Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 18 - Jaufen Pass


Back Again in Bavaria
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GAPP 2016 / Italy - Jaufen Pass

Approaching the Pass
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As we climbed ever higher, the valley below began to shrink in scale.  The road signs showing the upcoming road path looked more like warning signs for lightning bolts.  We were climbing the mountain like a zigzagging ladder of switchback turns.  With every hard turn in the opposite direction, Andy let out a big “Yee-Ha” cheer and our van scaled the mountain upward like a four wheeled mountain goat.  It was amazing to think how the road was ever constructed in the first place, a monument to man’s sheer determination to find the way through to the other side.


Leaving the Valley Below
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To add to the excitement of the twisting roadway, was the sight of the sheer drop off into an ever-shrinking abyss below.  Add in the fleet of motorcycle enthusiasts who saw the Juafen Pass as their own personal racecourse and playground.  Motorcycles appeared out of nowhere in both directions, often in pairs.  They would pass other vehicles of the four-wheel variety, just as they approached blind curves ahead, which concealed any and all oncoming traffic.  It was shocking when motorcycles would appear without warning from around tight blind turns right at you at high speed.  The other hazard on the road, which was on the complete opposite end of the vehicle spectrum, was a farm tractor.  Suddenly, as you turned the corner there was a tractor right in from of you, crawling on the road, most of which looked like they were made before World War II.  The tractors seemed like moving pylons to the motorcycle crowd, an additional challenge to master.


The Edge of the Road
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Eventually, we caught glimpses of the roadway to come above our current position, as we were about to go above the tree line of the mountain.  We were now on the exposed slopes of the mountain, driving along the clouds to one side and avalanche protection fences on the other.  Finally we came to the rocky summit, where there was a place to pull off to see the view.  There was even a small café located there, built up against the rock called the Edeweisshutte.  I wondered how crowded it was in the dead of winter during a blizzard?  There were many cars and even more motorcycles parked about.  I had never seen a real edelweiss flower and once again took the opportunity to search briefly for the elusive plant but came up empty handed.


The Green Italian Alps
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However, I did grab a piece of the mountain to add to my collection of rocks of my travels.  Each trip I have brought home a unique looking piece of physical evidence from the continent.  First trip resulted in a piece of green smooth eroded stone from the River Inn near Marktl.  Last trip I came home with a chunk of quartz from the top of the Waltzman Range above Eagles Nest near Berchtesgaden.  And now I had a piece of the summit of the Jaufen Pass to join the other two pieces in the jar on my classroom desktop.  After taking the time to scout around and take a group photo, we were back in the van, ready to begin our descent back down to civilization.  Andy had been glad to have a few minutes rest, as the drive to the top was fun but tiring at the same time.


Approaching the Summit
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On the downward slope, we followed a high end, beautiful white Audi sports car that ran into an unanticipated problem; a very slow rider on a motorcycle.  As we snaked down the mountain switchbacks, the Audi showed amazing patience… like it had any other choice.  And then there were the occasional tractors!  Fun!  The slower pace enabled me to get some great pictures, and the scenery was awesome!  We came to the bottom to find the same highway we had traveled down the previous day.  We headed toward Innsbruck, Austria and left the beauty and adventure of Italy behind us.  


Avalanche Fences Above Tree Line
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Unlike the dreary drive under cloudy and rainy skies on Saturday morning, the sun illuminated the beautiful mountains with rocky summits and green slopes.  Some of the mountaintops were covered in snow in complete defiance of the heat of the July sun.  The radio was playing mostly American pop and when the song Wonderwall by the band Oasis came on, the volume was turned up and all began to instinctively sing along with the girls in the back seat even providing the echo of the chorus.  It was a great moment and was reflective of the mood of the entire weekend experience.  It was a great weekend filled with adventure, history, exploration, photography, natural beauty, soccer, food, shopping, and best of all… great friends!


On Top of the World with Friends
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JAUFEN PASS / PART # 1 / CLIMB 

JAUFEN PASS / PART # 2 / DESCENT





Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 17 - Merano



Back Again in Bavaria
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GAPP 2016 / Merano

The Tyrol Valley
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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 River Passar
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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.

Walking the Streets of Merano
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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.

Saint Nicholas' Sanctuary
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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.

Interior Spaces of Merano
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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.

Hillside Vineyards of Merano
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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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Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 16 - Kaltern am See




Back Again in Bavaria
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GAPP 2016 / Kaltern am See

Hillside Vineyards
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The next morning I awoke early and got downstairs to find breakfast already being served in the dining area.  I found a small table in the corner and helped myself to the extensive choices available for the complimentary continental breakfast.  This was a great hotel in every aspect and I slept well in a comfortable bed with the benefit of air-conditioning.  However a day later, Andy would come down with a sore throat and swollen glands, most likely caused by the cool night air, to which he was not accustomed.  The food was great with plain regular coffee and cream available, which I sipped slowly until my fellow companions joined me.  We checked out of the hotel and hit the road north seeking to visit the warmest lake in the Italian Alps known as the Kaltern am See.

