Nick gave us a run-down of his adventures in translating Italian poets the next morning:
We sat outside under an overhang at the inn in Skocjan surrounded by odds and ends from the inn: a broken bicycle, horse tackle, assorted chains and rusted tools. An ideal setting for a talk about translation:
So now that Nick claimed to speak Italian, we had a chance to put him to the test with a trip over the border to Italy (well, the trip was already planned...testing Nick was a bonus). This time, I took a break from co-piloting and sat in the back of the van with Nick and Glenn where we shared food, called out "are we there yet?", and tried to refrain from pulling each others' hair in true siblings-on-a-road-trip fashion.
I knew we'd crossed the border into Italy when the signs got more macho:
(NOTE: Bonus view of white van in reflection of the store window!)
Here is Mark telling us to "pipe down, kids."
Nick proved himself in our first stop-off at a road-side spot for espresso. He ordered with no hesitancy and even got some tap water in a land where bottled water is foisted onto tourists who don't know better. He also got a tip on the weather and where to park for Aquilea (we did end up with a fat parking ticket, but that was not Nick or anyone's fault--those wacky street signs!).
We'd driven through sheets of rain to get to Aquileia, and though the rain had stopped, the sky was cloudy and seemed ready to open up any minute, so we skipped the Roman ruins and hurried into the Cathedral. In my excitement to get out of the rain, I forgot to cover my shoulders and an Italian woman chased after me gesturing wildly as if I'd run inside naked. With my coat on, I walked through the Cathedral where glass walkways have been built to prevent wear on the mosaics. We floated over the pictures of roosters, turtles, and saints, over the excavated traces of designs:
Outside again, we wandered around back to the Cemetary of the Fallen where ten unnamed soldiers from World War I are buried. Overlooking the burial ground is a sculpture of an angel holding a soldier upright in her arms.
Yet more emotion is found in the small details etched into the side of stones:
Scenes you might miss if you walk by too quickly:
Here is an etching in the stone, reading "Per Tutte Le Madri," or "For All the Mothers":
Naomi Shihab Nye has a poem, "Darling," that captures the dumbfounded feeling of facing these who were counted but unknown. In it, she writes, "One who was there is not there, for no reason.... It was almost too big to see."
We passed the souvenir shop and stopped in another café for trial two of Nick's Italian. Again he passed and we celebrated with gelato. The place had a gelato manifesto on its door, proclaiming the purity of gelato contained within and all of the natural ingredients used. It was indeed impressive gelato. I decided then that I would only eat in places that wrote manifestos about their food (this lasted for a couple of hours until I got hungry again and was willing to stop at any "Tus" once we crossed back over the border into Slovenia).