Back Again in Bavaria
GAPP 2016 / Merano
We had one final stop planned before our return journey home, lunch at another quintessential old world Italian city known as Merano. We pulled off the exit and into town, which didn’t look anything like Bolzano, as it was a more suburban looking environment. However, after parking the car, we walked down toward the town center into a beautiful piazza strip that included an opera house, colorful flower gardens, and the rushing River Passar that flowed down from the mountains high above. We walked back and forth over several bridges that spanned the expansive riverbed, which was full of spotty foliage in the form of green shrubs, small trees, and long stemmed wild flowers that flourished on tiny islands within the riverbed. We walked down several streets that now strongly resembled those of Bolzano, which appeared to date back well into the Middle Ages.
The area containing the old Italian city of Merano was first occupied by the Romans in 15 BC when they created a road station in the Adige Valley. The city was first known by the name Mairania and became the capital city of Tyrol County, where it contained the local court system and a mint. The area was later absorbed by the Hapsburg Dynasty and the Tyrolean Courts were transferred to the city of Innsbruck. The mint was also transferred to another location and the city soon declined in importance and lost capital status in 1848. The region was also threatened by French occupation until the Tyrol area and accompanying city of Merano finally became part of the Kingdom of Italy and developed its current identity following the end of World War I. Over time, the old city has evolved into a charming resort area, drawing visitors to its warm pleasant climate and beautiful natural scenery.
Next, we sought out a place to eat and after some searching, stumble upon a hidden bistro that was located down through an arched pedestrian tunnel to one side. A few twists and we entered into a small open-air courtyard where several tables were located just outside the entrance to the dimness of the restaurant’s unseen interior seating area. We took an available table within the courtyard and were instantly attended to by two waiters wearing long black aprons tied around their waists covering their legs down to their ankles. The menu, like most in Italy, was simple containing just as many specialty drinks as dishes to eat. I had one of my best meals of my trip at this place, a linguini pasta dish with a chunky mushroom sauce. Several others in our party ordered the same item but I never realized since they all ordered in German and well, I continued to play the coveted role of the total tourist.
After lunch, we had a little more time to go out and explore, and as before we split up to go off on our own way. First several of us went inside the beautiful old church known as the Saint Nicholas’ Church, which was the centerpiece of the town and our designated meeting place. Needless to say, the church’s exterior was grand in the gothic architectural style of the period and depicted a large motif of Saint Christopher carrying the Baby Jesus on his shoulder. Tradition has said that those who look upon the image of Saint Christopher will not perish that day. As a result, the large image encompassed the entire height of one wall of the church between a set of windows, enabling the town’s residents to view it from quite some distance. The interior of the church was equally grand with a cathedral styled open empty shell, with high arched ceiling panels supported by a pair of sequential parallel columns that ran the length of the sanctuary.
Next, I broke away from the pack and headed back through an old street toward the river, where I got some great close up shots of the opera house and surrounding gardens. I walked along the edge of the river to take it all in and to absorb the beautiful setting that was Italy. The surrounding mountains contained neatly maintained vineyards that flirted with the white clouds above. Time was ticking away and I needed to make my way back to the church to rendezvous with the others in my party. After walking back to the parked car, we needed to make the decision of the best route to make our way home.
We had two options to consider. First, we could head back down south in the opposite direction of home and retrace our steps back to the main highway at Bolzano. The second option was to continue to the north through back roads. We decided to let the GPS decide and off the beaten path we would go. Instantly, the road was narrow and consistently twisted and turned through the valley but soon began to climb in height. We would soon discover that this was more than just a rural road north but was in fact, a mountain pass through the Italian Alps known as the Jauffen Pass. This would surprisingly turn out to be the highlight of our trip, as none of my fellow passengers had ever before experienced such a unique driving experience.
The Beautiful City of Merano
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