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Sometimes you think you know a place so well you struggle to find something new. But it's always there if you look.
I'd promised Veronika that I'd take her back to the Czech Republic at least once a year. The first year I got away with it since her Mum came to visit, but then our third year in Perth rolled around and I knew it was time to go back.
I managed to negotiate time spent with her parents down to 2 weeks out of 3, with one week to be spent somewhere else than in the sleepy Czech town of Zlin. We opted to fly into Venice, work our way up through the Dolomites and then cross into Austria and west in to Slovenia to Lake Bled. From there we'd go north through Austria to Zlin and then back down to Venice.
We flew into Venice from Perth via Dubai on Emirates. It was a nicer, shorter flight than the usual long haul from Oz to Europe and we enjoyed a stopover in Dubai. Venice was convenient too - a smaller airport, less hassles and much closer to our intended destination.
I had orginally despaired of finding a hire car we could take into Easter Europe, but then Europcar came through with an Alfa-Romeo, the perfect car for touring Italy. When I approached the Europcar counter in the airport the despair returned.
They had no Alfas. All they could offer me was a Fiat Punto - hardly the car I wanted to drive through the mountains of Italy. They had BMW's they told me, but on no accounts could I take a BMW into the Czech Republic, no insurance existed which would cover the risk! And take a BMW to Slovenia, forget it mio amico. But with much perserverence and crossing of fingers, the very nice multi-lingual receptionist managed to find me an Alpha.
We were off! We were an hour late, and we had 190km of mountain roads to go with night coming... but I had an Alpha!
Not being entirely sure of the Italian rules-of-the-road I opted to cruise the motorway at about 10km less than everyone else - which turned out to be about 155km/h. The A27 motorway curved north out past Treviso in the non-descript manner of motorways everywhere but the mountains loomed large on the horizon.
At "Ponte Nelle Alpi" we left the A27 and veered left into the foothills of the Dolomites near Belluno.The scenery was gorgeous. Frozen silvered peaks rising above verdant green fields and tiny mountain towns.
Our destination that night was the tiny town of Mazzin in the Val di Fassa, and the Albergo Udai.
The Hotel Val Udai is run by a delightful couple, Anna and Nico, who take care of you as if your were part of the family. The Udai has a restaurant downstairs, with a wood-fired pizza oven. Every night Nico makes pizza for guests and every morning Anna uses it to bake bread for breakfast.
Outside, in the Mazzin square and ringed by traditional wooden buildings, a mountain spring bubbles from the ground into a trough.Venice - Dolomites (Mazzin) - Lago di Braies - Villach - Lake Bled - Zlin