The Bletterbach gorge in Aldein: a quite different type of history book

Author
Lara Sinner
Date
02.08.2018

The Bletterbach gorge in Aldein: a quite different type of history book

All about the Dolomites

History writ large – and not just for kids

Five-year old Willi is at the height of his why-why-why-phase. “Why are the mountains in the Val d’Ega so bright?”, “Why don’t we have such high mountains at home?”, “Dad, did people build the mountains themselves in the old days?” His interest in the Val d’Ega and the pale mountains, the Dolomites, increases with each year that we spend our family holidays here. We can find an answer to most of his questions now - but for others we would rather show him the answer, because:

Pictures say more than words can tell

That’s why today we are, so to speak, opening a book – and a very special one at that – one that will answer (almost) all of Willi’s questions about the mountains. Or at least those about the Val d’Ega. “Mummy, how long have these mountains been here?”, Willi asks me, with a questioning face. “We’ll see in a moment, Willi”, I reply and open the first “page”. A quiet forest can be seen with a small path leading through it. It leads down a little, not too much. Then we see a stairway made first of larger stones then, further down, of steel. On the left the first cliffs rise and then, on the next page, we see a little stream that despite its small size - or because of it – rushes wildly along its rocky bed. And when we finally take in the big picture, we see rock faces soaring on both sides of the stream bed, “as high as giants” as Willi puts it. Impressively so, “as high or even higher than if we put our whole family one on top of the other!”.
 

Of cakes and toupees

As we read further on, the stream gets bigger and wider, sometimes nestling close to the cliffs as if to cuddle with them, then flowing once more in the middle of its bed. And the walls get ever higher: “As high as the sky!”, says Willi in amazement – he can’t wait to see the next page. The stream bed is quite wide here - but somehow it’s suddenly not as interesting, because all eyes are now on the rock wall: not just pale grey and white now, but multi-coloured! “Dad, look, it’s like the cake Granny gave you for your birthday!”. And he’s not wrong. There are numerous layers, some dark brown, some pale pink, then grey and white once more, appearing in lighter and darker tones on the rock face. “And the trees at the top look like what Granddad wears on his head, just in green!”, and Willi laughs at the idea that Granddad might have such a green thatch. And we giggle too, because Granddad would not be too amused to learn that everyone knows it is not his real hair on his head.

Bletterbach
Bletterbach
Bletterbach

To the dinosaurs and back

We stay a few minutes on the page admiring the wonderful rock cake with its verdant toupee, not to mention the colourful flowers that grow on the bare stone as if painted on with a brush. We read more, page after page and, even though the streambed and the rock walls are always there, each page appears different. Sometimes the water widens out, sometimes it almost completely disappears, sometimes it runs down the cliffs as if they were shower rather than rock walls. “These rock walls and the stream seem to belong together!” “Yes, Willi, they have both lived here for a veeery long time. So long that you can’t even think that far back, nor can I, not even Granny and Granddad!”, I explain to him and he looks at me and thinks how long a time it must be if not even Granddad can think that far back! When I then tell him that what we can see in the pictures is over 250 million years old, his mouth opens wide and he is lost in thought at this unimaginably large period of time. “Before the knights?”, he asks, puzzled: I nod and he considers the matter further. “But not before the dinosaurs?” Yes, even before the dinosaurs. And, as if on command, on the next page we see a close-up of a stone with a small footprint left by a prehistoric lizard. And, on the stone next to that, we see the impression of a seashell. We explain to Willi that a very, very, very long time ago the stream was a sea where many animals lived and some of them left their mark on the stones that the book is now showing us. Willi is flabbergasted.

Bletterbach
Bletterbach
Bletterbach

Waterfalls and little people

Then, on the last page, a giant, raging waterfall tumbles down the mountain and we too are impressed by the power it radiates and think just how small and recent we humans are, and how big and ancient the world is. Nature steadfastly creates things anew and, if you see everything in proportion, it almost seems as if someone is sitting there, clicking their fingers and bringing into being a new species of animal, a never-before-seen flowering plant or a new and hitherto unknown rock form.

In any case, Willi declares that this book is his favourite book. And yet, in fact, it is actually not a book at all – it is a gorge. And we have truly gorged ourselves, through the Bletterbach gorge near Aldein, where the mountains can be read, layer by layer, stone by stone. A gorge like a book – one that has somehow written its own (hi)story.

Lara Sinner

is responsible for Web Concept & Content at clicktext, the South Tyrolean agency for corporate content. She loves and lives writing, and her stories reflect what the land of South Tyrol – and especially the Val d’Ega – has to tell!

The Italian version of this text is the work of our translation wizard Serena Schiavolin, responsible for Italian content at clicktext, who brings a typical Italian touch to our stories!