THE JOURNAL OF THE ROUTE TO THE ROOTS
Note to the reader:
This journal is a daily report of the Walk.2 by 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 preceded by the initial of the writer, A or G.
A – We meet in Nova Gorica at the Central Bus Station. Giovanni has been waiting there for a while, my bus from Ljubljana comes 5 minutes before the bus to Ročinj leaves. I see Giovanni walking from the ticket office. I know his orange backpack and his hat already. There are flags sticking out of his backpack. We have no time to talk, we need to board on the bus. We laugh. It feels like not much time has passed between the Walks. It feels like something normal, like something we do – we walk together.
G – I start my walk at my home in Padova, walking slowly towards the railway station, very early in the morning, to go catch the train to Gorizia. It feels strange and somehow eccentric to walk in the center with a back pack and hiking shoes, a pilgrim in my hometown. The train ride is mellow and sleepy, I start attuning with the rhythm of this second walking adventure.
Gorizia station is on the Italian side of the city, so I walk through the town heading towards the border, where one city becomes another, Nova Gorica. I have time to go very slow, and notice the familiarity of my body with this city landscape that we have explored during our first Walk.
Crossing the border feels like the fun ritual of a walking fool.
I wait for Alenka at the bus station and I am so happy to see her coming out of the bus from Ljubljana. Time for a hug and we run to catch our bus towards our starting point. The team is back together!
We start our Walk in Ročinj. Our plan is to get a nice lunch to start the Walk. But there is no restaurant in Ročinj. Slightly disappointed we buy lunch at the local store (looking back how lucky that the village still has a store, many of them don’t anymore) and we decide to have a picnic by the Soča river. We find a nice spot half an hour away from Ročinj. We eat, Giovanni takes a dip and when we decide to leave we realize Alenka’s flags are gone. Is this possible? We lost our hats in Ročinj on our first Walk. This is why we decided to start our second Walk there, as a poetic gesture to the lost hats. Is it possible that now we have lost our flags there too? We decide to reenact the lost hats event: this time Alenka goes back to find the flags. She walks back all the way to Ročinj. Stops at the store again. No flags. We go back twice to the spot where we had picnic. No flags. We are puzzled with the event, but on the other hand it is a perfect start of our journey.
It is evident to us that objects have a soul, a poetic anima who knows where they belong. As much as the hats belonged to the land where they vanished from our backpack, so the flags wanted to join them and be reunited.
May our Walk begin today, because, as the hats and the flags, we belong to this land too.
As a first day we planned a solid few hours of walking. It is a warm day, we walk through mellow farmland and we pick wild fruits by the tree. It is a delight to be back together. We stop at Kanal to have dinner by the Soča river, where we take a dip, the second of the day. The cold water of the river is a blessing and a wish.
We are back into the poetic flow.
We start the day earlier, at 7am. We go through the canovaccio of the show Welcome to Slotalia. It is still alive and vibrant in our poetic bodies. We are both looking forward to play together again.
Today we are walking from Zagora to Šmartno where we will perform on Saturday. We planned the route in June in France and it seemed like a very easy day. And yet we are struck by the walking, by the heat, by the fact that the cafe where we planned to have our coffee in the morning is closed for an unknown reason. The route we planned does not exist anymore: we follow a trail that progressively disappears and we find ourselves walking through the wilderness towards the road that we know, from the map, is ahead of us.
And so we move from the Soča valley to the Brda / Collio region. This landscape of vineyards and hills is so familiar. At the first bus stop in Brda / Collio we find the poster of our upcoming performance in Šmartno. Proudly, we laugh and take a picture!
But our supplies of food are getting slim and there is no stores on the way, so we are particularly happy to be fed by so many wild fig trees along the path.
We arrive to Šmartno and we are welcomed by a nice landlord. The apartment is spacious and it feels like home. There is wine waiting in the fridge for us. And chocolate. And coffee that we have been craving for the whole day. After all it was a very good day.
