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Bus Train Boat

10 Aug


Unless you drive a car there is no direct way to go from Cortina in the Dolomites to old Venice out in the lagoon. For me it took a combination of bus, train, and vaporetto (water bus) and about half of a day to arrive at my next destination. The vaporetto in the photo is about to pull in to the station (the yellow and white platforms on floats) at St. Mark’s Square along the Grand Canal. The weather was hot and clear.

I left Cortina in the early morning on the Dolomiti Bus, which I must say, was very comfortable.


Looking back on Cortina as we headed south.


I saw the Cinque Torri one last time from below.


We passed the Olympic ski jump.


A picturesque old church.


And a spring.


I got really lucky with this shot from the bus window.


The roads in the small towns are very narrow and here we had a standoff with another bus. We won. He had to back up so that we could both pass.


Arriving in Calalzo. This whole valley from Cortina to Calalzo is so beautiful and the bike path was visible from the road most of the way.


Transferring from bus to rail at Calalzo Pieve di Cadore.


Then the transport became much faster. We left the mountains behind. The land became flatter and the houses looked more like this.




And I have a few more photos, but wordpress won’t let me upload them.


Top of the World…Lagazuoi

2 Aug

Day 5: Lagazuoi

Here I am on the Rifugio Lagazuoi porch, 2752 meters above sea level. This is one of the highest and most precariously situated mountain inns in the world. They say on a good day you can see as far as Venice. Well, we didn’t see Venice, but the visibility was very good.

Up early in the morning on Day 5 to pack up and move our gear to our next and final location in Cortina d’Ampezzo. But we had much on our agenda before we arrived. First Marion drove us over Falzareggo Pass to the cable car that would carry us aloft to Lagazuoi. The weather had been bad all week at Lagazuoi and we lucked out with a beautiful morning.

Stopping to take a photograph at Passo Falzareggo.


At the base of the cable car looking up Lagazuoi. This photo seems foreshortened and doesn’t indicate how high the mountain station is.


Before we boarded.


Up we go.

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Here are some of the World War I tunnels.

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The mountain station. Cortina wants the Winter Olympics again in 2019.


On the porch of the Rifugio looking at Tofana and the cable car station down the hill. Notice the solar panels on the roof.


This is why I wanted to come to Lagazuoi. The thing that looks like a thumb sticking up on the left is Cinque Torri, another landmark in the Dolomites. To the right and upward are the peaks of Averau and Nuvolau. Behind that the diagonal formation that looks like a sinking Titanic is the Croda di Lago. Our hike for the day was from Cinque Torri to the base of Averau and back.




Our Pilgrimage to Santa Croce

22 Jul


The dubious weather conditions made Day 3 in the Dolomites a bit if-y as far as hiking conditions went. Our plan was to hike up to the pilgrimage church of Santa Croce, underneath the peak of the same name. Donatella was our guide for the day. Here you see her and Vladimir approaching the church from below. You will also see that it was very cloudy, although I thought the cloud cover actually created more atmosphere and depth for photo taking. Following is a photo essay of the journey. We began with a chair lift from Badia. There are actually two consecutive chair lifts to Santa Croce, but we only used the first one, then hiked up the rest of the way.


The chair lift allowed us to have a real bird’s eye view onto the farms on the hillside.


Here is what it looked like to be sitting on the chair lift, camera securely around my neck, feet dangling over fields of wildflowers.


We arrived at the mountain station where we begin our walk. Actually, the guide called it a walk. It felt like a trek or a climb to me. I am still trying to figure out what the teepee is doing on the mountainside in Italy.


As I mentioned, Santa Croce is a pilgrimage church. The Stations of the Cross lead you up the trail to the church. Here is Station #3 where Jesus falls for the first time.


Here is our guide Donatella coming up the path. You can tell judging from the teepee the steep grade of the trail, like climbing stairs, a lot of stairs. In the background is the Sella group, which forms the center of the Dolomite region.


Here was a very unusual crucifix. Notice the absence of a body, but there is a heart, two hands, and two feet. The path at this point ran through forest.


Two more photos looking down the trail to see how far we’ve come. It was a constant steep grade, to me at least, and this was the first day out after being sick in bed with a fever.

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This is the consistency of the rock and gravel we walked upon. It was loose, so there was always a danger of slipping, particularly on the way back down, but I never fell.


Here is the top station of the second chair lift that we didn’t take. Here is a good view of our mountain track and the elevation grade.


Looking back down the valley. The rain  clouds were still present, although we had not had a downpour yet.


I was smiling with the church in view. Forested slopes, green meadows. the stark beauty of the Dolomite rock with its pink cast, and the humble church and rifugio at journey’s end.


