Category Archives: Mountains

Where to find ruins of war in Europe: the German hills of the dead and destruction (and rebirth)

During our last visit to Germany (Stuttgart, Baden Württemberg, Southern Germany) we learnt that also this city, as all major German cities, has an artificial hill made of debris removed from the bombed buildings.

Downtown Stuttgart on a cloudy day. The city is surrounded by hills. The high density of new buildings mixed with older ones is a war legacy

Downtown Stuttgart on a cloudy day. The city is surrounded by hills. The high density of new buildings mixed with older ones is a war legacy

Around Stuttgart lies a range of heights which give the city its beautiful look of an inhabited hollow surrounded by a crown of green hills.

One of those hills was chosen as the final resting place of Stuttgart’s postwar debris. The place’s name is Birkenkopf, and with its additional 120 ft of height due to piled rubble, has become the highest point in Stuttgart. Dirt has been added to allow tree growth.

The total amount of ruins piled on Birkenkopf is 15 million cubic meter.

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Facts about the Alps, Europe’s great mountain range

The Alps have always been an important part of Europe.

They are geographically important, representing 11% of Europe’s surface and heavily influencing its climate. They are important from a historical point of view, as they were a barrier for people movements and trade. They are culturally important for a shared, cross-national Alpine culture has developed on their valleys and mountains.

matterhorn in winter

Matterhorn, at the border between Italy and Switzerland

Local lifestyle and the way the Alps are seen from the outside have both changed dramatically during recent decades. From a remote, hard-to-live-in region where economy was mainly based on livestock, the Alps turned into one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe, especially in winter.

This is not a surprise, since the Alps provide awe-inspiring and majestic views.
If you’ve ever been on the bottom of one their valleys, which look like being hollowed out of the surrounding rocky walls, or on a flower-covered meadow on the top of a hill with high snowy peaks all around, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Besides, since the Alps are made of high mountains spanning for several hundreds of miles, they are a natural venue for countless ski slopes and related resorts. Here is one of them featuring the highest suspension bridge in Europe.

Let’s check some facts about Europe’s most famous mountain range.

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Highest suspension bridge in Europe

Today the highest suspension bridge in Europe has been opened.

It is located on Mount Titlis in Switzerland, a well known ski resort also famous for the breathtaking views that can be enjoyed from the Rotair, the first rotating cable car in the world.

The new Titlis suspension bridge is located close to the top of the mountain, at an altitude approaching 10,000 feet above the sea level. It is a pedestrian bridge, being only one meter wide.

However, being the highest of its kind in Europe is not the most astonishing distinctive point of this new bridge, in my opinion.

For me, it is the fact that from today on, when weather grants permission, tourists will be able to walk over a chasm 1600 ft deep over the Titlis south wall.

Here some images provided by Mount Titlis tourist association. You can see the mountain and the computer project of the bridge.

Titlis suspension bridge

Titlis suspension bridge

 

Video of the first day (German audio)

Follow this link to watch today’s video of the opening in the snow-storm.

Directions

If you want to see the bridge in steel and concrete, and maybe walk on it if you don’t suffer from vertigo, it is very simple to do. Just drive to Engelberg, Canton Obwalden, in Central Switzerland. Alternatively, you can use a train service from Lucerne. Once in Engelberg, take the rotating cable car to the top of the mountain.


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Once there, you will walk on a trail comprising an underground tunnel that will lead you over the abyss of Titlis south wall. There is the bridge.

The famous Titlis Rotating Cableway, first in the world

The famous Titlis Rotating Cableway, first in the world

Saint Gotthard Pass | Railway Tunnel | Road Tunnel – Switzerland | A place of beauty, history and records.

Saint Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, together with Saint Gotthard railway tunnel and the road tunnel, represent a major European transit point connecting Northern and Southern Europe through the Saint Gotthard Massif, a mountain range in the Swiss Alps.

Saint Gotthard Pass

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer

Saint Gotthard Pass in summer – Click on it

Saint Gotthard Pass is a relatively low altitude (2,100 m, or 6,900 ft) passage point in the Gotthard Massif, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. It has been used over the last hundreds of years as a crossing point for people and goods transportation. To the north lie the Swiss cities of Zurich and Bern, then the Rhine basin and Germany. To the south, the Ticino Valley with the Swiss Canton bearing the same name, followed by the valleys of Northern Italy.

Although the pass is entirely located on Swiss territory, it is part of both a geological and a linguistic continental divide.

The pass crosses the European continental watershed that separates the Mediterranean Sea basin from the North Sea Basin. This division also reflects on languages spoken by inhabitants of both sides: while both Swiss citizens, south inhabitants (Canton Ticino) speak Italian, while north ones speak German (Canton Uri).

This separation is found throughout all the Alps.

Nowadays Gotthard Pass is mainly a leisure summer destination where enjoying sight of mountains’ majesty and refreshment from heat. It is closed to traffic in winter. A few small lakes lie on pass plane.

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel

Saint Gotthard Railway Tunnel is a 15-kilometer (9 miles) tunnel built inside Saint Gotthard Massif at an elevation of 1,100 meters above sea level.

It was excavated in the 1870s and opened to rail traffic in 1882. Its construction claimed the lives of approximately 200 people, including the engineer leading construction, Louis Favre.

The tunnel took over traffic from the pass since its completion and has served as a major connecting passage between northern and southern Europe to this day. It is mainly crossed by passenger and freight trains that reach Italy from Switzerland and from Germany.

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

Railway and Motorway Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

A Glimpse On The Valley While Approaching Saint Gotthard

The new Saint Gotthard Base Tunnel

Due to ever-increasing freight traffic over the last decades, a new railway tunnel is undergoing construction at a lower altitude (between 310 and 550 meters above sea level – or 1024 to 1800 ft).

The new tunnel, with its 57 km (35 mi) length is the longest tunnel in the world. While raw excavation was completed in 2011, traffic is scheduled to start in 2016.

Trains will reach a top speed of 250 km/h (160 mph) inside the tunnel, cutting travel time for passengers of one hour between Milan and Zurich.

Saint Gotthard Road Tunnel

Following car traffic increase in the 1960s and 1970s, a road tunnel was constructed at approximately the same level of the old railway tunnel, and opened in 1980.

With its length of just over 16 km (10 mi), Gotthard road tunnel was the longest road tunnel in the world at its completion and it is now the third.

The tunnel features a heavy traffic load. Since there is only one lane for each direction and a safety distance is mandatory for vehicles, traffic lights are placed at both ends in order to dilute traffic inside the tunnel. This can result in massive traffic jams outside the tunnel, that can reach almost 20 km (12 mi) in length in summertime.

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 - Click to enlarge

Traffic jam at north portal of the Saint Gotthard road tunnel, August 2012 – Click to enlarge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While Saint Gotthard Pass is no longer used for transportation, both Gotthard railway tunnels and road tunnel will see their traffic increasing in the following years, gaining importance for trans-Europe transportation.

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