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The Dolomites - Northern Italy

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The Dolomites or Dolomite Alps, is a mountain range in northern Italy, a subdivision of the Eastern Alps, and part of the South Tirolese Alps, located east of the Adige River. Some peaks are formed of dolomite* and marked with unusual colors. The Dolomites reach their greatest height with Mount Marmolada, 3342 m (10,965 ft) above sea level. Many of the sharp peaks of the range were first ascended in the latter parts of the 19th century by British mountain climbers.

The Gardena Pass in the Dolomites

We took one real journey into the Dolomites, in August 1993. Our home leave back to the US was in the summer of 1993; I spent 3 weeks there, and Lynn and the girls spent an extra two weeks after I came back to Germany. When they returned, they brought a school chum of Megan's back to visit with us in Germany for another 4 weeks.

While Megan's friend was here we took a car trip through the Dolomites and on into parts of Northern Italy and Austria. The Dolomites are amazing, especially in the upper regions above the tree-line, where the striking grayness of the limestone-impregnated rock was stark and awe-inspiring. We felt like we were looking at a lunar landscape in many places.

We spent a fair amount of time hunting for a particular mountain-pass inn that we were told about by a colleague, and when we did find it we were told that they were full - no rooms. So much for my usual cavalier approach to inns ("We don't need reservations!"). A less-than-appealing inn down the road a bit from the original destination turned out to be a real pit (dirty, moldy, mostly revolting), so we decided to drive down out of the mountains to Bolzano and look for an inn along that road.

We finally did find a place to stay (an incredible old inn with more character than most movies), but it was pretty late before we did. Another adventure for the memory banks.

Here are my scant notes from that trip......


August 1993 – Italy Austria

After two weeks of peace and quiet, everything got back to normal real quick. Lynn and the girls and one of Megan's friends from home (Melinda) returned on Sunday, August 8th. Melinda got to stay until the 4th of September; after school started over here but before she had to return to Middle School back home. While she was here we took a lot of little day trips, and one big five-day trip down through the Austrian Alps into northern Italy and the Dolomites (the name for a dolomite-filled section of the Alps - clever name huh?). We visited Bolzano, and Merano, and followed the trail of Mozart for a while (when he used to travel from Salzburg to Venice). We drove over some amazing mountain passes, and saw a lot of vintage wine country (pun intended). On our trip back we drove through the Timmelsjoch Pass on the Italian-Austrian border. The old van was working hard and gasping for air (Timmelsjoch Pass is at 2509 meters - 8232 feet!), but it made it. The pass is also less than a half-mile from where they found the 5,200 year old bronze age man back in 1991 (there was a great article about it in the June 1993 National Geographic magazine).


*Dolomite, common mineral with the formula CaMg (CO3)2, found chiefly in rock masses as dolomitic limestone, but occurring sometimes in veins. It has a hardness of 3.5 to 4 and a specific gravity of 2.85. Dolomite crystallizes in the hexagonal system. It is usually colorless, white, or pink, but may be brown, black, or green, depending on the impurities present.




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