Tre Cime/Drei Zinnen Nature Reserve
The Tre Cime/Drei Zinnen Nature Reserve comprises an area of 11,891 hectares (28,750 acres). It borders onto the Val Pusteria/Pustertal valley to the north, the Sesto/Sexten valley to the east, while the legendary Tre Cime/Drei Zinnen (“Three Merlons”) form its southern limit, with the wild and romantic Val di Landro/Höhlenstein Valley its western extent. It extends over the municipalities Dobbiaco/Toblach, San Candido/Innichen and Sesto.
The striking, rugged peaks and sheer rock faces of the Sesto Dolomites exerted a magical attraction on explorers and mountaineers after their "discovery" in 1864 when two members of the Royal Geological Society described them in a book, "The Dolomite Mountains". It was translated into German and the so-called "Pale Mountains" soon attracted explorers and mountaineers from all over Europe. Local people had often ventured into the hostile regions beyond the timberline as herdsmen or in pursuit of chamois and ibex, and some found new work as mountain guides. During the final decades of the 19th century the first mountain refuges were built by recently-formed Alpine associations to provide accommodation to climbers and scientists and shorten their way to the climbing routes among the rock faces. During the First World War the front ran straight through these awesomely beautiful mountains. Both the Austrian and Italian Alpine troops took up almost unassailable positions and stalemate ensued, with the result that thousands of soldiers were forced to spend two winters here holding out in trenches and emplacements at 10,000 feet. Needless to say, "death by nature", by the relentless cold, blizzards and avalanches became as common as "killed or missing in action". Tunnels hewn out of the rock, trenches and dugouts remain as testimony to this mountain war. The Tre Cime Nature Reserve Visitor centre is accommodated in the recently renovated Grand Hotel in the village of Dobbiaco/Toblach. Visitors are provided with interesting information on the area's geology and how the mountains were formed, on the Dolomite front and events in the First World War, as well as on tourism in the nature reserve. A section is also devoted to nature and features an aquarium with local amphibians. A woodland adventure trail is situated in the forest behind the visitor centre with three stations: the Forest Wonder World, a Celtic tree horoscope and a tree village. Two other attractions associated with the visitor centre are located in the immediate vicinity. At the Drei Zinnen display dairy visitors can follow the various stages in the production of cheese and other dairy products, while the biomass trail of the district heating station at San Candido reveals how heating and electrical energy can be generated using wood waste.