The unique Sud Tirol region....

Trip Start Aug 28, 2012
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Trip End Oct 02, 2012


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Flag of Italy  , Trentino-Alto Adige,
Saturday, September 1, 2012

12 September 1 - Saturday

Breakfast was a bit "quiet" this morning, a definite contrast to yesterday. There was only one other person there, so I guess everyone is sleeping in this morning. That gave me an opportunity to read The Economist, which had some interesting articles.

I had lots of time after breakfast to get organized, as my train to Castelrotto doesn't leave until 11:31.  I checked out and paid the bill at about10:35 and then walked to the station.  It was "drizzling" lightly but I didn't bother with the Umbrella.  The walk to the station only took a few minutes and while there I bought a Panino for lunch, which turned out to have been a really good decision.  I walked to platform 13 and had a chat with two people waiting for the same train.  It turned out they were from Argentina and the guy could speak some English.  It turned out they were two Sons travelling with their mother, and we ended up sitting in the same compartment.  I had a reserved seat but only two of the six seats in that compartment had been reserved.

There was another older Italian man already seated in the compartment, and a very pleasant  woman from Munich eventually sat down (she was the other person that had a reservation).  The sixth seat was used to hold some of the gargantuan luggage that the Argentinian group was hauling.  The other brother had to sit in the next compartment as there was no room.

A lot of the conversation was between the young man from Argentina and the Italian guy, who could understand Spanish to some extent, but not English (he also spoke German).  The German woman could speak excellent English, so she was helpful translating information from the Conductor as well as P.A. messages.

The Italian said that he was now retired due to heart problems.  He lives in Bari in the south of Italy, and was heading back there.  I mostly listened as he conversed with the Argentinian and I was very surprised at how much of the conversation I understood in Italian.  I added a few comments occasionally, in Italian.

The train eventually arrived at Innsbruck, where passengers had to transfer to Buses for the trip to Brennero, as track maintenance work was in progress.  There were about six Buses waiting and it took a while to herd that many passengers down through the tunnel in the station and then back up to the waiting Buses.  The trip to Brennero took about an hour, and for the last part it was "gridlock" with the Bus only being able to move a short distance at a time due to the volume of traffic.

The Bus eventually arrived at Brennero, where passengers boarded an Italian train.  There was a wait of at least 20-30 minutes before it left, probably to allow the other Buses to arrive.  Unfortunately on this train, our “group” was separated so that was the last I saw of the others.

The trip to Bolzano was another hour or so, and I was sure glad to finally arrive.  I took a few minutes to stop at the ticket office to buy tickets for my ongoing journey to Cortona as well as my trip to Rome on September 7th.  That process took another 20-minutes or so.  The ticket agent gave me directions to find the Bus to Castelrotto, but it took me a few minutes of wandering about to find the Bus Depot.

I bought my ticket for the Bus to Castelrotto, but the Agent wouldn't sell me one for the return trip, saying something about “buying the ticket on the Bus”.  I’ll figure that out later.  The Bus would be departing from Platform 7 and I found there was quite a group of high school students waiting there (some with crates of Beer).  I offered to put my Backpack under the Bus but the driver motioned me to board so I stumbled my way to the back.  When the Bus started moving, I was having a difficult time keeping my balance with the heavy Pack, and just about fell over a couple of times.  I eventually got seated, placing my Packs. on seat beside me.

The ride to Castelrotto took about an hour.  Part of the trip was on a very winding and narrow mountain road, which the driver was negotiating at a good rate of speed.  Thankfully I didn’t suffer from motion sickness!  I wasn’t exactly sure I would recognize Castelrotto when we arrived there, and almost got off at the wrong stop.  I asked some of the other passengers and they indicated when it was time to get off.  By this time, I was hot, tired and hungry since I had only eaten one small Panino about six hours previously.

When the Bus arrived in Castelrotto, I wasn’t able to see the Hotel but could see the large Church Spire.  I asked a guy on the street and he indicated that the Hotel was “to the right of the Church” so I walked in that direction.  Through an odd coincidence, I walked right to the front door as if I was on a rail.  When I walked through the door, the woman at the desk immediately handed me a thick “welcome packet” and took my Passport for registration.  It went that quickly!  She indicated that I had been assigned a balcony room, which was a nice treat.

