I followed the path up from the town, rocky and shaded beneath overhanging trees. It was the second time I had been up there, following the trail until it reached the top of the cliffs and the view back down to Duino Castle on its rocky promontory above the Adriatic. The day before the path had been clogged with people, hikers and joggers and bank holiday wanderers, but now, in the early morning, I had the path to myself until I reached the first of the lookout points.
There is more than just the view that draws people to this clifftop path. In 1912 the poet Rainer Maria Rilke was staying at the castle and this was his daily walk. It was here on the trail that the following words came to him:
Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the Angelic
This would become the start of the Duino Elegies, one of his most celebrated works.
I stood at the lookout point to gaze back towards the castle, where Rilke once slept. I did not cry out, not wanting to frighten the birds, but I did ask myself the question: are we inspired by such places because of what they are, or because they once inspired someone else, whose books sit on our shelves back home? Aware of a presence behind me I turned to find an Italian man standing, looking out, over my shoulder, down the coast to the castle. He said something to me and I nodded. I like to think it was something profound and poetic. Most likely he simply said, Nice view, before walking on, down the path towards the village.
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