OK, I’ve found where the picture problem is…yep, hotel WiFi strikes again!
It’s a bit of a source of annoyance to me really, I book into places that advertise WiFi and frequently I get let down by intermittent service, poor connectivity, slow speeds and other annoying issues. Normally it’s the places that like to think themselves as a bit more “up-market” that are the worse culprits…like where I’m staying at the moment! In contrast most smaller Bed and Breakfast/Chambre d’hôtes places score better, so here’s to the little people who make the world go round!
Right, rant over: what’ve you been up to Dookes?
I resolved to get out of the hotel, whatever the weather, by 13:00hrs and as it was still raining I put on my motorcycle leathers….well, they are waterproof, then took a stroll down to the local Rittner Bahn station, all of 150metres from the hotel. I’m going to do a separate post on this delightful, yet incredibly useful, little railway in future.
I’ve got to confess, the reason I chose this hotel wasn’t really the WiFi, it was the location and the fact that it had a narrow gauge railway at the bottom of the garden!
Better still, it’s the halfway point of the route and being single track, it’s where the loop is to allow two trains to pass; old Dookes knows his railways!
The two carriage train arrived vaguely on time and after climbing on board I enjoyed an entertaining ride to the Western end of the line at Soprabolzano, about fifteen minutes later. From there I transferred to a cable car for a twelve minute ride down to the City of Bolzano, which was somewhere in the mist below…
There’s something about Bolzano that I like.
It’s a bloody awful place in many ways, jammed into a narrow valley with industry, commercial, residential, retail and transport all fighting for space. It’s always steaming hot and often seems to have its own special smog, but I love it! The place is so….Bolzano, a melange of the Tirol, Italian and Dolomite culture, with these days a fair slice of the rest of the world thrown in on top!
I stepped off the cable car and took in the whole grubby panorama, definitely the base station is not in the most salubrious part of town, it that honest grittiness that makes me smile. After the almost ersatz and slightly false “chocolate box” surroundings of Ritten, this was the “real” Italy; my Italy.
I walked into the first grubby cafe I could find, sat on a high stool at the bar and ordered.
“Buon giorno, un cafe, per favore.”
Within seconds a tiny cup of potent black liquid was clattered on the plastic surface in front of me, a wrapper containing a chocolate coated coffee bean sat on the saucer.
The barista pushed a small dish with the bill across the counter, €0.90. I dropped a €2 coin on top of the bill and pushed it back, shaking my hand, no change, that’s your tip.
The barista smiled at me.
I sipped the coffee thinking, “wow this is good,” then the caffeine whacked me somewhere at the back of my head, vaguely between the ears if I recall correctly. Why oh why, can only the Italians do coffee this good? I mean, it’s not hard – just take coffee, roast it properly, grind it properly, pass hot water through it and bingo, coffee! Coffee like nowhere else in the whole world.
I wandered the streets of the old town, just taking in the atmosphere and people watching. There were tourists everywhere, but as today was market day, lots of locals were out shopping too.
The narrow streets of the old town are today largely taken up with all kinds of boutique type shops, Mrs Dookes would be in her element here, but I find it all a bit faux. It’s just not my bag.
From the old streets I continued West and passed over the Ponte Talvera bridge. There was something I wanted to see.
Standing at the end of a small park is the Monumento alla Vittoria, the Bolzano Victory Arch.
To say that this structure is one of the most divisive in Italy, is a bit of an understatement. To many it is the epicentre of the unrest and continuing disquiet caused by the absorption of South Tirol into Italy in 1919. Originally conceived as a memorial to the men who died in the Alpine Campaign, it was hijacked by the Fascist regime and specifically Mussolini who dedicated it to “The Victory of Italy.”
Over the years this imposing structure has been defaced, reviled, worshiped and even considered for demolition. Today it has been restored, not to glorify it’s Fascist roots, but to serve as a reminder of past mistakes, errors and atrocities and act as a continuous dialogue between the past and present.
In the basement of the structure is a fascinating and very professional exhibition telling it’s story through the past 90 years. I found it fascinating yet sobering, particularly the persecution of the German speaking population of South Tirol under the Fascists; then of course along came the Axis Alliance with Nazi Germany…and things changed a bit, causing Mussolini to think twice. The Italian Proclamation of Empire in 1936 caused the monument to take on a new mantle, that of a centre of new national glories and ideology, the construction of the modernised city of Bolzano underlined the Fascist significance of the monument.
My visit left me feeling quite uneasy. I don’t like extremism from whichever end of the political spectrum it raises it’s slimy head and the Fascists of the 20th Century are right up there on the Dookes revulsion scale.
I admire both the City of Bolzano and Italy in general, for confronting the past as personified by this monument in a straightforward and honest way. I hope it will serve as a reminder of how things get screwed up when jingoism and extreme views are allowed to run riot.
The place left me feeling uneasy…I was glad to walk away, but I worry that the lessons of the past have not been learnt. My own country’s current stance with Europe being of particular concern, along with the joint madmen in Pennsylvania Avenue and Pyongyang…
I returned to Ritten still troubled, but then the sun came out and the view from my balcony gave me hope. There’s nothing like a little sunshine to raise the spirits!
In the words of Pete Seeger.
“When will they ever learn.”
Catch you soon.