OK, so those last four days flew by so fast I didn’t have time to put anything up here. Two factors involved. One, after a couple days you’re having so much fun with friends old and new that you don’t want to be writing blogs and editing pictures. And two, there were some intense biking days and getting back to the room I was just exhausted. As in just collapsing exhausted. So here’s the quick summary.
The map on the left (click on it to blow it up a bit) shows our route, though of course the bike paths weren’t quite as straight as those arrows, with the Austrian border and Venice highlighted just to put it all in perspective. On Day 4 we biked from San Candido to Bressanone, just over 50 miles. The next day was short, just 27 miles into the very cool city of Bolzano. Once we got to Bolzano there were options for extending the ride another 15 miles or so by going out to another site and then coming back but at that point we’re like “Why would we do that?” We’d done two 50-plus mile days in a row, which means you have lunch on the road and then get back on your bike to finish the day. The chance to get into town early, clean up, and have a nice lunch (with wine!) was pretty attractive.
Day 6, our last full day, was a particularly great ride. After nearly four weeks in Europe it was the first day – literally, the first day – where there was no sign of rain. The first sunny day from morning through evening. We rode from Bolzano to the little town of Merano and then, after a little break, rode back to Bolzano on a different route through apple orchards. That was a ride for the ages. Finally Saturday was our last little ride, just eight miles downriver and eight miles back.
The biking was great and the weather, while not ideal, wasn’t nearly as wet as the forecast had suggested it would be. The food, unfortunately, often had more to do with Germany than Italy, clearly a step in the wrong direction.Bolzano in particular was a great town. It’s history includes having been conquered by the Roman general Nero Claudius Drusus, the stepson of Caesar Augustus, brother of Tiberius, grandfather of Caligula, and great-grandfather of Nero. One of ancient Rome’s greatest generals he was a rock star of his time, one of the people’s favorites and quite likely to succeed Augustus until he died just a bit too soon. Sad.
With a population of 100,000 Bolzano is by far the largest city in Italy’s South Tyrol, incorporating all the complexities and conflict of this Germanic region that’s part of Italy. The region, you see, was the price of Italy’s engagement in World War I on the side of the Triple Entente (France, Russia, and the UK). Italy had been part of the “Triple Alliance”, a secret pact between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy, but agreed to switch sides if it could have South Tyrol when the war was over. The good guys won and they added these Alpine lands. Under the Italian fascists, Germanic inhabitants were required to change their names; use of the words Tyrol and Tyrolean were punishable offenses and, needless to say, schools used Italian instead of German. Looking at things today it’s pretty clear the Italianization didn’t work so well; signs are pretty much all in both languages though German seems far more prevalent.
So how do we feel after seven days of biking? Tired, that’s for sure. But we had a great time, so no we’re going to seriously consider a longer trip next summer: there’s a 2,400-mile path from Nantes, France, on the Atlantic coast to Constanta, Romania, on the Black Sea. My last extended bike tour was 30 years ago, so I’m thinking it’s time to try it again.
In the meantime we’re off to Milan for just one night before catching a flight to Dublin to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday. Until then, here are a few more pictures from the Dolomites.