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World’s Largest Sundial: Sesto

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And the lamplight o'er him throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted – nevermore!
(Raven by Edgar Alan Poe, 1845)
Lurking in the grim and dark shadows, creepy monsters are waiting for you to lose your vigil. They’ll drag you to Hell in a split second once you ease your grip on reality. Well, this article is not about gruesome tales of macabre, it is not about our childhood bogus monsters, but it is about the shadows indeed. The shadows that serve a human. The shadows that inspire. The shadows that ticktock.

The oldest man-made sundial

It is hardly a secret to anyone that Stonehenge is the oldest man-made sundial. This timekeeping device belongs to the Neolithic Age. Its stones were carefully shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle – the midwinter sunset, on the shortest day of the year, and the midsummer sunrise, on the longest day. By the way, touch the stones at the entrance to the Stonehenge site; they are the only ones available to human touch. You will feel they have different temperatures, even if you are touching the same facets.
Should you wish to visit this fascinating place, don’t forget to drop at the city of Bath, it also holds a lot of history to tell. 

The biggest man-made sundial

The biggest man-made sundial is located in India, it is the Jantar Mantar (loosely translated as ‘calculating instrument’) in Jaipur, Rajasthan. It is a collection of 19 astronomical instruments built by King Sawal Jai Singh II in 1734. The observatory features stone and brass instruments that were built using astronomy and instrument design principles of ancient Hindu Sanskrit texts. These tools allow the observation of astronomical positions with the naked eye.

The biggest and the oldest sundial in one, or Mother Nature's joke

However, Mother Nature beats them all. With her unique sense of humour, she has the oldest and biggest sundial in one: Sesto Sundial in the Dolomite Alps.
Sesto Sundial in the Dolomites is as old as hills as the English say. Those mountains are definitely a couple of aeons older than Stonehenge. As to the size, the ‘clock hands’ are the five Dolomite peaks of Cima Nove (No.9 or 9 a.m.), Cima Dieci (No.10) (Croda Rossa di Sesto), Cima Undici (No.11), Cima Dodici (No.12) and Cima Uno (No.1, or 1 p.m.).
Cima Dieci and Cima Una

Cima Dieci and Cima Una

How does it work?

Simply: it works like a clock. When the sun rises, it first glows over Cima Nove (at 9 a.m.) and then the incandescently beautiful shadows are vanishing under Cima Dieci, Undici, Dodici and finally Cima Uno respectively. At the time of the winter solstice, the midday sun stands exactly above the Cima Dodici and at 1 pm it shines precisely on the summit of the Cima Uno. Another mountain obscures the view of the sun at 9 am and 10 am from Bagni di Moso, but the same principle applies.
To check out the names of each mountain, get your PeakVisor app out, take a panoramic picture and here you go with names, altitudes and many more useful titbits of information that you can add as you wish in the annotated info section.

PeakVisor demo

The mountains fact file

Characteristic for Cima Nove (2,582 m) are the different layers of sedimentation, which can be seen from afar. Cima Nove is the lowest member of the Sundial of Sesto. Cima Dieci actually called Croda Rossa di Sesto (2,965 m), however, represents the easternmost pillar of the Sesto Dolomites and was first ascended by Michael Innerkofler and Roland von Eötvös in 1878.
Cima Undici (3,068 m) is the main peak of the Undici mountain range and boasts remnants of the times of WWI. Cima Dodici is located on the border to the neighbouring Belluno, its main peak is 2,917 m high. Cima Una is, at the latest world-famous since 2007, the year in which about 60,000 sq. m. of the mountain crashed down. The dust cloud covered the whole valley in the surroundings. Even today this rockfall is clearly visible on the rock face of the mountain.

The name origin

The names of the single mountains as you already know are just the numbers: Nove=9, Dieci = 10, Undici = 11, Dodici = 12, Uno = 1. As to the umbrella name Sesto, historians see this as an indication of Sesto or “Sexten”, derived from Sasso delle Dodici that once showed the “sexta hora” in the Roman calendar. The Ancient Romans started their time counting at sunrise; 12 noon, therefore, was the sixth hour, the ‘sexta hora’.

The best place and time to watch the Sun

The best place and time to watch the sun above the Sesto Sun Dial is the main road between Moso and the Elmo cable car station – in winter! This is when the sundial will match the time of day rather well.

Things to do in and around Sesto

Sesto Sun Dial is always challenging, for starters, you can try to climb all five peaks of the Sun Dial on a single day just like Greti Rogger, the innkeeper at the Pian di Cengia hut, and her son Daniel did. Alternatively, you can fly over these numbered jagged peaks, or swim in a freezingly cold Lake Braies. Or, you can take a look at the next Star Wars shooting location. Let’s have a quick overview of those activities.

