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VII. Alpenrosen and Goat's-Milk Henry van Dyke

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The first stage on the journey thither was by rail to Belluno-- about four or five hours. It is a sufficient commentary on railway travel that the most important thing about it is to tell how many hours it takes to get from one place to another.

We arrived in Belluno at night, and when we awoke the next morning we found ourselves in a picturesque little city of Venetian aspect, with a piazza and a campanile and a Palladian cathedral, surrounded on all sides by lofty hills. We were at the end of the railway and at the beginning of the Dolomites.

Although I have a constitutional aversion to scientific information given by unscientific persons, such as clergymen and men of letters, I must go in that direction far enough to make it clear that the word Dolomite does not describe a kind of fossil, nor a sect of heretics, but a formation of mountains lying between the Alps and the Adriatic. Draw a diamond on the map, with Brixen at the northwest corner, Lienz at the northeast, Belluno at the southeast, and Trent at the southwest, and you will have included the region of the Dolomites, a country so picturesque, so interesting, so full of sublime and beautiful scenery, that it is equally a wonder and a blessing that it has not been long since completely overrun by tourists and ruined with railways. It is true, the glaciers and snowfields are limited; the waterfalls are comparatively few and slender, and the rivers small; the loftiest peaks are little more than ten thousand feet high. But, on the other hand, the mountains are always near, and therefore always imposing. Bold, steep, fantastic masses of naked rock, they rise suddenly from the green and flowery valleys in amazing and endless contrast; they mirror themselves in the tiny mountain lakes like pictures in a dream.

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I believe the guide-book says that they are formed of carbonate of lime and carbonate of magnesia in chemical composition; but even if this be true, it need not prejudice any candid observer against them. For the simple and fortunate fact is that they are built of such stone that wind and weather, keen frost and melting snow and rushing water have worn and cut and carved them into a thousand shapes of wonder and beauty. It needs but little fancy to see in them walls and towers, cathedrals and campaniles, fortresses and cities, tinged with many hues from pale gray to deep red, and shining in an air so soft, so pure, so cool, so fragrant, under a sky so deep and blue and a sunshine so genial, that it seems like the happy union of Switzerland and Italy.

The great highway through this region from south to north is the Ampezzo road, which was constructed in 1830, along the valleys of the Piave, the Boite, and the Rienz--the ancient line of travel and commerce between Venice and Innsbruck. The road is superbly built, smooth and level. Our carriage rolled along so easily that we forgot and forgave its venerable appearance and its lack of accommodation for trunks. We had been persuaded to take four horses, as our luggage seemed too formidable for a single pair. But in effect our concession to apparent necessity turned out to be a mere display of superfluous luxury, for the two white leaders did little more than show their feeble paces, leaving the gray wheelers to do the work. We had the elevating sense of traveling four-in-hand, however--a satisfaction to which I do not believe any human being is altogether insensible.

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Little Rivers
Henry van Dyke

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