May 19: Merano to Termeno
Today, unlike yesterday, was a gorgeous day. Kurt and I started out by ourselves, accompanied for a short distance by Adrian and Joan. We wound our way through a complicated maze of streets to get us out of town.
Shortly after we left town, we took an alternate route which gave us 300 m of climbing above the valley below. It was a steady climb, with unbelievably spectactular views. We climbed past Castle Leone, and went through a couple of tunnels.
Going through tunnels in Italy is very scary on a bike. They are pitch black... no lighting at all. You just ride ahead and hope that you don't hit a pothole or some other unseen obstacle.
We met up with Howard and rode with him through some of the hill towns on the way back down to the main route. A screaming 14% descent put us in Nalles.
We continued through some incredibly beautiful little towns, and eventually found our way to the bikepath which skirted the main highway. This bikepath overlooked on the left side, apple and wine orchards in a valley below. On the right side, there were picnic tables every so often where people could sit, eat their pic nic repast, and gaze out at the greenery below.
The weather was perfect, and we were thinking that it just couldn't get any more beautiful than this! Above the green valleys and hills dotted with the occasional castle or church were the snow-capped Alps. The weather was a perfect 70 degrees or so... unbelievable!
By this time we had connected with Matt and Rita (or was it Ken and Liz? or both?) and continued our ride with them.
We encountered Faye, Mary and the Hays at a small trattoria along the bike path, but we opted out of eating then... which in a way was a mistake, but in a way was not.
We finally were let out on the main road, riding through the small town of Caldaro and then into Termeno.
The towns here are still bilingual, with German and then Italian as the main languages spoken. Signs are bilingual as well, but German is still the predominant character of the place.
We pulled into Termeno and found our hotel just off the main road, which is below the town. The Hotel Arndt is a very pleasant place, which is family run.
The owner's son, a man in his 20's, greeted us warmly and instructed us to put our bikes against the hotel. He would put them in back for safe keeping. There must have been 20 bikes against the side of the hotel when we got there. It turns out that he races bikes and was keenly interested in our Sevens. He spoke perfect English, as well as German and Italian.
His mother, who gave us our room keys, only spoke German and Italian, so we conducted business with her in Italian.
After a quick change of clothing, Ken, Liz, Matt, Rita, Kurt and I decided to get something to eat. It turned out that the only thing open was a place near a local lake, about 4-5km back the way we came. So, we hopped back on our bikes, and rode back, stopping at the first restaurant we found.
The menu was limited, but there was a nice outdoor cafe to sit at, so we sat down and ordered a rather ordinary repast. Behind us was sitting a couple along with the mother of one of them. Midway through the meal, the husband admired Rita's glasses-mounted rear-view mirror. So this led into my first real conversation in Italian that went beyond asking for directions, ordering food or buying something. We talked for 20+ minutes, discussing where we were from, when they had been to America, what we were doing in Italy, where we were going, etc. etc. The woman told me about a cycling museum near Milan devoted to Coppi and showed me where it was on the map. She didn't want to leave (even though her husband did!)... it was a wonderful conversation. I was so excited that I was actually able to have a conversation in Italian! It was the capper to a perfect day.
We returned to the hotel, where everyone was stretched out beside the pool. For dinner, the hotel owner's son was now the waiter, and took our orders and served us for dinner. We went to bed at a normal time, weary but very happy!