A report out this week found that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with German and French falling the most. Therefore I’m ashamed to confess that I’m rubbish at languages and almost always defer to Lesley, that is except in the case of Russian. Where I have a handy phase or two “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!”
Travelling around the South Tyrol working out what the language is can be very confusing – as although part of Italy, the first tongue of the locals in the Süd Tyrol is German. So you end up not knowing whether it Buongiorno or Guten Morgen…or even some obscure regional Dolomite dialect.
Arriving at the pretty town of Brixen/Bressanone (the map producer is also confused) was a place, we realised later, we have been to before, although not a town with great memories. As on a ski trip a few years ago our friend Rosie O’Shaughnessy fell and broke her hip the very instance she first put her skis down on the snow. Which resulted in a air ambulance journey to Brixen hospital.
We walked into town from our motorhome car-park heading for the Xmas market and hoping (Dave) to find a place for a pizza. The market in front of the Cathedral was quite small and was selling the Italian variation of Christmas market gifts (plastic domes with shakable glittery snow scenes). Not tempted we wandered around the old town admiring the Advent calendar on the windows of a building in the square, but not finding pizza we ended up eating back in Charlie II.
Technically the bumps they call the Dolomites are in the Italian Alps, but they’re quite different in appearance from the rest of the Alps. Although in many ways when the sun catches the soft brown colouring it can make them more striking than say Mont Blanc, Matterhorn or or Eiger. That said, the Matterhorn is pretty stunning..!
The Dolomites, also known as the “Pale Mountains”, take their name from the carbonate rock dolomite. This was named after 18th-century French mineralogist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu (1750–1801).
After 12 consecutive nights without mains electric, we decided we needed a bit of luxury. Biting the bullet, we paid €28 to the campsite in Corones for a hedge protected pitch, electric hook up and hot plentiful showers with toasty-warm heated floors.
En route we took a detour for some food from the market stall in Brunico (Bruneck). Here, there’s a new Mountain Museum created by a local hero, the climber Reinhold Messner, but unfortunately along with all the shops it was closed for a two hour lunch, maybe next time.
Slowly recovering from the shock to budget from the campsite, our next priority was a top up with diesel and what turned out to be another hit in the wallet. Looking back I think we were spoilt by the price of fuel in Belgium where diesel is typically €1.20 per ltr. So it came as quite a jolt, when at the first Sud Tyrol stop we had to pay €1.70, yes €1.70 per litre.
Heading southwards, we passed through the Italian ski resort Cortina d’Ampezzo (the site of the 1956 Winter Olympics). This reminded me of one of the very first special cars I owned a 1966 Ford Cortina MK1 GT.
The Ford Cortina wasn’t always destined to be named after an Italian ski resort. It started life as Project Archbishop and could have been Caprino, until somebody realised the latter is a slang word for goat dung
It was just lovely driving through Dolomites, carefree in the sunshine and although some of the roads were narrow there wasn’t much traffic. So we were both woken up with a fright, when after a bit of climbing to go over a high pass, (with Sat Nav trying to make us turn round) without any earlier warning a 3.0 m high tunnel sign appeared immediately before a hacked out hole in the rock with the road going through it. Our Carthago is 2.85m high so all we could do was close our eyes and keep to the middle……!
Charlie and I admiring the views!
I wonder how long this piece of tarmac string would be if it were stretched out straight?
After a couple hours of climbing up the twisty stuff we found our target for the night, the small ski town of Arabba. We didn’t stop to ski (a mistake in hindsight) and left early the next day after a free overnight carpark (including free hookup!) care of the very generous people of Arabba. With a bit more up to come we made our way on to toward Selva Val Gardena. As we reached and descended down from the highest part of the route we passed an attractive looking ski town of Corvara and Colfosco on a high plateau with some great looking ski runs.
Back once again to familiar territory, we stayed one night in Saint Christiana (one of the smaller satellite villages of the Selva Val Gardena). Finally Dave had his pizza wish in a posh hotel preening itself for the big influx of visitors at the weekend when the Ski World Cup Series comes to the area. We missed that but were entertained by daft locals practicing handbrake turns and Lewis Hamilton style doughnuts on the snow around a pole in the centre of our huge carpark at the ski station.
Finding free (or low cost) places to park in this region are rarer than hens teeth. Having been to this area a few times before our aim was to go ski at Alpe di Siusi. We weren’t permitted to park at the ski station but we discovered ‘The Sporthutte’ – a small out of town pizzeria restaurant in Kastelrotto with parking for campers including hook up but no other services for €25.
The upside was ‘The Sporthutte’ gave us a €10 meal voucher for each night (2) we stayed. Dave had pizza and beer
two three nights in a row. Happy man.
The Seiser Alm is an easy part of the Sella Ronda ski circuit with lots of easy reds and blue runs, just perfect for us to get our ski legs going.
One of my favourite places to stop and eat/drink when out skiing is in this small hamlet with a pretty church. When we’ve been before, the warmth of the atmosphere pours out of the door when you go inside. With a large traditional green tiled oven being the centre piece of this cozy welcoming spot.
Alas no more, I haven’t got a photograph of what it was like before. But it has been gutted and completely modernised, all very trendy and chic with spot lights and coordinated coloured seating with matching throws! But they have ruined it. I’m utterly bereft. sob, sob
The car park at the base of the Seiser Alm gondola gets very busy and we were concerned that it might be tight for Charlie to make his escape after our last day, but he managed ok and we set off for an overnighter at Trento or is it Trentino?
After a couple of really enjoyable days of perfect skiing weather in the Sud Tyrol it was time to make positive tracks towards Bergamo and to find the storage place we’d organised for Charlie whilst we returned home to the UK.
Before leaving for Manchester, we caught a train just outside the campsite and the ticket (very cheap) entitled us to go on the buses and the funicular railway up to Bergamo’s picturesque old town, where there was time to explore the cobbled streets and catch up on some last minute Christmas shopping.
Shopping complete, our last task was to wrap a parcel for the rellies in France. With an attractive combination of tourist maps sealed with gaffer tape the package was ready for dispatch. Ah but don’t under estimate the frustration Italian postal bureaucracy can impart. One hour and many yards of brown tape (to cover the maps) and €44 lighter and the gifts were finally on their way.
There we go a quick Sprint round the Dolomites brings an end to our 2019 Rundfahrt. With Charlie safely berthed for the next 2+ weeks at a motorhome storage place. All that’s left to do is to maintain our sanity as we negotiate the joys of the RyanAir check-in experience for our flight home to Manchester.
Thanks for reading – please leave your comments. The next post will be in 2020, lets see where the new year takes us….
Dave & Lesley
Any Russians speakers will have translated “Moye sudno na vozdushnoy podushke polno ugrey!” to My hovercraft is full of eels” and Monty Python fans will no doubt wish to point out the phrase was from the 1971 sketch ‘Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook’ so in fact not Russian at all …….