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Day 10: Zernez to Bolzano

Today was the second leg of our journey to Bolzano. We woke up in Zernez and after a lovely breakfast in the hotel took the short walk to the train station, from where we were due to be catching a postbus across the border to Mals in Italy. We were booked on a bus at 09.46, but having arrived at the station a bit too early, we ended up accidentally getting on the bus departing half an hour before that one instead. The destination was the same, so it didn't matter, and although it later transpired that we'd ended up on the slow bus which stopped at every single village rather than the express bus which went almost directly to Mals, it was actually rather fun to see all the villages en route.

As we left Zernez, the bus took us first through the Swiss National Park towards the Ofen Pass. The route was quite hair-raising at times as we travelled alongside a river gorge.


From the top of the pass we had a view towards another snowy peak...


...before we started descending into Val Müstair. There were some beautiful little villages in the valley...


..and they had an impressive backdrop.


Shortly after Müstair we crossed the border into Italy. We were now officially in Südtirol :)


The postbus terminated in Mals, a little village where almost the entire population is German-speaking. The entire province of Südtirol (or Alto Adige in Italian) was originally part of Austria, but was annexed by Italy following the First World War. At that time it was a completely German-speaking region, but following attempts to "Italianize" it during the Fascist era, both languages are now widely spoken. After the Second World War there was a brief terrorist campaign to liberate the area from Italian rule, and following intervention from the United Nations the local population ultimately secured significant autonomy from Italy. These days both German and Italian are official languages and all public signs are billingual.

From Mals we were able to continue our journey towards Bolzano (or Bozen, as it is called in German) by train, first travelling to Merano. The scenery was just as attractive this side of the border, the mountains dotted with rather impressive castles.


We arrived in Merano around lunchtime, so decided to make a quick halt there and grab some lunch. It took us a while to find the town centre, but when we did we were amazed to register quite how un-Italian it felt. Almost the first thing we saw as we left the station was a fastfood van selling "Würstl und Kraut"; this menu sign was obligingly translated into Italian too, but it didn't sound like a meal most Italians would be impressed by ;) We eventually found a slightly more upmarket restaurant in town, where the menu featured Wiener Schnitzel, Gröstl and Apfelschorle.

From Merano it was only a further short train ride to Bolzano, the regional capital. We are staying here for four nights in total, so were relieved to find that the apartment we had booked was extremely nice. After settling in, we set off for a preliminary stroll around Bolzano.

The first sight we came to was the cathedral, with its pretty tiled roof.


The cathedral is situated in the main square, Waltherplatz, where there is a big memorial to Walther von der Vogelweide, a twelfth century German poet.


Although this is the centre of town, the mountains aren't far away.


From the short walk we had, it seems like Bolzano is full of beautiful buildings.


This is our favourite view so far, though.


Tomorrow we hope to explore Bolzano in more detail and perhaps try the cable car above the town :)

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