Day 3, continued – Bozen (or Bolzano), South Tyrol, the Dolomites, Italian Alps
We headed to Bolzano for a few days in the mountains. This area was once part of Austria, but was annexed by the Italians after World War I. Mussolini came in and changed all the German names to Italian (thus the two city names!) and imported a bunch of natives from other Italian provinces to try to make the region more Italian. Still, most of the people we ran into spoke German, and all signs were in both German and Italian.
Driving north, we did have a few scary moments on the mountain roads. These roads are incredibly steep, with frequent 180 degree turns, and only occasionally are there mirrors on the road so you can see what might be coming in the other direction. Luckily, we didn’t get killed. Luckily, I had a large bottle of Tums with me.
Days 4 & 5 – Kastelruth (Castelrotto)
The town of Bozen is beautiful, with a classic town square and plenty of walking paths, tiny gardens, and (of course) a cable car that runs up the mountain to Oberbozen. But I enjoyed the town of Kastelruth (or Castelrotto) a little bit better. Like Bozen, it’s a beautiful alpine village with scenic stuff everywhere!
It’s steep, though, with most roads built right into the slope of the mountain. We walked up Kalvarienberg path to an old Roman encampment that’s since been turned into part of a series of sculptures that represent the stations of the cross. My family didn’t think I’d make it all the way to the top, but I did! Like other vistas, they look so much like photographs or paintings that I can hardly believe they’re real, but as you can see by photo of Heidi below, we really were there!
Another thing that’s hard to believe is the whole living-statue thing. These are people who dress up and pretend to be statues in the hopes of getting some spare change (rather than play guitar on the street corners or simply begging for money). The one below was in the town of Brixen.
Day 6: Drive to Innsbruck
Next we headed out to Innsbruck, Austria. You can see the old Olympic as you drive into the city, though we didn’t actually go up to visit it. Innsbruck is another gorgeous city, and we found a place to stay that was right across the river from the old downtown (or Centrum). Guess what we saw there? Yup, more “living statues”.
Day 7 Innsbruck and drive to Berchtesgaden
And of course, we did other stuff too! Highlights in Innsbruck were the Grassmayr Glockenjesser Seit (a bell foundry that’s been in continuous operation since 1599) and the medieval castle Schloss Ambras.
I’d like to spend some more time in Innsbruck, it was the first city we left before I felt really ready to move on. We left kind of late, and didn’t get to our next destination (Berchtesgaden) until dusk. We did have a chance for a quick evening walk near the hotel, though – and were warmly greeted by a herd of sheep.