Metal Days trip: Day 4 (Trieste to Tolmin)

I decided to walk from Alessio’s flat into Trieste again, purely as I had about 2 1/2 hours before my transfer coach was due. I didn’t get to say goodbye to him as he was at work, but I passed the key over to his next guest, a guy from Peru who had arrived overnight.

The view from the garden

So another hot, sweaty couple of miles (via McDonalds) got me to the train station and then onto my little minibus with Walter, a financier from Austria who was also heading to Metal Days. As it happens, he’s friends with Fearancy, who are on stage tonight just before Ten Ton Slug – who I’m here to see! We picked up three ladies from the airport (one from Barcelona, two from Helsinki) and detoured through local roads as the “faster” toll road had a 30 minute queue… due to the toll collection!

The journey was through some astoundingly beautiful scenery and towns, ending at the bus station in Tolmin, only 250m from the Hostel Hildegarden where I’ll be for the next week. The hostel is fantastic. Quiet, clean and in a beautiful location. Check-in was quick and smooth and my hostess has given me a shortcut to the festival entrance.

The only downside is that a thunderstorm is rolling in (it hasn’t hit yet), due to peak around 6 or 7pm. Things should ease overnight with another one due to drop its watery load on us around 11am tomorrow. Thankfully after that, things should settle and be a little less extreme!

From this point, I’ll put the touristy stuff on this blog – any trips I do, things I see and so – until I get to Ljubljana next Saturday. All the music / festival reviews will be over on Moshville Times.

Metal Days trip: Day 3 (Trieste)

I got up nice and early to see my host this morning… then went back to bed as I was so tired and woke up again at 11am. Oops. Still, enough time to explore a little so I forewent the bus and decided to walk from his flat into the town – about 5km, I was told.

Risiera di San Sabba

Lidl was my first stop, to pick up the stuff I couldn’t put in my hand luggage. I have yet to see a documented case of a RyanAir flight being hijacked by someone wielding toothpaste but I guess they have to be cautious.

Next door to the supermarket is the Risiera di San Sabba. Originally a rice-husking factory, it became a military barracks in the early 20th century… and then was taken over by the Nazis as a waystation for “insurgents” before sending them off to other camps for “processing”. Numbers are hard to come by, but the reckoning is a few thousand were killed here (and cremated, their ashes scattered in the nearby port) and many thousands more sent by train to Germany and Poland.

As ever, I found this place deeply moving and upsetting. Despite its comparatively small size compared to, say, Auschwitz it does nothing to lessen the extent of the atrocities committed there. Quick to walk around, but the memories will last a lifetime.

When in Rome(ish)

From there I walked into Trieste itself, trying to stay as close to the coast as I could (not easy until you get very close to the town). I passed the local football teams’s ground – an impressive stadium – and picked up pizza for brunch from a small corner shop. Lunch later was grapes and a banana from another shop. I was behind another tourist in the queue who was paying for an ice lolly with a €500 note. FIVE. HUNDRED. EURO. The girl on the till had never even seen one before. My entire trip is costing less than this guy was handing her.

So the walking began / continued. Similarly to my 2-day stay in Rome, I just… walked. I had a few things I wanted to see and I just used my legs to get between them all. The weather was hot and humid (as I type this at 8pm, it’s not got any less oppressive), but in typically Italian fashion there are plenty of water fountains for when you run out of sports drinks.

I found the yacht club, the Piazza Unitá d’Italia and its gorgeous view out over the sea and the Teatro Romano. Unfortunately the Piazza was a little non-photogenic as it features a concert by Talking Heads’ David Byrne tomorrow, and the stage / seats currently fill the area.

Teatro Romano

I walked uphill to see various churches, cathedrals and the liberation monument, as well as enjoying the wonderful view this high point offered me.

And then I caved and got a Burger King for dinner. At least I had a beer (a Slovenian one) with my meal, something you can’t do in the UK because… erm… I don’t know. Just because.

Right now, I’m back in the Hop & Rock, supping a staggeringly delicious and tart sour mango beer that I need to get the name of. I’ll give it a little while then head back to Alessio’s where I think another guest may be staying.

