It’s a straight shot from Sirmione to Bolzano on the Autostrada, from the Veneto plain to the mountains of the South Tirol. As we enter Bolzano, Joss does not want to navigate us through another ‘restricted traffic’ zone, however our destination, Hotel Greif, known to us as Hotel Grief, is on the periphery of same. Nevertheless, I pull up in front of the hotel, drop the bags and Joss in the one room that’s ready, and maneuver the VW into Hotel Grief’s nearby parking. The hotel is a stylish modern concoction within a typical Mitteleurope building. We’re hungry and under-caffeinated, so lunch at the café in the alpine sun of Walther Square.
German speakers make up a high percentage of Bolzano’s residents, because the South Tirol has been a contested area for centuries – Austria-Hungary vs. Italy. The architecture is very different from the Veneto. I’d say, “Switzerland”, if I knew what I was talking about.
We’re in Bolzano for two reasons – 1) It’s the gateway to the Dolomites and 2) Otzi, the Iceman, sleeps the long sleep here. Yes, the Iceman, murdered on a mountaintop some 5,500 years ago. The frozen dude they found in 1991 with all his belongings intact. He lies in a custom-built freezer in the South Tirol Museum of Archeology. There are two back-up freezers.
When we arrive, there’s a discouraging line, but it moves. Plugged into the audio guide, we follow Otzi’s story; from the accidental discovery by a pair of hikers to the dispute over the international boundary between Italy and Austria (Italy prevailed, but Austria performed a decade’s-worth of tests before the Iceman was returned to the redesigned Museum in Bolzano) to the continuing reevaluation of the Iceman’s condition. A thorough analysis of everything about the gentleman – his clothes, his weapons, his tattoos, his stomach contents – was performed by the Austrians. And then we step up for a glimpse of him through a window in his special freezer. Macabre and wonderful. At the end of the exhibit a full reconstruction of Otzi standing looking warily over his shoulder is terribly convincing. Pretty fucking unbelievable.
The full comprehension of Otzi and his predicament helps us work up an appetite. We opt for schnitzel at FranzenkanerStuben. We have a drive ahead of us tomorrow.