Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dolomite Mountains, Italy

Destination 4:  Cortina d’Ampezzo and Borca di Cadore

The Dolomites are known for winter skiing and summer hiking and mountaineering.  November is slow in this area as the snow has not yet fallen and it just isn’t warm enough to draw a crowd.  I had the opportunity to spend a weekend here in early November and had no idea what to expect.  Aside from the rather lousy weather and thick fog/cloud cover it turned out to be a fantastic experience.

I booked a hotel in Borca di Cadore based upon online research focusing on the area of Cortina d’Ampezzo.  Hotel Antelao offers a great location close to hiking trails with pristine views of Mount Pelmo.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone in the area, though sadly my window view of the mountains was obscured by fog and cloud cover for nearly the entire weekend.  Hiking trail maps were readily available in the hotel and the first trail I decided to try was within walking distance of the hotel.  The trail starts near the church seen in the shot below a short distance from the center of town.  From the church a road runs downhill to Boite creek.  The trail begins on the other side of the bridge and is reasonably well marked, there is even a sign pointing in the direction of the waterfall (cascata).

The gravel trail is steep in some points but is not very difficult.  I was able to jog the majority of the way to the waterfall.  The waterfall was shrouded in mist and fog making HDR a necessity to get the first shot of the falls from a distance.  The second shot was taken from a small wooden plank over the stream.  I probably took 50 shots here to get this one, the mist from the light rain and the falls made for unusable shots due to exaggerated water spots from the wide angle I was shooting.  Short on daylight as I always seem to be, I took the trail back the way I came and drove into Cortina d’Ampezzo and took the shot of the main church in the center of town through the thick fog.

The next day the fog still had not lifted making the higher elevation trails a complete waste of time.  I decided to take another loop in the hills near the town of San Vito.  I was able to take the fifth shot of Torrente Boite through a small break in the fog.  After I made it back to the hotel to check out, the fog finally began to lift and I was able to take the post header shot of Mount Pelmo from the parking lot.  The drive back led me through the town of Valle di Cadore where I took the last shot in this post.

Chiesa Teddeo e Simone

Chiesa Teddeo e Simone, Borca di Cadore
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@33mm, f/5.0, 1/80s, ISO:200

Shrouded Waterfall, Borca di Cadore, Italy

Shrouded Waterfall, Borca di Cadore, Italy
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/4.0, Multi, ISO:200

Waterfall near Borca di Cadore

Waterfall near Borca di Cadore
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @8mm, f/14.0, 1/4s, ISO:200

Chiesa Parrocciale, Cortina d'Ampezzo

Chiesa Parrocciale, Cortina d’Ampezzo
Olympus EPL-1, 20mm lens @20mm, f/4.0, 1s, ISO:200

Torrente Boite, San Vito, Italy

Torrente Boite, San Vito, Italy
Olympus EPL-1, 20mm lens @20mm, f/4.5, 1/200s, ISO:400

Chiesa San Martino, Valle di Cadore

Valle di Cadore, Chiesa San Martino
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/4.5, 1/800s, ISO:200

Next posts:  Tour of Italy, Rome


Slovenia, Triglav National Park

Destination 3:  Triglav, Vintgar Gorge and Lake Bohinj

Between the borders of Italy and Austria in northwestern Slovenia lies Triglav National Park.  Triglav encompasses the eastern end of the Julian Alps and is the only national park in Slovenia.  In March of 2012 I was able to spend a day in the park jogging around Lake Bohinj (stopping for pictures of course) and walking the platform and bridges of the Vintgar gorge (also known as Bled gorge).

The Vintgar gorge is located northwest of the town of Bled.  The entrance to the park is not too difficult to find as there are signs posted once you near the tiny town of Krnica.   The limestone sheer cliff faces of the gorge are cut by the deep green hued waters of the Radovna river.  Wooden walkways hug the cliff face and cross over the river at several points. Arctic grayling and various types of trout can be seen in the deep pools throughout the gorge.  Entrance is only a few euros and the walk is an easy one.  The gorge ends at the Sum waterfall (about a 25 minute walk) but trail continues on.

Vintgar Gorge, Radovna River, Slovenia

Vintgar Gorge, Radovna River, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens @14mm, f/5.0, 1/50s, ISO:200

Sum Waterfall, Radovna River, Slovenia

Sum Waterfall, Radovna River, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens @7mm, f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO:200

Near the town of Bojinska Bistrica at the southeastern end of Triglav national park lies Lake Bohinj.  The hiking trail runs the entire perimeter of the lake and is an easy walk.  Parking is available at the east end of the lake in the town of Ribcev Laz near the church of Saint John the Baptist (locally known as Sv. Janez Krstnik).  Surrounding the lake are the mountain peaks of the Julian Alps.  The water of the lake is crystal clear with the same greenish tint seen in all of the area’s limestone rivers.  At the end of the lake opposite of the town one can take a short detour to the Savica waterfalls.  Unfortunately it was getting later in the day and I wanted to drive through the park with some daylight remaining so I skipped the falls.  The post header shot was taken from the east end of the lake near the church.  Light rain and heavy cloud cover made HDR a necessity for the shots I took around the lake.

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@42mm, f/5.6, Multi, ISO:200

On the way back to Italy I took route 206 from Kranjska Gora to Bovec through the heart of the park.  The relatively warm temperatures at the lower elevations near the lake and the gorge quickly gave way to snow covered roads and sub freezing temperatures.  The road is steep, thin at spots and there are numerous switchbacks making for a somewhat harrowing drive however the views were spectacular.

Triglav National Park Near Trenta, Slovenia

Triglav National Park near Trenta, Slovenia
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens @14mm, f/4.5, 1/400s, ISO:200

Next posts: The Italian Dolomites near Cortina D’Ampezzo

Puerto Rico, Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Destination 2:  Old San Juan and Castillo San Felipe del Morro

Bodega Chic

Bodega Chic, Calle San Sebastian

Old San Juan lies on an island to the northwest of the main tourist area of Santurce.  As would be expected Spanish influences dominate the architectural style.  While some areas of the town can get overrun by tourists (specifically the areas near the cruise ship harbor), there are plenty of smaller more local bars and restaurants to be found.  Calle Sol and Calle San Sebastian are excellent streets to bar crawl.

La Casa Estrecha, San Juan

La Casa Estrecha

I would recommend a short tour of the old town, specifically the Flavors of San Juan food tour.  The tour guides weave you through the old town explaining the history of the city and noting key landmarks.  Local restaurants and bars are featured as opposed to the tourist traps.  One of the more memorable oddities of the tour was La Casa Estrecha, one of the thinnest residences in the world.  The house is now being renovated to be turned into an art gallery.  Our favorite restaurant in San Juan was Verde Mesa, which we stumbled upon while strolling the streets of the town.  The restaurant has a small number of tables and the entrees feature fresh fish.  The ceviche was one of the best I’ve ever had.

Protecting the harbor entrance is Castillo San Felipe del Morro (post header shot).  El Morro protected San Juan from invasion up to the last military actions it saw in the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The sentry towers along the fort and city walls called Guerites or Garitas, have become the image most associated with San Juan.  The fort is within walking distance from the old town.  The main entrance can be accessed by walking along Calle del Morro which is flanked by expansive lawns used by the locals for picnics and flying kites.  Shots were taken with an Olympus EPL-1 and various lenses including the Oly 14-42, Panasonic 20mm, and Panasonic 7-14mm.  Next Post: Triglav and Lake Bohinj, Slovenia

Calle del Morro from El Morro Entrance

Calle del Morro from El Morro Entrance

La Garita or Guerite

La Garita or Guerite & San Juan Harbor