If you don’t know anything about the Dolomites here are some general knowledge: The Dolomites situated between the Veneto and Trentino-(in Italian called Alto Adige), the fan of so-called “Pale Mountains” take on red tints at sunset that suddenly vanish when the sun appears. Their harsh, rocky contours embrace crystalline lakes and mysteries which have become the very stuff of numerous poetic legends.
The Dolomites are made of a white calcareous rock, Dolomite, which takes its name from the French geologist Déodat de Dolomieu who studied ist composition in the 18 C. Some 150 million years ago this land was submerged by the Thethys sea. On its sandy depths coral reefs and limestone began to shape the Pale Mountains.
About 70 million years ago, during the Alpine orogenis the layers were violently compressed and forced to the surface. thus the dolomites were born out of the sea. today visitors can still see fossils of marine life when glaciers softened and hollowed out the valleys. only flora and fauna were missing at this stage. these began to inhabit the dolomites when the glaciers retreated.
Strada del Dolomiti or our voyage from Münich-via Merano to Cortina
On 25th of May we left Munich and we didn’t stop not even until in Meran. However we could move forward pretty slow because of the four days holiday and probably many Germans decided to go to the Alps due to the excellent weather, so our trip lasted for four hours. When finally we arrived in Meran around 2 pm, first we took our accommodation in the Hotel der Linde then we went to down town. Walking in the main street we noticed immediately that Meran was a city of spas. Later I’d read that with its mild climate and thermal waters, Meran attracts people seeking relief from blood disorders, metabolic disorders and respiratory problems, rheumatism etc. But other attractions include the Gran Premio Ippico, the most famous steeplechase race in Italy, which Meran hosts. There were numerous cable cars and chairlifts up to Merano 2000. The latter was a good winter sports centre but also popular in summer for excursion into the mountains. The half day was already past so we could only visit the Castello Principesco, which was built in the 14 C. It was used by the Princes of Tyrol as their residence when he stayed in the town. The day was over (okay we went to a restaurant and dined well) but the next day, -with a very meticulous local map in our hand- we set out to visit the most famous mountain peaks, which were: the Marmolada, Val Gardena and Cortina d’Ampezzo.
The main touring route in the Dolomites is the great Dolomite road, which is a wonderful and world-famous example of road-engineering. The road was already used during the Renaissance by merchants travelling between Venice and Germany and it was also used during the first world war.
First we went to see Marmolada. This is the highest massiv in the Dolomites, famous for its glacier and very fast ski-runs. The cable car from Malga Ciapela goes up to 3265 m/10712 ft offering admirable panoramas of the Cortina peaks (Tofana and Cristallo) the Sasso Lungo, the enormous tabular mass of the Sella Massif and in the background the summits of the Austrian Alps including Grossglockner. The second peak was to conquer the Val Gardena which is one of the most famous valleys in the Dolomites both for its beauty and crowds of tourists. (But we had good luck because at the end of May was the off-season)! What was really special for me that the inhabitants still speak a language which was born during the Roman occupation the Ladin dialect, which nowadays can only be heard in some valleys of the Dolomites, the Grigioni mountains and the Carniche Alps. There are some skillful wood-workers as can be seen in some fine shops that are to be found in Selva (in German Wolkenstein) Santa Cristina and Ortisei (St Ulrich).
Finally we finished our panorama tour in Cortina d’Ampezzo. This city is the capital of the Dolomites, and it is a winter sport and summer resort with worldwide reputation. Set in the heart of the Dolomites at the altitude of 1210m/400ft Cortina made a good excursion centre for discovering the magnificent mountain scenery. We had a nice lunch over there, I will write about it in the next blog!