Take a picture

Peitlerkofel - Sass de Pütia (2.875m)

Peitlerkofel - Sass de Pütia (2.875m)

Sunrises and sunsets are magical in the Dolomites and the magic is called enrosadira (a Ladin (local language, not Latin) term literally meaning “turning pink”). It is the term given to the phenomenon by which most of the peaks in the Dolomites at dawn and dusk take on a reddish colour which gradually turns into violet. The reason behind the changing colours is due to the calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate of the dolomite, the mineral found in large quantities in the rocky walls of the Dolomites. At sunrise and sunset, the rocky cliffs take on hues that vary from light yellow to bright red, to different shades of pink and violet, until the mountains disappear in the dark of night.
Also, if you are a nature fan, go to Natura 2000 - Sesto Dolomites Nature Ppark that protects unique wildlife. You will see there the Aesculapian snake and the alpine salamander.
Among the flora species, check out on the Dolomite columbine and the rampion bellflower (also called Rapunzel). For more mountain flours, go to 12 Months of Blooming Flowers Blog and Mountain Flowers.

Hiking & Climbing

"Tre Cime peaks and the Locatelli hut" by PeakVisor can be reused under the CC BY license

At 3094 m altitude, the Cima Dodici is among the peaks of over 3,000 metres. It is situated near the hikers’ and climbers’ paradise Three Peaks.
      2999 m Cima Grande (big peak) in the centre
      2973 m Cima Occidentale (western peak)
      2857 m Cima Piccola (small peak)
From the first time Cima Grande was successfully conquered in 1869, the Three Peaks have become one of the most popular mountains in the Alps among climbers. They have been opened up through numerous climbing tours of varying degrees of difficulty and have since become a centre of Alpine climbing. Many important developments in climbing started here. The view of the steep north faces is one of the most well-known landscapes of the Alps and the landmark of the Dolomites.
Stout boots and a little bit of fitness are required.
To take a look at Tre Cime from some distance, take a fantastic Bonacossa trail with its jagged peaks. That trail requires a much higher level of mountain experience and even some special equipment. Sometimes Tre Cime don't look like three peaks at all as there are many more stone formations seen from various angles. Not to be lost, use the PeakVisor app, that would never allow your vision to be as clouded as those notorious Tre Cime on a rainy day.

"Monument ai Bersaglieri" by PeakVisor can be reused under the CC BY license

If you walk around Tre Cime, you will see a lot of WWI and WWII leftovers and monuments. Monument ai Bersaglieri (meaning “snipers” in English) is among those. The Angel of the Fallen is the work of sculptor Ancona Vittorio Monelli, who was enlisted in the WWI’s 8th Regiment of the Corps of Sharpshooters in 1916. It is a winged man with a sword in his right hand and a laurel wreath in his left.
To this day, there are preserved trenches, tunnels, and iron ladders around Tre Cime that remind us of the fierce fighting witnessed by these peaks during the war.
Classical hiking Sesto route starts from the Val Fiscalina and leads through the Bacherntal valley to the Comici hut. It takes you past the imposing Cima Dodici and further on to the Pian di Cengia hut up to the Locatelli hut. This naturally comes with a view of the imposing north faces of the Three Peaks! The return path leads past the Laghi dei Piani lakes and through the Val di Sasso Vecchio valley.

Skiing & Running

The Idyllic mountain landscape of the Sesto Dolomites offers excellently prepared cross-country ski trails that range from easy to demanding. Cross-country newcomers can practise their first steps in the Val Fiscalina. Experienced cross-country runners should not miss out on the Sesto high-altitude panorama trail. It leads over the Sesto Alps, along the Carnic mountain ridge and will reward you with a unique vista of the pale summits of the Sesto Sun Dial mountains. The trail network is not limited to Sesto. Experienced cross-country runners can also take a trip to San Candido and Dobbiaco to Cortina d’Ampezzo or even to Eastern Tyrol. Fresh winter air and panoramic views are of course included!
Did you know… that cross-country skiing has a long tradition in the Val Pusteria valley? On 7 January 2017, the “Pustertaler Ski Marathon” with Sesto as its destination celebrated its 40th anniversary. The legendary 60 km long trail runs through five villages of the Alta Pusteria Valley: Braies, Villabassa, Dobbiaco, San Candido and Sesto and it lures professionals and hobby skiers from near and abroad to this annual sports event.

