Merano(Choir/Townspeople from the musical Chess)- A Day of Driving in the Austrian and Italian Tyrol - 1st June 2016

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June 1st 2016
Published: June 7th 2016
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We are travelling further east today and staying within the Tyrol except we are moving from Austria to Italy.

The rain from yesterday ahs cleared and although it is not brilliantly fine we can at least see more of the mountains that when we arrived yesterday afternoon.

The woman who is running the establishment bought in a huge breakfast for us this morning. So for once I do not have to chop up the fruit and add it to the muesli and yogurt and instead have it all bought to us on two trays.

There was just much for us even though we managed to consume the soft boiled eggs, croissant and most of the selection of breads, salami, cheese, proscuito, orange juice and coffee. We won’t have to worry about a stop for lunch today on our way to the Dolomites.

After we had spent a while chatting with Genivieve, who had been to New Zealand in recent years, and putting the world to rights we loaded up and headed off down the narrow valley and then down further in altitude to Landeck.

There was little traffic which made it easier pulling off the road a couple of times for photos, the first overlooking a picture postcard Austrian alpine town and then shortly thereafter a railway viaduct with a castle adjacent to it with a deep gorge also in the frame.

At times we passed by tunnels that the rail line went through when there wasn’t actually a need for a tunnel. It was hard to figure out why you would need to put a tunnel in the places they were other than perhaps they had directed the rail line through a farmers paddock because the tunnels had grass growing on top of them so perhaps the animals can feed on the top of the tunnels!

The road switched to a more southerly direction as we headed towards the ReschenPass, one of the main routes over the Alps at 1500 metres. The pass has been a route used since Roman days and the gradient was easy compared to others in the Alps.

We crossed into Italy and came across a large lake that had been formed as a reservoir in the 1950’s and the town that was located there was ‘drowned’ leaving a church spire the only visible structure. A new town was located at a higher altitude. There were a number of cars parked to take in the sights and as we continued on our way we noticed that a lot of those people were either out walking or cycling around the lake and taking in the breath taking views of the mountains that were all around them.

At the bottom end of the lake we took another stop and one of those quirky things that can happen daily when you are travelling as long as we are came to light.

As we pulled into the car park we noticed a man heading off into the nearby trees and after some experience of this myself on the BBA V3, we both agreed he was off for the call of nature. There have been precious few public toilets on the roads we have travelled.

Gretchen went off to take photos of the mountain scenery while I waited closer to the car taking video.

The man returned and acknowledged me as he went to the passenger door of his car where I noticed he had opened the glove box and I thought he would be getting out his ‘handy wipes ‘to ‘wash’ his hands.

But no! He was getting out his lunch and straight into eating it! I would have offered him our ‘handy wipes ‘had I known he didn’t have any!

As the road started to turn west it also dropped in altitude and soon we came across orchards of apple trees spread right across the valley floor which still had high mountain ranges on both sides. Most of the apple trees were being grown espalier style and the whole area before our eyes looked very organised.

Merano, the town that the musical ‘Chess’ was based in passed by on the left as the highway became four laned. Still the apple orchards both left and right of the main road continued.

Now the valley was opening wider and although the mountains on both sides were still there they appeared lower as they a little further distance from the road we were driving on.

Bolzano came into view and we thought we should take a diversion to top up the Euro cash we have from an ATM and also find a supermarket to top up supplies for our four days in the Dolomites where there may not be the larger supermarkets with the choice available in Bolzano.

We hadn’t taken into account that it was now early afternoon and of course most shops shut for the afternoon siesta and that included the supermarket the GPS had managed to find for us in this compact small city. However we got the cash we needed and were soon on our way up the SS12 which ran parallel to the Autostrada the E45 except that our road was down on the floor of the narrow valley following the river while the Autostrada was above us driving in a straight line with tunnels and viaducts.

However sometimes the slower road is the better road and today was one of those times.

We had heard sirens as we started up the valley and then shortly afterwards a helicopter. Then we noticed the trucks stopped on the Autostrada in a great long line that must have stretched over 5km.

Our guess was a crash somewhere in a tunnel.

The road to our destination required us to switch to an easterly direction and we continued on ever upwards as we were getting into the heart of the Italian Tyrol.

At Ortisei we found a Despar supermarket that was open and took the opportunity to top up the grocery box.

The Passo Gardena was ahead of us. And what a mountain road pass it was!

The road had very little in the way of crash barriers and although we were only able to travel at between 20 and 30kph it was still a bit unnerving to not have anything to stop you dropping off the edge if you lost concentration.

The scenery, despite some low cloud that drifted in the valley and drizzle at times, was amazing with towering rocky peaks that make the Dolomites so recognisable.

With the outside temperature dropping to 8C we made the summit at 2015metres and although this was the start of June there was still snow around although not right at the road level.

The downhill run towards Corvara in Badia was equally spectacular and with the weather a bit clearer on this side of the ridge our view of the rocky mountains was more extensive.

The Badia valley is very green making the whole scene before us picture perfect.

Our apartment is in one of the small valleys that run off the main valley at San Cassiano and we were met by the owner Sandra who let us in.

Being up the San Cassiano valley we didn’t have wide views of the Dolomites but a more ‘local’ view with a forest covered mountainside on the other side of the narrow valley. However, we know that when we get out walking the trails we will find it hard not to stop often to admire nature’s splendour.

It is going to be cool up here at 1460 metres and it looks like it will be back to long trousers and long sleeve shirts for the 4 night duration of our stay.

Sandra gave us a map of the numerous walking and hiking trails in the Badia region and although there is no way we could hope to all of them in the time we have we aim to get out on all three days and get some hiking in 3 slightly different environments of the region.

PS:enjoy the video of the song Merano from the musical Chess.Not only does it relate to the town where the musical is based but it also exudes the feeling of driving in the mountains of the Tyrol.

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1st July 2016

Certainly lots of mountains in this part of the world!

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