Wednesday, May 23, 2012


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.

Morning Venice
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 assigned seats.
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 experience, anyway.


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 seeds.

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.

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