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Beneath the valley of the underdog



Pavel Stransky, who was hired at the same time as I in Mexico City, started a 2-year fellowship in Trento, north west of Padova, at about the same time I started here. He only made it one year before being offered a permanent position in Mexico, but we managed to meet up a handful of times before he left. (The latest word is that he's been unpaid for almost a year in Mexico while someone stalls his visa, and when he does get paid it will be at less than half the rate we got as postdocs – he is, understandably, fixing to tell them that they will not be requiring his services.)

Taking a train from Padova via Bassano del Grappa, the origin of grappa, the train into Trento descends into the valley along a spectacular viaduct. Trento was the Roman city Tridentum, named for three hills that look like teeth from the highest mountain around they valley. The central square, therefore, has a fountain featuring Neptune. This is where the Council of Trent went on for 18 years, deciding how to retain Catholic power in the face of Protestantism. Being in the region of Trentino, with just Alto Adige between it and Austria, German is spoken frequently, some of the architecture is different, and there is a proper German pub (at which Pavel and I dined). There was even a market selling Austrian sausages and whatnot. The Renaissance (I would guess) era buildings near the centre are really quite nice and well preserved, with some excellent painted motifs and little reliefs.

Being in a valley, silt washed down from the mountains has layered itself over the ruins of Tridentum. These have been recently  excavated, and made open to the public. Whole street sections are quite well preserved, along with remains of the lower walls, mosaic floors and even heating systems of houses to either side, as well as plumbing and drainage, a well, a glassworks, and various persona items of bone, pottery and ceramic. There were also the foundations of medieval buildings, which of course Pavel wanted to pose with as though he were using them as a toilet. Recall, this is Pavel who tried to heal haemorrhoids with cosmic rays at a hippy religious event on top of a pyramid.

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