The first day of 2017, the 3 Zinnen and Gino has a bath

Today’s cunning plan saw us drive about 1:15 hours to one of the far flung galaxies of the Dolomiti Universe – the 3 Zinnen or the Italian name – Tre Cime di Lavaredo.  Before WW1, this area was owned by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire – so again a lot more German spoken than Italian.

We were away early this morning, having slept through Arabba’s NYE celebrations.   Graeme did say that there was little noise and most of the fireworks were set off from private residences rather than there being any official firework display.

Not a great start to the journey.  I was driving this morning and I promptly reversed out onto the wrong side of the road.  It took a few seconds for me to realise that the cars were coming up the hill directly towards me.  Graeme’s screams of terror finally did the trick and I pulled over into a lay-by and collected my thoughts.   I promptly offered up the drivers seat to Graeme, but with teeth gritted…he told me I needed more practice.  Imagine that?  Man, does my husband have nerves of steel or what?

Now it does appear that we have been misled about the amount of traffic on the road.  I expected the roads to be completely empty.  Alas.  Not the case.   Our route this morning took us over the pass between Arabba and Cortina.  The road was super twisty and narrow, but there was great views to be had along the way.  Graeme was particularly impressed with the road building and tunnels.   Apart from a couple of near misses, he was enjoying being a passenger and being able to look out the window for a few milliseconds at a time.

This morning’s route took us through the Passo Valparola and into the Cortina Valley.  Poor old Cortina.  It used to be THE place to ski in the Dolomites and probably the whole of Italy.  But they have received even less snow than anywhere else in the region and they don’t seem to have made the same amount.  They have the least number of lifts open.  The valley is very open and sunny, so maybe they have more trouble holding their man-made snow?   Whatever the reason, poor ol’ Cortina at first glance looks a little down on her luck.  We will definitely come back to the town for a more in-depth look some time soon.

A very sunny but dry Cortina valley
A very sunny but dry Cortina valley

Past Cortina and heading north we entered a very tight steep sided valley.  It was well and truly the coldest we’ve experienced so far – a steady -10°C  was showing on the car display as we drove through.  It appears that this valley is a major cross-country facility, presumably set up when Cortina hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics.

We arrived at the gondola for 3 Zinnen at about 10 o’clock. As we left the car-park, with the sunlight on little car, we noticed how incredibly dirty “Gino” was.  Time for a bath we think!  Almost every fuel station we pass has a self-service car wash bay, so we should be able to give him a bath on the way home.

Grubby Gino the Peugot Grip!!
Grubby Gino the Peugot Grip 2008!!

The 3 Zinnen area – as well as being a ski area is obviously quite a renowned sledding place.  There was a super long sled track that wound its way down the mountain partly beside the ski runs.  It was huge fun to watch, particularly the one corner where just about everyone didn’t make the bottom left hand turn.

According to Graeme, this resort has the “Holzriese Part A & Part B” which is supposed to be the steepest piste in Italy.  I’m not really sure about that.  It was certainly steep, hard & scraped with the GS boy-racers hurtling down it at break neck speed.  Gra handled it fine….I had a little melt-down moment about half way down that fortunately Graeme didn’t witness.  I felt I’d been ambushed.  I had been quite happy cruising the normal slopes.  I was tired, I hadn’t had a coffee yet, my edges were blunt…yada yada.  I gave myself a slap, stored my indignation and managed to ungracefully slide down the hill, to greet Graeme’s enthusiastic…”How good was that?”  with a pursed lipped turn of my head in a true imitation of Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”.   “Not good then?” a crestfallen Gra got the hint….”I guess we’ll go for coffee?”.    I was already in the gondola.

I never really recovered my “mojo” after that and lunch followed soon after.   It truly is amazing how dogs are accepted in restaurants in Europe.  At lunch we sat inside to keep warm and next to us was an older couple with a huge blood-hound which they appeared to be hiding fairly unsuccessfully under their table.  He was certainly not the best behaved dog and we were convinced that when a young lady walked by with a little poodle it was going to be on for young and old.  But to our great surprise, even though this huge dog could have pulled the whole table over in one lunge, he was a complete gentlemen and didn’t try to eat the poodle.  Shame…I don’t much like poodles.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of beautiful scenery and interconnected lifts….

On the way home it was time to give Gino his bath.  We were returning to Arabba via the Corvara valley which is slightly longer, but supposedly quicker as there are less passes and twisting mountain roads to contend with.  However, the traffic along the valley floor was super busy.  Busiest we’ve seen, and then of course we remembered it was Sunday and some people were going to start work again tomorrow.   No matter, we’re not under any time schedule.

Pulling into the first station, we tried to fill up with fuel.  No luck, the credit card was rejected.  Hmmm?   Next we tried the carwash.  For the life of us, we couldn’t figure out how to make the carwash hose work.  It was absolutely freezing and the water spray had formed a thin frozen layer over the concrete.  We needed crampons.  Poor Gra was skidding and sliding all over the place.  The €1 coin we kept trying to give the machine was continually spat out.  We tried 2 different wash bays without luck.  We gave up and got back on the highway and onto the next fuel station.  Same deal.  G was not happy.  I didn’t think this would be a time to suggest that he asked for help?   Finally service station #3.  It was really really cold now – at least -6°C and dark.  My suggestion that we buy a coffee to swap out our “dodgy”  €1 coin, was accepted.  We were also able to fill up the car with diesel.  Things were looking up.  So armed with shiny new euro coins we pulled into the washbays.  No joy.  Very very bad words uttered by Graeme, which were over-heard by our neighbour in the next bay.   Rather than give an angry 6’3″ english speaking lunatic a wide berth, this brave man kindly came over and showed Graeme the token machine on the side of the building.   “This is where you put your coins in perfect patient English and then you get a token to run the wash.”   Nice fellow.

It’s now -8°C and €1 didn’t get us very far.  But finally after 3 more coins, the very grubby Gino is clean and we can see out of the windows.  A great improvement.   But we were two tired and emotionally unstable people by this stage. I have no idea how we got home….I just remember falling into bed pretty soon after a light dinner.

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