Jerry’s Tour of the Alps 2004 – Sunday July 4th

La Grave — Grenoble — (Chambery) — (Milano) — (Verona) — (Bolzano) — (Toblach) (81 km, 108 m, 6-22 C)

No photo for this day unfortunately. I had to go up at half past five in the morning and could not get any breakfast before leaving the hotel. It was only +6 Celsius outside and I had to cycle downhill all the way to Grenoble in order to catch a train in the morning. This was all because I had planned to get to far up in the Dolomites in one day and to continue the tour from Toblach. Until a while after Bourg d’Oisans I had no sun either, as the mountainsides are so high on each side the valley higher up (and the sun was not at the right angle).

The last part of the ride was actually somewhat pleasant. I was in very good time for the train (45 minutes to wait), but it was prudent to have some marginal, as I really did not know what speed I could hope to average down to Grenoble this morning. I bought a sandwich on the way and fruits at a market. The train ride to Chambery was only an hour ride and there was no one interested in that I had a bicycle with me.

However, I had feared that there could be problems on the international train going to Milano. I had tried to find some big plastic bags back at the hotel that I hoped to be able to hide some of my bicycle in if someone on the trains would begin to make a fuss about my bicycle. I managed to get two bags from a cleaning guy at a closed restaurant at the Grenoble station. It turned out that there was no problem on the train to Milano either. The biggest problem was that I had to change train at the border due to some electrical differences in the trains between Italy and France (where the older Italian trains were capable of going in both countries but not the French train (maybe it just on this occasion, I did not understand)).

I talked about Swedish children literature with an Italian woman on the train and the ride was decently nice, even though a school class of hyperactive French kids were on their way to a holiday in Italy and happened to occupy most of the same wagon.

In Milano I had to hang around the station for a while since I missed a train because of the earlier delays with train change. I had calculated that probably one of my connections would not be on time. It turned out one should ALWAYS count on ALL connections in Italy to NOT be on time. And I who thought the Swedish railways are extraordinarily bad.

The train to Verona seemed like it was drifting in the wind, but the wind was still. It took forever to get there without any apparent reason. No one cared about the bicycle or anything on this train. At the station in Verona I realised I had missed the next connection and now got seriously worried as I had booked a room in advance in Toblach. I asked at the information what they suggested. They told me I had to wait until the next day, sorry. This reminded me of my first trip down in Europe in 1987 when I was in Hungary and Romania. That totally unhelpful blank stare you could get from postal office workers and the like. They only understood orders, but I doubted these clowns would not do that.

I had already seen at a quick glance that even if there were no more train for Toblach, as it seemed, there was a train leaving for Bolzano. I had a ticket for Bolzano and thus took it for granted I could just as well jump on this train and see if I found a bus or something in Bolzano. I could possibly have cycled the last 100 kilometres to Toblach from Bolzano, but would then have arrived around midnight or thereafter, I believe (no good idea).

It turned out this was ”finer” train, and by ”finer”, I do not mean it was nicer – I mean that rain personnel seemed to think they were ”finer” on this train. Here it was totally out of the question to carry something like a bicycle with one and the first lady told me I would be thrown off at the next station. I had nearly thrown away my plastic bags earlier as I did not need them on the train where I thought would be a problem – I had even seen that the train to Toblach (which I had missed due to these fine people) explicitly allowed bicycles. I told the lady I could pack it down, but she thought it would not help me.

Well, I quickly took off the wheels and got them just precisely into one of the bags and part of the frame into the other and tried to put them on he little hat shelf above. I was alone in a 6-8-seat cabin. I managed to get the bike and wheels to stay on the shelf by securing them with my helmet. Then a little later another fine man came with the lady to look into the matter and there was a long discussion, but eventually they let me very angrily stay on the train (do not believe you will succeed with this, I must warn you (the man probably wanted me to tell you this too ;-))).

I got a good idea as we eventually (after very many stops) closed in on Bolzano. I asked a fellow passenger if he knew something about connections to Toblach. He told me he was going to take a train that would go there. But, I wondered, there should not be any more trains going there tonight?! His only response was to himself get a bit worried, which I found odd, as it suggested there was something I did not know.

I should have followed him, but could not quickly enough get off with the bicycle and all. I hurried down and then up to the station building to ask someone and thankfully there was a kind (helpful for once) person working there waving with his arm and showing me some fingers on his hand suggesting it was urgent and that I should try and get to number 6 to catch a train. I hurried back down again and got really desperate with all the package and hordes of people coming against me. I felt like I was going to knock anyone in my way down and I almost did. I rushed up and onto a train asking someone there if it could be the right one and the train just started to go as I learned it was the right one.

I asked someone how it could be that a train was leaving at this time when there were no train scheduled to leave Bolzano this late, but these trains apparently are always extremely late as far as I understood. It took a very long time again to get anywhere as the train stopped at every station on the way. I asked a woman who I heard was talking German on her cell phone if I could possibly pay her for helping me get message to the lady hiring the room in Toblach that I would be very late and she did and even explained to me how to get there (it would no have been easy without her help) – she lived at the stopping station for the train which is the station after Toblach near the Austrian border.

I was forgetting myself talking to her, and I did not manage to get all of my luggage together quickly enough and had to jump up off while the train started to move and the doors were closing. It was really close that I made it and unfortunately that caught the attention of another not so helpful conductor, who stopped the train and walked down 10 wagons or so while I was putting my bicycle together again, just to tell me angrily that he would send for the police the next time I did this. Sure if you feel like it, no problem with me I said and left. A bit odd, though – should I be punished for getting into self-made danger? Maybe he should have looked up whether anyone was going to go off this train at Toblach instead? I do not think anyone looked at the tickets at all on that long ride. It is always different individuals – I remembered how terribly helpful they were on just this line that I travelled up to Bruneck the year before and had forgotten a bag at the changing station at Franzensfeste.

It took some time before the lady of the house heard that I ringed the doorbell. She looked tired and did not seem to be very happy over me despite trying my best to be an ideal guest (I guess I had already spoiled that by arriving after 11 p.m.). It was a great value for the money anyway and I was very pleased with the stay. (There are myriads of rooms for hire and hotels, but for some reason I had a hard time finding a room in advance in Toblach and she had answered me by fax.)

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Next DayDay 9Day 10Day 11Day 12Day 13Day 14Day 15Day 16Day 17Day 18Day 19Day 20Day 21Day 22Day 23

Jerry’s homepage