At the church looking back.


Interior of Santa Croce.


A stairway leads up to the three crosses.


The rifugio was so welcoming with lovely potted flowers flanking the doorway.


And inside a warm and cozy atmosphere and hearty food for travellers. Vladimir and Donatella.


And me. While we were inside eating, it rained.


But it stopped, when we were finished. We had time to explore the area and take more photos.


The dolomite rock was seabed eons ago. It is made up coral, shells, and the remains of sea creatures. All over the Dolomites you can see erosion at work with the slides of scree falling away from the mountainside. In millions of years will the Dolomites be reduced to giant piles of rubble as the wind and rain and snow do their work? Donatella told me that she and her friends loved to run down the scree slides digging in their heels as they ran.



More photos of this hike still coming.


Changing Valleys

21 Jul

Changing Valleys

Hard as it was to leave the comfortable environs in Ortisei, Val Gardena, we had to move eastward to our next location in Val Badia. Early in the morning we headed out driven by our guide Marion. The car climbed upward on hairpin turns to the Passo Gardena, which was the divider between between the two valleys. When we came down the other side we were in a new area and we headed for the tiny town of Colfosco, our home for the next two nights. Marion’s family owns an inn and a sports equipment shop. We stayed there at the Hotel Garni Bel Air. Here I am at Passo Gardena wrapped up in layers on my first day out after being very ill with a fever and URI. Early in the morning the skies were threatening and didn’t promise good weather for today’s hike. Notice the mountain biker. They are everywhere. I have great respect for the vitality and endurance of these bikers. The only thing harder than climbing these mountain paths is biking up them. Also notice the small church. It doesn’t matter how high or how remote the location, you can always find a church or a chapel in the vicinity. The next few photos are not the best quality because I shot them from the car while Marion was driving.

There are always tunnels.


Driving on these high mountain roads can be unnerving when you have to share them with large trucks (lorries, as they say).


The weather did not look at all good as we approached Passo Gardena.


It was definitely raining over there.


We were near the top of the pass and here you can get a good look at the dolomite rock, which can have a pinkish cast in certain light conditions. This rock was once seabed and contains the remains of coral reefs.

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A lone biker under overcast skies.


Back in the car we headed down into Val Badia. Here is a good view of the hairpin turns that Marion had to navigate.


And we arrived. Alta Badia is a section of the Val Badia. Notice the Welcome sign in three languages: here in Ladin, then Italian, and German.


Every town has three names in the three main languages. Here is our destination in German, Ladin, and Italian. We always called it Colfosco.


Our new abode.


And the Posch Sport store. Remember Marion was a Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding.


I noticed the greenway over the road and assumed it was for animals crossing, just like the ones over the Autobahn in Germany. Not so. This is a ski run.


Then we met Lucky, their dog. The Posch family always had black dogs and they always named them Blackie. When they got their newest pup, he wasn’t black, so they couldn’t use that name. Lucky sounded close enough to Blackie and it fit.


Here is Marion Posch with her shy nephew. Marion never ceased to amaze with her stamina, her linguistic abilities and her vast knowledge of the area.


Jet Lag

18 Jul

I have been home for two days and am still suffering from jet lag. The nine hour flight from Zurich to Chicago was difficult, and the seven hour time change really affected me. I hope to begin posting the events of my European trip in a few days. Where I left off before was the first day of hiking in the Dolomites, so that is where I will pick it up again. Meanwhile I think I’ll take a nap.DSC_0308


I’m in Italy!

30 Jun

I'm in Italy!

After more than seven hours on the train, there is nothing like a delicious dinner to revive you and make you feel like a person again. Here is my table at the Blue Moon sidewalk restaurant in Bolzano, Italy. When we passed through the Brenner Pass today we left the clouds behind, and this evening was breezy and languid, shirt sleeve weather. Let me describe my evening meal. Salad: arugula with cherry tomatoes and cherry mozzarella; main course: lamb chops with roasted potatoes and chanterelle mushrooms in season. Then I walked some of that off while enjoying a scoop of coffee gelato.
Bolzano is down in a valley surrounded by steeply sloping vineyards on all sides. And as I had learned previously, all signs are in two languages–German and Italian, but almost everybody speaks English, the international language. It is unfortunate for me, because I really would like to practice my German.
Here I am enjoying my main course:


I have a very slow Internet connection in my hotel, so there will only be several photographs.

High end shopping in Der Lauben, but not the reason I am here.


Beautiful Italianate frescoed buildings, but not the reason I am here.


Picturesque narrow streets, but not the reason I am here.


Fertile valley of vineyards, but not the reason I am here.


Look above the traffic and buildings and you will see the reason I am here. The Dolomites are calling to me and I will get to know them tomorrow.



