the trembling turquoise waters of the port, above the once grand buildings of the Habsburgs, wheeling over the garden where Isabella Burton burnt her husband’s pernicious, controversial, damnable, perverse unpublished manuscripts. What a loss! The curls of white smoke rise up and up, carried on the gusts of wind from the formidable karst. They call it la bora, that moody wind that cleanses the streets. In the distance, not so far away, the Kraj, the barrier that once held back the uncivilised hordes of the Balkans and beyond. Now they talk of building fences.

Jan Morris described it as ‘a middle sized, essentially middle-aged Italian seaport, ethnically ambivalent, historically confused, only intermittently prosperous…’ A city full of smells and colours belonging to different cultures and ways of living. The native of Firenze cannot agree “No, no, they are not real Italian,” she says, “I can’t understand the accent, it is somewhere else.” I remind her the motto of the former empire was ‘Indivisible and inseperable’, this city shaped by Latins, Slavs, Jews and Teutons. “No, it’s not possible,” she mutters, staring at her aperetivo.

Note: The Kraj acted as the cordon sanitaire against incursions from the Ottoman Empire - Militärgrenze in German, Vojna krajina in Slovenian, Vojna granica in Croatian.