The Hotel Cavallino d'Oro is located inside a beautifully renovated 700 year old building.  It’s decorated in classic Tyrolean style, with a lot of hand-made furnishings and decorations.  Each of the rooms had some hand-made cabinets painted in a Tyrolean style, with a lot of flowers.  My room was a typical single, about 8-feet wide and 20-feet long, with a small bathroom at one end.  There was no air conditioning but fortunately it wasn’t needed at this time of year.  The Hotel has a very modern Swiss-built Elevator which is a real treat in a 700-year old building!

When I went down for dinner, I was shown to a table which had a card with my name on it.  That's good organization!  The Menu seemed a bit “limited” but I ended up having an Appetizer of Rotini with tomatoes and onions, some bread, wine, Coffee and Apple Strudel for dessert.

The Sud Tyrol region has a somewhat turbulent history.  It was at one time part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, but was annexed by Italy following World War I and annexed by Nazi Germany in WW II.  Armed conflicts between the different cultural groups as recently as 1967 have claimed a number of lives.  This is now part of the prosperous Euroregion Tyrol - South Tyrol - Trentino, which operates with some degree of autonomy from national governments.  The linguistic characteristics of the area are perhaps indicative of the cultural mix, with over 85% speaking German, 4%  Ladin, 3% Italian and the remainder a mix of other languages.  Each of the towns in that area has two "official" names, one German and one Italian.  Castelrotto is also called Kastelruth in German, while Bolzano is also called Bozen.

So far I'm really impressed with the beauty of this area, both in the town as well as the surrounding area, which consists of rolling green hills, terraced vineyards and characteristic Tyrolean-style homes. 

It will be interesting to do some exploring tomorrow.  Hopefully the weather co-operates.

12 September 2 - Sunday

Breakfast today was somewhat different than which I've been enjoying for the past few days.  It was more of a typical German or Swiss style, with cold meats, cheese, buns, cereals, yogurt and boiled eggs.  It wasn’t quite as varied as that in Munich but definitely an excellent breakfast.  I had a brief visit with the couple sitting at the next table who were from Dublin, as well as another family sitting in the corner who were from Seattle.  They were using a Rick Steves Guidebook, which is always a good conversation starter.

Just after breakfast, I was standing in the Lobby getting some information from the girl at the front desk, when I heard the sound of a band.  I went outside just in time to see a band  dressed in authentic south Tyrol clothing (which seemed similar to that I've seen in Appenzell, Switzerland) marching up the hill towards the Hotel.  The girl at the desk indicated that today was a special festival for the young single men of the town, which is why the band was performing.  They marched to the Church (which is right next to the Hotel) and then went inside for the service.

After about an hour the band and many others emerged from the Church.  Part of the service continued via a P.A. system that was broadcast into the Piazza.  The mood and music seemed to be somewhat more subdued than earlier, and the band, the Priests and other participants slowly marched around the Church, had another brief ceremony and then marched to the nearby middle school.

I followed the procession which ended in a small square at the school.  Benches had been set-up in front of a stage area, and the band now took their place on stage.  There was a small concession selling a few local food items as well as beer, wine and soft drinks.  It was only about 11:30, but I decided since it was a special occasion, a beer would be appropriate.  This eventually included several more pints as well as a Bratwurst mit Brot (Sausage with Bread).  I had assumed that those living in this area were completely proficient in both German and Italian, however the young lady serving at my table seemed to have trouble with Italian.  A man standing behind me indicated that she only spoke German.  She appeared to be high school age, so perhaps they learn the other language in the higher grades?

I stayed to watch the performance for awhile and found that despite the young age of the musicians, they were very proficient and were all able to read sheet music.  When the band took a break, a variety of other young musicians took to the stage to perform.  Except for the language, clothing and décor of the buildings, this was like a similar occasion of this type at home.  For me this highlighted the fact that people are much the same in many ways, despite which country they live in and which language they speak.