Lake Paddle Boats
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The road to our destination was even more beautiful than the day before, with the now sunny weather illuminating the mountain slopes.  The bright green hillside vineyards and accompanying apple tree groves shrouded in a canopy of black netting, were set in contrast to one another. I was taking pictures out the window as we sped along, hoping the photos would turn out.  We soon came upon the expansive lake, located in the lower recesses of the valley, and turned down to the resort-like complex located along the lake’s shore.  We walked down to the edge of the water and out onto the docks where many paddle-boats were tied up and available for rent.  The four seat craft would not accommodate all of us, so I volunteered to stay ashore, which would give me an opportunity to explore and get some good pictures of the surrounding vineyards.

Lake Side Outdoor Cafe
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It was here that I experienced a major heart-pounding scare.  The boat attendant was having trouble releasing the paddleboat from the dock and asked for my assistance in rocking the boat against the pier to enable him to release the latch.  There was only about a foot gap between the paddle-boat’s side and the dock, so I wasn’t concerned with falling into the lake.  However, just as I was rocking the boat, straddling myself between the boat and the dock with the lake gap between my legs, my camera strap came undone!  The school’s high end Sony camera fell down as the strap ran around the back of my neck.

Kaltern See Wine Country
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It took me a second to figure out just what was happening and then seemed to be taking place in slow motion.  I let out a scream as I saw the camera quickly fall into the shadows about my feet just as I went to reach for it.  By sheer luck, the camera body had landed on the edge of the dock with the lens hanging out over the edge.  I quickly grabbed it and counted my blessings as I gripped it tightly.  For the next few minutes, hours, and days, I replayed those ten seconds in my mind many times, picturing me explaining how I dropped their expensive camera into a lake to school administrators.  I was so lucky and took a few minutes to catch my breath and get my heartbeat back into proper rhythm.  In all the excitement, the boat was finally freed from the dock.

Charming Italian Vineyard
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As soon as my companions set sail, I seated myself under the colorful umbrellas of the lakeside café and enjoyed a Coca-Cola Light on ice as I watched my fiends paddle themselves out into the middle of the lake.  They looked hot, exposed under the bright sun of midmorning.  I however, was shrouded in cool comfort and took the time to carefully reattach my camera strap to the heavy camera body, checking it and rechecking it again and again, as I would many times during the remainder of our trip.  Once I was convinced it was properly secured around my neck, I was off to get some good shots of the neatly maintained parallel rows of grape vines.

Picturesque Italian Countryside
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The view was great and was even complimented with an old world stone farmhouse complex.  What more could you ask for as a photo subject?  I hustled all the way back up to the main road and took pictures from every available vantage point.  After getting every shot I could, I went off to see if my comrades in travel had returned to land.  There was no sign of them anywhere, so I began exploring the complex of interconnected buildings to see if I could locate them.  As I went I came across a classic Alpha Romeo spitfire convertible sports car taking several shots of the vehicle as it was a favorite of my father.  I explored several shops and found a site pin to add to my growing collection. Several surprise spots provided additional great shots of the lake and soon I heard Andy calling my name.  Reunited, we headed back to the car to seek out our next target on the map.  

Kaltern See Cafe Beach
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ITALY / KALTERN SEE WINE COUNTRY


Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 15 - Bolzano



Back Again in Bavaria
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GAPP 2016 / Italy - Bolzano

Plaza Center of Bolzano
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After dropping off our luggage, we agreed to regroup down in the lobby and then went outside, where it had just stopped raining.  We went out front of the hotel and as we came outside, realized our old world hotel with modern conveniences was located right on the edge of the historic town square.  An art deco styled restaurant and accompanying outdoor seating area ran the length of the hotel and slightly spilled out onto the square. We sat at one of the exterior tables overlooking the cobblestone square, enjoying a traditional white wine mixed with a sour orange citrus flavoring.  It was a traditional Bolzano drink, created by grapes from the surrounding vineyards we had passed along the road.  Everyone was drinking it, along with a bruschetta topped with various olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, and some sort of white, wet cheese, which Andy had ordered for me so I could experience the traditional fare.

