We’re on a Roll!
Shortly after we had finished our two week trip to Greece, came our opportunity to travel to Südtirol Italy. Jerry’s father, who had been vacationing there, invited us to spend time with him. Naturally I was enthused to be able to travel once more!
8 Hour Bike Ride? Let’s Do It!
Summer 2016 was hot and Switzerland had been experiencing great weather for consecutive days (the Swiss weather is quite unpredictable). Since the weather had been proving to be good, Jerry decided that rather than making the journey by car, we would do it, instead, by motorbike. By now I was quite accustomed to riding with him (we had made a bike trip to Schwägalp), however, never had we made a trip this long! The distance from St. Gallen to South Tyrol was a whopping total of 8 hours. A trip this lengthy in a car was tedious enough, how would it be on a bike? I was up for the adventure!
That week, before the date of our trip, we traveled to Konstanz, Germany in order to buy me the appropriate protective gear to make our long journey. I was all set and ready to go with my new suit, helmet, gloves and boots.
Hitting the Road
Finally the day arrived. The plan was to ride to a half way point between St. Gallen and South Tyrol, spend the night in a hotel then on the following day, continue the next half of the journey. Now, as you could already imagine, a motorbike has hardly any space to pack large/multiple bags for travel so this was quite the new challenge for me. We had to figure out how we would transport both our stuff without the convenience of having a car boot.
After packing our clothes and necessary travel items into a single rucksack (that I would carry on my back) and a small pouch that could hold a suction grip to the bike, we set off in the late afternoon. It took a bit of time to warm up to being on the back the bike again but once we hit the highway it was smooth sailing.
Electric Foot Steps
There were random things I noticed while riding on the back of the bike, like, what people were doing in their cars or how many bugs splattered across my helmet’s visor as we sped along. However, what I noticed the most, speeding along the straight highway, was how steady I had to to keep my head against the wind (we were traveling at this point over 130 kmh). To turn my head was a concentrated effort as the sheer force of the wind could whip my head to the side. This was the most intense part of our journey as this where we rode the fastest.
What an odd sensation!
After driving on the highway for a little over an hour, we turned off to take a more winding route. Along the way we made a stop at a gas station to make a small break. As I got off the bike I felt a strange sensation in my feet. It was as if they were electrically charged and with each step I took I transferred electricity to the ground. Electric steps! I realized this was because of the constant vibration on my feet from the engine. What an odd sensation!
Overnighting in St. Moritz
We continued our ride well into the night through the winding road of Caesar’s Pass (a path Julius Caesar had used on his way through the Alps). After four hours of driving we arrived at 9 pm at our first scheduled destination. On the first evening we settled on staying in a hotel called Randolins in St. Moritz. It was my first time staying in the heart of St. Moritz. We had made stays in nearby towns of Graubünden and had even visited the town but never had we actually stayed in the heart of the town. St. Moritz is quite popular for its holiday resorts and winter sports. Unfortunately, we had arrived too late to enjoy the beautiful town. We, instead, enjoyed a cold dinner (sliced dry meat with bread and pickled garnishes) and watched a movie on television before getting some rest for our next leg of the journey.
South Tyrol Here We Come!
We woke up early the next day and went to have breakfast in the hotel’s dining room. There was a magnificent view of the Alps from the almost wall length windows! The sun was bright in the sky and the grass was green on the mountains. It was the type of view that could have you mesmerized and standing in the same spot for more than a day! Just absolutely breathtaking. However, if I had thought that would have been the only wonderful sight I would have seen that day, I would have been wrong!
After breakfast we made ourselves ready to head back on the road. Suits in check, helmets, gloves, boots and of course, camera! We made our way leisurely through the town and decided on a a stop by the Lake Silvaplana. Have you ever seen in a fairy-tale book the paintings of the beautiful mountains and lake? Well, this scene was exactly that painting. The mountains rose high and the lake ran deep and blue. It was absolutely picturesque and for a photographer like myself it was a dream.
Our ride continued through the Swiss National Park which was a vast expanse of the Alps, valleys and open green fields. There were simply too many beautiful natural scenery to take in, all of which would not have felt the same while driving within the confines of a vehicle.
St. Gallen vs. Südtirol
After crossing the border between Switzerland and Italy I kept my eyes open to see what differences I could identify. I was not able to detect any real differences to be honest. I mean, a border really is just an imaginary line that countries create to differentiate possession right? Often cultures blend when you arrive in close proximity to borders since there are no distinct lines drawn on how people live and share life. As such the architecture seemed the same and the weather was similar. However, as we rode along the countryside I observed sweeping large grape vineyards. Italians are famous for their wine so I wasn’t surprised that this was a common means of living in the region.
What to Know About South Tyrol
Jerry and I finally arrived at the hotel where his father had been staying,Vinschgerhof.
