Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Through the Mountains to Turin/Milan, Italy, Part 1

My last visit to Turin, Italy was back in 1995 and was curious to the changes (if any) since hosting the Winter Olympics in 2006. My bike and I decided to take the road less taken. In Lausanne, Switzerland
I hopped on a train for the 45 minute trip to Martigny. In Martigny I placed my bike into the cargo bay of a bus and we started up through the Swiss Alps. After two hours of zig-zagging steeps grades, including having to transfer to another bus, we reached the end of the line---the Great St. Bernard Pass in the Pennine Alps. To the right of the bus stands a building. Since the 9th century there has been a monastery on the site. It's now a hostel (which explains the bus being full with tourists, day trippers and hikers). It's here that the St. Bernard dog breed was created from cross-breeding dogs. The dogs provided security for the monastery as well as becoming mountain rescue dogs.
The Great St. Bernard Pass is the third highest road pass in Switzerland. This road has been used since the Bronze Age. Amazingly, back in 1800 Napolean Bonaparte crossed the pass with 40,000 troops. I remember reading about this in high school and thinking --so what. You need to actually physically come here and see the terrain to appreciate the difficulty of the feat. Napolean was attempting to sneak up on the Austrain army laying siege to French-occupied Genoa. His plan worked. Nowdays, cars and trucks use the nearby Great St. Bernard Tunnel or Mont Blanc Tunnel to traverse the mountains.
From the summit sign above, this is the view one sees towards Italy.The building you see on the other side of the lake houses the Italian border police and that's where I start the 100 mile trip to Turin AND glorious 20 mile (all downhill!) bike ride descent into Aosta, Italy.
Aosta (population 35,000) has typical narrow street and passageways. But, I manage to find an absolutely delectable pasticceria (pastry shop).
Yep, I took one each of everything you see here and boy were they good!
However, see the two trays of what looks to be pastry puffs? They are filled with a pudding-like filling containing various kinds of liquer. Holy moly! they are dangerously good!
Can you see the castle sitting up on the middle? Unfortunately I have to shrink the pictures to post them here. The road you see is a freeway.
There're ruins of two castles here on the hills in the background. In the right of the photo you can see the freeway road cutting through the narrow valley.

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