Monday, July 8, 2024

Familiars of the gods

I needed to run some errands in Munich last week, and took advantage of the train ride in to take a long walk from Marienplatz to Pasing, passing through the grounds of Schloss Nymphenburg en route. I was delighted to pass this statue of Mercury holding a caduceus with a worshipful chicken by his left foot. (I googled "Hippocrates chicken" before figuring out this was Mercury; I should have noticed the wings on his feet.)

Mercury is the herald of the gods, and roosters are the heralds of the morning.

A little further west in the sculpture garden stands a goddess taking a selfie, with a clingy bird-like creature at her feet. Is that what a sculptor comes up with, if they've never seen an eagle in real life? I googled "diana eagle nymphenburg," and eventually landed on Proserpina with the owl Ascalaphus. I guess I'm relieved that the bird is not supposed to be an eagle, but this is a pretty freaky owl. 

Ascalaphus tended the orchards of Hades, and was the tattle-tale who let the gods know Proserpina had eaten some pomegranate seeds during her captivity. In response, Proserpina's justifiably incensed mother Demeter buried him under a rock; after Hercules rescued him, Demeter turned Ascalaphus into an eagle-owl (Eurasia's species of horned owl, genus Bubo along with the American horned owl). 

Perhaps the sculpted owl is supposed to look human-ish, with furrowed brow and lip-like beak? I'm guessing the sphere in the owl's lion-like paw is a pomegranate. Odd bird.

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Alps crossed

Crossing the Alps this summer: Sterzing to Feltre, 156 miles, 37,400 ft ascent, 39,700 ft descent.

Crossing the Alps this summer plus last summer: Steinebach to Feltre, 329 miles, 64,200 ft ascent, 65,400 ft descent.

Next long hike this summer will be to fill in the rest of the gap between Lenggries and Brannenburg, which will complete the sectional trek across southern Germany from France to Austria.

Where should we hike after that?

Friday, July 5, 2024

Sterzing to Feltre Day 13 - Croce d'Aune to Feltre

Wednesday June 26, Croce d'Aune to Feltre

It poured and thundered and gusted all night long.

This was the view of Feltre from our window when we woke up:

The forecast for Feltre was thunderstorms with strong winds and probable hail. The weather advisory said "HAVE A PLAN." I adjusted our Komoot route to mark places where we could hunker down if necessary--a church here, a beer garden there. We figured if we walked quickly, we could make it down to Pedavena, about halfway to Feltre, before the storms started.

We followed the tail end of the Alta Via 2 della Dolomiti toward Feltre. Signs on the trail warned of work in progress.

Sure, use the Alta Via 2 for logging. What's another sprawling mud puddle to hikers who have dried and re-waterproofed their boots for the nth time over the past two weeks?

Some parts of the trail were a wreck, but other areas were in theory protected.

We emerged from the woods into a meadow. From there on, we walked either on gravel or paved roads the rest of the way to Feltre.

The flora in Pedavena indicated we were no longer in the mountains.

Pedavena is known for beer. One of our potential hunker-down spots was a beer garden next to a brewery. We checked the weather forecast, and the downpour that was supposed to begin at 11 had been pushed off until noon, so we kept walking.

A few raindrops fell as we approached the oldest part of Feltre, and that was it for rain the entire rest of the day. We didn't quite know if we should feel grateful or disappointed for the lack of weather drama.

Having hoofed it, we arrived earlier than expected. We couldn't check into our hotel until 1pm, so we found a corner cafe a few blocks away and ate paninis while we waited. Sitting next to us outside was the leisurely retired men's smoking and social hour. 

After lunch, we checked in and dropped off our backpacks in our room. Balcony view:

Feltre has been a municipality since 49 BCE. In 1509, the old town center on Capre hill was mostly destroyed in battles between the Venetians and the League of Cambrai (the anti-Venetians--assorted powers in France, Austria, and Spain). The old-town re-build was consequently in fashionable 16th-c. style.

Our first backpack-free order of business was to explore the walled old town.

The Dom was outside the walls, and also dates mostly from the 16th-c., since most of the penultimate church was flattened by Maximillian I's troops in 1510.

There were many steps to explore within the old-town walls. Note that cars that manage to squeeze onto these stairs will be towed.

There was a boat in the middle of Piazza Maggiore atop Capre hill, the least likely place in Feltre for there ever to be water to sail on.

We ended up outside the wall on the north side of the hill, and could see Croce d'Aune far off in the saddle above Pedavena.

