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June 23 - July 2, 2013
by Jim Truscott
The travel to our destination was one of the most confusing we ever experienced - taxiing about the airport in Philadelphia for hours while they were obviously trying how to fly to Venice was all but hilarious as well as frustrating. Then arriving late and trying to find the proper trains and buses was challenging but Matt managed to make it happen. When we arrived in Selva Val Gardena at our hotel, the sights were fascinating. Hotel Mignon was a superb choice with beautiful rooms as well as a wonderful pool and pa as well as excellent staff support.
The country was beautiful and the parade to begin the Olympiad was great with the opportunities to meet people from around the world and then walk down into the city with them. The valley was a beautiful sight including the mountains and cliffs, the waterfalls, the Alpine homes, the castles, and the flowers.
It was interesting to see the snow on the grass and up in the mountains each morning. Some of the longer trails that went up into the mountains were a bit treacherous. being very steep, narrow, rocky, slippery trails only a few inches away from deep canyons. The food was superb as was the interface with all of the people we met. The swimming event was a bit exciting in very cold water and with each lane stuffed with large peol who weren't real sure how to swim or which way to go. When we returned to Venezia, the boat tour was great and informative. We found a very small restaurant with superb food and service with a small terrace in the rear of its property shared with another restaurant. We are very much looking forward looking forward to joining the Bad Pennies on the trip to China in 2015.
This was my first participation in the Olympiad Event and my first trip with Matt Pernick, and I must say it will not be my last! This year the event was held in the northern region of Italy, in beautiful Val Gardena, in the Dolomites.
There were roughly 1,500 people from around the world, with approximately 25 countries represented, and about 65 people from the U.S.A., participating in the events; walking, biking, swimming, some doing all 3. There were 5 of us from the Liberty Bell Wanderers of Phila., along with 9 from the Bad Pennies walking club, made it a fun group of 14 traveling with Matt.
Let me congratulate Matt on keeping the cost of the trip very affordable and selecting an excellent hotel in Selva and a good one in Venice. They were both in great locations, very convenient to all activities. The Mignon Hotel in Selva, 4 stars, was beautiful, run by a terrific friendly family, with excellent food and service. The wellness center on the lower level was a “place where guests are caressed by warm water, steam and inebriating fragrances to rediscover a sensation of peace and well-being.” Taken from their brochure, I could not have said it better, for when we used it, we all thought we died and went to Nirvana!!
The walking trails in the towns and countryside were excellent, both dirt packed and paved, flat and hilly, whatever level of walk you wanted to do and distance, they had it. Every bend in the trails exposed another beautiful panoramic vista of rocky mountains and grassy valleys below with villages scattered throughout. Along one trail out of Selva were carved Stations of the Cross in tree trunks. Walking the trails, I found it very enjoyable and interesting talking to people from other countries, with English as their second language, we exchanged stories and ideas. At the check points, one was refreshed with a variety of drinks, sliced fruit and cookies, and seats to rest.
The opening and closing ceremonies were quite moving, and it showed that a lot of time and energy was put into the event. An Olympic tall candle was lit to begin the event and extinguished at the close. Ballet dancers performed to Vivaldi’s music depicting the 4 earthly elements. Entertainment throughout the days included a marching band, singing groups, and fashion show of their traditional, beautiful clothing, which gave us a good flavor of the region. At the close, the Italian flag was removed and the flag of China was carried up on stage along with playing of the Chinese National Anthem since they will host 2015.
8 of us took a ½ day and traveled to Bolzano to the Museum of Archeology that houses Mr. Otzi, the Iceman. He is 5300 yrs. old, and was found in a melting glacier in 1991, about 90 miles north of the town. He was dressed in animal skins, had bow and arrows, and food in his digestive tract. What a find to study man of the Copper Age!
Upon leaving the Dolomites, we traveled by bus and train back to Venice where we stayed for 2 nights. We were taken on a water taxi tour of Venice, traveling along the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge, while going in and out of narrow canals; we viewed and were told about the historic significance of many buildings. Matt scheduled another tour of the Government Palace where we were heard about the story of Casanova, entered his cell where he was imprisoned for 8 yrs. before escaping; the many other Chambers, of the Inquisitors, of the Great Council, Secret Chancellery, etc., and finally the Bridge of Sighs, the walk to the prisoners death. We then entered St. Mark’s Cathedral, viewing the church from the balcony where we were given the meaning of various murals on the walls and getting a panoramic view of the huge church interior; a beautiful group of huge bronze horses, sculpted 1000 yrs. ago, on display in the hall. A great view of St. Mark’s Square from the outside open air balcony was breath taking, and since we were all together, we decided to have a group picture taken. The square came alive at night with diners, and orchestras playing in the open air at various locations. We must not forget the gondolas moving along in the glistening waters that gives Venice its romantic feeling.
And finally, we will always remember the scrumptious Italian food we had and the delightful wines! It was an adventure that we thank Matt for pulling together and making it an unforgettable trip! Now, Matt will have to work on the next Olympiad in 2015 in Chengdu, China!