Tripsite Traveler: Barbara Wahlbrink
DOLOMITES TO VENICE – A Whale of a Bike and A Charm All Its Own!
Day 1 - Bolzano: First Glimpse
Ready to begin our first cycling adventure in Europe! Meeting my husband in Milano after his climbing escapades in the French Alps. So long L’Alpe d’Huez - hello Dolomiti!! First glimpse of the Dolomites from the train was amazing! Doors open and the air is crisper, verdant forests rise around us – welcome to Tyrol!
Day 2 – Brunico to Dobbiaco: Alpine Charm
Up early, gathering our gear and discovering the charm of a European breakfast including exotic meats, savory cheeses, and lots of pastries! Piling into the van with bikes in back … seeing our tandem rental for the first time – bigger, sturdier than the one we have at home. This will be quite a contrast from the ultra-light machine my husband used to climb and descend those classic “tour de France” peaks last week. He affectionately nicknames it “the whale.” Hmm. Gorgeous scenery through the northern Italian countryside as we chatted with others who would be following our same itinerary. In the days ahead, they would become compatriots and friends. Got our “whale” in gear and off we rode on a lush path following the rushing waters of the Rienz – our first glimpse of the aqua blue that characterizes the glacial waters of this region.
Awesome! As we followed the day’s route we began to appreciate the 3D beauty of this kind of experience, something that even the most hi-res photo or film can’t capture. Café stop at Hotel “Hell” was more like heaven! Seeing the first of many duomos with clock towers, meticulously set to the correct time - a pattern that seemed to repeat day by day. Noticing the Germanic flavor and dual names for every town in this region, reflecting the Austrian/Italian conflicts of years past. Almost like we’re in Bavaria for the start of our journey. The hills are alive! Traditional Tyrolean meal and view of Rosengarten at sunset capped off a wonderful first day!
Day 3 – Dobbiaco to Cortina: Not Your Average Climbing Wall
Chilly, breezy start… or so we thought! Riding toward Cortina brought craggy peaks and sheer mountain faces into full view. Ringing cowbells greeted us along the way, and some blocked of their owners blocked our path. No worries, they were friendly! A steady ascent led us to prime mountain climbing territory – not your average rock wall! Yikes. The Three Peaks of Lavaredo stood behind us as we began an even chillier descent, on a rocky path through dry riverbeds and across a windy stretch where the sheer mountainside rose above and dropped below our path. Wow. The charm of Cortina came into view as our “whale” carried us into town. Time for a “pizzeria” stop and off to bed in another cozy hotel.
Day 4 – Cortina to Collalzo: WET WET WET … but Still Charming!
Opening the window was my first mistake upon awaking in Cortina. Steady rain and 45 degrees out there. What kind of nuts cycle on a day like this? Apparently, our kind. Conferring with our compatriots, we decided to brave the weather and hope for the best. Donning layers (and stretching shower caps over our helmets) we set off. Wispy clouds draped across the mountains like cotton candy. The villages, dotting the mountain one after another, each with a clock tower set to the perfect time - charming. And the path called the “long road of the Dolomites” was green, lush, and gorgeous. All perfect …except for the cold rain. O well … we slogged on, and after a café stop and a couple of wrong turns, we made it to Callalzo within a few hours. Our whale carried us through the water; how appropriate! A black and yellow salamander crossed our path – hey! A day we won’t forget!!
Day 5 – Belluno to Valdobiaddene: Are Those Switchbacks??
Rain, rain, go away … oh no you didn’t! At least the rain wasn’t so steady, and forecast was calling for a change. That and the beautiful landscape gave us hope as we departed the charming city of Belluno and climbed, climbed, climbed out of that valley. More cotton candy clouds and aqua blue water were the dominating sights as we made our way toward the land of prosecco. The map looked strangely curvy; then we figured out why. A steep climb full of switchbacks lay before us. Are we there yet nope … another one, another one, another one … finally our whale made it to the top. Whew!! A beautiful view was our reward. A quick stop for hearty spaghetti ragu and hot chocolate (really?) gave us energy to continue. The sun appeared as we finished our final climb and entered the square at Valdobiaddene. A prosecco toast and a lovely “typical” Italian meal at a nearby bistro made for another special day. Can you say “seppia” – and do you know what it is? It’s yummy!
Day 6 – Valdobiaddene to Treviso: The Flats Saved Us
Out came the sun. Yay! The technicolor of the Italian countryside was back! This day saw us traversing vineyard paths and following wagons laden with just-harvested grapes as we made our way along the Piave River to the walled city of Treviso. More of the aqua blue water. Our climb into Asolo was rewarded with a walk through a pre-Roman fortress that was the home of the queen-prisoner Caterina Cornaro. NOT your typical prison. The views and charm were indescribable. Soon we were ready for the steep descent from this picturesque spot, but our “whale” wasn’t – his brakes had been sullied by all that rain from the days prior and proceeded to give way just as the descent was in full swing. YIKES!! Thank God for an uphill driveway that allowed us to stop – otherwise I may not be in condition to write this! We regrouped and discovered the slow charm of the descent as we walked the whale the rest of the way down, and proceeded cautiously through the mostly flat path from there to Treviso. A bike mechanic awaited. Yay! Treviso brought a beautiful sunset and another typical Italian meal that was anything but! It was fabulous. They say you can’t get a bad meal in Italy, and our anecdotal evidence supports that 100%!
Day 7 – Treviso to Mestre: A River Runs Through It
Our last day on the “whale” was sunny and bright. We meandered along the Sile River past the eerie boat “cimitiere” and followed the “torrent” for many kilometres of natural and ancient man-made aqueducts … and more, more, more aqua blue water. As always, our “whale” brought stares, smiles, waves. Apparently he’s an unusual beast in
these parts. We toasted the end of our journey at an outdoor café in Mestre’s square, and began to dream of Venice. All in all, cycling through the countryside was a holiday like no other. It gave us the chance to see, feel, breathe the beauty and culture of this magical place. Every day was different, each one had a charm, beauty and memory all its own.
Thankful for the chance to do it, and can’t wait to do it again!
Blogger – Barbara Wahlbrink
With the threat of bike widow-hood looming after their empty nest set in, Barbara decided to hop on and join her husband Jeff for some cycling adventures they could share. So far, so good!