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Copenhagen, Venice, Dolomites, Lake Garda 6 nights!

Copenhagen, Venice, Dolomites, Lake Garda 6 nights!

May 16th, 2019, 01:08 PM
  #1  
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Copenhagen, Venice, Dolomites, Lake Garda 6 nights!

This is not a misprint and certainly not a trip I would recommend for anyone else. But I offer this trip report to highlight my oft-stated belief that travel is not one-size fits all; that it can take many forms, and can be designed in many ways for many reasons. And, there may be a glimmer of hope for someone who might have only a few hours in some place like Venice and is often told to simply forget it.

This trip is an outgrowth of dealing last fall with a Delta airline credit that required us to use it or lose it. At that time, there were European flights available only through spring, and we didn’t want to travel during the winter. So, we simply found a very low price on a flight in late April to Copenhagen, where we have a friend with a new baby. From there, we thought we might take an inexpensive flight to the Baltics and maybe to St. Petersburg. Then, our daughter spotted a deal, for only a little more than half the miles she had earned for signing up for a new credit card. It was for the day after our flight, also to Copenhagen, and she booked it. She only had a week off from work, so we looked at staying together in Denmark or even flying to Poland from there. Recalling how much she liked a quick visit to Jungfrau region of Switzerland last fall, she suggested the Dolomites in Italy.

We found a cheap flight to Venice, although our daughter was initially adamant she didn’t want to see touristy Venice. Eventually, we convinced her to spend one night there, and then spend two nights in the Dolomites and two nights on Lake Garda before she had to return to Copenhagen for her return home. We did a quick “skyscanner” search to see where we could travel cheaply (after she departed) to get some guaranteed warm weather for our extra week and came up with Malta. We could get there for a song from Bergamo and return to Copenhagen also cheaply. And, yes, we realize that all this flying, even for cheap, is not good for the environment. (Our daughter who blogs about climate change and eliminating waste does contribute to carbon offsets when she travels and she has given up eating meat as one way to reduce her carbon imprint).

We are used to fast moving trips, but this one had to be planned around predicted lousy weather. The forecast (and we looked at several) for the entire week was very cool (at least for Floridians) and rain, rain and more rain.

Report follows.




whitehall is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 01:12 PM
  #2  
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Day One

We have been to Copenhagen before, so we know how easy it is to take the train from the airport to the city center. We don’t usually feel a lot of jet lag, so we dropped off our bags at our small boutique hotel, a great deal through Hotwire. And, then we were off for miles of walking, at first refreshing our memory of caution due to the thousands of bicycles on nearly every street in fast moving bike lanes. We peeked into Tivoli Gardens to see all their beautiful spring flowers and walked the pedestrian shopping street Stroget as the first beautiful spring day of the season, a surprise for us, brought out a lot of people. We took numerous photos of clever and different bikes, baskets, and attached trailers and coverings.

Alek from Serbia once worked at our former hotel (large inn) on the Maine coast. She met her Serbian husband on a subsequent summer job in North Dakota; they now live in the Copenhagen suburbs with their one toddler. We met Alek for rooftop drinks in a busy pedestrian area, high above a marching band, 40 plus strong, all wearing dark bearskin headdresses. This Danish Royal Guard, we were told, makes their presence known in high traffic areas, when the Queen is in residence at the nearby Palace.

During the evening, we had a nice dinner with Alek and her husband and met their engaging 18-month old daughter. Despite not sleeping for 24 hours, we enjoyed their hospitality that included multiple glasses of rakia, a type of Serbian fruit brandy that our host made from his family fruits back home. And, as is traditional, we downed them quickly by taking shots, really big shots, lots of them. Fortunately, Alek droves us back to the hotel.

whitehall is offline  
May 16th, 2019, 01:39 PM
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Nice report so far and I too at times love to travel fast.

Did you visit Christiana?

Cheers.
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May 16th, 2019, 02:47 PM
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We visited Christiana a few years ago when last in Copenhagen. Our friends told us it wasn't worth the time because the authorities have been closing a lot of it down in the last year. There has been a cat and mouse game going on with lots of arrests, some removals, etc., and police have ratcheted up the pressure in recent months to stop pot sales.
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May 16th, 2019, 02:52 PM
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Day Two.

It was a little tough getting going on our first full day, but a second beautiful spring day greeted us as we looked out our hotel window at one of the city’s inner lakes, full of swans and swan boats. And, our daughter was coming!

