July 5th – 21st: Austria and Italy with short visits to Germany, Hungary and San Marino   1 comment

We’ve back after a very enjoyable trip around Austria and northern Italy. The original plan was to search out the last two birds that I had yet to see in Europe, go sightseeing in northern Italy and visit Margaret’s sister in far eastern Austria. The latter two were completed to our satisfaction but seeing the much wanted Rock Partridge and Moltoni’s Warbler didn’t work out.

This is just a summary, I hope to post more photos as I get round to editing them.

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I ordered an Opel but the good people at Munich airport hired out a lovely BMW X1, in the words of Bruce Springsteen ‘a big foreign car that drives like paradise’

 

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From Munich we drove south through the narrow ‘neck’ of Austria to Italy then back eastwards into southern Austria. From here we drove through the Dolomites to Bolzano and south to Lake Garda, Bologna, Florence, San Marino, Ravenna, the Po Delta and Venice. Then we drove to far eastern Austria to see Margaret’s sister before returning to Munich via Salzburg and Dachau.

 

IMG_2002-Liesling

We drove from Munich through the narrow ‘neck’ of Austria into Italy and then back eastwards into southern Austria. We met Graham Tebb, a Viennese birder who I know from a trip to Ethiopia in 2011. The following day we tackled this mountain in the hope of seeing Rock Partridge. All Graham and I got for five hours of exhausting scrambling across the slope was a couple of distant call notes. It was to put it mildly, exhausting work.

IMG_2013-Dolomites

The southern Alps are in Austria but just over the border in Italy is the geologically unique Dolomites. I was surprised to find that we were very close to the site of my troubled hiking holiday to this region that I made in 2006. This lake is just south of the town of Dobbacio.

IMG_2025-Dolomites

The area around Tre Cime (three chimneys) has outstanding scenery but views like this gave Margaret a severe attack of vertigo so we had to leave in a hurry.

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We visited Bolzano to see the famous Ice Man museum. A 5,200 year old body was found frozen in ice on the Italian-Austrian border and the body and all the artifacts found with it are preserved in this museum. Using modern reconstruction techniques, this a model of what the man, known as locally as Otzi would have looked like.

IMG_2080-Lake-Garda

Although Lake Garda was undoubtedly beautiful, the entire northern section consisted of tunnel after tunnel, with nowhere to stop and enjoy the view. We had to stop at this hotel for a coffee to see this stunning panorama.

IMG_2144-Bolzano

The guide book gave three warnings about driving in Italy: the price of fuel, which we agree is excessive, the standard of driving which we found, on the whole, to be ok and problems in parking ,which we certainly experienced in the ancient city of Bologna.

IMG_2263-San-Marino

And then it was over the Apennines to the tiny independent principality of San Marino, my 99th country. The eponymous capital is perched precariously on a hill overlooking Italy which completely surrounds this tiny nation.

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North along the Adriatic coast to Ravenna and the stunning mosaics in ancient Byzantine churches.

IMG_2354-Po-Delta

Just north of Ravenna is the delta of the River Po and the site of some excellent birdwatching areas. We spent two mornings and an evening watching Flamingos, Spoonbills Pygmy Cormorants, ducks, waders, terns and other waterbirds, whilst Golden Orioles and Turtle Doves appeared in nearby woodland. At night we saw a Scops Owl just yards from our hotel.

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Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal in Venice. Visiting Venice was hot and crowded but so very, very worthwhile.

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Venice get 14 million visitors a year and most seem to arrived on the same day as us. Long queues in the heat to get into San Marco were inevitable.

IMG_2136-Italian-Sparrow

Well I missed Rock Partridge and didn’t get to the Moltoni’s Warbler area so was the trip tickless? In 2007 in the Dolomites I thought I had seen the recently split Italian Sparrow but close observation this year showed that most in that area were intergrades with House Sparrow. So these pure Italian Sparrows, seen from Bolzano southwards and east to Venice, were really a lifer. Note the brown cap, white not grey cheeks and the solid black bib.

IMG_2572-Margaret-and-Cathy

From Venice it was a long drive to the Austrian-Hungarian border where Margaret’s sister Cathy lives. As the border is at the bottom of her garden, we spent as much time in Hungary, whilst there, as we did in Austria. Here Margaret and Cathy admire a Hungarian church. Birding in the area was excellent even at this time of year. More of that later!

P7190381-Salzburg

Salzburg Castle overlooks the town. We stayed here on our final night before driving through Bavaria to Munich.

P7200418-Dachau

With time to spare before our flight we visited the memorial site of the Dachau concentration camp just north of Munich. It could hardly be called entertainment, but the sensitive handling by the museum of one of the darkest periods in human history was informative and sobering. We think everyone should visit a site like this in memory of all those who died so needlessly. The lettering on the gate reads ‘work makes you free’.

Posted July 23, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

One response to “July 5th – 21st: Austria and Italy with short visits to Germany, Hungary and San Marino

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  1. I must say this is a really interesting travel experience, I am glad you had such a wonderful opportunity to admire new interesting places and write a review on them.

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