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Having been embroiled in a lengthy argument as to whether they would live henceforth under Italian rule or Yugoslavian, the people of Trieste, after nine years of Allied occupation, give every indication that what they would like to be is American. "Americans were here so long," a Trieste citizen explained to me, "now when people get married we tie things to the back of the car."
Not only that. Trieste youths wear bright-colored shirts that would ordinarily horrify a European. They chew gum and stroll about in T-shirts and blue jeans known there as calzoni alla cowboy, or cowboy pants. Barbershops give crew-cuts, and there are four baseball teams in town—the Giants, the Wolves, the Piraty and the CUS (for Cicolo Universit� Studente).
Trieste is hardly a pleasure city, since its harbor has long been the gateway for goods shuttling between India, the Orient and Central Europe. With the departure of the troops several good hotels have once more become available, among them the Excelsior, the de Ville, the new Jolly and the impeccable Grand. Prices everywhere are at least 10% less than in Venice, and dinner on the terrace of the Grand facing the marina, complete with tip and bottle of wine, comes to an even $2.
After 6 each evening the traffic is shut off on the Viale Venti Sett�mbre, and with the cafes on either side of the street it becomes one long, tree-shaded coffeehouse that stretches for two kilometers and ends, somewhat inelegantly, at a beer factory.
Trieste grew first along the sides of San Giusto Hill, the top of which later became a fortress against the Turks. It was a part of the Venetian Republic when Napoleon torpedoed that nautical nation. Trieste was awarded to Austria, which lost it in 1918 to the Italians. The Germans occupied it from 1943 until 1945, when it lived for 40 days under Tito. Six thousand five hundred U.S. and British troops maintained it as the Free Territory of Trieste, thereafter, and in October 1954 it returned at last to Italy. With the Turks now quiet, the Germans vanquished, the Austrians docile and nobody except the Yugoslavs aggrieved, the Trieste citizens, who speak both Italian and a brand of Venetian dialect, have turned the fortress into a park. They course up the San Giusto Hill to have coffee in the coffeehouse of the Bastone Rotundo and to dance in the elegance of the Bastone Fiorito. Ten thousand strong they storm the bastion to hear opera sung on the ancient ramparts.
Twice a week the boat comes over from Venice. Three times a week it invades Yugoslav waters, arriving at Pula in three hours and at Rijeka in six. Once a week it goes on to Split and Dubrovnik. Yugoslavia begins on the opposite side of the Trieste bulge, an enclave shouldered by the sea and the border, five miles wide at its widest and in the north squeezed into a scant 200-yard passageway that links it with the rest of Italy.
Tito's touristland, once the only Communist country on western view, is a collection of magnificent, rugged scenes, ragtag resorts, 8% tips, $4-a-day vacations, large western-style dance bands that play pretty good jazz and a western-style pop called Jugo-Kokta, a beverage invented in paradise and bottled by the state soda works.
A traveler in Titoland is known as a putnik, which is also the name given to travel agencies all over Yugoslavia. A visa is still needed to enter, but these are obtainable at Yugoslav consulates after paying $1 and filling out a questionnaire, called an upitnik. From there on one becomes a putnik and the Putniks take over.
Yugoslavia's coastline, from Trieste down to the edge of Albania, a skinny satellite known in the local tongue as Shqiperija, is advertised by Putnik as the Coast of 1,000 Islands. There being no natural ports on the west shore from Venice to Brindisi with the exception, perhaps, of Ancona, the Coast of 1,000 Islands has long been bandied about between such authorities as Venice, Croatia, Hungary and Napoleon. Under Napoleonic dictates the shore passed to Austria and stayed that way for a century. There was a scramble for a reassessment of ownership again in the first World War with claims from Italy and strident independent voices from Serbians whose aim was to liberate and unite "our beloved brothers, the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes." In the end, what was Austrian passed to Italy for the period between the two world wars, and the Serbian aim, voiced in 1914, won out with the final peace after World War II.
Names that had been Austrian and then Italian were changed to fit the new nationalism. Unfortunately, Slovenian suffers from a queer economy of vowels, and western tourists have been somewhat confounded to be directed from Trst ( Trieste) to the island of Krk or the village of Knin, which lies on the south bank of the Krka, not very far from Drvar. The seaside place the Italians remember as Abbazia has become Opatija, the hot spot which history will recall as Fiume is now Rijeka, Spalato is Split, and far to the south, that storied medieval stronghold, Ragusa, flourishes under the name of Dubrovnik.