She was following our flight path from the day before, Tampa, Boston, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. We made plans to meet before 10 at the central rail station, with its soaring curved wooden beams, one of our favorite classic rail stations in Europe. It also was a good place for all of us to store luggage for part of the day.

Our walking tour gave us about four hours for our daughter to get a feel of Copenhagen (maybe because of the brevity of her visit, she says she prefers Amsterdam where she spent a few days).

Our first stop was a monstrous dark building on the waterfront known as the Black Diamond. Our librarian daughter (now a top administrator for a large library system) asked to see this facility, which was a couple miles away. It serves as both a significant cultural building as well as unexpectedly a wrap around to the original historical library on the site, reminding us, in part, of the Library of Congress or the New York City Public Library. One hall has long ornate wooden desks with antique green lamps over each seat. We saw a special collection room that was four or five stories tall, each floor ringed with old stair railings.

Although Copenhagen was having a cool spring, there were beautiful flowers everywhere, as we walked to Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s signature waterfront area of brightly colored buildings lined with restaurants.

Our walk continued to Amalianborg, the Royal palace where we caught the noon-time changing of the guard with dozens of the Danish Royal Guard. Our final destination was the little mermaid statue, which we observed from a distance. Two cruise ships were berthed nearby; there was a line of selfie stick holding passengers at the statue, and, frankly we enjoyed the adjacent park a bit more. Not to mention the large swan that was nesting on the shore nearby. While we were there, the swan took a break from the nest and swam a distance out to sea, exposing seven huge eggs, each with a light pastel color. Mother swan didn’t stay away long, before swooping back toward her nest with a very noisy splashing return.

We completed our walk, people watching along the Stroget, visiting Alek at her place of work and then past the fences of Tivoli. The finish was lunch with a great wood-fired pizza (expensive like everything else in Copenhagen), but, of all places, Gorm’s Pizza was at the airport terminal.

Our Easyjet flight to Venice was timed to get us to the city before dark. It allowed us just enough time to find our hotel, close to the train station. We have been to Venice many times, but always recall that first peek at the Grand Canal as you come across the first bridge. Our daughter quickly read some online reviews of out-of-the-way restaurants, and we found ourselves in a very quiet area of Santa Croce. We considered a few tiny restaurants with mostly locals and had to wait to get a seat at the one we chose. For the wait, they gave us glasses of wine to drink outside where we sat on the steps to a small bridge. We did engage in a conversation with a street vendor from Senegal (not sure why he picked such a quiet area to try to sell his homemade rings and bracelets). We eventually offered to buy him a slice of pizza, but, in Italian, he ordered a whole pizza with tuna and onions and got them to be put it on our tab. A small con job, but it was only $7.50 (another thing to like about these small out-of-the-way places in normally expensive Venice), and it sounded like the pizza was going wherever home was to help feed other family members with him. Anyway, an excellent meal from nice people at a reasonable price. Our evening walk in Cannaregio got us some gelato and then off to bed.





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May 16th, 2019, 03:37 PM
  #6  
mms
 
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I am enjoying this We like fast travel and sitting around at a cafe bores me, so this is right up my alley, lol!
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May 16th, 2019, 03:48 PM
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Day Three

We forced ourselves to get up early for about a three-hour tour, to see St. Mark’s Square, the Bridge of Sighs, the Rilalto Bridge and as many streets and passageways as we could fit in before the crowds started piling in. Despite gloomy weather forecasts, the bright blue skies and warm sunshine beckoned us to spend a little extra time on the large promenade along the Giudecca Canal. All was great, until after we departed our hotel and walked against the throngs of tourists coming into Venice for this gorgeous spring day. We crossed the bridge to the Hertz office where the last time they had our car sitting out front. Instead, they quickly drove us by van to Mestre (I guess things are so crowded, they can’t keep rental cars in Venice anymore). We passed a massive new Carnival cruise ship under construction and were soon on our way in our small Lancia car to the Dolomites. There was little traffic, and, before long, we spied some massive snow covered mountains. Our first two nights were in an airbnb in Pieve di Cadore. We picked it largely because of price and its proximity to the ritzier more expensive areas of the Dolomites.

