October 24, 2009

Bolzano



          Italian souvenirs by Mirino

My very first visit to Italy was from the North, travelling down from Munich to Bolzano. It was during the winter many years ago and I was with a girl friend. It was to be my initiation to skiing. She, a Bavarian, had helped me to buy second hand skis. Long, dark red 'Atomic' ones. Too long, too heavy and too fast for a total beginner who thought skiing would be a bit like roller-skating.

(My generation had 'Jacko-Skates'. Two pairs of wheels- front and back to each foot on an extensible chassis that was strapped to each shoe. As the wheels were made with hard, black rubber- far less noisy than the old metal ones, and as they rotated on ball-bearings and had a degree of 'torque', they were considered a revolutionary must. No one then would have ever come up with the single roller blade of wheels on special, dynamic, ankle protecting boots, knee and elbow protection pads and helmet. And an Ipod with ear phones would then have been considered even more alien. With 'Jacko-Skates' it was everyone for him or herself. We simply hoped to steer clear of little stones that tended to 'scrinch-jam' the wheels, and avoided, as best we could, from falling over).

Thus no doubt I was over confident, and so keen to ski that as soon as we arrived at the ski resort in the evening I went out in the dark, put them on to try them out on what I vaguely made out to be the nearest, gentle slope of deep, crisp snow.

This was a mistake of course. I took off, narrowly missed what I discovered the next day to be a car park on one side and a wood pile on the other, then eventually, fortunately, fell hard without breaking anything. It took me what seemed ages to wearily climb back up to the chalet in those black leather, lace up ski boots, heavily laden with my skis and smart chrome 'bâtons', yet unaccountably pleased with myself.

It's unlikely that there's a worst nor more irresponsible way of introducing oneself to the art of skiing, but it gave me even greater, totally unjustified, confidence for the following, sparkling, crystal clear morning when I could see where I was going. All I needed from then on was to learn how to turn and how to stop.

I no longer have those long, dark red skis, on which I learnt to ski, more out of necessity (the will to survive) than from any instruction or the mere pleasure of skiing, but I still have the very neat, and extremely reliable, Geze fixations. They'll work perfectly for generations, even though one would always have to attach leather straps to avoid losing the skis when having fallen, one is smartly ejected from them, as I so often was.

None of this has anything to do with Bolzano or Italy, but then I was very young, fool-hardy and one track minded- certainly in this particular case. I knew nothing of the local history or that if Benito Mussolini succeeded in accomplishing something positive, 'Italianizing' Bolzano (formally Bozen, the ethnic German city until the end of the first World War) might be considered an example.

I recall that, after a few days, still incredibly unscathed, I left my friend and my skis in her care, to take the train down to Genoa, then on to Monaco, France, to visit another friend. I vaguely remember having to change trains somewhere very early in the morning, maybe Genoa. In the cool, little waiting room there was a young soldier smoking, a priest reading, and old lady fast asleep. The stage was set. I remember thinking then, 'this is Italy'.

The train was packed when it eventually arrived, far too late, and it stopped at every single station from then on. I remember supporting someone who was sick, then at another moment sitting opposite, and far too near, a little, old, rural lady eating a black radish.
Then I remember the fresh sea air, the warm sunshine of the delightful morning, the Bougainvillea and the turquoise to deep blue sea as the little train puffed along the Mediterranean coast. It was the first time I had ever seen la Côte d'Azur.

It all now seems like a strange dream, and perhaps in a way it was.
____

Text © Mirino (PW) October, 2009. 
Modified image (with thanks to Google Images)





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9 comments:

  1. Lord knows I have a few souvenirs with the fairer sex.

    I'll never forget my first trip to Italy (and France) in 1990.

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  2. Yes, those are other stories. Delightful experiences that contribute in giving us the necessary confidence to contend with whatever fate has in store for us. And they constantly reassure us of the beauty of life.

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  3. ... if Benito Mussolini succeeded in accomplishing something positive, 'Italianizing' Bolzano (formally Bozen, the ethnic German city until the end of the first World War) might be considered an example.

    The Italian occupation of the South Tyrol (then renamed Alto Adige) is not Fascism at its best, but rather at its worst.

    People were forbidden to speak their own native language, it was forbidden to teach it in schools. Places were renamed, in order to cancel all traces of German culture.

    Thousand of Italian colonist were imported to settle there and "dilute" the natives, which were made to choose between becoming Italians in all or move to Germany.

    In other words, Fascist Italy behaved with South Tyrol just like China is behaving with Tibet.

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  4. To StafanoC

    In no way was this meant as an eloge to Mussolini. '...it might be considered an example.' would obviously refer to Italians who have always maintained that Bolzano is part of Italy and not part of Germany.
    If this is true, then who would be responsible for originally Germanising 'Bozen'?

    Your comment is interesting and naturally you would be more aware of this particular history than I would have been. Assuming then that this forced colonisation took place, why didn't Nazi Germany reclaim Bolzano? Or, if the majority of Italians think as you apparently do, why since has there not been any retribution or reconciliation regarding this? Why hasn't Bolzano been renamed Bozen? (Would it have anything to do with the fact that there was a WW2 concentration camp there?)

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  5. Italians who have always maintained that Bolzano is part of Italy and not part of Germany.

    You would be hard-pressed to find a pre-1914 claim of Bolzano as Italian. The "terre irredente" (unsaved lands) were Trento and Trieste.

    Assuming then that this forced colonisation took place, why didn't Nazi Germany reclaim Bolzano?

    In fact, it did. After the alliance with Italy dissolved in Sept. 1943, the Bolzano territory became part of the "Alpenvorland", directly controlled by the Germans (and not part of the fascist Republic of Salò).

    why since has there not been any retribution or reconciliation regarding this?

    In fact, it has, with the Degasperi-Grueber tract.

    Why hasn't Bolzano been renamed Bozen?

    In fact, it has. The official name of the city is "Bolzano/Bozen", with the Italian name coming first due to a slightly larger Italian-speaking than German-speaking population.

    (Would it have anything to do with the fact that there was a WW2 concentration camp there?)

    I don't think that Fascist Italy had any claim of moral superiority over Nazi Germany only because the latter killed their Jews directly, while the former only packed them and shipped them to Germany to be done off. The same might be told also of France, Poland and Switzerland, to some extent.

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  6. Thank you for such an objective and enlightening contribution. It goes without saying that my 'souvenirs' are more personal anecdotes than touristic or historic references to any locations in Italy. All more reason why such comments as yours are more than welcome. And even more so if they, in turn, trigger off counter comments.

    What was the situation re 'Bozen' after WW1 when Italy fought with the allies against the Germany of Kaiser Wilhelm II? Was there any subsequent reclamation of territories such as there was regarding France and the previously annexed Alsace-Lorraine?

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  7. (As I suspected, much in the same way as France reclaimed Alsace-Lorraine, Italy annexed Bozen at the end of WW1. On the 1st January 1927, it became a provincial Italian capital. It could well be that there are various opinions regarding Bozen or Bolzano, depending on one's political inclination in Italy..).

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  8. Very interesting about Bolzano's history.

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  9. I think The Commentator is right..

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