A middle aged woman with no particular distinction other than a wanderlust and love of languages travels through Italy, Mexico, Central America and Africa, often by sailboat. This is travel for the not so young, beautiful or wealthy who are still curious, energetic, and adventurous.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
THE DOLOMITES - DUSTING OFF THE DEUTSCH
Venice to Bolzano – Day 51 – Saturday
The alarm went off much too early and I scurried around to
get showered and dressed before anyone else monopolized the bathroom. I was ready to leave by 7:30, but I couldn’t
find my passport. I feared that the innkeeper
had not returned it to me. He had left
breakfast out for me the night before, but I reluctantly called him. He did not have my passport, so I started to
panic. I found it eventually, stuffed in
a place I normally don’t keep it. Note
to self: Always put your passport in the same spot to avoid early morning
crises. I wasted 20 minutes looking for
my passport, but I had left enough extra time.
I trundled my bag back through the fortunately empty streets
to the Ca’ d’ Oro vaporetto stop. Being
Saturday, I had to wait a while for the vaporetto, but it came eventually. I got to sit and watch the work boats go by,
hauling loads of tour group luggage and produce for the restaurants. It was a quick ride from Ca’ d’ Oro to the
railway station and I was soon standing in front of the monitor, waiting for
them to announce the track for my train.
They waited until the last possible minute to post the track and then I
had to dash for it. First class is usually the first coach but, in this case, it was the ninth. It took me three stops to work my way down
the train to the right car and, when I finally got there, someone was asleep in
my seat. I had to abandon my luggage and
walk clear to the other end of the car to find an open spot. Sometimes I think the reservation system is
just a way to extort money from tourists, since no one ever seems to sit in the
Once I got to an unoccupied seat, it was only another half
hour until we arrived in Verona where I needed to change trains. I sat on the platform, feeding cookie crumbs
to some sparrows, for an hour before boarding my train for Bolzano. Unfortunately, there was no first class on
this train. At least I didn’t have to
worry about finding the correct seat. I
just grabbed one near the door. The
tracks followed a river up a valley between increasingly taller mountains. This area is famous for rock climbing and
there are many exposed rock faces. The
bottom of the valley is planted with vineyards.
As we made our way up the valley, the architecture and town names became
more and more German. People speaking
German on the train were not carrying big suitcases. They are locals. This area has only been Italian since 1919. Before that, it was part of Austria.
I am staying in a youth hostel in Bolzano. It was billed as the nicest youth hostel in
Italy and is only costing me 20.50 Euros a night. It is close to the train station and is nice
enough. I am sharing a room with three
other women whose idea of how to maintain privacy in a difficult situation is
to never speak a word. I have the top
bunk. It was a bit of a challenge to
make the bed, since the lower bunk is at a right angle to the top one and the
top one is high. I must have looked like
a fish flopping around on a dock, but I managed and there was no one there to
see. There is a comfortable common room
downstairs with free Wi-Fi, which is actually better than sitting in a hotel
room without a decent chair. I can get a
cappuccino for 40 cents and a bottle of water for 35. It’s a deal and makes up for (some of) my
splurges along the way. It’s an
I was exhausted when I arrived. I’m not sure if this was because I hadn’t
slept much the night before or because I didn’t get any coffee but, whatever
the reason, I took a four hour nap. It
was sixish when I woke up. I went out
for a walk to get the lay of the land.
Bolzano had a small old section and tons of new construction. There are cranes everywhere. The main square is pretty and the surrounding
views are spectacular. I wandered around
for an hour or so and then went in search of that precious commodity – dark beer. Bolzano is a place with that perfect blend of
Italian food and German beer. There were
beer gardens in abundance. I chose a
brew pub. They looked at me askance when
I ordered a big dunkelsbier, but I wasn’t about to be discouraged. I enjoyed my beer with a bowl of onion soup
made with beer and tasty rye bread, accompanied by a lovely salad of endive,
goat cheese and sun dried tomatoes. I
was served a basket of rolls flavored with anise, rye, sesame seeds and poppy
Back at the hostel, I settled down for an evening of working
on my blog and chatting with Scott. The
curfew here is 4 am. I wasn’t quite sure
what to expect, but I was the last one in bed when I returned to my room just
after 11:00. It was quiet as a tomb
outside of some traffic noise.
