Sunday, September 25, 2011

Condensation dryer...heard of it?

When I first got into my house here in Italy I did about two loads of laundry and my dryer stopped working. I could not figure out what the heck was wrong with it. Finally I pulled this little drawer out and it was full of water. I wasn't sure what it was but there was a little hole so I decided to empty it, my dryer went back to working. It's called a condensation dryer, have you heard of this? Maybe I'm ridiculous but I've never heard of it.

From Wikipedia:
"Just as in a normal dryer, condenser dryers pass heated air through the load. However, instead of exhausting this air, the dryer uses a heat exchanger to cool the air and condense the water vapor into either a drain pipe or a collection tank. This air is run through the loop again. The heat exchanger typically uses ambient air as its coolant, therefore the heat produced by the dryer will go into the immediate surroundings instead of the outside, increasing the room temperature."

P.S. Speaking of laundry there are a few other quirks you might want to know about...the machines here take FOREVER. The washer takes 2 hours unless I run the "quick" 1 hour cycle.  The dryer also takes about two hours, depending on how much I'm drying. And to make things worse, if I try to run both at the same time it flips the breaker. A lot of other ladies here have told me that the same thing happens to them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Strada delle 52 galllerie

The weather right now is just right for a good hike. Last weekend we decided to check out the Strada Delle 52 Gallerie. In the Dolomite mountains of Italy not too far from where we live there is a series of 52 tunnels that where cut into Mount Pasubio by soldiers during WWI in order to safely transport supplies. Work began on February 6, 1917 and was concluded in November 1917. It is considered to be an engineering masterpiece for it's day and is one of the few remaining structures from WWI.
The very first tunnel
Getting there was easier then I thought it would be. It took about an hour and a half from Vicenza. We put "Valli del Pasubio" into our gps. From there we continued onto SS46 towards Rovereto. The road goes up to the moutains so there are a lot of switchbacks. About 6 miles up SS46 on the right hand side you will see a sign for Strada delle 52 Gallerie, turn right. (This road is a little bit tricky but manageable. It is a one lane road going up the mountain, so there are some blind corners and it drops off on one side of you. Just go slow and you'll be fine. I have found that everyone goes up this road in the morning and down in the afternoon, so as long as you are there in the morning hopefully you won't have to pass any cars. But if you do happen upon a car coming down, there are pulloffs for passing here and there. It's not a bad road, I took a little four door car up it no problem, no need for an SUV.) You all the way up until you get to a spot where the road goes three different ways. Go left. Go all the way up until you get to a nice big parking lot just for the Strada delle 52 (it's about 5 miles all the way from where you turned off). Get out and take the left hand trail with the fancy entrance and get hiking!

Tunnel number 20 spirals up through this tower
The walk starts at a car park at Bocchetta Campiglia [1216m] and ends uphill at an Italian Alpine Club refuge called A Papa [1928m]. There is an information board at the start of the walk, with a small section in English. Each tunnel is numbered and at intervals there are more boards giving information on the next few tunnels. The tunnels are all different. Some are long and some are short. Some have little lookout windows and some are dark. Be sure to bring a flashlight for the dark ones. My husband is over six foot and had to duck through some of the tunnels a little bit but not too bad.
The tunnels make this a really unique and enjoyable hike. It takes about three hours to get to the top and two to get down. There are some parts of the trail that drop off on the side but the trail is wide so it's not scary at all. We strapped my two year old into a hiking backpack because he is not so good at staying on a trail yet.
Going back down can be tricky because the tunnels can get slippery. If you don't want to go back down through the tunnels there is a road you can follow back down, you'll see it when you get to the top. There is a trail that sort of follows the road but cuts off the switchbacks, so watch for the red and white stripes that mark it.

When we got past about tunnel forty we were up in the clouds. When we got to the top we were above the clouds. It was beautiful up there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Luzern/Lucerne, Switzerland

If you're looking to escape to the mountains there is no better place to do that then Switzerland. Everywhere you go in Switzerland there is a mountain, a lake, a river and a waterfall within sight. It is absolutely breathtaking. The city of Luzern is a wonderful place to see. The historic part of town is full of half timbered houses and even has a medieval wall with nine towers, three of which you can ascend (for free). The "chapel bridge" is Europe's oldest surviving wooden covered bridge built in 1333 with 17th century paintings in it depicting the history of Luzern.

The dying lion monument commemorates the hundreds of Swiss Gueards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when the mob stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

Interesting fact for an attempt to maintain neutrality Switzerland long ago strategically placed explosives around the borders that when activated, because of all the mountain passes would make access to Switzerland impossible by road.
Next to Luzern are two major mountains, Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi. They have a package deal that you can do where you take a boat ride to the base, ride a cogwheel up Mount Pilatus and then a Gondola back down but it's pretty pricey (80 Euro on the off season).
See the gondola?
We decided to hike to the top to avoid paying for the cogwheel/gondola. We wanted to do the toboggan ride at the top which they claim is Switzerland's longest summer toboggan ride. This hike is not for the faint of heart. It starts at the bottom of the gondola in Kleine and takes 3 hours of straight up the mountain to get there.
Love the sound of Swiss cow bells

Toboggan run on top of Mount Pilatus. Look at the view!
Be warned, everything in Switzerland is EXPENSIVE. The hotels can run you about $200 a night. We roughed it in a tent at a campground and paid $50 a night to do it. I never thought I would pay that much to camp! But what better place to camp then beautiful Switzerland.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Call the states for FREE!!!!!!!

I have always used Google voice to call home from here in Italy. It only charged me 1 cent a minute to call the states. I even use it to call landlines here in Italy because it's only 2 cents a minute as compared to the 12 cents a minute they charge me to call a land line from my cell phone. But it just got even better!

If you have a .mil email address you can add it to your google voice account info (if you have a gmail account log in with that info, if not, create a google account) and it emails you at the address to confirm and then you are signed up for FREE calling to the states from anywhere overseas! Thank you google voice! This would have been nice to have when my husband was deployed!

Monday, September 5, 2011


If you are an army wife in Europe, READ THIS.

I just found out today that your gas coupons EXPIRE at the end of every fiscal year (Sept 30th). So what you need to do is take any remaining gas coupons that you have on Sept 30th to the Px to get a refund and then buy your new coupons for the next fiscal year. They are a different color every year so it's pretty noticeable and you won't be able to use any coupons that you've bought before Sept 30th, so be sure you don't lose any money on this!

Good to know right??

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Asiago...the town and the cheese

Asiago is beautiful little town in northern Italy that is famous for (can you guess??) Asiago cheese. They are also famous for honey and mushrooms. If you are looking for somewhere to escape the heat, it's a good place to go. It's up in the mountains to the temperature is cooler and the air is so fresh. I highly recommend checking out this town. The cheese and honey vendors will let you have samples, it's fun to taste the difference in a cheese at different ages. The honeys have very different flavors depending on what the bees were pollinating. I tried a "honey of the woods" that I can only describe as tasting very much like the woods, as opposed to a "honey of acacia" that was sweet like a flower.

The switchback road getting up to Asiago

Beautiful green hills of Asiago

A church in Asiago


Don't you love the colors of Italy?

WWI monument in Asiago where 30,000 soldiers are buried