The valley beyond

29. Juni 2011 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

The Val di Fassa is tucked away behind some of the loftiest ranges of Dolomites peaks, and it is the cause for quite a few swear words and sighs on my part. Admittedly, it’s one of the most beautiful days of the year: clear-blue skies, morning light the quality of crystal and amber, myriads of shades of green splashed around by the vegetation. But it’s going to be a very hot day, up to 35 degrees in the valley and plains. And this is my third mountain pass with a climb of more than 1000m (it turns out to be 1500m this time) on this trip.

And all because they speak a language called Ladin there (Ladino, Ladinisch, not to be confused with Ladino = Judaeo-Spanish), which of course forces me to visit and explore. But the reward for the tough and seemingly never-ending climb begins to show on the way already. I choose the less-travelled road, which my map calls Gran Giro dei Dolomiti, and it hasn’t promised too much. I pass right beneath the pink and ochre massif of the Rosegarden (they never promised me one, but there it is, right above the pointy tops of firs).

There are a few sun-exposed stretches where I prefer to push my bike with my baggage on top of it rather than riding it. Gradients above 13% seem to be a clincher, where I need to push the limits. Although my dear brain tells me, half an hour before the first summit of Nigerpass, that my body has some secret reserves and they are now going to be tapped, whether I will regret it later or not. Hey, you can’t accumulate a lot of wisdom on such a cycling trip, but here’s a piece I’ll gladly share with you: it’s amazing how mental everything is. I just wouldn’t have believed it, the last 5 switchbacks were easy-peasy.

But the best part is between the first pass and Karerpass (Passo de Costalunga, Jouf de Ciareja, 1752m) with one point where I simply had to park the bike and lie down in the midst of a flower-strewn meadow. I took three pictures of the Rosengarten and the Latemar ranges with the same bunch of flowers in the foreground. Simply astounding. Not one of the motorcyclists (whom I call Demotors, after J.K. Rowling’s Dementors) turned his / her head or stopped. Well, they better hadn’t, as most of them are going too fast anyway.

The Latemar range from my favourite meadow

And if you turn your head, you'll see this, the Rosegarden

I pass the bleak buildings of Karerpass quickly and gently dive down into Fassa valley. Not much later, I visit the Museo Ladin in a brand-new building with the latest museological technology. I don’t have time for all the touchscreens, though, and look at the posters, implements and artifacts that explain the traditional culture, mainly focusing on sagas, customs and agricultural labour of yore. It’s a fascinating world, not much different from similar exhibits I’ve seen on the northern side of the Alps. I miss the inclusion of language in the manifestations of culture (apart from the fact that all of the texts are in Ladin and Italian with a German guide kindly provided, and the labeling of various implements).

I ask a few questions to Marta, the young lady who staffs the museum’s desk and proves to be a multilingual miracle: she speaks Ladin at home, Italian as a matter of course, Spanish, English and German. She stresses the efforts that are being made to keep Ladino alive. Hers is a more upbeat tune than the man of the Lia Rumantscha’s in Zernez: Ladin’s important, it’s used at school, children speak it well and it’s anything but uncool among the teenagers. 80% of the 8,000 people in the upper valley speak it daily, and the bilingual communities in South Tyrol are no threat to this smaller minority. “We are lucky to have a provincial government which supports us with considerable sums of money”, Marta says. It sounds almost too good to be true. There is little contact in her experience (but she’s young) with the Swiss Romansh communities, and she wouldn’t be able to understand any of the dialects there. Perhaps an exchange of experiences might do some good.

Here’s a tribute to all the makers of hay I’ve passed by on my trip so far, dozens of them toiling away under a scorching sun on steep slopes while I was doing my little useless outing, a description of the circumstances of haymaking in Ladin:

Fèr con fegn l’era l mestier più grief de dut l prozess de produzion. A seèr se scomenza a la fin de jugn coi pre da cèsa. L dighé, che l’é schèrs ma da miora calità, se l sea de setember. L fegn da mont se l fajea ite demò n’outa, anter messèl e aost, aldò da l’auteza del grunt. Ajache i pré da spes era n muie dalonc da cèsa, gropes de setores e de resteladores passèa setemènes a la longia sa mont. L gran besegn de se enjignèr ite fegn assà per l’invern portea a seèr fin sunsot la crepes. Ence se se durèa la cherpeles per no sluzièr jù per la rives, no da chièr sozedèa desgrazies.

If any Swiss Romansh speakers read this, perhaps they can make sense of it.

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