A Journal From Slotalia
A Journal From Slotalia
Note to the reader:
This journal is a daily report of the walk The Route to the Roots by artists Alenka Marinič and Giovanni Fusetti. Most entries were co-written and co-edited by both Alenka and Giovanni in the form of “we”. When the entry is a specific individual experience of one of them, the text is in italic and it is preceded by the initial of the writer, A or G.
May 2: Monfalcone to Gabria Superiore
We meet at Monfalcone train station. The location is familiar because we already met here once, to plan our first days of the walk. The day is cool and the land welcomes us with a kind rain that will accompany us throughout the day.
It is a day of attunement – with each other, with a new pattern of life on the move, with the land and with the poets inside us, who are craving for being impressed by the land and by the people.
We start the walk at the Theme Park of the Great War. The place is a strange combination of peace and violence. We see the traces of war and yet all is calm and almost deserted.
We walk along the Alpe Adria Trail. We see abandoned fields where it is no longer possible to grow food fast enough. We walk in nature. Nature has its own constant calm pace.
Each of us carries a pole with three flags sticking out of the backpack. Slovenia, Italy and EU. It is an odd outfit, people look at us with curiosity, they wave at us, we wave back. When they hear about our walking project they compliment us.
The traces of the WWI are everywhere, and we often walk near tranches and fortifications, old scars that remind us of a tragic time that has marked this place irreversibly.
For part of the path we are walking on the regional road. Cars are passing by so fast. Their speed and power feel so brutal after walking on paths in nature.
In the evening we study the maps and we identify the spots that we want to walk through. The land ahead of us is an amazing patchwork of earth-spots.
May 3: Gabria to Solkan
A-The house we stay in has all the doors locked, the garden has a lock, the door has a lock, I lock myself out of the house. There is a refugee center in the village. They are locked too.
We walk along the border, entering and exiting each other’s countries.
We ritualize these events by welcoming each other and greeting whoever is around.
We walk as the two Prime Ministers of Slotalia, a new country just born from the unification of Slovenia and Italy. We are walking with a peculiar outfit. A vintage hat from Yugoslavian Police and a reproduction of a Fascist Fez, two rather disturbing pieces of costume. But they both have a little flag of Slotalia in front, turning them into some kind of odd and colourful parody of power. The flag is a combination of the patterns and colours of the two flags, brilliantly designed by Juš. It is joyfully absurd.
We are proud in our outfit and in our postures. We are aware of the comedic effect of our look. This is why we are here, to reflect poetically on the land and its history.
We walk through Miren, where in 1947 the cemetery was cut in two by the border. Watching the tombs cut in two, the bodies split, the families divided even in their final resting place, makes us feel in our heart and bones the loud and absurd cruelty of the border and the pain of the people here. Bodies divided between two countries and two systems. Such an absurd and violent act of politics and politicians who live far away from the reality of the people.
From Miren to Gorizia a local woman joins us for part of the path. She walks with us and tells us stories. Random stories about the border, about her life, about what she thinks about life.
We enter Gorizia and then Nova Gorica, once the same city, now split between Italy and Slovenia. Two tiny museums are full of treasures for our research: The Museum of Smuggling and the Museum of the Border. So many stories of people inspire us deeply.
We take a rest in Europa Square, where one day in 2004 finally the border was pulled down in a peaceful ritual between two nations and two people.
We are very touched by this day, our poets have been deeply nurtured. We can already feel the stories bobbling inside us.
May 4: Solkan to Valerisce
Today is a day of transit towards the area where we will have our first performance. The day starts with interventions on the border playing the two Slotalian prime ministers. Greeting people at the border and announcing the recent creation of the new country.
The walk continues towards Valerisce through the countryside.
We cross the Soča river, eating lunch by the river.
We need to go to a big supermarket to get some food. The supermarket seems so loud and violent. So many different options. The awareness of how fast our lives became struck us. We negotiate what to buy so we don’t stay hungry on one hand, and that we don’t have to carry too much on the other. We are starting to feel how deceleration does not mean less effort. It often means more.
