Skip to content

From the Dolomites

January 14, 2014

Annika

By Annika Ruohonen

For the past few days I’ve been exploring a remote mountain village called Sappada in Northern Italy. The valley is secluded amongst gorgeous, steep, snow-topped mountains Monte Sierra, The trio of Monte Terza and Monte Ferro. At the bottom of the valley there is the beautiful Fiume Piave, a mountain river that runs all the way down to Mediterranean. We have been following it on our trips back and forth to Venice. At some parts there are fantastic rapids and waterfalls, and sometimes there is just a peaceful little stream in the middle of a huge valley with limestone pebbles.

Annika1

To get to Sappada you have to cross dozens of bridges and dive into numerous tunnels. My sons have already decided to count them on our way back. The longest tunnel is four kilometers long. My younger son keeps calling one of the tunnels the time warp tunnel because everything is so different in each end of it. I guess that is where we pierce into the defining wall of rock in between the sunny southern side and the secluded snowy side in the north. I keep wondering how they used to make the trip before the time of the tunnels. And I hope that the roads will be clear that morning when we have to drive to Venice to catch our flight. There are lots of broken down trees and snow on the steep slopes by the road. I keep telling myself that somehow the Italians always seem to make it work, even with those funny three-wheeled moped cars and the hair-raising traffic behavior of their fellow countrymen.

Annika2

It is very quiet here in Sappada and hardly anyone speaks any other language except Italian. That suits me fine. Apparently it is quite easy for the Italians to understand Finnish and vice versa, even though the languages are not even remotely related to each other. The key to everything around here is to smile and greet everyone. Bongiorno. Buena sera. Without it you are considered extremely rude, but if you remember it, you might even get a dinner invitation to a local house. I met a local man called Luigi by the church one day. He was delighted to meet foreign people in this old village and wondered how we had managed to find our way there. He said that most of the people he knew in Sappada when he was a small boy have already passed away and he comes to visit them at the cemetery.

It is the Italian way to have the cemetery in the middle of the village so that the loved ones who have passed away can be visited every day. People stop by on their way to work and bring fresh flowers and light candles. He said that he moved away when he was little, but comes back every year to spend his vacation in his old hometown. He is 73, has 10 grandkids and a couple of them live in Finland. This discussion was the only one I have had here in English. I wouldn’t have understood this much in Italian. However, the discussions that I have had in Italian, even though I have never studied the language, include for example the following: the beauty of the mountains (in sunshine in comparison to when it’s cloudy or foggy), the agony of carrying once skis to the elevators, and the names of the local mountains in Italian. And I’ve witnessed the Italians understanding perfectly what we say in Finnish. I’ve come to realize that it isn’t about the words. It is about being present in the situations, wanting to understand and wanting to make a connection with another person. The rest is gestures, facial expressions, tones of voice and smiles.

Annika3

For photography this place needs to be experienced and studied for a few days. It is not easy to know when there is sunlight and when the darkness falls. The mountains form an uneven wall around the village that defines the amount of light so that all afternoon you can follow the sun slowly moving west just above the snowy peaks, then it disappears for a while behind a slightly higher peak of the Monte Sierra, only to come back and show it’s glorious orange form for the final view at a grotto between Monte Sierra and Monte Terza. Just how low in the valley you happen to be, defines your chances to see it. And then there is the mist of course. The open Fiume Piave in the valley bringing it up in the mornings and in the evenings. My sons like to think of us being in the cloud. Well, the internet cloud it isn’t for sure, since those kinds of connections here are very rare and weak.

Annika4

It is amazingly quiet here. There is only the sound of the open rapids in the mountain river, tree branches breaking under the weight of the snow, and the occasional skier passing on the crispy bed of snow on the other side of the river.

Words & Pictures: Annika Ruohonen

This piece originally appeared on Annika’s wonderful blog and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to repost it here on Under a Grey Sky.

About these ads
One Comment leave one →
  1. Phil Scraton permalink
    January 15, 2014 12:30 am

    What a fine post … and great photos. ‘I’ve come to realize that it isn’t about the words. It is about being present in the situations, wanting to understand and wanting to make a connection with another person.’ Thanks Annika.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

It's brightening up a bit

Adventures in the British Countryside

Down in The Effra

Andrew Rumsey writes

The New English Landscape

For nearly a decade we – photographer Jason Orton and writer Ken Worpole – have documented the changing landscape and coastline of Essex and East Anglia, particularly its estuaries, islands and urban edgelands. We continue to explore many aspects of contemporary landscape topography, architecture and aesthetics, and last year published our second book, The New English Landscape (Field Station | London, 2013), already into its second edition.

Hatful of History

There's more to life than books you know, but not much more.

Grantland

Sports and Pop Culture from Bill Simmons and our rotating cast of writers | Grantland

Longreads Blog

The best longform stories on the web

Rising to gale

wellington wanderings

The Lost Promenade

Starting with the pieces around the edges...

Reading the Arcades / Reading the Promenades

Reading Britain's promenades through Walter Benjamin's Arcades

Mapping the Marvellous

Itineraries of curious objects and collections.

In:Sites

Landscape, Place, Memory

rag-picking history

unearthing hidden places & pasts

The View East

Central and Eastern Europe, Past and Present.

The Halt

Silt and shingle. Prose and poems by Brian Lewis

The Footing

New Longbarrow anthology of walking-themed poems by Angelina Ayers, James Caruth, Mark Goodwin, Rob Hindle, Andrew Hirst, Chris Jones and Fay Musselwhite

Byron's muse

Culture, Alienation, Boredom and Despair.

Betaville

Urbanism. It'll look nice when it's finished.

Benjamin Myers

Novelist, Journalist, Poet...

Ladonde Berlin

Temporarily Relocated

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 251 other followers