Exploring Streets of Bolzano
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Ironically, Andy had ordered a toasted ham and cheese Panini on fresh baked Italian bread, which was more to my liking.  Not a fan of wet cheese or olives, I asked him if he wanted to split our selected snacks to experience the variety.  He agreed, most likely suspecting I was not keen on what was served to me.  I ate around the parts on my half I didn’t like and then passed off the remaining half, which had an abundance of wet cheese and olives as a topping.  The toasted cheese sandwich was delicious and really helped dissipate the strong olive taste in my mouth.  The orange-white wine was a little bitter, with a strong sour citrus taste.  As we enjoyed our food, wine, and the view of the plaza, the sun had returned and stayed the rest of the weekend.

Watching the Euro Cup
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The large square was surrounded by many other hotels and accompanying outdoor cafe seating areas.  Tonight was special because Italy and Germany were playing a soccer match in the 2016 Euro Cup.  The tournament was down to eight teams and the stakes were high.  One section of the plaza was being set up for a public viewing, where the game would be broadcast on a large screen enabling the entire town to watch the game together and cheer on their team.  I have heard of public viewings before but have never attended one in person.  Just by chance, I would see my first one in Italy where the country we were visiting was competing against Germany, our country of origin.  What were the odds? The game would not start until late evening, so there was lots of time to explore the old historic city.  My group of fellow companions were continuously saying this trip was all about me, a celebration to mark my upcoming 50th birthday, but I doubt it was really all that much of a sacrifice for them.  Italy is renowned for their fashion, style, and high quality goods.  My fellow teachers had come to shop and by the time we headed for home the next day, the car would be filled with packages containing shoes, clothing, and wine.  I was only interested in trying to find a souvenir pin to add to my growing collection.

Public Viewing / Plaza Screen
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As my friends went off in search of Italian made goods, I had the opportunity to go off on short spans of time to explore on my own and take some great pictures.  After taking time to explore and shop, we went in search of a good place to eat.  We asked a local merchant for some advice in this area and tried to find the bistro she suggested.  However, when we eventually did find it, there were no tables available.  So, we went off to try and find anywhere that had available seating, as the city was very crowded in anticipation of the public viewing scheduled to begin in two hours.  Surprisingly, we wound up finding a table just off the square near our hotel.  The pregame broadcast had already started and the crowd was beginning to gather, reserving their spot to get a good view of the screen.

The Evening Streets of Bolzano
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Despite the festive atmosphere, we were located just off one corner to the side and enjoyed a relaxing meal together.  I wanted to order pasta while in Italy and ate a rigatoni dish with a bologna red sauce, which really turned out to be little bits of bologna or wurst mixed into the sauce, which had a delicious but unique taste.  After dinner, most went on to the interior of the square to watch the start of the match but I took the opportunity to explore the town streets further.  It was a totally different city now, with most of the streets deserted and far more peaceful.  However, the game was still visible on flat screen monitors at every bar and restaurant with spectators spilling out into the streets.

Hidden Street Cafe
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It was the first time I was using the camera in low light conditions, capturing the soft glow of artificial light.  As I went further into the outskirts of Bolzano, the muffled roar of the crowd periodically broke the silence following the play of the game on the field.  I was walking the streets of a historic city in Italy.  Something, I would never have dreamed possible, and yet, here I was… I walked back around to the town square to see the public viewing and the festive atmosphere full of cheers and jeers depending on each person’s country of origin.  Andy estimated the crowd was 75% supportive of Italy, even though they cheered in the German language.  I was able to find Andy in the middle of the crowd and got a few zoomed photos of him, some of which showed an expression of concern.

Quiet Evening Streets
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It was a good game and as the first half concluded, I decided to go back to the room for a little private time to work on my pictures and journal.  I opened up the windows to let in the cool night air along with the rise and fall of sounds of the public viewing from just around the corner. One of my favorite memories from this weekend, was sitting within my hotel window, listening to the sounds of Bolzano and looking out over the old world street scene below.  I had the game on the television in our room with the sound off and followed the play with the help of the crowd’s roar from the square.  In the end, the game was a great match with the regular period ending in a tie.  After the overtime period still did not end the game, the outcome was decided by penalty kicks, quite a few in fact.  Finally the Italian player missed and Germany once again had an opportunity to end the game in their favor, and came through with a great kick just beyond the goalie’s reach.  Andy said the mostly disappointed crowd dissipated quickly, but he and friends went out for a celebratory toast!


Deserted Shopping District
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ITALY / BOLZANO EVENING WALK



Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 14 - Italian Alps


Back in Bavaria Again
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GAPP 2016 / Italy - Italian Alps

Castle in Italian Alps
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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.

Endless Vineyards and Orchards
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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.

Historic Castles Along the Roadside
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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.

Netting Protecting Young Apple Trees
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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.

Our Art Deco Style Hotel
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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.

Historic Streets of Bolzano
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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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