We leave Gorizia and we enter in the Goriška Brda/Collio region. Walking among the vineyards we share ideas and impressions about the journey and we start seeing scenes, characters and scenarios appearing in our poetic bodies.
We arrive early at our accommodation and we start devising the show.
The evening session is a flow of material: the stories of people and of the land get translated into play very easily and with such a joy.
Before dinner, we have a glass of wine at the winery nearby. A very jovial old lady who runs the cantina serves us a delicious rosé and we have a very inspiring chat. We fluidly shift between Slovenian, Italian and the local dialect, il furlan. “Everybody speaks these languages here”, she says, “we are the same race, siamo la stessa razza”. She tells stories about years and years of daily smuggling through the border, she often laughs at the naivety of her stories. As in the stories on the videos at the Museum of Smuggling, we are very moved by the humour of the people trying to play with the absurdity of history.
May 5: Valerisce to Fojana
In the morning we have another devising session: we already feel the style, structure and rhythm of our show. We are amazed and inspired. Very grateful for the deep artistic complicity between us. Forged over a decade of poetic partnership. First as a teacher and a student, then as teaching colleagues, now as players on stage. It is a profound joy.
The sweet hills of the Goriška Brda/Collio region hold our walk towards Fojana, where Alenka’s family owns a little cottage, home of her ancestors. This will become our home for the next couple of days.
A-Walking on the land where my ancestors come from. Sometimes I imagine this is where they walked. Their feet were touching the land as my feet are touching it now. Seeing the land being changed and exploited by the humans so much. Every part of the land must be useful. Humans – we are so brutal. Cars sometimes drive by fast. We walk and insist walking. In the afternoon my family comes. The roots grow stronger and deeper.
May 6: Fojana to Šmartno
A-Preparing for the show, rehearsing in the courtyard of an empty house, remembering the people that used to live there. I feel I am present in many different dimensions – here with Giovanni, rehearsing at hearing my kids playing, in the past remembering the old lady who used to live here, walking with her cane, talking to my grandfather, seeing his old always smiling face and in the future, imagining myself growing old here.
In the evening we walk to Šmartno, where we meet with the production team and we set up the space for the show. A little square, with a few rows of chairs and two projectors. A simple black background with some rows of little flags of our countries and of the EU. The essence of street theatre that we both love so much.
Our show has the shape of a journey through the history of this land and the border. From the Celtic time to today, so many people have lived here and cared for this beautiful place. We are two storytellers playing multiple characters and we engage the audience to become the land: the hills, the river, the vineyards. We give them simple movement cues and they become part of our stories.
G-We perform using multiple languages: a patchwork of Slovenian, Italian, Venetian dialect, English, French and Gibberish. We usually speak English between us. Alenka understands the basics of Italian, while I am completely useless with Slovenian. And yet, on stage, I “understand” everything she says: the language of our gestures goes well beyond words. Our complicity on stage is a true bliss and we are very happy to see how our creation is received by the people.
The audience is a combination of locals and friends. Some people literally walked off their homes with a chair to become our audience.
At the end we are very touched by the comments. A lady tells us that “This show is for us”.
We made it!
May 7: Fojana to Albana
Time to take the road again. We continue our walk towards the north. We say goodbye to our friends, partners and family. We continue the walk alone again. The land is progressively changing.
We enter in a wilder phase of the path, the weather is changing. We are very happy with the echoes of our performance. We will appreciate some time with less social interactions and a deep immersion in nature.
The Italian side of the Goriška Brda/Collio is both similar and different from the Slovenian side. We notice variations in the way the land is cultivated, but the greeting of the people have the same warmth. A group in a garden invites us to drink, but we kindly refuse. If we stop and drink we will never make it to our final accommodation.
May 8: Albana to Brdo
This is the wildest day of our path, we follow the river Idrja for a few hours, in a rather uninhabited area of the border. We walk towards wilderness, through the woods and up the mountains. A left behind place. Nature thrives. The signal on the phones is often non-existent.