Pieve di Cadore, at least at this time of year, seemed to have few tourists. Our airbnb enjoyed the town’s best views, a gorgeous artificial lake, held back by a large dam, framed all around by mountains covered in snow. The day was so beautiful, we initially took a short hike up to a small fort on Monte Ricco, but it was only open mornings. We made snowballs on the first of May. We followed this with a quick walk through town that was on siesta; in fact, we could not find a grocery store open anywhere. The town is known for two things, the home of the world’s eyewear industry (there was a large modern museum but it was closed); and the home of Titian, the Renaissance painter. We spotted a little shop, closed of course, full of old televisions and radios, like a Best Buy from 1955. And, there seemed to be optical shops all over the area; perhaps it’s like our going to Detroit to buy a car cheaper in the 1970’s.

We went to the town’s massive hydroelectric dam. The road to the base of the dam fortunately had zero traffic and included numerous small, often curved, and very dark tunnels about the width of one car. We tried some of the hiking trails, but eventually decided we wanted to get to the waterside of the dam, so we drove back up to the top of the dam that included a narrow road over it and across to a hiking trail along the lake, which was full of some type of large fish. We easily got our 10, or was it 14, miles of walking in on this day and finally took a break on the grass overlooking the lake with some lambrusco that filled one of our water bottles.

As the sunset drenched the snow on the mountains outside our airbnb’s dining room window, we ate pasta, homemade sauce, veggies, and garlic bread. Glad the grocers returned from siesta.










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May 16th, 2019, 05:49 PM
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Day Four.

The weather forecasters were wrong again. Really wrong. Not a cloud in the sky as we had our one full day in the Dolomites, mostly centered on the eastern portion. First stop was San Vito di Cadore, a picture postcard Alpine village, with beautiful homes and trademark rocky mountains in every direction. Bright green grass and lots of snow not far away. The 5-star Miramonti Hotel was closed for the shoulder season, and that meant no one was around, so we had the run of the grounds at least. Spectacular. That includes the views and this warm, sunny spring day.

Trendy ski area Cortina d’Ampezzo has always been on our radar. Lots of places were closed there as well. The cable cars had literally closed for the off season the day before. We were warned that hiking trails would be snow covered. So, we spent a couple hours walking around the quaint and quiet village. Squirrels for some reason are honored on many of the town’s logos, but the Olympic rings are everywhere. That is partly due to this city hosting the 1955 Winter Olympics, but mostly because they have a 50/50 chance of getting the 2026 version, and their countdown clock says they will know in late June. There were still small piles of snow in the village, but Audi has paid for some large heated contemporary benches, outfitted with wifi for some added outdoor comfort.

As we drove in the Dolomites National Park, there were photo ops at every corner and fortunately few other cars. We saw more perfectly restored old hotels taking a break between seasons, including a dramatic historic condo hotel that sits just a couple feet off the road. And then we spotted Lago di Landro, a beautiful green mountain lake right beside the road. Perfect photo op. For miles, we saw many beautiful Alpine villages, busy bike trails, lush green fields full of yellow dandelions and snow-capped mountains in every direction.

Our next destination, recommended by the tourism office in Cortina, was Brunico. Never heard of it, but the old town sits next to a roaring river and it has the classic castle atop the village. Many nice shops, and most were open, but this gorgeous spring day had few pedestrians. One sporting goods shop has four very real looking fake mountain climbers scaling the four-story building above it. The castle was closed, but the hike up to it was nice. We found a busy little family place for a great pizza before getting back on the spectacular road. And, it didn’t matter which road.

Our next stop was Lake Braies, or Pragser Wildsee as the German/Italians call it. We had plans to hike around the lake, but again snow cover (and the lack of hiking boots) halted that plan. This is possibly one of the most spectacular spots in all of the Dolomites. The blue green lake, flanked by dramatic snowy mountains, is unspoiled with the exception of a historic hotel on the end that we arrived at. Although the hotel was closed for lodging, it did offer food and beverages on an outside deck. One of most sensational spots in Italy for dessert or an Aperol spritz. The day was just too beautiful to have it to ourselves, but still not crowded. We took a short hike along the edge of the lake before encountering snow too deep to go on. We were pleased that the ice had gone out, so we could get the full effect of this beautiful lake.

Fortunately the Hotel Lago di Braes had a bar and rest rooms that allowed us to go inside. We were especially curious, since we once owned a historic hotel/inn. We peeked in the rustic lobby and thought we saw a big fuzzy black bearskin rug on the floor, but it was just the largest fluffiest black dog we have ever seen. We took few photos until we noticed signs everywhere forbidding photos. There was an off-limits area leading downstairs that was dedicated to the history of the hotel, which included a significant role at the end of WWII. That is when VIP prisoners from concentration camps were housed there while Nazi soldiers were trying to decide if they would all be executed as ordered. They were finally spared.

