Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Hiking in the Dolomites near Bolzano, Italy

We are in Bolzano (Bozen in the German version of the city name) to hike in the Dolomites, the Tyrolean Alps.  Bolzano has three cable cars that head up into the mountains from the city and we decide to start with the Ritten Seilbahn (Funivia del Renon) heading up to Rittner Horn (Corno del Renon), 2260 meters (7415 feet, 1.4 miles) high.

Map of Ritter Horn

Bolzano was once part of Austria and the primary language we hear is German, followed by Italian, then some English.  Everyone seems to generally speak German and many conversations combine the two languages.  In a store, we heard the staff talking in German, but saying sizes to each other in Italian.  I'll use the German names and put the Italian in parenthesis.

We start in Bolzano at 262 meters (860 feet) and take the cable car up to the small town of Oberbozen (Soprabolzano) at 1220 meters (4000 feet). 

 Entrance to the Ritten Seilbahn cable car station

View from the gondola on the way up

At Oberbozen, we catch the Ritter Bahn (Treno del Renon) train across to Klobenstein (Collalbo), a little lower at 1160 meters (3800 feet).  The train winds through the beautiful countryside and we start to appreciate the views from the mountain.  The map suggests that the hike from Klobenstein to the summit should take about 4 hours and then a little less than 4 hours back.

 Ritter Bahn train in station

Old Ritter Bahn train car

In Kolbenstein, we find the trail just outside the train station and start our climb through town.  Soon we are walking through alternating forests and Alpine meadows, sharing the path with cows and goats. 

 Crossing an Alpine meadow

And, as we round each corner, there is often a new discovery, this time a scarecrow in someone's field.

Scarecrow guarding the field

As we approach one field, we hear sound of bells tinkling ahead.  A little later, we see the cows and realize we are hearing cowbells.  What a beautiful sound. 

 Sharing the path with the cows, with bells

Even later, after the fog descends on us, we realize that this how one can find the cows in the fog – follow the sound of the bells.  But, watch out for other signs of cows on the path.

Watch where you walk on the shared path!

After we walk for about and hour and a half, up 378 meters (1240 feet), we spot an operating ski lift as we ponder the possible 6.5 hours left.  We buy a one-way ticket on the ski lift and ride up 538 meters (1742 feet), significantly decreasing the up portion for the day. 

 Taking the ski lift further up

 From the ski lift it is only about 1 hour and 191 meters (625 feet) to the summit.  As we climb higher, the cold, wind, and fog grow stronger.  At the summit, we are completely in the fog, with a cold, moist wind.  We don’t stay long.  It’s not surprising to hear the next day that it’s snowing up there.  In September.

At the summit

All the ways down from the top

On the way down, we stop at the first Gasthof and to warm up and have some lunch with a glass of wine.  As we enter, we see everyone we encountered coming down as we went up.  They all stopped in for lunch and warmth.  The menu was in German and the proprietor spoke no English, but we spotted speck on the menu and ordered it.  The proprietor made a circle with her fingers and we later realize she was telling us that the speck was in a round bread dumpling.  It's delicious!

Stopping for lunch at the first Gasthof

After lunch, we continue down the mountain, hiking under the ski lift, past more cows to the base of the ski lift, then back through the forest and meadows to Kolbenstein, which takes us about 2 hours.  As we pass by the ski lift building, we note to our amusement that they seem to have a problem keeping all their equipment.  I bet there's a story here!

 Sign at entrance to ski lift restrooms

Our only fear is that as the fog thickens, we will lose sight of the trail markers and have trouble finding our way.  But, soon we have descended far enough that the fog starts to thin out and eventually the views return.

We can see again

We just miss the train at Kolbenstein, so we relax with a glass of wine at the station cafe.

 Relaxing with a glass of wine at the station cafe

1 Euro ($1.13) for a glass of wine, not bad.  Then, after another glass each, we hop on the train back to Oberbozen and catch the next cable car gondola back to town.  It starts to rain just as we get in the gondola, making for a great view of town through the rain as we descend.  

 Descending into Bolzano in the rain

What a great day!

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