The Pot of Gold

29 Jun



I found my pot of gold today at the end of the rainbow in Switzerland. A double rainbow even. What a marvelous two hour lake steamer cruise on the Vierwaldstättersee! A Rundfahrt (great word)…a roundtrip. It rained for a while and we all ducked inside or under shelter, but as we approached Vitznau, this was our reward. The water was such a beautiful blue.

Our boat, the Uri, arrived at Pier 1 in Luzern.


We passed regattas as we moved deeper into the mountains.


Expensive large homes dotted the hillsides. Switzerland is a very wealthy country.


The payoff…the incredible mountain scenery.


The engine of our steamer hard at work. Here you see Swiss craftsmanship and precision at work.


And the paddle wheel.


Our approach to Weggis (pronounced Vegas).


No words necessary for this one.


Greeting a passing steamer.


At Vitznau.


I’m happy. Chilled, but happy. I had a glass of white wine and didn’t notice I was cold.


Returning in the evening.

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Back at the main train station. All excursions begin and end at the Hauptbahnhof.



Tomorrow is a day of rain so I’ll be doing some museum hopping.


Up and Down…Pilatus

28 Jun



Mount Pilatus, the top is more than 7,000 feet above sea level, and on good sunny days you can look down on Luzern, Switzerland and the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons). Today was cloudy. I took this while standing atop one of the peaks and looking down on the observation area and one of the TWO hotels located up there. (Don’t you wonder how they build something that big on the top of a mountain? I know I do. Oh well, the Incas did it.) It is good that there were clouds and I couldn’t see how high up and open things were. I am afraid of heights. As it is, I always kept my eyes focused only a few inches ahead of my feet. These were the conditions around noon today. Here is how we got to the top…

It began with a 45-minute lake steamer ride to Alpnachstad.  A beautiful ride, the lake was like glass.


We made several stops along the way. All lake steamers fly a large Swiss flag.


These steep green hills met the water on all sides, clouds hanging very low.


Then we arrived at the Pilatus Bahn, the steepest cog wheel train in the world, a 48 degree gradient.


Here we go, rising very fast from lake level.


And higher when the trees disappear.


Nearing the top we have risen above much of the cloud cover. You can see the railway line and even a red train slicing across the high alpine meadow.  There are also hiking trails.


Now we have reached the snow and you can see the incline of scree to the right.


We walked up the steps into the observation area which includes two hotels (one a luxury hotel), three restaurants, a gift shop, and several paths to take to various peaks, even a tunnel with look out windows.


Here is the luxury hotel.


We stood on top of one of the peaks looking toward the observatory.


I used my zoom lens to capture this ascending cogwheel train.



As I stood in the tunnel looking out a opening in the rock wall, the clouds parted enough to reveal this tiny church on the high alpine meadow.


Tiny white flowers grew out of the rocks up here.



We walked through some snow before we began our descent and we did not go down the same way that we came up.



Seilbahn…cable car. We had to take two different cable cars to get to the bottom. The first cable car was huge and carried about thirty people.



We were smashed together standing in this hanging box so I had to hold my camera above my head to get any photo at all. That’s the lake down there.


Then we switched cable cars  at a station, and these were smaller with two facing benches.


And we were on our way down again over very green hills and meadows.


Then Luzern came into view now totally sunny in the mid afternoon.


One of the supports for the cable system.


Finally at the bottom station in Kriens. Then we still had to take a bus to get back to the Hauptbahnhof where we had started our trip. Even with the cloudy conditions, it was a wonderful excursion. Cold and invigorating at the top. I’m glad I went.



Kissed by a Butterfly

26 Jun

Kissed by a Butterfly

There is a butterfly house on the island of Mainau, right off the coast from Konstanz, Germany. We were there today and it was very crowded. I think I was the only person there who was wearing open toed shoes. This butterfly found my toes and wouldn’t let go. He (She?) walked around on my foot and would occasionally fling her wings wide open. Only then could you see their vibrant turquoise blue color. It happened so fast that it was impossible to catch. Then she flew away among the crowds and came back to alight on my foot again. I was chosen and kissed by a butterfly. I will continue the story tomorrow as I head on to Luzern, Switzerland on the train.


Evening Walk/German Hospitality

25 Jun


After the rains and a nap Hannes and I went for a walk up the hill to the nearby water reservoir, revisiting another location from 1971. My Lowa hiking boots are great.  Back in 1971…

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And some other views…


From the roof of the condomium building…


My cousin Hannes.


Back home Dorothee prepared a lovely Abendessen.


Dorothee is a wonderful cook and is mistress of her kitchen.


Hannes and Dorothee.


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