From Capre hill, we turned to our second order of business for the afternoon: a hike to the Basilica Santi Vittore e Corona. Looking back en route, the views of Feltre from the south were more iconic than from the north.

As we headed into the fields outside of town, we passed multiple farm sheds with adjustable roof heights, practical for assorted equipment and hay-bale stacking needs:

The Basilica sits atop a hill about 3 km south of Feltre. It was consecrated in 1101 CE, and a cloister was added in 1495.

We followed the switchbacking foot path and many steps up the hill.

Trying to get my camera to convey the steepness, to no avail

We were concerned that shorts would be expressly prohibited inside the Basilica, but according to the signage, the only things not allowed were dogs.

The interior of the Romanesque sanctuary was thoroughly frescoed. The oldest frescoes date from the 12th c.

We took the zigzagging road back down and had views of the Alps to the north (center left), foothills to the south (right). The foothills still looked pretty big up close, but they were less imposing than the mountains we had just come from.

On the way back to Feltre, we passed the entrance to a former pilgrims' hospital, founded in 1286. The portal was added in 1499, and restored in 1995, which is presumably when the plaque went up. Now it appears to be apartments.

On our way back into Feltre, we briefly checked out the Dom.

We admired the hyperbolic declination lines on the sundial on this building on Capre hill. This seemed to be the sundial norm on this side of the Alps; we later saw similar examples in Trento and Verona.

Below is a photograph of two scoops of lime-ginger sorbetto from Gelateria Sommariva in Feltre. Probably for the rest of my life, this will be the sorbetto above all other sorbettos. This was actually my second cone of the day (first was lime-ginger and lemon, input that enabled the corrected second cone). Can't remember what S's first or second cones were, but the idea to go back after dinner was his. It was a very good idea.

Water-based lime-ginger, with bits of lime peel and candied ginger

Ta da! 16.3 miles, 1,200 ft elevation gain, much of it shown below.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Sterzing to Feltre Day 12 - Rifugio Vederna to Croce d'Aune

Tuesday June 25, Rifugio Vederna to Croce d'Aune

The forecast for Tuesday was for rain. Again. We preemptively planned an alternate route over Monte Pavione, in case the weather looked bad once we closer: instead of going to the top of the peak, we could climb most of the way up and then go around instead of over it.

Over the entire day, the water vapor was fascinating to watch: it rose and shifted and coalesced and dissipated.

Monte Pavione: now you see it... you don't.

We followed the trail upward behind Rifugio Vederna.

Pony had no interest in us

Once we reached the bottom (for us) of Monte Pavione, we basically followed switchbacks all the way up the mountainside.

iNaturalist says this plant is laburnum, a.k.a. golden chain or golden rain. It's toxic, and related to peas. We passed several laburnum trees on our way up.

By now, the clouds had enveloped us, and the air was drippy.

Der Wanderer in dem Nebelmeer

Occasionally the clouds cleared down below:

We zigged and zagged, and the trail got steeper and steeper, with steep drop-offs that I avoided looking down. We were glad the rain had stopped by the time we arrived at the steel steps and cables. Komoot hadn't warned us about them, but since we were climbing up (always easier for this acrophobe than climbing down), they were fine. 

After more climbing, we finally reached the crest...

...and the clouds briefly cleared for a Wanderer ueber dem Nebelmeer shot:

Passo Pavione. The choice was now whether to continue upward to the peak, or to go around it. 

As soon as we saw the clouds rolling in on the other side of the pass, we decided to skip the peak and stay low. This meant hiking down to the meadow below us, and then walking around the double-cirque beneath the peak (not yet visible in the photo below).

The wildflowers were thriving in the meadows. The pink-purple ones below are water avens, and until later Tuesday afternoon, this is how I'd always seen them look:

In the middle of the completely socked-in meadow were a 1902 building and stable of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato--the State Forestry Corps, founded in 1822 as a police force to protect Italy's agro-forestry interests. The trail signage next to the building appeared to have been adjusted by either snow or people, and the signs were pointing in the wrong directions. 

The main forestry corps building...

...was clearly designed with defense in mind:

No donkeys in the stables...

The shifting mists were dramatic, but we wondered what panoramas we were missing. 

The trail took us out of the meadow and began to follow the curve of the mountainside. While the terrain appeared to be relatively even, our Komoot map warned us of a sudden dip, and since we couldn't see anything downhill below the trail, we proceeded with caution.

