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Bus Train Boat

10 Aug

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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.

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Looking back on Cortina as we headed south.

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I saw the Cinque Torri one last time from below.

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We passed the Olympic ski jump.

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A picturesque old church.

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And a spring.

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

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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.

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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.

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Transferring from bus to rail at Calalzo Pieve di Cadore.

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

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

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And the Rains Came

23 Jul

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The threatening skies made it look like we were in fact on Golgotha. At this point we began to make our way back down the trail to the chair lift. Climbing up had been taxing on the leg muscles, but going down created great stress on the knees, and there was always the possibility of slipping on the loose scree. We wanted to be back before the skies opened up.DSC_0652

It was always a little adventure to get on the chair lift. The three of us stood in place and the chair lift came up behind us and scooped us up. I liked the knowledge that there was a safety net in case someone didn’t quite make the seat.

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We could look right into a garden, a lovely garden as we reached the town station.

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The rain held off until we were almost to the car. We piled in and Donatella drove us to San Martino where the Ciastel di Tor houses the Ladin Museum. Surrounded by mountains the Ladin culture has survived for centuries. Ladin language is taught in the schools and there is a great sense of national pride among the Ladin population. By the time we arrived at the museum the rain was coming down hard and the ground was soggy.

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Inside we found some very modern Ladin woodcarvings.

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Ciastel di Tor

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A typical cooking hearth from the past.

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Here is the only Edelweiss I ever saw, one made of silver in a traditional jewelry style.

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Wooden toy making.

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Traditional painting of chests and wardrobes.

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Back once more in Colfosco we said our goodbyes to the lovely Donatella, since Marion would take over as guide for the remainder of the hike.

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Our Pilgrimage to Santa Croce

22 Jul

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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At the church looking back.

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Interior of Santa Croce.

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A stairway leads up to the three crosses.

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

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

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

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

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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.

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More photos of this hike still coming.

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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.

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

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

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It was definitely raining over there.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Our new abode.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Evening Walk/German Hospitality

25 Jun

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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…

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From the roof of the condomium building…

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My cousin Hannes.

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Back home Dorothee prepared a lovely Abendessen.

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

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Hannes and Dorothee.

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Regen und Rest

24 Jun

Regen und Rest

Rain and rest. We began the day with big plans, but the weather had other ideas. In the morning we drove along the Seerhein, the Rhein River as it flows from the Bodensee into the Untersee to the west. There was light mist or rain as we pulled into Gottlieb, Switzerland. This is a beautiful historically restored area as you can see from the window and the side of the building. I didn’t realize that I had been here before. See two views of this building, one taken today, and one in 1971. You will notice many more cars on the sunny day.

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Here by the Untersee Hannes and Dorothee are standing near very high water. The frequent rains have made the lakes swell in size.

 

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The rains have also been extremely kind to the plants and flowers, especially the roses, which are currently in full bloom.

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When the weather is bad, it is a good time to visit old churches to stay inside. Here is the interior of a chapel on the residence of Napoleon’s nephew, who came to live in Ermatingen, Switzerland, canton of Thurgau.

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Next we drove over the dam lined with ancient poplars to the island of Reichenau in the Untersee.

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Here was the ancient church of St. Georg, who fought the dragon. This church was closed to preserve the paintings on the walls.

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We did, however, visit the old monastery on the island, and we could enter here. A very beautiful church interior.

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The painted arches drew my attention because they resemble so closely the painted arches in the mosque in Cordoba, Spain.

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A crypt cover for one of the previous bishops.

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A small side altar.

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Outside the stone pavement was wet from the persistent rain.

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Nearby we stopped to buy fish, and here was a fisherman hard at work on a dreary day.

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Then we gave up on our exploration to return home, where we spent the afternoon talking about our family tree, sharing old photos, and taking a blessed nap. I’m still fighting jetlag.

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Cloudy and Cool in Konstanz

23 Jun

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Here I am a bit blown away by the gusty winds in Konstanz on the Bodensee in Germany.  Believe it or not there were two girls out swimming in the lake. They said the water was quite warm. The winds were cool and strong out here on the Hörnle, a piece of land that sticks out into the lake. You can see the buildings of Kreuzlingen, Switzerland behind me. But first admire the photo of my suitcase that caught up with me this morning at my hotel in Zurich. I said “Baby, I’ve missed you!”

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In spite of oversleeping, I managed to get to the train on time, and had a very pleasant hour long ride into Konstanz.

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It was very overcast and we drove around to various locations. Here is my cousin’s sailboat “Woge” moored at the marina.

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And here I am with my cousin Hannes who I have not seen in 33 years. We’ve aged a little.

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Here is Hannes’ wife Dorothee who posed in this very colorful setting by the lake.

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Here she is again posing with one of the unique Peter Lenk sculptures seen in places around the Bodensee.

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Another sculpture, this one said to be the artist’s wife.

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Then we wandered through the old city of Konstanz.

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Buildings here date back to the Middle Ages. We had dinner at the one on the left. Notice all the bicycles. People  ride bikes all over in Europe.

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A painted building.

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The city Maypole.

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My lovely hosts, Dorothee and Hannes.

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So Close

17 Jun

My countdown now says 4 days until takeoff. It is near enough that I know the weather prediction for the day I arrive. The weather is very changeable. Today Zurich had temperatures in the low 80’s. However, on Saturday when I land, the temperature range will be in the 50’s to 60’s and is expected to remain there for several days. Cloudy with chance of showers. I will just have to pack for every type of weather.

What a difference a day makes!

4 Jun

Yesterday it looked as if winter was returning to Europe, but temperatures are on the rise today.

  •                                          Yesterday                       Today
  • St. Louis, MO                72-54                          78-63
  • Zurich                             50-42                            66-47
  • Konstanz                        47-41                            70-45
  • Luzern                             50-42                            64-46
  • Bolzano                          70-51                             81-54
  • Colfosco                         46-40                            52-43
  • Ortisei                             59-43                            66-45
  • Cortina                           59-41                             66-44
  • Venice                             72-57                              75-59
  • Salzburg                         44-42                            56-48
  • Munich                            46-44                            59-46

Konstanz, Germany gets the prize for a 23 degree increase in temperature in one day, but every city is experiencing higher temperatures today. Summer is saved. I will not have to take my winter wardrobe with me after all.

München ruft an.

3 Jun

Munich calling. Today my old college friend Barton called me to warn me about the weather in Munich. He says that winter has returned. It is cold and rainy. He added that I should bring winter clothes with me when I come. This news prompted me to check the temperatures again on weather.com. So here goes (in temperatures Fahrenheit):

  • St. Louis, MO                72-54
  • Zurich                             50-42
  • Konstanz                        47-41
  • Luzern                             50-42
  • Bolzano                          70-51
  • Colfosco                         46-40
  • Ortisei                             59-43
  • Cortina                           59-41
  • Venice                            72-57
  • Salzburg                         44-42
  • Munich                            46-44

Yes, it is quite cold. Today the Dolomites posted on Facebook that the skiing is still great now at the beginning of June. Venice, Italy has the warmest temperatures similar to those in my hometown.

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