05.06.2015 - 05.06.2015
We leave Munich for the Dolomites in Italy this morning. It is about a four hour drive.
We went for breakfast at a Patisserie – I enjoyed the coffee and especially the pastry – I don’t think Andrew altogether enjoyed his.
We drove south through the green and fertile plains surrounding Munich and then through Austria which is very mountainous. The road follows along valleys and therefore was very direct – not bendy at all. In the middle of Austria we started a long descent into Italy. The traffic travelling north had the opposite – a long climb. An enormous number of trucks use these roads – we passed ling convoys of them moving north. At one spot on the way down there was some sort of blockage for the trucks travelling north and we drove past a line of waiting trucks which stretched for over 10 kilometres. It was the greatest collection of trucks I have ever seen.
We eventually came to the Dolomites. The scenery is quite spectacular in this area. The mountains are composed of massive limestone outcrops which rise very steeply and are rugged and jagged. In the midst of these massive mountains are rich green grasslands and beautiful pine forests. The roads through the Dolomites are very windy – many many hairpin bends! What amazed us was the number of motor cyclists driving on the roads. There are hundreds of them – they drive very fast and obviously come for the adrenalin rush. It seemed to me that they take enormous risks especially when they fly past just before a hairpin bend. I found the driving on these roads quite unnerving. Andrew was driving with Bill beside him navigating and I was in the back seat. You would go round a bend and motor cyclists would be coming in the opposite direction with their bikes bent right over as they took the bend at speed. Many of them are old guys – we could see them congregated at the various eating places along the way. I would say that most were middle aged or older – but there also quite a few young guys. The manager at the hotel (Sports Hotel, Pocol) told me that most come from Germany and Austria and there are a lot of complaints about them. I think they are tolerated as they would bring a lot of tourist money to the area.
The hotel we are staying at is typical of the area – very like ski lodges in Australia. We are staying at a little place called Pocol which is about 5 kilometres from Cortina, the largest town in the area. It is quite a rustic hotel – quite comfortable. It is surrounded by a green grassy area – then pine forest and then the rugged mountains – they are all around – very scenic. We were greeted by a Bernese Mountain dog – a gentle but shy dog. It came and sniffed around the car and then looked at us – but kept its distance. It wanders in and out of the hotel. When it wants to come in it stands at the door and hits it with his paw. If you open the door he stares at you for a bit and then comes in. Both windows in our room look out on the mountains. Bill and Andrew can lie on the double bed looking straight at a massive limestone mountain rising out of the surrounding forest.
After settling in we went to Cortina to buy some things. Cortina is a very pretty town located in a river valley. It is a resort town – so there are a lot of shops and hotels etc. We discovered that some towns in Italy have an interesting way of parking. The parking was free and they give you 1 ½ hours. We noticed that fitted on our car windscreen was a clock dial – from 0 to 24. When you park you turn the clock dial until it indicates the time you parked – in this way the authorities can check how long you have been parked. It is quite a nifty idea.
We had a late lunch in a nice little restaurant – very friendly service and we had nice meals. The shops were closed for afternoon siesta when we got there – that is the first time I have seen this. After shopping we returned.
I went for a walk on a track through the forest. The forest was particularly beautiful as green grass was growing among the trees. When I started the walk the Bernese Mountain dog followed me – I had to shoo him back and he got a bit scared of me. But we have since made up and are good friends – although he does not get too close. The walk was a nice introduction to the area.
We had dinner at the hotel tonight Bill had pasta and boar and Andrew had pasta and deer – I had tortellini – it was OK. A tour bus had arrived a little earlier and they had dinner in another dining room.
And so ended our first day in the Dolomites.