Sunday, July 24, 2011

Awe and Wonder in the Dolomites

I've been dreaming of spending an entire summer in the Dolomites, and maybe sometime I will. Although I can't imagine becoming complacent about the beauty of the place, I could already see in the 10 or 12 days that Regina and I were there that it's hard to hang on to that "Big Wow" energy. The feelings do change over time, and you can get used to even the spectacular vistas, in a way. I've always wondered about kids who grow up in magnificent (or tragic) surroundings. They wouldn't have anything to compare it to that makes them think that it shouldn't be just as it is. I always remember going on safari in Kenya, and seeing my first wild giraffe. Thrilling! And by the end of the long day, as my energy was lagging, I would barely turn around to see yet another giraffe. In one day, it can happen. One of my meditation teachers described the spiritual path as the movement from the gross to the subtle. I suspect there's a connection between what he was pointing to and the gathering complacency in the midst of such beauty.

Happily, we are all surrounded by beauty, and it is but our duty to recognize it. It may take the form of dramatic vistas, or tiny flowers, or a glimpse of the divine that you might see in the eyes of a child.

In the impossibly beautiful Dolomites, we met an older Swiss man who drove south from his spectacular mountains to marvel at these mountains of northern Italy. That's impressive - but not just the mountains. The feeling of awe, of wonder, of an expanding chest and open arms, of so-much-bigger-than-me... now that's impressive.

Too much love!

The Big Daddy's of the Dolomites are known as the "Drei Zinnen" or "Tres Cime" or "I forget the other one" or the "Three Peaks." Because they're so famous, there were walkers everywhere. For my money, I'm loving these rugged mountains that face the Three Peaks.
2011_07_19_IMG_0808.JPG (720×480)

I really needed a super wide angle lens, because I couldn't get everything I wanted in one shot.
2011_07_19_IMG_0801.JPG (720×480)

On the same day we took a bus ride up to see Drei Zinnen, two uber-fit Czech guys from our campground went on a 7-hour hike into these mountains and back on this same day. Our four-hour circumambulation of the mountains was plenty for us.
2011_07_19_IMG_0806.JPG (720×480)

I mostly chose this photo for the quality of the light. It was an incredibly bright and clear day, and the light is amazing. These are Japanese tourists, most of whom were struggling to get their photos taken in front of such massive mountains. I'm just saying'.
2011_07_19_IMG_0813.JPG (720×480)

These are the Drei Zinnen, from the backside of where we started. We're approaching a big "refugio" where we had a hot lunch.
2011_07_19_IMG_0822.JPG (720×480)

You don't have to be a cow to know how good this feels.
2011_07_19_IMG_0837.JPG (720×480)

Further around the mountains, this is looking back towards the refugio.
2011_07_19_IMG_0838.JPG (720×480)

It's a climber's paradise, apparently. I love how rugged the rock faces are.
2011_07_19_IMG_0841.JPG (720×480)

This might be my favorite photo. If you look carefully in the center left, you'll see the red refugio building where we had lunch.
2011_07_19_IMG_0849.JPG (720×480)

Coming back around to where the walk started.
2011_07_19_IMG_0853.JPG (720×480)

I decided to walk back to the campsite rather than take the bus down - an additional two hour walk. Lucky for me half the Italian army decided to do a training hike that day. I ended up walking with them most of the way down. I was hoping they'd draft me into their foreign legion or something - think of the stories! No such luck.
2011_07_19_IMG_0860.JPG (720×480)

It rained like crazy that night and the next morning, and this is fresh snow just above Lake Misurina. We camped just near the lake. We finally got out of our sleeping bags around 10 a.m. Freezing!
2011_07_20_IMG_0863.JPG (720×480)

This very life-like statue turned out to be a very statue-like real person, who must have balls of steels, if you'll forgive the expression. (It's an Italian phrase and perfectly fine in mixed company here. My other favorite Italian expression, said with a thick Italian accent: SUNNOVABEETCH!!) It was SO cold I was whimpering, which isn't that rare, but whatever. It was COLD. In World War I the Italians were fighting the Ottomans/Austrians (somebody help me out here.) When the Austrians lost, the Dolomites were given to Itality, after being part of Austria since 1368 or something. Interesting little WWI history story here.
2011_07_20_IMG_0868.JPG (720×480)

Something's changed: we dropped maybe 4,000 feet in elevation, and camped near the main town of Bolzano (in Italian) or Bozen (in German.) Pretty much every town has a name in both languages, and all signs will show them both. Many people speak both languages, too. In this town, German was the main language. A mountain pass or two later, and the main language was Italian.
2011_07_21_IMG_0871.JPG (720×480)

I've taken up oil painting, and this is my first work. Yes, it's for sale. No, I'm not serious. It's a photo of a pond.
2011_07_21_IMG_0879.JPG (720×480)

This restored castle was built in 1244. It has what may be the oldest grapevine in the world, at 350 years, if you believe their brochure. Maybe it's true.
2011_07_21_IMG_0887.JPG (720×480)

Why does Mary have seven swords piercing her heart? Because six wouldn't be enough. And eight? Come on, that would be ridiculous.
2011_07_21_IMG_0901.JPG (720×480)

This is just above the town where we stayed, and the entire valley (between Bolzano and Merano) is incredibly fertile. (Some of the young women looked like they might be, too, but I would never say it.) Almost every inch of plant-able space is covered by either apple trees or grape vines.
2011_07_21_IMG_0907.JPG (720×480)

We hiked from this town, Madonna di Campiglio. There are many tourist-oriented towns, and this photo gives an appropriate sense of the busy-ness of the place.
2011_07_22_IMG_0928.JPG (720×480)

My fifth failed attempt at a short hike. I was trying to catch the ski tram down, but I was very close to missing the shut-down time, so I ended up walking all the way down to the valley you can't quite see below. Ouch.
2011_07_22_IMG_0945.JPG (720×480)

Back in Madonna di Campiglio. You can see why people come here.
2011_07_22_IMG_0959.JPG (720×480)

I love the weaving around this fence. We ate at this restaurant, a beautiful big-recycled-timber place serving German food, and playing kind of loud rap and hip-hop music. I happen to like that music, but it was a mystery why they'd choose that music, other than that the young wait-staff would like it.
2011_07_22_IMG_0964.JPG (720×480)

Goodbye Dolomites. See you soon...
2011_07_22_IMG_0961.JPG (720×480)

(The End)