Thursday, December 03, 2009

Dolomites. World War I. Memorials, Southern Tyrol. Austria, Italy

 The Southern Tyrol
The Dolomites Front

Think trenches, hard winters, endless cold and suffering, and most of us think of routine eastern and western fronts from World War II. Think back to World War I. That war defined new boundaries and changed the cultural and legal landscape of this entire area.  See ://  People raised in Austria soon found their land to be Italian. 

German is still spoken in much of the Dolomites, at restaurants, gas stations, although the land is technically Italian. Three languages are spoken at different places, including in remote spots, something called "Ladin".

Here, in the Southern Tyrol (we understand that East Tyrol refers more to the Austrian area to the north) the border mountains between Austria and Italy, the Dolomites, the hardships were magnified by the crags, the impossible task of moving men and materiel up cliffs, digging in. Tunnels. Trenches again.

This one just appeared.  Be careful - bikers may be sacking out behind, or doing other things.  We do not come upon these big sites and assume we can walk about at will out there, but so far have never had a problem.  Just mother's tapes, be careful, dear. And don't look surprised if people suddenly appear from behind, and get on hidden motorcycles somewhere near other rocks. Smile and nod, and move on about your own business.

Salzburg Castle in Austria has a series of exhibits on the World Wars, with scenes and mannequins in uniform, from the Tyrolean Front.  We were prepared, then, to see where they actually were. A forgotten front. These areas passed to Italy after WWI

The sheer size of the memorials is astounding. We think of a statue or two, a reproduction of a wall with a relief perhaps, a scene of soldiers slogging. This is enormous.

Then find the smaller, religious shrines for travelers. Our recollection is that this is also the Dolomites, but possibly it is Swiss.

The area of South Tyrol is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, see ://  The shapes of the mountains?  Originated as coral reefs 250 million years past, says the site.  Now fossilized.

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