Tomorrow I have a fair bit of free time before my bus to Tolmin. I may spend it asleep!

Prepping for Metal Days, Slovenia

[This post was originally published on The Moshville Times, which I also own and run]

This one caught my eye when I saw the poster and checked out the price. An incredible lineup over five full days, three stages and only about £135 including camping, showers and phone charging? What, really? Wow…

But first, travel. There are festival shuttles for €25 to €40 each way from various places such as Venice, Trieste and Ljubljana. I’ve not been to Trieste before so I’ve booked a flight there from Stansted (about £85), will sort out some couchsurfing over two days and get the coach to the festival on the Sunday.It turns out a couple of our Crew have been in the past and recommended it as well, though the couple of warnings I was given included “it’s not all sunshine, expect rain” and “you have to get there early to get the warm water for the showers”. Because I’m expecting to do a fair bit of work when I’m there I opted to try and get some accommodation rather than crashing in a tent.

On the way back, I’m going to Ljubljana where I’ll spend a night and see the Slovenian capital before flying back to Luton (around £25). I’m in Glasgow and have already sorted trains to/from London at £30 a pop, so just the airport transfers to worry about which are cheap enough.

Accommodation was a little tricker as I left it a little late and it seemed everywhere in town had already gone. It’s not just the festival, Tolmin is a tourist hotspot for hikers, bikers, parascenders and so forth. It is, frankly, beautiful.

After looking a little further afield (20 min drive, half hour bike ride), I put in a couple of emails through the local tourist office which seems to conveniently bring together every hotel, hostel and guesthouse in the area under one website roof. I got offers back for six nights in both places, one a hostel in town (20 mins walk) and one a bed and breakfast but some distance out. Pricewise there was little in it, but I’ve gone for the hostel. They’ve been in touch to sort out deposit and so on and have been fantastic so far. I’m really looking forward to getting there!

Cost – around £150 for 6 nights which, for a premium site and booking late in the day, is cheap enough. If you’re sharing and book a little earlier, you can find very nice places for around £100 per room for the same period. I may be going back another time just to explore the place!

So five days of metal, one day to chill and then back home to see some friends in London before getting the train back to Glasgow. Can’t wait!

Metal Days: official

Last day then home

Venice Holocaust Memorial

Venice Holocaust Memorial

We had our final hearty breakfast at the hotel with the idea being that we’d not need to eat again until we got our inclusive sandwiches on the flight to Amsterdam. That kind of didn’t work out.

After checking out, we decided to wheel the suitcase around with us rather than leave it at the hotel. There’s a shuttle bus to the airport from Piazzale Roma, so there seemed little point in coming all the way back to Mestre just to grab a bag and walk to the railway station.

We picked up our shuttle ticket from the machine as soon as we reached the Piazzale Roma to save time later. A good job as the machine is very picky about how you insert notes! I think it only likes them fed in one way of the possible four you can insert them.

As usual with no plans we just ambled. Heading for the Jewish area, we found a little art shop where Gill bought a couple of paintings (I swear the new bathroom will be the best-decorated in all of Scotland) and I snapped some photos of the Holocaust memorial. Like so many others I’ve seen, it’s engraved with the names of all the locals who died after being taken away by the Nazis during WWII.

Venice Holocaust Memorial

Detail of the memorial

Time flew over the day. We were due at our bus around 14:45 and spent the intervening time locating little stops we’d not found before, and shopping. Well – Gill shopped, I stood outside guarding the suitcase and reading The Invisible Man on my phone.

Eventually, laden down with souvenirs, we capitulated and stopped for a quick snack. Of ice cream, tea, and strawberry/chocolate crepes. It wasn’t cheap, but it was nice and we left in good time to hop onto our bus for the airport.

The flights back were comfortable (though there was a one-hour delay between Schipol and Glasgow) and we were home a little after 22:00. Full marks to KLM for comfort, in-flight snacks and excellent cabin staff. Marks off for the rubbish “self-check-in” at Marco Polo airport, that confused the hell out of anyone over 40 and caused horrendous queues. It also placed Gill behind me on our final flight instead of next to me – something that likely wouldn’t have happened if a human being had checked us in.