We have lunch by a house falling apart. A cat approaches us and keeps us company. One of the rare living creatures that makes contact with us on this day. And probably just because it is trying to get some of our lunch.
Then we hit the mountains climbing towards Kambreško. The rain comes and we walk in a thick forest. We feel that we are in a different time and space. It seems like we have started another walk.
May 9: Brdo to Kobarid
A-The hats we were using for our Slotalian prime ministers are gone. They disappeared in the nature, probably have fallen off Giovanni’s backpack while we were descending from Brdo. Giovanni tries to find them and makes an extra 14 km in order to find them. Nothing. They are gone.
It is a mystery, there is no traffic on that road. Did they roll off into the forest? Did they hide in the tall grass by the side of the road? Maybe they wanted to remain together, hugging each other in the soil of the forest and become the land again.
Or maybe they felt that this part of the walk is in a different time and space, and they don’t belong to this story any more. Who knows… but we will miss them!
We continue our path without the hats toward Kobarid. The sun is strong, surroundings so green. Just before Kobarid we meet a hiker from Germany that is walking to Istanbul. He still has a long way to go. We explain him about Along the Walk and why we are walking. We ask him: “What is your story? Why are you walking?” He answers: “Why not?”
May 10: Kobarid
The second event that we have planned with our production team is a workshop with local pupils from Kobarid’s primary school. We have proposed a theatrical workshop on the theme of war and peace. We have selected paragraphs from letters written from soldiers in different wars. From an unknown Roman soldier to the current war in Ukraine. We ask the pupils to read them and reflect on them in small groups. Juš and Maja from the production team have joined us.
At the end we ask the pupils to write anti-war statements to current politicians and read them out loud. It is touching how they take the task at hearing that makes it so obvious that war is such a terrible terrible option.
Our original proposal to conclude the activity was to bring these letters to the Soča river and make them into little boats floating away. But the pupils suggest a more environmentally friendly way, in order to protect the river. They suggest to burn them. And so we do: we go to the bank of the Soča river and we burn the letters and statements as a poetic gesture. The river beneath us accepts the ashes kindly.
G-On the way to the river we visit the Ossuary of the WWI Italian Soldiers. Thousands of men are buried there. They were all so young. So many lives broken by a colossal madness. Walking along the marble walls full of names I find a soldier with my surname… Soldato Giuseppe Luigi Fusetti… Here we are. If I was born in another time, that would be me.
I grew up reading stories of the Great War, I always felt a deep connection and a deep grief for these young men betrayed by history and by their leaders. Reading their stories and their letters in my youth made me a Conscientious Objector and I chose to serve my country with a civil service rather than a year in the army. And today I serve my country, all countries, with the arts. In front of these men, our work of today with the children feels even more important.
We visit a local supermarket and decide we need a good meal to celebrate the completion of our Walk. We meet one of the pupils from the school and show him the photos from the river.
At home we eat our last meal together and share feelings and reflections on the day and on the whole journey.
The gratitude for this shared experience is deep. It flows like the Soča river.
May 11: Kobarid to Padova/Ljubljana
And then came the day of the departure. We take the bus from Kobarid to Tolmin. Giovanni continues in the direction of Nova Gorica, Alenka to Ljubljana. We part.
For ten days we have shared path, meals, thoughts, dreams, both inspired by the same landscapes and by each other.
We say goodbye in Tolmin, in a rainy morning. It is nice that we will have some time of transition on buses and train, before diving back into our lives and their very busy schedules.
We know we will miss each other.
This has been a remarkable journey.
We are full of gratitude towards each other, towards the land that has held us and the people that we have met, towards the power of the past and of the present. And towards our production team who has worked so generously to support us and to make this possible.
And a big thank to the EU for the vision of funding this project.
Long live the walking poets!
Alenka and Giovanni
Walk.1 with Alenka Marinič and Giovanni Fusetti – The Route to the Roots
2- 11 May 2023, Slovenian – Italian border
photo by Sunčan Stone