|First - sorry it's been several days since we last posted anything. We arrived in the samll town of Compatsch (NE of Bolzano), up in the Italian Alps. While the place and setting were spectacular (more on that later) it wsa alos very isolated - som uch so, that there was no public internet access. However, we got close to sending an update yesterday: we took a trip down the cable car and up the road to the town of Castlerotto where we found an internet site. However, we forgot that, in Italy, you need to show your passport to access the internet - and since we were hiking, our passports were several miles away and several thousand feet up in the mountains! So - you get a longer entry today!
When we last updated we were in Lake Como. The trip from Varenna to Compatsch was varied, and interesting. The trains were good, cheap, easy and on-time. However, the buses -not quite so much. We had a bit of a wait for a bus in Balzano (90 minutes) and had a twisty, narrow, steep ride of about 20 km up to the cablecar station. From there we took the 15 minute, 3 mile ride up the cable car to Compatsch - and then a 10 minute walk (downhill) to our hotel.
The hotel looked great - fairly simple, very "alpine" (in fact, you'd think this aras was in Germany or Austria (which it was , up until WWI). The room was very nice, but not fancy. Our stay included dinner and when we got there - WOW! They had a great salad bar that we started with (big mistake!). When we finished that they brought us an apperitif (!), then another salad, followed by soup, then the main course, then dessert!! We were rolled up to our room (we backed off on the salad bar the next two nights!) The food was fantastic, the service wonderful, and it was great not worrying about where to eat or what to order. The hotel also has a "Wellness Center" we could use - sauna, jacuzzi, pool, etc. - really nice - you wouldn't expect it all from the outside!
The Dolomites are spectacular! The area where we stayed is the largest alpine meadow - several miles across. The mountains (made of dolomite - metamorphosed limestone - that's my geology lesson for today) rise up all around in a series of spires and peaks. The area is famous for skiing and , in the summer, the chair lifts take you up the mountain to make hiking more accesible! It's almost "civilized" - huts with restaurants and bars scattered all over the mountain, buses, horse rides, well marked and maintained trails - something for everyone! One of the biggest challenges was getting Karen on a lift (she had a bad experience skiing once, which scarred her!). We started with a 6-person lift, then a 4, then a 2 before she had to go on the one-person lift (and, as I type this, she points out it proceeded to boucne on the ay up the hill!)
While stopping at one of the "huts" we had lunch and learned a bit of Italian and German. Did you know that "Calde" in Italina means "hot"? (I didn't) which is why I got the funny look from the waiter when I ordered calde lemonade (anticipating a nice, cold lemonade ona warm day), only to get a very hot lemonade! We also learned what "speck" is - a German dish which is basically a ball of meat and bread (Karen thought it tasted like stove-top stuffing). But actually, our lunch of hot lemon and a ball of bread and meat wasn't bad!
The 3 days in the mountains were great - as I said, beautiful (the view out the room was spectacular), warm days (about 80) cool nights (about 50). On our last night, a Rick Steve's tour showed up at the hotel in time for dinner. While it was nice to speak English to others (we were the only English speakers our first two days), the Americans were a bit overwhelming - we were anxious to leave for Venice.
We finally arrived in Venice today at about 4 pm (we're 9 hours ahead of the West Coast). There will be a lot to tell, but since we have easy access to the internet form our hotel, we'll fill you in on that tomorrow. Until then -
Mike and Karen