Next stop — Trieste je nas! (Part Four)

Shortly after I returned from Barcelona I had another trip near the Mediterranean, but much closer to the Balkans — this time it was the infamous Trieste a.k.a the city from where our parents smuggled jeans into Yugoslavia!

The reason that I was going there were couple of Forums connected to the Western Balkans — EU Summit that was held in this Italian city, thus it was an opportunity for me to report from this sort of a big event for the Balkan countries.

I got to Trieste en route through Slovenia — with my flight landing at Ljubljana, from where with the rest of the Macedonian delegation we took a bus to Trieste. Didn’t see much from Ljubljana — just the airport and some nice Slovenian landscapes on the way. Everything seemed neat and organized though, so at least I made sure in what everybody was talking about Slovenia before — that it differs from the rest of the ex Yugoslavia countries.

Arriving in Trieste early, around 6 am, first I took a nap and then I went for a little tour around the area the hotel was in — wasn’t a bad location since it was quite near the centre and Piazza Unita — which was also the location for some of the workshops and the Summit later on. So I was walking on the pier near the Piazza Unita, the weather was hot, but not too hot like the one in Barcelona, and there was some weak wind as well.

My first impression about Italy is that in this country everything is about the style. From the architecture, to the way people are dressed, then how coffee, food and drinks are being served — everything has to has its finesse and has to look adorable. I also imagined Trieste to be different, like more under Yugoslav influence, but this wasn’t the case at all since everything I saw there was typical Italian.

I sat down at a local coffee shop where a friend of mine (which I was going to meet later) advised me to go and ordered the typical Trieste coffee drink — capo in B. It tasted good and looked very stylish — so from that point on I kept trying to find the imperfect meal or drink while in Trieste — but I didn’t succeed at it.

Later on which some of the Macedonians (Martina, Marijana and Aleksandar) we went to hear a lecture from famous Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija, while also meeting my Slovenian Italian friend Stefan, who I hadn’t seen from last year, when we attended one conference in Croatia.

The Serbezdija event was interesting as he mostly talked about how Trieste was viewed and experienced in the eyes of Yugoslavs — to which basically this city was the point of entry to the West, and how in this regard Western culture influenced Yugoslavia at that time.

After that it was time for wine, prosciutto and party at one museum there. Although most of the time we indulged in the fine Italian wine and tasty prosciutto, we managed to see some of the art that was exhibited as well. It was a great opportunity for networking as well, so I met journalists and various ngo activists from Bulgaria, Croatia and Serbia.

After the dinner party ended, we went to grab some of the famous Italian ice cream, which was possible the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted in my life!

The next day was packed with Forums and workshops, and the venue was interesting as well — it was the Trieste dock. There we had the usual lecture and speeches about the level of democracy in the region — thins that have been said and stated over and over again at many conferences I’ve attend so far, so I used the time there also for some quality networking and meeting new people and contacts.

During the lunch I’ve also discovered something I hadn’t known or tried before — Aperol Spritz. And that day I maybe drank six or seven of them. The organizers started get a little bit pissed off because as participants, we kept drinking this Aperol and didn’t paid attention to the workshops that were taking place — but they should have known that it’s always a bad idea to offer alcohol early on.

After the workshops ended, with Marijana and Aleksandar we went for a walk around the main square, both some souvenirs and clothes, since it’s basically a sin if you go to Trieste and you don’t buy a piece of clothing. That night we also had a delicious dinner, as we sat at a restaurant near the Piazza Unita, and we ate pasta and fish, over some sweet wine.

I have to admit that at first I was skeptical about this combination — I mean who eats pasta together with fish, so I initially went for the pizza, but somehow I changed and mind and gave this dish a try.

It was fantastic, very well balanced flavor and again I realized that Italians know their food, they are definitely the masters of this craft! Had some drinks after that with the Macedonian journalists and crews that were going to report from the Summit, and soon after that called it a day.

So the next (and last) day turned out to be a busy one, as I reported from the Summit almost constantly, beginning in the morning at 8 am and finishing about an hour before I left for Ljubljana, which was around 6 pm.

The whole city was shut down since Merkel, Macron and co were in town and there were multiple security check points almost everywhere around the city. Politics is usually boring, but since this was an event that was packed with journalists from all over the Balkans, it was interesting and as we were taking statements and constantly writing and sending articles — the time flew by!

Didn’t get the chance to see Merkel or Macron, for one because the Italians set up a perimeter for the journalists which was kind of far away from the place where these two were going to arrive, and the second reason being the fact that it was too hot to stand at the perimeter.

However it was an amazing experience for me, and after the event ended, I didn’t even notice how tired I actually was. The tiredness caught up with me when I arrived in Ljubljana, where we had to wait additional two hours for the flights to Skopje. But when there is beers and laughs, time passes quickly, so this was the case here once again.

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Bojan Stojkovski

Bojan Stojkovski

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Freelance journalist based in Skopje, Macedonia. Contributor for @ZDNet and @ForeignPolicy