Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Category — Italy

Day 8 (Italy): Trento - Salo

today’s distance: 104km
total distance: 906km
riding time: 5h +

Left Trento via the gorgeous center and soon encountered Emil, who approached me in German. When I asked him why he started to talk to me in German, his reply was simple: “It’s mostly Germans that ride here with heavy packs” and so he had given it a shot. He’s an 83-year avid cyclist and former POW in W II. He was keen to tell me some stories , warning me of the countries ahead where he had fought. It made for interesting conversations to say the least.

Aided by the wind, I was soon turning to Lake Garda, up a short valley with a bit of climbing to do. The scenery was breathtaking and a feeling of truely being in Italy set in. Slight knee issues made for some slow going, but they will go away I’m sure. After visiting posh and upscale Riva di Garda, I turned south on the eastern side of the lake, having been warned that the western side had a lot of traffic in addition to many tunnels.

Figuring that having traffic only would be better, I made my way down the lake against strong headwinds for most of the afternoon and eventually got in touch with Guido who lives on the other side of the lake. I was able to take a ferry though and missing the first by about 5 minutes, I eventually grabbed a salami and cheese sandwich which was just about the right local specialty to have then and there.

The rest of day involved a bit of riding to find Guido’s house, practicing my meager Italian along the way and hanging out with Guido and Paolo who teaches Chinese and consults with companies doing business in China. He has lived in Shanghai for five years and gave me some good pointers.

April 1, 2008   No Comments

Day 7 (Italy): Lasa - Trento (room with a view)

today’s distance: 144 km
total distance: 752km
riding time: 6.5 h

Leaving Laas and heading to Meran was a joy. The headwind from the day before was gone and so I scooted down the valley. The area also brought some memories - albeit faint - back as I spent some summers here with my parents. For some pictures go here and here, I was small.

The whole valley was lined with apple orchards, progressively growing greener the further I went down the valley.

In Meran I had my first experience with a paranoid state. Every internet cafe is required to note the ID number of their patrons, the reason being terrorist threats. As if a terrorist would come in and submit their real ID, it was absurdity. The same was true for a computer store owner and the people in the cafe. Unfriendly as you can be …

I set up my couchsurfing stayfor the night with Giorgio a bit last minute and now was also going to arrive one day early. It didn’t seem to be a problem for him. The problem I had was an extremely strong headwind that made me stop cold a couple of times. Despite some good pedealling I would only be able to do about 12 km/h and had a long way to go to Trento. In the end it trned out to be 144 km. On the way I met an ornithologist who showed me some birds in the area (no pictures Prof. G, sorry, they weren’t sitting still ormy lense wasn’t powerful enough). The further I got down the valley, the more people were coming towards me, most of them with a relaxed smile on their faces. What was compounding the frustration were different distances given on signs, ranging at one point from 11 to 28. After a long day, that is a noticable difference - at least for me. It was a tiring and long day, but Giorgio - my host for the night - made more than up for it.

After dodging crazy Italian traffic getting into the center of town, I waited on the main square for him and ultimately went to his place - going uphill he just hammered it with me slowly trundling up behind. Giorgio is a great guy from Sicily who is now pursuing his Ph.D. in computer sciences with a great many interests. And sooooo friendly. Thank you for everything, the cooking included. Should you ever meet him and he tells you that his German isn’t good, ask him for some pastries his grandmother makes … and he will tell you that they are made with Muerbeteig. So much for not speaking German well. :)

The room I was staying in is great …. wonderful views over the castle qand the surrounding are included.

March 31, 2008   No Comments

Day 6 (Switzerland/Italy): Samedan - Laas (apples in stereo)

today’s distance: 97 km
total distance: 608 km
riding time: +/- 5h

climbing: about 1000m

Off to a late start due to the time change that night, I was not leaving until noon, heading further east. Waking up was a treat as Katja’s room offers stunning views of the Engadin. The weather was - as it had been the day before - glorious. Blue skies, combined with a ferocious wind from the west made for an insane average speed of almost 28km/h for the first hour.

Just as I was leaving the town of Zernez to start the climb to the Ofenpass, I met Peter who needed a screwdriver to fix his derailleur. After riding together for a few minutes he pulled ahead and I didn’t see him again. Only one pack for a two-day tour sure must feel great. After the first steep section, the ride flattens out, going downhill (grrrr - all that work for nothing) before climbing again for a while. It was here when the wind started coming down the mountains and hit me head on. Still, the surroundings sure made up for it and having been over the Julier the day before I was in no partiular hurry today.

Just before the last flattish section, I looked at my altimeter and saw 1989 and for the next few meters played around with historical events

1989 - Berlin Wall comes down

1990 - Noriega surrenders to US forces

1991 - drew a blank

1992 - Boutros Boutros-Ghali SG of the UN

1993 - UN SC resolution on ICTY

1994 - graduation from US high school

1995 - WTO comes into being

1996 - graduate from high school

1997 - another blank

1998 - heading to Canada

1999 - bike down the coast from Vancouver to Mexico

2000 - Y2K

2001 - 9/11

2002 - graduate law school

2003 - Bush claims “mission accomplished” - kind of preposterous (and not only in hindsight)

2004 - Bush wins second term

2005 - head to Stanford

2006 - J’lem

2007 - Brussels

2008 - climbing up a steep, steep hill

2009 - I’m no Nostradamus …

After arriving at the top, a couple on their way to Greece for an extended holiday stopped and took some pictures for me. Hearing where I was heading they were flabbergasted and are now happy subscribers to the blog (for all those not subscribed yet, you can enter your email address on the right hand side at the top).

The downhill was cold with headwinds throwing me around and slowing me down quite a bit, but it was still exhilerating and some nice top speeds in some sections. The border was easy enough to cross, the Italian border guard seemed a bit irritated that I would ask him for a stamp. But it’s in the passport now, too.

Overall, the downhill was about 1200 m (roughly 3600 ft). After following the river Etsch for a while, I decided to set up camp at a campsite which I passed in the town of Laas. What had been planned as a short day was 97 km in the end. But the best was yet to come. Food …

I looked around town for something to eat as I had not done much shopping. It being Sunday, there was only one place open - and what a great place it was. My question as to whether the owner would still have something available for a hungry biker, she served some of the best soup that I have ever had. It was nothing short of greatness. Now maybe it was even better because I was hungry, but it was great. It was some Minestrone-type soup with local ingredients. This was folllowed by spinach dumplings. This greatness was smothered in sage butter. All of this was topped off with parmesan and a salad. Then Maridel brought out the cake and some tea (on the house - nut cake, topped with warm apricot jam and cream). We had started talking during dinner and she is now a reader of the blog as well. The great thing was the conversation with Maridel, the owner. She likes to travel, meet new people and is a fantastic cook. We talked about the changes that the village has been undergoing over the last 20 years or so and how the predominance of apples in the area has changed things considerably. Farming has become industrialized with the attendent changes for the community.

March 30, 2008   No Comments