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It's Better By Bus

Between Trieste and Austria, lies some of the finest scenery in Europe.

The coast road from the Adriatic, clinging to the cliffs high above the sea, leads into the flat, well-cultivated, north-east corner of the Lombardy Plain. Through the ancient (and badly bombarded) town of Udine the road drives straight towards the purple rock barriers of the Italian Dolomites.

At the last moment the barrier divides, allowing a torrent of green-blue snow water to spill out into the plain and giving the road a chance to writhe its way into the heart of the mountains.

Winter and summer, an Italian-luxury coach - often with trailer - plies between Trieste and Villach, carrying troops of Britain's Trieste Garrison and their families. Formerly this trip was made by train, in a coach linked to a trans-European "express" which suffered inordinate delays at the various frontiers. Now the journey is both swift and pleasant.

First stop, as the bus heads north, is at the Italo-Trieste border, where blue-uniformed Trieste Police and Italian Carabinieri check documents and sometimes search luggage. Next comes the mid-morning halt at an Italian roadside restaurant, where passengers drink wine, beer or coffee, munch fresh ham rolls and - in cold weather - cluster round an open log fire blazing on a huge metal block, with wrought iron fittings and a chimney like a bed-canopy.

Half-an-hour later the bus is engulfed by towering mountains. Soon it meets its opposite number coming from Villach to Trieste, whereupon the drivers and conducting officers compare news of the road surfaces and weather conditions and troops scan the other vehicle for familiar faces.

This exchange of news is not just a pleasantry, because in winter it is possible to leave Trieste basking in the sun and run into a blizzard on the other side of the mountains. The buses have to carry a supply of shovels in case they need to be dug out, and a bale of blankets in case it can't be done.

Documents are again carefully checked and luggage searched at the Italian Customs House, but at the Austrian one no time is lost before the striped barrier is raised and the wheels turn on their last lap to Alamein Camp.

Click on any of the photos above to see the original images in a separate window
This Soldier Magaxine article was contributed by Jim Crow.
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Updated 2003 February 20.
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