At about 12:30, I decided to carry on with my plans and take a ride on the Merinzen Chairlift, which was a short distance away.  I went back to the Hotel to gather some gear and then made the short walk to the Chairlift, which is right in the centre of town.  The ride to the top took about 15 minutes and the altitude provided an incredible view of the surrounding country, which was comprised of small clusters of houses each having the traditional Tyrolean décor, with colourful flower boxes decorating many balconies.  One other thing that was apparent was the number of houses with solar panels on the roof (I couldn’t tell if these were for hot water or electrical).  The ride provided an unusually quiet and tranquil experience, as the only sensations were the warm September sun and a gentle breeze, and the only sound was the occasional mechanical noise from the Chairlift mechanism.

Upon arrival at the top, I found a small restaurant building with a large patio, which seemed to be fairly busy for that time of day.  There were also many families with children occupying a small playground that was in front of and downhill from the building.  There seemed to be lots of lawn chairs set up in the vicinity, including on the nearby slopes.  I’m assuming those were provided for visitors.  The people sitting in the lawn chairs just in front of the building were dealing with some “persistent moochers”, a number of small goats, including one that had perched himself on a small tree stump in front of a woman who was eating an apple.  They were more persistent than any dog!

I sat down on a bench in a shaded area to just enjoy the ambience for a few minutes.  There was a gentle breeze, which carried with it both a cool hint of fall and the unmistakable smell of a pine forest.  The only sounds were of children in the playground and the occasional bleating of the goats, who were wandering about freely.  I noticed that the typical European electric fence had been installed, so the goats had a limited roaming range.

A network of trails led away from the facility, and couples and families were continually either departing or arriving on the trails.  I eventually decided to explore one of them and wandered a short distance where I discovered a small pond.  This was apparently stocked with fish, as a young guy had a fishing rod set up.  There appeared to be at least two resident Ducks in the pond as well.

I eventually wandered back to the Restaurant and discovered another field (again with an electric fence) and noticed a group of Donkeys and one Horse grazing there.  I could see at least one Cow in a field below that.   At that point, I noticed the sound of a Choir so walked back towards the Chairlift and discovered a group of nine men and women who were singing multi-part songs “Acapella”.   They must have been part of a Choir as they were very proficient, and this certainly added a nice touch to the afternoon.

After a suitable look around, I took the Chairlift back down, which was again a very quiet ride in the late afternoon sun.  After disembarking I hiked uphill for a short distance to get a good vantage point for a photo of the town.  By this time I was starting to run out of energy, so went back to the Hotel for a “power nap”.

I woke up about 17:30 and decided to try a nearby restaurant that had been suggested by the girl working at the Bar in the Hotel.  I learned that she was from the Slovak Republic and was working in Italy as the opportunities were better.

The restaurant was in another Hotel just slightly above the one I’m staying in.  They have a large outside patio as well as a large dining room.  Prior to sitting down, I had a short visit with the couple at the next table, who had a well groomed Dog with them.  I'm always amazed at how civilized Europeans are with Dogs.  If they're well behaved, Dogs are allowed into most restaurants and other public places.  Anyone trying that at home would incur fines, businesses would be closed due to health violations and the someone would probably be imprisoned for such a serious offense!

It turned out that the couple were from Lahr, in the Black Forest region of Germany.  They were very surprised that I knew a lot about Lahr and the fact that it used to house a large Canadian Forces base.  They were staying in a nearby town, as they had a car.  I visited with them over dinner and had a very interesting conversation.  They were amazed at how much I knew about Europe, as I had been to many of the places they wanted to visit.  They'll be in Prague at the end of September, so I gave them a few tips about touring there.  After they left, it seemed that the Waitress had forgotten about me, so I went inside to pay the bill (it was getting dark by this time).

When I got back to the Hotel I found that the Lounge area was extremely busy, with many watching a Soccer match on TV (presumably one of the Italian teams was playing).  I checked my E-mail while there, as that's the only place in the Hotel where Wi-Fi operates.  It was hard to concentrate in the Lounge, with all the noise and people coming and going.

