Tristful Trieste

March 13, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments (3)


A few kilometres from the Castello di Miramare














is the city of Trieste.












For me the word ‘Trieste’ has always had a faintly melancholy sound, possibly because it evokes the beautiful word ‘triste’ (which is unfortunately considered archaic in English now, although the derived form ‘tristful’ was in use until quite recently).

Or maybe Trieste owes its tristfulness to the fact that it figures so often in stories (and histories) of war and intrigue. At twilight certainly, there is something melancholy about its elegant piazzas and graceful public buildings.




It was for centuries the chief port of the Austro-Hungarian empire,












and has thus been endowed with  a distinctive architectural legacy.












Even the Lloyd’s insurance building, a necessity for any old port, is unlike any other.















The city’s most famous resident







is still everywhere to be seen.






The Cafe Stella Polare was a favourite haunt of James Joyce and Italo Svevo (who is thought to have been the model for Leopold Bloom).















This hotel claims to be located in one of the many buildings where Joyce lived.






But for me Trieste is also indelibly associated with the brilliant physicist, Abdus Salam –  the first Pakistani, and the first Muslim to be awarded a Nobel Prize in the sciences. In 1964 Abdus Salam founded the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Trieste and was its director for almost thirty years.  While at the Center he encouraged and mentored many young scientists from all over the Indian subcontinent. Some years ago, while visiting the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, in Mumbai, I met several theoretical physicists who spoke of him with great warmth. The Trieste center is now known as the Abdus Salam International Center for Theoretical Physics.

Abdus Salam was a deeply religious man and had an abiding love of his country. Although he lived abroad for many years he always maintained a close relationship with Pakistan. I remember reading, at the time of his death, in 1996, that he had asked to be buried in his native soil.

Today, on consulting his Wikipedia entry I was astonished to come upon this: ‘Salam was buried in Bahishti Maqbara, a cemetery established by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Rabwah, Pakistan next to his parents’ graves. The epitaph on his tomb initially read “First Muslim Nobel Laureate” but, because of Salam’s adherence to the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, the word “Muslim” was later erased on the orders of a local magistrate, leaving the nonsensical “First Nobel Laureate”. Under Ordinance XX, Ahmadis are considered non-Muslims.’



3 Responses to “Tristful Trieste”

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  1. Comment by VM — March 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm   Reply

    Dear Amitav,

    Thanks so much for these posts + photos from the Adriatic. The scenes are almost unbelievably beautiful, even unworldly. Am really enjoying every bit.

    Best regards from the Konkani Miramar!


  2. Comment by RajMarch 14, 2012 at 12:24 am   Reply

    Thanks for the posts.

    My first ever visit outside India was to ICTP for a workshop. I have fond memories of the place and the country where I subsequently spent few years. We used to walk to Barcola sometimes, or else take bus 11 from ICTP to the city, to walk around Piazza Oberdan and then have a Pizza in one of the Pizzerias.

    If you are still in Trieste, do try and visit the Grotta Gigante caves.

  3. Comment by Sea breezeMarch 14, 2012 at 1:21 am   Reply

    Adding my voice to VM’s from the nearby same Miramar: Yes, Amitavji, your photographs and storyboards are superlative (even if your use of the delete button, despite request, is not).
    With regards,

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