Back in Bavaria Again
GAPP 2016 / Italy - Italian Alps
My travel marathon was about to continue early Saturday morning as Andy and a few fellow staff members from KKG were going to take me to Italy for the weekend in commemoration of my upcoming 50th birthday. I was really tired but excited to see a new country and have a more relaxing time and a less hectic schedule of the past two days. It sounds like traveling to Italy from Germany is a great distance but it was only a three and a half hour drive, much like Americans traveling to a neighboring state. You could visit at least five different countries from our location in Altotting. In fact, it is further to visit Berlin to the north, than many foreign nations.
We started out driving south with five people packed into a Ford mini-van model, not produced for the U.S. market. Most cars are manual transmission and I have yet to drive a car in Germany, even though I have stayed a total of over 50 days in the country, over three exchange experiences. The day was gray and overcast with intermittent showers predicted during our trip. The road was busy, full of travelers from many nations, including a compact car a long way from home, displaying a license plate from distant Russia. We went across a newly constructed bridge known as the Bridge of Europe, where I saw my very first glacier in the cloud crowded distance.
The highway cut through a valley resting between the impressive Alps on both sides of the roadway. We drove out of Germany, through Austria, and then entered Italy. The borders had checkpoint stations set up but all were vacant and vehicles quickly passed through without inspection. The only traffic jam causing vehicles to slow to a crawl was when we approached the massive line of toll booths, periodically located along our route. As we made our way through the extreme northern region of Italy, many of the houses resembled those found throughout Germany. Andy provided historical commentary along the way and informed us that the region had been part of Austria and Germany up until the end of the First World War. The region today is a mixture of the two individual cultures, with the Italian way of life, slowly taking over the former Germanic style. However, the German language was the main vehicle of conversation in every setting we visited during our trip.
The mountain scenery was really spectacular, especially when the sun occasionally broke through the clouds to illuminate the rocky peaks. Soon the hillsides were covered with a crop I have never seen before in person. Vineyards of neatly cultivated rows of grape vines covered every available space. The rows upon rows of bright green vines rose to amazing heights up into the high reaches of the mountains. It was then, that I knew I was truly in Italy. The geometric patterns of lines crisscrossed the landscape according to the topographical design of the slope. In the deeper part of the valley, we came upon another crop covered by endless spans of black colored netting, which shrouded it from view. I thought the netting might be used for the purpose of protecting younger vine plants from the heat of direct sunlight. However, the netting’s true purpose was to protect small delicate apple trees from hail, where a strong storm could wipe out an entire year’s crop within minutes. The apple trees were no more than seven feet high, resembling young saplings but this small variety appeared to be the only type of apple trees that thrive in the unique climate of the Italian Alps.
The vineyards and apple orchards seemed never ending as we descended on the roadway through the Alps. They covered every available space, including the roof of a gas station that was built into the hillside at the edge of the road. The continuous line of grape plants went from field and over the top of the gas station uninterrupted. A unique sight! We continued down the sloping highway down to our target destination of Bolzano. It was now raining at a steady pace as were followed the GPS directions to our hotel. After a bit of confusion, we found the hidden entrance to the underground parking garage. We descended the ramp and found one of the few available spaces, which were incredibly tight. We all got out and unloaded the car before coaching Andy into the tight parking space.
We exited out of the garage and walked up a ramp covered with a bright red carpet for effect. We checked in at the front desk, received our room keys, and then checked into our adjoining rooms. Andy and I would room together, the two women would share a double, and our friend was given the single room, since he is a famously known snorer! The spacious room was very nice and appeared high end with a white pair of complementary slippers sitting on the edge of the bed. The next thing I noticed quite quickly was the room was air-conditioned, a pleasant surprise. We were now more south with hotter temperatures and humidity than the cooler alpine climate of Bavaria. I immediately went to the large pair of windows, drew open the curtains, and open the latch to see the view, which was without doubt, Old World Italian. I stood within the window for a few minutes to absorb the street view below, as rain gently fell on the quiet cobblestone streets... I was in Italy
Street Market in Bolzano
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