The mysterious dip

The trail never dipped. S speculated that the route was recorded by a mountain biker who wiped out below the trail, then carried their bike back up to the trail.

Soggy and ready for a break, we decided to pause mid-trail to eat a snack.

The clouds below the trail began to clear while we snacked...

...and suddenly the sun appeared. The lighting was similar to the partial light just before and after a solar eclipse reaches totality: clearly daylight, yet oddly dim.

As the trail began to curve around the double cirque, we encountered bright blue skies.

We had seen a lot of wildflower-filled meadows on this trip, but nothing matched the abundance of globeflowers in the cirque. The photos don't do the spread justice.

Can you spot S's green backpack cover?

We decided to stop at Rifugio dal Piaz, which was on our originally planned route but required a bit of a detour from the new route.

The Rifugio is at the top of a popular descent for mountain bikers, so signs laid out detailed rules (mainly be careful, and don't squash the pedestrians). 

We sat outside at the refuge and enjoyed some welcome lentil-barley soup laced with sherry as the clouds moved in...

...and out.

Although our planned route had us cutting across some of the switchbacks in the road, we ended up just following the road all the way down the mountain to the saddle where our hotel for the night was situated. This was easier on our knees, and given the ridiculous steepness of some of the cut-throughs, a smart choice for the acrophobe. 

Switchbacks. This was another WWI Italian military road and it had a zillion switchbacks...

...but goodness, check out the impressive grade! 

The red star marker is Rifugio dal Piaz

As the clouds dissipated, we figured the extra miles we were adding by following the road wouldn't be a problem.

More switchbacks...

Gradually we descended low enough to enter the woods. If you google "Rifugio dal Piaz wood sculpture underpants," you don't get any images of the expressive larger-than-life tour de force shown below, yet here it is. Notice the rodent of unusual size perched on its shoulder.

We passed a real treat of a flower (for me, at least): a water avens open beyond the hair-ball phase.  

After a long stretch of sunlight, accompanied by much hubris about walking extra miles without getting poured on, we got a good view of the hill above Croce d'Aune and a good listen to the accompanying thunder. We were still only about halfway down to the saddle. We checked radar maps, hunkered down for about 15 minutes, and the storm skipped us entirely.

There aren't many photos of the rest of the trip down, because shortly after S retied his shoelaces (below), the thunder started up again and we skedaddled down the road. We passed a stretch of road that had been washed out by a landslide and was being repaired by a group of workers using heavy equipment; they seemed completely nonchalant about the ominous weather. A few switchbacks below that, we heard a crunching sound, S yelled "rock! rock!" (although it might have been a tree), and we scooched as close to the mountain side as we could. We didn't get hit by any falling rocks or trees, but we did finally get caught in a loud, heavy, hail-spattering thunderstorm. We were grateful for the woods, which offered some protection, and grateful that the hailstones were small enough not to rip holes in our umbrellas or heads.

I had intentionally practiced walking in deluges a few times over the past year, to learn not to be annoyed by getting drenched, so I was happy to finally get to put those drenchings to good use. Once the storm passed, Mr. "OK with just putting on the rain gear and getting wet" was very wet, but not particularly OK with it. As an acrophobe, I should be the last person to tease him about this, especially after his patience with me at the Waterfall Crossings of Doom a few days prior, but it was hard not to laugh. We were soaked, yet undamaged, and a warm shower and dinner surely awaited us in Croce d'Aune below.

This photo--we don't even look all that wet!--

reminds me a little of the photo I took post-gondola lift atop Seceda. Compare and contrast.

The switchbacking road continued at the same easy grade all the way down into Croce d'Aune. We checked into the Albergo, took off our soaking boots and clothes, and took hot showers.

The view from our room was of Feltre--our destination for the next day, and the end of our hike across the Alps. The foothills beyond Feltre looked more mountain-y than foothill-y to me, but the interwebs insist that Feltre is in the foothills of the Dolomites, so we're going with that. S also notes that the Alta Via 2 delle Dolomiti ends in Feltre.

Before dinner, we thought we'd go for a short walk, but the weather made us turn around after a block. Here's a view of the hotel across the street from ours. It's for sale!

At dinner, we successfully avoided polenta with cheese puddle. Shown here is possibly one of the few good things one can do with stinging nettles: cook them into risotto.

Ta da! 13.5 miles, 2,830 ft elevation gain, 3,860 ft descent. Almost done!