This being our last day in Oberbozen and a free day to explore whatever we wanted on our own. We chose to take the Gondola down to Bolzano where we caught a train back to the town of Merano. We wandered the beautiful old town pedestrian streets with shops and restaurants of all sorts. The river meanders through the center of town with pedestrian and bike paths on both sides. Many hotels, restaurants and gelato shops line the riverfront.
We stopped in at the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, first mentioned in the year 1220 before expanding and taking its final shape in 1465. The architecture of the church is gothic with well-preserved stained-glass windows and a large rose window. Next to the church stands a tall clock tower with a sundial. We also explored a smaller chapel behind the church called St. Barbara’s Chapel.
Across the river from the old town is the Empress Elizabeth Park with a statue of Empress Elizabeth (SiSi) of Austria, Queen of Hungary. It was Elizabeth who made frequent visits to Merano for its wonderful microclimate and waters. She helped turn the town into a popular spa for the aristocracy, which contributed to the growth of the town. The park has a seated, life-size statue of Elizabeth hewn out of Laas marble by sculptor Hermann Klotz in 1903. The Laas marble is very white, is quarried near here and was also used in the rebuilding of the ground zero subway station in New York City.
Kent attempted to sneak into the Palace Hotel to use the rest room, but was quickly asked to leave when they found that he was not a guest. This lovely looking hotel opened in 1906 on what was once the Maur Castle dating back to 1676. The luxury hotel with 100 rooms, including 29 suites, is known for its health and beauty treatments including Detox programs.
We had lunch on the main street in old town at an historic Italian restaurant called the Flora-Trattoria which dates back to the year 1400. We sat outside at a table where we enjoyed eggplant parmigiana, pizza and a fruit smoothie.
By midafternoon we walked back to the train station where we boarded a train back to Bolzano. From Bolzano we took the Gondola back up the mountain to Oberbozen where our hotel is located. There Kent had the afternoon cake and we visited with fellow guests before heading to our room for a rest and packing.
For dinner we had a special awards dinner in a small private dining room in the hotel lobby. Kent and Christine handed out awards (think wine, maps, hats, chocolate) for all types of silly things that have happened during the last couple of weeks. Mark got an award for wearing the best hiking shoes (not) and falling on the trail while Kent got an award for always being fun and pleasant. It was a great dinner with plenty of wine, delicious food and lots of laughs.