We wake up in Šmartno. There was a huge storm during the night. The vineyards were lit by lightning, the rain was falling and the thunder was making loud music. We rehearse the show in Šmartno, revisit the canovaccio in space and with our bodies. We can refine our show and we are happy to discover that it has grown by itself, in our poetic bodies. Like a mushroom in the forest at night. The joy of playing together is big. The little square of Šmartno, where we first performed the show, feels like a poetic home, a powerful portal to a state of play and connection with the field of storytelling. After rehearsal we walk to Fojana. We stop at a supermarket to get some food. We get settled in Alenka’s family home in Fojana very quickly. It is a familiar space for us now.
Another day in Fojana. We have breakfast and go to Šmartno for our second rehearsal. The day is a bit rainy but soon the sun starts to show itself through the clouds. We practice at the House of Culture – a hall full of rental electric bikes and chairs and a little stage. One of the windows can’t be closed all the way so our songs attract the tourists walking by. There is a group of French people that joins our rehearsal for a bit. We have fun playing the bits of the show when Napoleon takes this land, and then is kicked out by Wellington!
We wonder if at the show next day we will have some tourists. Last time we didn’t. Tourists come and go. Use electric bikes to bike around the beautiful land and then go. Who knows what kind of story they come up with about this land.
Šmartno is a very appetizing little gem for tourists. It is so well restored and preserved, it provides a leap into another time. But we wonder if this has turned it into a bit a fairy tale town, somehow unreal.
The first day of the show. We take the day easy and enjoy the morning. The show runs by itself in our mind and body. We hum our songs, review the lines. In the afternoon we go to Šmartno where we meet Juš and Tanja – the production team. Such a familiar scenery again. We prepare the space and in the evening we perform the show. There are quite a few people that have come back to the show for a second time – they remembered it from May. Even if it is pretty much the same show, it feels different. We find new details in it. There are some interesting responses from the audience. In the moment when we ask the people to sing the Slotalian anthem, a loud man refuses to do so. He says he will not sing in Italian, he is Slovene. A very powerful moment. There is a palpable tension, and we play trough it trying to hold the space for it, without letting it unsettle us. The show is visibly touching some hotspots.
After the show we look for a pizzeria to end up our day celebrating, but all is closed. So we end up celebrating at home in Fojana. Our show is back!
Our second show happens in the elderly home in Podsabotin. It is a nice house but somehow a bit of a weird place – It feels like people are put away here. We perform in the afternoon, it’s warm, almost hot. The process of getting ready for the show is so informal and beautiful. When people start coming to the show we are immediately drawn to the audience, shaking their hands, chatting with them.
They are all visibly happy that something exciting is happening this afternoon. Like old animals coming out of their den, attracted by the novelty of the event.
Alenka discovers there is a woman named Marica and she is from Barbana. She is her grandfather’s peer. There is a man that claims he is related to Alenka as well. He comes from the village Medana. The roots are growing deeper.
Many in the audience understand Italian, some speak it. Giovanni chats in Italian and in Venetian dialect with some of the elders. A lady tells him that she learnt it when she was a child, watching Italian television. Another is visibly very happy to practice her Italian. There is distinct joy in their eyes. Some gest emotional, as if the language was waking up some intimate landscapes of their memory and their life.
Performing for the elderly people in Podsabotin is beautiful and so grounded. There is no theatre space, we perform in front of the entrance of the home and yet so warm and emotional.
When our story arrives to the period of the post second war, the audience gets very interactive. They add details, they comment, they chat with each other… they lived those times and they bring them to life again.
In Sabotin Metod joins us. He is a writer that will be with us for the next few days, observe our work and spend some time with us talking about our Walk and our creative process. After the show we go to Šentflorjan, on the Italian side and when we arrive there we realize we will sleep in some sort of castle for two days. We are greeted by a young man and he introduces himself as the count. We don’t think we have ever met a count. We go eat at a very nice and simple restaurant at the bottom of the hill, below the castle. The simple delicious food and the surroundings ground us again.