We drove into the pretty village of Dobbiaco and shopped at two side-by-side grocers, one greeting us in Italian, the other in German. Our final destination of the day was Tre Cime, or three sharp peaks that often signify the Dolomites. Nearby are more historic hotels and the magical Lago di Misurina, still fully frozen over and abutted by the largest snow piles we have seen this day.






whitehall is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 04:28 AM
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Nice report and photos. These days, our trips have to be short, so we travel fast at times, too.

Your mention of the Hotel Lago di Braies and the large black dog jogged a memory. I went back and looked at our trip report from 10 years ago and found this:

We enjoyed a leisurely stroll around it (the lake) and spent a brief moment looking in on the old hotel—encountering the largest Newfoundland dog any of us have ever seen.
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May 17th, 2019, 04:52 AM
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Too funny. Yes, a Newfoundland. I asked my wife if she saw him. And she said "I headed down the hall and heard a loud pump go off and decided to leave." But it wasn't a pump. The large dog had left the lobby and was just loudly slurping from his water bowl in the darkened hall.
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May 17th, 2019, 05:33 AM
  #11  
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Just found this.


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May 17th, 2019, 05:38 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by mms View Post
I am enjoying this We like fast travel and sitting around at a cafe bores me, so this is right up my alley, lol!
Agreed. Unless the cafe is in the right spot:



whitehall is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 08:15 AM
  #13  
mms
 
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LOVE the dog pic!!! It looks just like our daughters dog. And yes, I could sit and enjoy the mountain view for a bit, but not very long, lol.
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May 17th, 2019, 11:55 AM
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Day Five.

Time to head to Lake Garda, and the weather forecast called for a washout. While the skies remain sunny, we decide to take a quick look at Belluno, one of the cities we had previously considered for a base. We went up multiple long escalators to get from our spacious parking lot up to the city. It was early, and the city was just waking up, but the city is full of beautiful buildings and magnificent views of the Dolomites. An impressive duomo, neat squares, and fountains made it appear like many other Italian towns. But one clearly with money, years ago as well as today.

We have been to Lake Garda before, but we were based in Pescheiria on the southeast end, so, this time, we got our first glimpse of the northern end of the lake at Riva. As we drove to our airbnb in Malcesine, we could see early seasonal activity, tons of mountain bikers (we learned there was an event for them) and a large group of catamarans racing in the water.

Considering the low price we paid, our airbnb was a surprise, with one of the few rooftop decks overlooking the lake in the old city center. It was overcast, with an occasional drop of rain, still better than the weather wrongly forecasted for our entire time in Italy. But not a good day to go up Monte Baldo or even get out on the water. We settled for the nearby Scaliger Castle.

The ancient fortress has all the usual castle/fort stuff, but there is also a natural history museum and another hall with photos of local history. We capped off a great day with a birthday dinner at Trattoria dei Capitani and gelato from a friendly elderly proprietor. And, as in our last visit, we estimated that 75% of all the visitors to Lake Garda were from Germany, with most of the rest from Italy or the UK.






whitehall is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 01:53 PM
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It looks gorgeous.
nonconformist2 is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 02:40 PM
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Wow you got a good amount of sun.

I just returned from Puglia and Amalfi/Capri.

Was cold and windy in places. Did get sun but only every other day or every other two days.

In Capri, from which I returned the day before yesterday, one half the sky was blue and the other half was dark and gray with the sun breaking through occasionally.

I definitely want to visit the Dolomites again but the summer services (like all the cable cars) don't really start until late June.
scrb11 is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 04:58 PM
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The sun was a blessing and a huge surprise, given the lousy weather forecast. But Malta last week was really sunny. All the lousy weather in central and southern Italy did result in refreshing seasonably cool weather there though. Until our last two days, it was not beach weather but we weren't there for that.

Last edited by whitehall; May 17th, 2019 at 05:01 PM.
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May 18th, 2019, 02:50 AM
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Day Six.

We fully expected a washout, so again gave up on the cable cars to Monte Baldo. Instead, we opted for a boat tour of the Lake, and, to our surprise, didn’t need the umbrellas at all. In fact, we got some sunburn instead. There was a high level of clouds over some of the mountains including Monte Baldo, where snow was still holding on at the highest elevations, so we made the right choice.