I’ll do some Laundry in the morning, as the Hotel provides free laundry facilities which is sure a nice touch.  I hope to visit Alpi di Siusi tomorrow and then get back and prepare for my long journey to Cortona on Tuesday.

12 September 3 - Monday

My first order of business today is to to get some laundry done.  The machines are Miele professional grade stainless steel machines, and look brand new.  Laundry took about an hour.

I bought a return bus ticket for Alpi di Siusi from the front desk and caught Bus #3 from the small station below the Hotel to the Alpi di Siusi Cabinovia station, a ride which took about 15 minutes. Once there I bought a ticket and boarded the next Gondola.  The ride to the top took another 15 or 20 minutes.  It was steep in some places and very high above the ground in some places, but provided an excellent view of the scenery, which consisted of rolling green terrain and clusters of small groups of houses and the occasional farm.. The weather is somewhat overcast today, with the surrounding jagged peaks shrouded in low fog, but at least it’s not raining.  I had a coffee at the small restaurant across from the Cable Car station and then had a look at the local terrain to decide which direction to go from there.  Two different mountain lifts were visible, a small Gondola going to the left and a Chair Lift to the right.  I decided on the Panorama chair lift to the right.  The chairs were large and each could accommodate six passengers, but I had the chair to myself.  In addition to the safety bar, there was a plexiglass windscreen that could be lowered.  The ride up was a bit chilly, especially as there was a light breeze and I hadn’t brought a jacket, but the views were good (as much as possible with the haze).

At the top of the lift, I had a look at the scenery and trails, and then decided it was time for lunch. The Panorama Hotel & Restaurant was right beside the lift station, so that was convenient.  While dining, I had a short visit with a couple that sat down beside me, as they had a beautiful Dog who sat quietly at their feet (no mooching).  It looked like an Irish Wolfhound, but I’m not sure if that was the actual breed.  Once again I was amazed at how Europeans deal with Dogs in restaurants (I wish the same was possible at home).

After lunch I took short walk to get some pictures but the opportunities for good mountain views were just not possible given the weather.  I was getting a bit cold by this time, and decided there wasn’t much point in staying so headed back to the Chair lift.  I’m sure the scenery would have been stunning in sunny weather but it’s rather disappointing today.  While I was riding down, I noticed the number of large Hotels and “Wellness Resorts” in the main part of town, and wondered how they were able to stay in business as the place is just about deserted.  It was a quiet ride in the Cabinovia to bottom, but the views were fantastic.  A large concrete building is being constructed next to the Cabinovia station, and I was speculating on whether it will be a Hotel?

As luck would have, there was a No. 3 Bus waiting at the stop when I arrived there, and it started to leave just as I got to the back door.  The driver must have seen me in the mirror, as he stopped.  That was good timing!

Back at hotel, I checked e-mail and had visit with the girl in the Bar and an afternoon coffee.  I also paid my hotel bill since I’d be leaving early before the staff would be at work.  I had a Prosecco before dinner and then dinner in the Hotel restaurant.  Dining at this Hotel is somewhat of a "formal" affair, with the name of the guest on a card on the table, and a Maitre 'd that keeps everything running smoothly.  While I was dining, I was fascinated by the view through one of the dining room windows.  It was a vista of rolling green hills with ribbon of asphalt dissecting the pristine landscape, with car lights winding their way up and down the hills.

As I was finishing dinner, I asked the Maitre d’Hotel about a packed lunch for the morning with some buns, ham & cheese, and he said that he’d take care of it.  My bag lunch was waiting in my room along with some fruit and a packaged Croissant when I returned after dinner.

After dinner went out with the Tripod to get some night shots.  The buildings in the town are located fairly close together, so there didn’t seem to be too many good photo op’s.  On my return to the Hotel, I made a special trip to the Lounge to say goodbye to the girl that works there.  Meeting her has been one of the highlights of my trip to Castelrotto.

Tomorrow I'll be moving on to the next part of my adventure.
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Comments

Grier on

Sounds like a fun and memorable day!

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