We had only a few hours to rest and recuperate before we had to head to dinner with Jerry’s father, who had reserved a table. It was nice to have time to share with the family. We spent our dinner time chatting and recounting stories (we had many to talk about because of our recent Greek travels).
I also learned some more about South Tyrol through the stories told at the dinner table that night. South Tyrol, although technically a part of Italy, actually is an autonomous province. South Tyrol is allowed a considerable level of self-government, separate from the rest of Italy, although they do still contribute to the country’s national budget. The area is also apparently one of the wealthiest regions in Italy (which explains why I heard they are frustrated with supporting “the lazy south Italians”).
..the people of South Tyrol actually didn’t speak Italian as their predominant language..
I thought to myself that, not only was the region similar to Switzerland in terms of architecture and landscape, but also in work ethic. Jerry and I have a theory that the warmer the country/area, the more laid-back the people become while it is the opposite for those in a colder region. In this case our theory seemed to make sense while the south Italians seemed to be more easy-going while the Italians from South Tyrol that actually lays in north Italy (where it is colder) are more structured. I also discovered the people of South Tyrol actually didn’t speak Italian as their predominant language like I had thought, but rather the majority of the population speaks German. That would explain why whenever I saw a street sign there would be both German and Italian!
Festivities in the Town
That evening we went out into town where they were having a street festival of sorts. There were tents set up where vendors sold different items, from clothes to hand-made crafts. Live music was also floating in the air from the different bands of musicians who were also on the streets. Kids were running around and enjoying themselves while their parents enjoyed a drink from a pop up bar. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable way to close the night.
The Drowned Village
The next morning we woke and met for breakfast.We would all soon be leaving in the afternoon so we spent the morning as we did the evening before, talking and spending time together. After our morning chat, Jerry and I prepared to leave. It was time again time to suit up! We said our goodbyes and soon were again back on our way, driving through the wonderful scenery. Our plan was similar to what we had done on our way to South Tyrol. We would drive half the journey, rest overnight in Randolins and then make the remainder of the journey the day after that. However, unlike the previous time through the Swiss National Park, we drove through the Reschen Pass. The scenery as we drove through the pass was beautiful, but by far the most beautiful was the Reschensee (Lake Reschen).
Reschensee is a lake that lies on the border of Italy and Austria and is also quite close to Italy’s border with Switzerland. The lake, while beautiful, also has an interesting history. The original lake existed in close proximity to another lake, Mittersee. In 1920 an electricity firm proposed a plan to create a hydroelectricity plant in the area. The idea was to unify both lakes to create one large lake. However, in combining both lakes it would mean completely wiping out a local village named Graun as well as a part of the town of Reschen. The plan experienced some challenges but was eventually completed in 1950. The residents of these villages were forced to relocate as their homes and entire village was drowned in the rising waters of the new Lake Reschen.
When we arrived there were people engaging in various leisure activities. Some were sailing, others wind surfing while some were lounging around enjoying the warm summer sun. Certainly the highlight of this area was the old church steeple, a remnant from the old village, that rose from the water. We enjoyed sitting by the lake, taking in the sunshine while eating ice cream from a kiosk nearby.
Crossing Borders with Ease
A few hours passed before we continued our journey back to St. Moritz. On our way we crossed the border to Austria into a region called Tyrol. Tyrol is divided into three regions, north, east and south. North and east are together a part of Austria while the south is a part of Italy. It is always so interesting to think about how country borders were created. Unlike Jamaica that is completely surrounded by water and has no real mainland neighbors, European countries are linked by land, only disrupted by an idea of an imaginary border. The ease with which Jerry and I crossed borders it was almost impossible to know which country I was in at any given moment.
We finally arrived at Randolins that evening as the sun finished setting. My body was tense after spending more than 8 hours in total on the back of Jerry’s bike. It was certainly a relief to be able to use the hotel’s spa to help in relaxation. It was my first real experience in a spa because I had always had the reservation of being stark naked around strangers. Fortunately for me, all other hotel guests seemed to have had enough of the spa and were already at dinner or in their rooms. We enjoyed a private use of the sauna and pools that were on the inside. On the outside was a special jacuzzi that really had the most wonderful view of the Alps. I could have sat there all evening in the warm water of the jacuzzi with a breathtaking like that.
After checking out of Randolins that morning we finally were on the last leg of our motorbike journey. By this time I was anticipating finally reaching home to St. Gallen. Traveling on the back of a bike, though exciting, was finally taking its toll on me. Unfortunately for us, the weather on this day proved to be grim. For a great part of the beginning of our ride home it rained (thank heavens for a waterproof bike suit!). The rain eventually let up as we got closer to St. Gallen which was a great relief to me. The weather, we realized after arriving in St. Gallen, was quite the opposite of what we had been experiencing in Graubünden. It was warm and sunny, quite the perfect ending to our first multi-day motorbike trip, wouldn’t you say?