Benjamin Anastas in the New York Times:

Screenhunter_02_mar_30_0842_2Every traveler has a landscape that, for him, contains the wonder and mystery behind all travel. It could be the beach, or a cathedral square, or the rain forest, or a volcanic island — for me, it is the mountain pass. The mountain pass, roughly defined, is that point on the map where the winding road up is transformed into the winding road down. It marks the border where valleys meet, and often is where provinces divide, where one nation becomes another, with a corresponding change in language and road signs. To get to the mountain pass, you begin on a fertile plain, often crossed by a river, and drive through terraced fields and sleepy villages until the road gets steeper, the switchbacks get scarier and signs of human settlement fall away behind you.

If you are in Tyrol — the proud region straddling northern Italy and western Austria — and you ascend through the Val Passiria to the mountain pass known in German as the Timmelsjoch, small vineyards and neatly tended orchards give way to a desolate moonscape fringed with ice, and the tractors from the lower altitudes, carrying bins of apples, are replaced by swarms of motorcycles. (You will later see the same bikers that passed you like movie villains in black leather warming up over plates of sausages and fries at the restaurant just beyond the pass, crowded into booths and chatting amiably with one another.)

More here.  [St. Lorenzen, the village in this photo, is a few miles from where I live.]