Sunday, December 20, 2009


We spent our last day in Italy at Trieste. We visited the Grotto Gigante (The big grotto) and Miramare Castle ... both of which had rules forbidding taking pictures. Bummer for a blogger.

You descend (and later ascend) about 500 steps into the grotto, which is beautifully lit. The tour guide stops you at strategic points to play a recorded message in as many languages as your group needs. It's one of those breathtakingly beautiful places that manages it physically as well as emotionally. Should you visit, do remember that it's really cold down there: they close it during winter because it's wet down there and all the steps become covered in ice. Either bring a sweater in summer or else have a 30 pound baby in a backpack to keep you warm. Make sure the baby is well layered.

This shows you the path you travel. You start in the upper left corner, go down the stairs and enter the large cavern. You climb back up on the right and out again in the center-right.

The Miramare Castle was owned by an archduke who was annointed Emperor of Mexico, where he was promptly assassinated. We already commented that this was the most impressive, luxurious, well-furnished, "gee, it might be nice to actually live here" castle we've seen in Germany, Austria, and Italy. The fellow apparently made his wealth in shipping, so there are pineapples carved everywhere. His bedroom and study were designed to resemble his rooms aboard his ship with a portrait of his lovely wife, the princess, above his small bed. The entry hall featured an unusual skylight: it's actually an aquarium with real fish in it. The royal bedrooms above were the most sumptuously appointed in gold and burgundy, gold statues, expensive gifts from the Pope, decorative tables, heraldry from nearby leaders .... very wow. He also had a second entrance crafted so that visiting dignitaries could disembark from the port next to the castle and walk right in. The throne room included 10+ foot tall paintings depicting the royal line (including demonstrating that the princess and the archduke were umpteenth cousins and linked to the same royal line).

We got to take little Anna with us through the castle. She was most interested in finding the baby princess' room, but we never found her quarters. We found Maximillian's room, and his wife's, and the servants' ... but no rooms for kids. It seemed very odd.

On the outside is this strange statue looking down on you. Don't jump, man! It's not worth it!

The Victory Lighthouse was built after WWI in commemoration of their fallen. Gorgeous edifice, really dominating across the harbor from the castle.

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