For the most part, this boat ride was a repeat for us, but first time for our daughter, and that allowed us to make the most of our available time. One of the advantages of taking a ferry is that you can get a nice view of many of the towns on the lake that we won’t have time to visit. Gargnano, with its three large colorful plastic birds (not sure what they signify) and the colorful buildings on its waterfront square. Maderno another beauty. Gardone and its striking and massive historic Grand Hotel. And, Salo, another town to explore in the future.

The last time we made a stop in Bardolino we had no idea we would get off. But it was fall, and the town known for its famous red wines was celebrating its wine harvest, and there were thousands of people lining the waterfront. And, we had one of our best days ever. So, we wanted to see what Bardolino looked like without all the booths and vendors taking up all the waterfront. We started at a cafe with the biggest brioche pastries we have ever seen, each filled with what seemed like a pound of pastry cream. Spring flowers dotted the entire waterfront promenade, swans and ducks everywhere. One duck watched over his five new ducklings sitting on a rock not ready for the water yet. Large fish were swimming close to shore.

We soon hopped on the high speed ferry since we had a day pass and went next to Sirmione. One of our favorite castles there. Lots of stairs up to the highest tower and great views of the town and lake. A few years ago, the water levels were lower, and that allowed us to walk along the shoreline which was dotted with dozens and dozens of rock piles stacked by prior visitors. Water levels now covered those areas. We walked down to the 2,000 year-old Roman villa ruins and then returned for a gelato from the many competitors in the village.

As we headed back north on the ferry, we saw several dozen kite surfers against the backdrop of steep rock cliffs and occasional runs of tunnel peek-outs for cars (the same ones used in a chase scene in the James Bond “Quantum of Solace” film).

Last stop was Limone. The main areas were crowded, especially in the lemon-themed shops. For us, it was better to see the many real lemon and lime trees. The village, built against the rocky cliffs, has a nice vibe, with its large displays of flowers. But it was time to return to Malcesine. Weather was still nice, so it was time to enjoy our rooftop terrace and finish our wine and snacks. Another nice dinner at a restaurant that caters to locals, a sharing of pizza, pasta, and veggies.






whitehall is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 05:22 AM
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This prompted me to find the hard drive with photos from our trip to the Dolomites 10 years ago to see if we took any photos of the Newfoundland at Hotel Lago di Braies. Apparently we didn't.

I've enjoyed your report and it is getting me excited for our trip back to the Dolomites (w/ one night in Venice) at the end of the summer. Our previous trip was an all-time favorite. We've picked a different area of the Dolomites this time - the Val di Fassa, closer to Trento - but I'm sure we'll be doing some driving around.
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May 18th, 2019, 06:54 PM
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Day Seven.

And, the weather finally turns. Rain and heavy winds. We cancelled our plans to drive down the western side of the lake. That road has more climbs and narrowness, but our landlord said we would barely move on a Sunday in this weather. As we headed south, we saw many locals lined along the waterfront snapping photos. Crashing surf, boats bobbing for their lives, flooding, cars stuck in the water at the south end of the lake and, to our surprise, it was cold enough that there was a new blanket of snow on the lower parts of the mountains.

Our daughter had a Ryan Air flight back to Copenhagen, and we had a Ryan Air flight to Malta, both in the evening, So, we decided to make a return to one of our favorite off-the-radar towns, Bergamo, only 15 minutes from our airport.

We had to park in the lower town and walk up to the funicular. No umbrellas needed; the wet weather had already passed here. After a brief walk through the village, we decided a relaxing afternoon lunch would be a good ending to a busy but fruitful week. We picked Pizzeria da Franco, where we had a nice terrace dinner a couple years ago. Although the weather outside was good, our daughter liked seeing all the activity inside: a busy kitchen, tons of employees and a packed local Sunday lunch crowd. Nice lunch, excellent service. And, then off for stracciatella from the gelato place that claims to have invented it.

We got to the Bergamo airport a little early, and one of our flights got delayed so that we would now leave only minutes apart, so we were disappointed that there wasn’t a tunnel to the large mall across the street. Bu the airport was a nice one, with a great Italian food court and wine bar. There was a piano in the area for anyone to play, and, fortunately, the guy playing it was really good. And, it didn’t hurt the experience to have his traveling companion juggling balls to his rhythms. A little more wine for our send-offs to Copenhagen and Malta.















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