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My defeat?

Wooden deck in the foreground, ivy bush on the left, bare tree in the middle, clear sky in the background, soft haze rising from the ground

It didn’t even take a whole day in the New Year for me to learn something new. A couple of months ago we booked a dinner and overnight stay at Hiša Franko, just outside Kobarid, Slovenia, with two Michelin stars. All I knew about the place was that it was not even fifteen minutes from the Italian border, and hadn’t asked any other questions.

Between our arrival and dinner time we decided to go for a walk in the village. When I glanced over at the welcome sign I read, “Kobarid/Caporetto”, and I think I still have my handprint on my forehead. On the spot I found it amusingly ominous, since Caporetto is idiomatic in Italian for a defeat or a disaster (“That project was a Caporetto”). Had anyone in school ever taught me where Caporetto actually was, or what it was currently called, I’d obviously forgotten—although I’m fairly certain no one ever did.

In retrospect it seems obvious, and the correspondence between the Slovenian and Italian names makes a lot of sense (perhaps not so much as Ljubljana/Lubiana, but certainly more than Koper/Capodistria), but at the moment I felt perfectly enlightened. Maybe I should have listened more carefully to my uncle Tranquillo’s stories, as he always went fishing in the region and knew every spot very well.

The trip to Hiša Franko was anything but a Caporetto, although I inevitably had to ask them to substitute the bear-paw ravioli with something else, since it would have felt like eating a sibling. From now on, whenever they ask me in restaurants if I have any allergies I will have to remember to say “None, but no bear, please”.