18.9. Šentflorjan – San Floriano al Collio
In the morning we have breakfast with Metod. We talk about the show and about how we approached this Walk. The day is filled with the uncertainty about the weather. We are not sure if we will be able to perform outside because the forecast predicts some rain. As well – we are staying at this castle, full of paintings of Habsburgs and other historic randomness, with all the memorabilia of this family who owns it. The place seems aristocratic and eccentric at the same time. We will perform at the castle in the evening and the count is organizing it. We have doubts if people will come and we are quite nervous about it.
In the end we decide that we will perform indoors. And, to our delight, quite a few people come. Mainly locals, plus friends from our side and friends of the count. One of the women from the restaurant where we ate a night ago comes and she brings her mother. Her mother is Slovene.
This is the first time we perform in Italy, for a mainly Italian speaking audience.
We flip the storytelling towards the Italian language. Giovanni finds several new nuances in his language. It is quite touching to feel how the show can adapt and transform while still being the same.
The show is very well received and after the performance the evening gets warmed up by talks about the show, talks about this area, about the history of this location.
The count and their friends are enthusiastic about the show and about the event: this is an unusual way of using their space and they loved it.
They offer us a bottle of their best wine, produced in their land, and we gladly accept it!
19.9. Nova Gorica
Walking to Nova Gorica with Metod. A beautiful walk full of nature and conversations about the work. We are walking and talking, sometimes stopping and eating figs and apples from the trees.
Tonight we perform at an elderly home again. We walk to the apartment, get some rest and walk to the elderly home. It feels different here: the building is surrounded by ugly 70s apartment buildings, it is big and almost feels like a hospital in the middle of the town. We start setting the space, trying to predict how many people will come, how many will be on wheel chairs. We wonder if it is too cold and they might need blankets. They bring a big and loud speaker where they play Italian folk music, so the people from the home know that something is happening. They start to slowly gather. Again – lots of handshakes and chatting. We do the show and its full of lovely bizarre interruptions. One lady is talking on the phone very loudly during the show: we have to play through it. A few people leave the show, seems like for no specific reason, maybe they just had enough. And before the show ends they start to give out ice cream to the audience. It seems like the show is just an excuse for them to change the routine. Humbly, we accept that fact. And we learn something about the rhythm of our show and the necessity of being more elastic in the structure so we can, when needed, accelerate, edit or even shorten the piece in order to tighten it up.
Our last day. We did it. From the first invitation in the middle of the pandemic, till this day. The Walks really happened. And we are now at the end of the journey. We have a big day in front of us. Probably the longest day of walking. We will walk to Monfalcone, where we started the first walk. We feel how this walk did change us a bit. And we had the chance to enjoy so much time together. We took this challenge: it did something to us and we are very grateful for this.
We start walking in the city and slowly arrive to nature. The last part of the path towards Monfalcone is the same trail of the first day of the first Walk, but in the opposite direction. We continue through nature, we arrive at Monfalcone station and we celebrate with an Aperol Spritz. And then we continue towards the sea, we want our Walk to finish there, by the Adriatic Sea that has witnessed the history of this land from the beginning.
When we reach the beach of Marina Julia, it feels like a catharsis. It almost feels like crying. It has been a long and a meaningful Walk. A beautiful Walk.
We finish the day with our last rehearsal, when we go through the show again to mark what we have learnt and remember it. We would love to continue to develop this show and play it again. This is our wish for the future.
We celebrate with a simple and tasty dinner. We get up early, have coffee and hug each other goodbye.
Until soon, my dear walking companion!
Walk.2 with Alenka Marinič and Giovanni Fusetti – The Route to the Roots
12- 21 September 2023, Slovenian – Italian border
photo by Sunčan Stone