Flying

All you need is love, trust and a pair of good wings to circle like an eagle over Sesto. Monte Elmo offers tandem paragliding all year round. Conveniently ascend the popular skiing and hiking mountain by cable car, together with the professionals, and after a short walk, you are up in the air! Circling above Sesto is a unique experience – and with some luck and good weather conditions, you may even float above the Three Peaks. And there is something else: early birds and nature lovers should not miss out on flying with a paraglider into the sunrise.

Biking

You can take a bike and follow a trail on your own, or join Bike Academy that offers weekly, guided mountain bike tours to the most popular destinations with different fitness requirements

Swimming & Sunbathing

Lake Braies

Lake Braies

The deepest and largest natural lake in the Dolomites, Lake Braies is a precious pearl and a mandatory stop for all trekking mountain routes, a favourite place for photographers and travellers enthralled by the magic of blue waters hidden in the lofty mountains. Nestling in a lush green forest the lake enchants visitors with colours in all shades from green to blue. Nostalgic rowing boats (about 10 euros) invite you to boat trips in the summer.
But don’t be deceived by the innocent idyllic looks. Lake Braies is located at 1,496 m a.s.l., it is the size of 31 hectare, it is 1.2km long and 300 – 400 m wide. The shoreline is 3.5 km, the maximum depth is 36 m. AND the maximum surface water temperature is 14°C on a sunny day, which means you swim in about 7-10°C warm liquid.
If you don’t feel brave enough to swim in that, lie on the beach or take a walk around the Fanes-Senes-Braies National Park.

Eating

Some Speck

Some Speck

Speck Bacon lies somewhere between tradition, childhood memories and cliché. The typical Sesto speck comes from Villgrater, where it has been seasoned, dry salted and mildly smoked according to an ancient recipe and traditions for generations. It matures for a whole six months in the shop’s own curing room. And whilst we’re on the subject… “nice and soft” is not a feature of good speck. Really good speck is hard. This is the only way that it would have tasted at “naina” (second breakfast) – nowadays more likely to be known as brunch – with Grandfather: direct from the wooden platter, the speck cut with a sharp knife from the crust to the rind in thin slices, then finely diced. To go with it a piece of Val Pusteria “breatl” (bread) and, for Grandpa, a “glaggile” (drop) of wine. They that the most excellent speck is found at the Tschurtschenthaler family’s “Hofmetzgerei Steinmetz
Another delicacy of the region is Schüttelbrot or pretty hard bread. The best Schüttelbrot has been made at the traditional Happacher bakery in Moso since 1955. In Sesto, it is available, together with many other delicious specialty breads, from “Bäckerei Trenker”. In the past, there were only two kinds of bread: the typical Val Pusteria “breatl” (flavoursome rye bread made from sour dough) and the “struze” (white loaf). The times have changed and now there is lots of experimentation with new bread recipes.

Museums

If being outdoors is not enough, visit Rudolf Stolz Museum and Danse Macabre in Sesto. It displays over 160 works by Rudolf Stolz (1874 - 1960). In the first half of the 20th century, this self-taught artist was one of the most important artists in South Tyrol, surpassed only by Egger-Lienz. In the turmoil of the Second World War Sesto became his second home where he found the quiet necessary for his artistic work. Using only a few strokes, he drew and painted typical characters from Tyrolean life. His work also reflects strong piety and poetry. His most famous piece, the “Dance Macabre”, can be seen at the entrance to the cemetery of Sesto.  
It is free, the opening hours are
25.06 - 31.08.2017: 
TUE, WED, THU: 3.00 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.
FRI, SAT, SUN: 10.00 a.m. - 12.00 noon & 3.00 p.m. - 7.00 p.m.
01.09. - 15.10.2017: 
WED, FRI, SUN: 4.00 p.m. - 6.00 p.m.
Tel. +39 349 7169126 Groups Tel. +39 349 7169126
Address:
Via Dolomiti 16, 39030 Sesto
Other museums are:
Bellum Aquilarum: the open-air museum in the mountains to commemorate the events of the First World War when Sesto and the Sesto Dolomites saw a great deal of military conflict.
The Dolomythos museum and the nature park house Three Peaks offer insights into the Dolomites.
Gustav Mahler’s composing house: Gustav Mahler spent his summers in Alta Pusteria and composed some of his most well-known works here.
Other cultural and outdoor events in Sesto are on the Sesto official site.

NB

If you are interested in locating a hidden sundial that many people just trod on and leave unnoticed, take our Bergamo quest It is fun and challenging, and you will have fun time with friends wandering around the town in the pursuit of hidden treasures.
From Bergamo quest page on Facebook

From Bergamo quest page on Facebook

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