Trieste is the least Italian a part of Italy – on a map it seems prefer it ought to belong to the Balkans. It was as soon as one of many largest sea ports within the world and has an incredible historical past. Climb onto the Karst, although, and it’s instantly completely different: the ocean and metropolis under, the scent of ice within the air, and the huge stretch of limestone, going up into Slovenia and past, swathes of flaky gray stone, riddled with caves and sinkholes.
Karst plateau, Italy and Slovenia
I bear in mind as soon as seeing a map of wind routes of Europe with names like Tramontana, Mistral, Sirocco, Bora and Helm. They had been immediately evocative of a way of romance and thriller. The arrows put me in thoughts of roads connecting areas and cultures and made me wish to stroll a number of the paths to see in the event that they made sense as a journey – which is what I did.
The Bora is a northerly wind that’s fashioned alongside the Adriatic shoreline, the place the mountains run parallel to the ocean, and the Karst is essentially the most northerly area it touches. The title comes from Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind. You can see him depicted within the Tower of the Winds in Athens – a livid outdated man with a beard filled with ice, holding a conch shell to indicate the sound he makes when he sweeps down from the north. He’s related to the wild, uncivilised area that lay past the frontiers of historic Greece. Winter to spring and autumn to winter are the principle seasons, however the Bora can blow at any time. Despite the disruption it causes, the individuals have a robust affection for it, because it sweeps away the air pollution and mugginess and brings clear, shiny blue skies.
The Karst is a segue between western Europe and the Balkans, a way more rustic, peasant tradition. And it was virtually fully abandoned, I hardly noticed anybody in three days of strolling. The wind makes individuals keep in and lends them character – the locals have a fame for being powerful, hardy and intensely parochial. There are numerous dialects which might be mutually unintelligible, so individuals are very a lot in their very own territories.
Hiker within the Val Rosandra valley, between the town of Trieste and the border with Slovenia. Photograph: Getty Images
The Karst was the frontier zone between the rival Hapsburg and Ottoman empires and has a way of being bandit nation. There are numerous experiences of 19th-century freeway theft and fires in forests the place thieves had been hiding out. You can see it within the structure; the villages are constructed like fortresses to defend towards bandits as a lot because the wind, you get church steeples sticking up, like islands arising from the ocean.
The most well-known meals is pršut, a sort of prosciutto. They grasp hams in home windows and it’s cured by the chilly, dry air
There are forested areas with medieval villages each few miles. You’ll see “little doves” on the roofs – rocks used to crush the tiles. You can inform essentially the most wind-affected areas by the frequency of the rocks. The most well-known meals is pršut, a sort of prosciutto, which is cured by the Bora. They grasp hams in home windows and it’s cured by the chilly, dry air.
Štanjel is a fortified medieval village surrounded by large partitions that had been broken within the second world conflict and it hasn’t actually been rebuilt. Only about 26 individuals reside within the outdated a part of city and it’s very atmospheric. I stayed right here in a family-run guesthouse and ate at a gostilna, a sort of tavern, which served hearty soup, stew and thick home made bread, and beer, wine and rakia (native brandy).
Scenic outdated city Štanjel in Slovenia. Photograph: Getty Images
I met a girl who stated she may predict when the Bora was coming by the dryness of her arms. When they had been dry, it was an indication the wind was coming. She was younger and a choose and regarded embarrassed by her personal superstition however I feel there’s one thing in it.
The actual fantastic thing about the Karst lies within the rusticity and ease – the crumbling homes and taverns you won’t discover as a result of they don’t have indicators up and all the pieces is family-run and on a small scale. The space is known for its subterranean panorama too, the wonderful caves – however I didn’t go there as a result of the wind doesn’t blow underground!
• Where the Wild Winds Are by Nick Hunt (Hodder & Stoughton, £16.99). To order a duplicate for £14.44, together with UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.com