My original plan for the drive to Italy was to make it into an all day scenic drive. But when we woke up to another foggy, drizzly day, it seemed better to just take the shortest route, and hope the weather was better on the other side of the Alps. Anne wanted to get caches in three countries on a single day. (It’s hard to do that where we live.) So we headed back to Füssen (in Germany), where she did a couple at the Lech River falls. Then back to Reutte for an Austrian cache as we headed south.
We drove over Fernpaß towards central Austria, stopped for lunch in a small town, then headed east to Innsbruck, where we turned south and headed up into Benner Pass, the main connection between Austria and Italy. Then downhill on the other side to Bozen/Bolzano. All the geographic features in the area have both German and Italian names. This area (the South Tyrol) was part of the Austrian empire until after World War I, so it has a lot in common with the other Tirolean areas to the north in Austria. It’s predominantly German-speaking, with Italian and Ladin (another Romance language) as well.
As we neared Bolzano, we checked and realized that the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology was closed on Mondays, so we decided to head to try to head there. After driving in circles for a while, trying to get close to the museum while avoiding the car exclusion zones that are ubiquitous in Italy, we finally parked in a garage downtown and walked to the museum.
Ötzi (rhymes with curtsy) is a mummy found by alpine hikers in 1991. At first they thought it was the victim of a mountaineering accident a few years before. Eventually scientists determined that it was actually the remains of a man who died around 3300 BC. Along with the well-preserved mummy, they also found lots of his clothing and equipment at the site, making it a treasure-trove of information. And to add to the mystery, it appears he was murdered! If you’re interested, the museum site and the Ötzi Wikipedia page have more information.
The museum exhibits the actual mummy (through a window into a climate-controlled chamber and which you’re not allowed to photograph), as well as most of the clothing and equipment, and the reconstruction you see above. We really enjoyed our visit!
Anne found an Ötzi cache outside the museaum to complete her three country trifecta, but she also wanted to get the oldest cache in Italy, a few miles north of Bolzano. We decided to head there before heading off to our lodgings in Kastelruth, about a 40 minute drive up into the mountains. We followed a windy road through a bunch of tunnels to end up parking here–the cache was up that little road on the left. Since turning around was problematic (think about cars coming out of that tunnel at 40 or 50 miles per hour), we ended up driving a few more miles up the road before heading back tow Bolzano and then to our lodgings, an agriturismo (farm B&B) called Tirlerhof.
The web site makes it look like a bigger place than it actually was. It was actually a cozy room in a farmhouse with a balcony overlooking an alpine meadow with a view of the Dolomites–if the weather ever cleared. Frau Tirler spoke a bit of English, so between that and my bisschen Deutsch we managed to communicate what we needed.
We drove back into town for a pizza and a glass of wine–good! I think we broke our cabbage streak (which had resumed after the one day hiatus a few days ago) again–I’m pretty sure our salad didn’t include any. Our time in German-speaking areas is almost over, so it had to end soon anyway.
Monday morning dawned bright and–no wait a minute, it was cloudy and foggy yet again. After a good breakfast at Tirlerhof, we headed into town and did the walking tour in the Rick Steves book. The weather hadn’t improved much, but we decided to try some of the Dolomite loop drive anyway. We made it to the top of Sella Pass, elevation 2240 meters, 7347 feet. There were some views, but the tops of the mountains were in the clouds, and the dramatic, bare rock tops are the best part of the Dolomites. To get an idea of what we were missing, compare this picture with some of mine below.
After some photos and geocaches at the top of the pass, we elected to head back down the way we came. We were only one third of the way around the loop, which would have taken us all the way down to Bolzano before getting back to Kastelruth. So we got back to Tirlerhof mid-afternoon and took it easy. I tried to catch up on my blogging and since we had no wifi, Anne took a nap.
When I asked about wifi when we arrived, Frau Tirler made a phone call and two minutes later her son showed up carrying a router–voila, we had internet! Evidently he had reclaimed it during the day, and I didn’t bother to try to get it back. This was the latest, but not the last of our issues with hotel internet on the trip. Maybe I’ll do a separate post/rant about it at some point.
Tuesday morning was slightly clearer, enough that we could see some of the view from our balcony that we had missed up ‘til now. It was supposed to turn into a warm, sunny day, but we weren’t able to see it. We were off to Tuscany!