As always, good to be home. Our next trip will likely be Egypt in the summer. I can’t see us being able to fork out for anything else before that!

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Valentine’s in Venice

Gill and I in Venice

On a bridge. Somewhere.

Today there would be boats. The travel tickets sold by the hotel could be used on the buses or the vaporetti – the water-borne transport service that circles the islands of Venice. We wanted to head for Murano and see the glass museum, and hopefully some glasswork being made.

According to the map, we needed to catch the number 42 boat from near where our bus would drop us off. A slight confusion due to the piers being rebuilt meant that it took us a while to figure out where the 42 ran from but we got there a couple of minutes before the next one was due.

It didn’t show up. Today we discovered that there are lies, damned lies and Venetian Water Bus timetables.

The number 41 (same service, running in the opposite direction) went past. As did the next 41 when the following 42 failed to make an appearance.

Giving up, we walked 150m round to the stop for the 41. The next one was indicated on the digital board as being due in 9 minutes, and would take 56 more minutes of our time to get to Murano. The 42 would have taken nearer 20.


A balcony in Venice. One of many!

Quarter of an hour later, the 42 we’d decided not to wait for drifted past as we stood tapping our feet wondering where the delayed 41 had got to.

I suppose in a way it’s comforting to know that regardless of where you are in Europe, whether you’re waiting for something on wheels or with a propellor, that public transport sucks and should never be trusted. Unfortunately in Venice, it’s not like you have the option of walking or driving to Murano due to it being somewhat wet.

At least the hour-long journey meant we got value for our ticket money and a chance to see a huge amount of the region from the coastline. A shame the weather was a little grey (and chillier than the previous day), but had it been blue skies I think we would have sweltered in the boat.

We finally arrived at Murano and had a quick look round the glass museum. It was a little bit of a let-down as Gill was really hoping to see a lot more on the history of how the material is made and crafted. It was more a display of the end products. Still, there’s some interesting stuff about the manugfacturing process and some incredibly delicate work dating back almost 2000 years which did impress. The museum’s entry fee is a fairly steep €8.30 per person, too.

Crowds in Venice

Crowds in St Marc's Square

Finding somewhere to watch glass being blown wasn’t very easy, surprisingly. Most of the places advertising “furnace” kept it away from prying eyes, but we did find one eventually. The two chaps working there were making what looked like decorations for chandeliers, or perhaps candle holders. Interesting to see, but obviously we couldn’t get too close.

The showroom there was also too tempting for Gill and she found several pieces that appealed. One was finally haggled over, purchased, engraved with our names and the date, and packed away to be lugged all the way home.

We headed back to the city centre area for a lunch that turned into dinner when we realised what time it was. Again, the food was good (though Gill has decided pasta is too salty for her in Venice), the service excellent, but in this case the price somewhat higher. While our previous place had been service and cover charge-free, this one had mark-ups (fairly advertised) and higher base prices.

Still, it was a pleasant meal and we walked off in the directon of the Rialto Bridge that we had so far failed to locate.

Leonardo da Vinci exhibition

Leo da Vinci's hang glider

The rest of the day into the early evening consisted of wandering randomly again. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition that I’d thought had closed in December. It turns out it has been extended an extra year and, despite the €8 entry fee, was excellent. Great descriptions of the exhibits and very “hands on” with a lot of working examples based on his diagrams. The place could have done with a heater or two, though.

We then managed to “take the scenic route” back to the bus station via Dorsodura which we’d intended to visit earlier, but never got round to it. Well, we’ve now seen most of it.

Despite the huge meal earlier, we decided to have a snack in the hotel. The set Valentine’s menu appealed to Gill a little too much, though, and we ended up having a full meal instead. Bizarrely, the entire set menu – every option with the exception of the dessert – was seafood-based so I had the roast beef instead. Advertised as “English”, it came cold and very rare… and was delicious.

We demolished another bottle of wine, well we were in Italy – it would have been rude not to – and headed to bed to watch Bandslam. Which apparently was better than Bad Taste. I am dating a wonderful philistine.

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