Trieste is a funny place. Although it is part of Italy, it has, for historical reasons, a strong Austrian influence: Italy with beer steins and bratwurst.
This cultural confusion made me feel weirdly disconnected on my first day in the town, and the sense of dislocation increased as I strolled along the waterfront. There weren't many people around, but they were happy enough, fishing
or pottering about in their boats,
or stretched out on the benches, chatting with friends, sitting around on the low harbour wall. Very much a lazy Saturday afternoon atmosphere.
Gradually the sky clouded over, and I don't know how I first became aware that two boats, a long way off on the glittering sea, were heading slowly straight towards us.
I was just thinking about that when I realised I could hear a sort of unearthly female singing, like sirens calling sailors to their doom. It was hard to tell where it was coming from, but it rang all round the bay, louder and louder. People looked up in surprise; looked around, or up at the sky, or over at the mountains. And the boats kept approaching.
Some way offshore, they paused and two jets of water rose slowly from one of the boats, high into the air, like wings. It looked as if some huge bird had landed, and might take off again.
By now, people were looking almost concerned, frowning as they tried to figure out what was going on. The sun was veiled by clouds.
After a long time, the boats did a sort of slow dance, to and fro, around each other, then the water died down, the unearthly music stopped, and they chugged away.
I never discovered what it was all about. Although I asked lots of people, including the tourist office, they didn't know either.