Monday, July 24, 2006

July 24th, 2006 - Zuoz, Switzerland to Innsbruck, Austria

I decided that while I was here in this town where I had planned to spend two nights, I should make an effort to hit some of the passes I'd been looking at doing. With that, I headed back the way I'd come 15 or 20 km and found the turn for the Bernina Pass.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Before I got too far, I pulled into a little ski town and quickly found a Swisscom wireless hotspot. I checked email although I'm not really sure why other than to use up some more of my 25 CHF 60 minute card before leaving Switzerland. I then found a payphone by the train station but had no luck dialing United's 800 number to look into changing my flight to leave from Berlin where I thought I might visit a friend’s brother. I finally broke down and used my cell phone only to find out that there was no availability. Thus, my plans seemed to have been decided for me. I would head to Munich on Tues, take a train to Berlin for Weds and Thurs, and return by train on Friday in time to catch my flight on Saturday.

Bernina Pass was pretty but didn't slow me down too much. Soon after was the turn off to Livigno, a for-some-reason tax-free northern corner of Italy surrounded almost completely by Switzerland. As usual, the Italian border guards seemed overly gooney but waved me (like the motorcycles in front of me) right through. The valley itself was a nice rolling green landscape although nothing too exceptional - well, except the 78 Euro cent per liter tax-free gas. And, heading east from Livigno put me right at the base of the famous Stelvio Pass.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Stelvio was another one of those roads up a valley that seemed to lead directly towards a rock wall. Only as the road wound closer did I start to see the sharp zig zags hanging on the face and the ant-like line of cars, motorhomes, and bikes marching across them. The view back out the valley and down the ribbons of switchbacks made me consider for a second heading back down for a second go at it.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

The top of Stelvio was bustling with shops and flags and bicycles (!), motorcycles and cars lining the streets of the mini pass-top village. I stopped for a sausage sandwich on a delicious roll from a cart manned by a colorful guy who either loved his job or was giddy from the altitude (or both). It was not until I strolled over to take in the view from next to the cart that I realized that the epic turns which had led me to the top of the pass were only half of the reason for Stelvio’s legendary status among motorcyclists. The road down the far side seemed to be steeped, tighter, and more precarious than the way up had been as it formed a ladder down the face then hung on the valley wall until it disappeared out of site. I stopped several times to steady my nerves plus take glory pictures that made me look fearless.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

Another highlight of the day was the Reschen Reservoir. Around 1939, an existing proposal to dam two existing lakes and raise their levels by 5 meters each was modified by the fascist government to increase the level to 22 meters. The result was the flooding of 6.77 square meters of thousand year old villages and farm land with no reparations to the people who were forced to flee. The only sign that anything had ever been where the water was now was the steeple of a church jutting 60 feet out of the center of the lake. A very surreal sight.

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

300k or so ridden today.

Innsbruck was a much larger town than I had been used to in the past several days and it took some time for me to figure out the traffic and lights. I followed signs to the centro and pulled the bike up onto the curb with the rest while I looked into some hotels. Definitely a little more touristy but with lots of cobblestoned and flowering windowboxed charm, I found an outdoor table and settled in for a half liter and some people-watching. Before long, the table for eight beside me filled up with American college students from somewhere in the south who proceeded to get louder and more obnoxious by the minute culminating with their request for eight separate checks each paid by credit card. I couldn’t resist breaking my typical solitary silence to tell the waiter “Not all Americans are like that” to which he responded in perfect English, “I hope not.”

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

From 2006-07-13 Germany, Austria and Switzerland on a motorcycle

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