Bolzano – Day 52 – Sunday
About 4:15 am, I was awakened by a strong earthquake that
seemed to go on and on. There was
another one at 5 something. Despite
having been the last one to bed, I was the first one up at 7:30. I am always motivated to get up early when I
have to compete for a shower in the morning.
Why is it that you always drop things when you are trying to be
quiet? I finally left them alone when I
went down to breakfast at 8:00. I guess
I’m the bad roommate.
The museum didn’t open until 10:00, so I hung out and worked
on my blog for a while after breakfast.
When I thought it would be open, I wandered over to the South Tirol
Museum of Archaeology. This is the museum
that houses the corpse of the 5300 year old man that was discovered frozen in a
glacier in 1991. Unfortunately, when I
got there the two floors with the interesting exhibits were closed because they
were refreshing the displays. This was a
shame because the floors that were open were better done than most of the
museums I have seen here.
After the museum fiasco, I walked back to the Funivia del
Renon, a cable car that whisks you 4,000 feet up into the mountains to the
village of Oberbozen. Oberbozen looked
dead and it was my plan to walk to the next village, Klobenstein, for
lunch. Sigmund Freud and his wife walked
this path on their wedding anniversary and today it is referred to as the “Freudepromenade.” Well, if you take the right path, that
is. I missed a turn somewhere and ended
up tramping over hill and dale. This wasn't entirely bad thing because I saw a lot of beautiful scenery that I would otherwise have missed.
I finally made my way to Klobenstein. The views were spectacular and
all the wildflowers were blooming. It
looked like something straight out of the Sound
of Music. It was hard not to break
out in song. Once I climbed out of the gondola in Oberbozen, I might as
well have been in Austria. German is
definitely the dominant language up there and things are organized in German
fashion. There are lots of walking paths
with arrows pointing the way all over the place. The entire area is filled with resort hotels
where people can stay between hikes and they are building more at an alarming
rate. It was clearly not high season yet
and most of the restaurants were closed. I even saw an electric VW van. Why don't we get those? It says, "California," right on the side.
I finally got to Klobenstein. It was a small place, although not as small as Lichtenstern, which I walked through without noticing. I stopped at one of the few open
restaurants and ordered some kind of unidentified dumplings for lunch. Their only concessions to Italianness were
their red, white and green colors. They
were warm and filling. The weather
deteriorated rapidly while I was eating lunch, so I skipped coffee and raced
off back to Oberbozen, hoping to get there before it started to rain.
OMG! This Is Where They Come From
On the way back, I made sure to take the Freude-promen-ade,
which was much better for hurrying.
Hiking trails here have the annoying habit of being labeled with the
number of minutes it takes to get somewhere, rather than the distance. I find this rather useless because the number
of minutes it takes to get somewhere depends so much on your pace and how often
you get lost and stop to take pictures.
I believe that these estimates are made by maniacal Germans with walking
sticks. It usually takes me about twice
as long. I walk pretty fast, but I get
lost and take a lot of pictures. I
scurried back to Oberbozen, however, without taking any wrong turns and managed
to beat the estimate by 10 minutes.
Still, it had started to sprinkle before I got there.
It was only 4:00 and I was in no hurry to rush back to the
hostel, so I ducked into a café near the cable car station to get out of the
rain. I had wanted to order a sgroppino
(lemon gelato, proseco and vodka) at lunch, but passed because I needed to
hurry. With time to burn, I ordered one
at the café. My friend, Savannah, had
advised me not to miss out on this treat and she was correct. It was second only to the lemon gelato and
limoncello parfait that I had in Rome.
Now, a sgroppino made with limoncello instead of vodka, hmmm…. When I master the art of making limoncello, I
will have to try that.
When I couldn’t nurse my sgroppino any longer (a second one
seemed like a bad idea), I was forced to pay my bill and dash through the (now
pouring) rain to the cable car. It was
an exciting ride down the mountain through the rain. I had to write off the pictures I had hoped
to take. It was hard to see anything
through the raindrops on the glass and the clouds were low. It wasn’t raining any less down in Bolzano,
either. Fortunately, it wasn’t very far
to the hostel and I darted from awning to awning all the way back. After making a brief stop in my room to shed my wet clothes
and pack as much as possible, I settled into the common area with my computer
and a coffee.