Ok, so age probably doesn’t have anything to do with it.  There are plenty of 55 year-old women who can walk up a mountain.  It must be the obesity and sedentary lifestyle (I am a writer, after all) that caused me to have a near-death experience as I struggled to draw every breath, chest-heaving, lungs screaming, and blood vessels in my brain throbbing.  It was so bad that I began reciting Bible verses–out loud–as I willed my legs to take each excruciating step.

Then we got to the top…and, man-oh-man!….I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Well worth the climb!
Well worth the climb!

So here’s the story…When I was looking at guidebooks planning our trip I came across some pictures that absolutely took my breath away.  They were from a mountain range called The Dolomites in northern Italy near the Austrian border.  Steve looked for a hotel and found us the Hotel Albion and Spa.  We planned our trip to be in this amazing locale for the actual day of our anniversary and to spend that day on a walking tour of the mountains, a different kind of masterpiece in a different kind of cathedral.

Our guide, Simon, was very patient with an overweight, out-of-shape American, I think because I was so truly taken by his mountains.  He is widely traveled, hiking everyplace from Australia to Canada, but at heart he is a hometown boy, proud of his local scenery and culture.  He even introduced me to his native language, Ladin, spoken by a scant 35,000 speakers in the world.  In his schooling they learned three languages, Ladin, Italian and German.

Me, Simon, and Steve. Simon must be the best, most patient tour guide in all of Italy.

Anyway, we signed up for his least strenuous walk.  I should have known when he said we’d need poles that this was not going to be a stroll in the park.  We were part of a small group of about 15 climbers, the only Americans, and only Simon spoke English.  It was kind of nice, though, that Steve and I could only speak to each other, really appropriate for our anniversary.  And guess what?  Now we have another truly moving experience to share in our life together.

Halfway up, we started hearing bells, as in cowbells.  These bells were actually attached to cows, and the cows were having far less trouble with the climb than I was.  One of them stopped on the trail and looked at me, just kind of stood there until I poked her with my pole.  There were plenty of them around as well as mountain ponies with their thick, sturdy legs and long manes.

IMG_3502 IMG_3520

When we got to the top there was a little cabin with a little cafe that had hot dogs and Coke.  Coke!  The elixir of the gods would not have tasted as wonderful.

And the view.  How could it be that I might have gone my whole life without seeing that view?  It is life-changing to stand in the presence of that kind of magnificence.  Even now I sigh to think of it.

From the top
From the top

We have been fortunate in our thirty years of married life to share many really wonderful experiences–graduations, houses, children, vacations.  With our boys launching their own lives, we have turned to planning the third stage of our life together, and we want to spend it travelling. (It sure makes planning easier when you want the same thing.)  I  loved all of Italy, and, as you will read, all of Germany, but without a doubt our anniversary day in the Dolomites is high point of our wonderful trip to Europe.

With the love of my life

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