Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring, Sun, South Tyrol

Heading to South Tyrol at the beginning of April is risky. It could have been cool and wet, but it wasn’t. The weekend was warm and sunny—perfect for hiking. So why did I catch a cold? No telling. But it was worth it.

We stayed in the Falkensteiner Hotel Lido outside Bruneck in a little town called Chienes, but the train stop was called Ehrenburg/Casteldarne. Go figure. The Falkensteiner Hotel chain has a good reputation and is equipped to cater for people who need a gluten-free diet (for my CD readers).

We started walking from our hotel along the railroad tracks. After a few wrong turns that led us down a couple muddy paths, two hours later we took our first rest in the quaint village of St. Lorenzen (St. Lorenzo). A few Veneziani later—a popular South Tyrolean cocktail made of Prosecco, Aperol and mineral water—we staggered on our way to Bruneck (Brunico) where we caught the train back to our hotel.

The dinner buffet at Falkensteiner hotels is a playground for foodies. Antipasti prepared with love, a crazy assortment of salads, and unique treats like shrimp wrapped and fried in julienne potato. We ate too much—I guess that goes without saying.

It’s a good thing Sunday was even sunnier than Saturday. For our second walk we first drove south to Meran (Merano). If you haven’t read my Bootsnall article about driving from Munich to Meran and back, have a look at it HERE. We left the car in the Therma parking garage in the middle of Meran and walked to Dorf Tirol a few kilometers from Meran. This part of the walk is a continuous uphill fight, but it gets easier once you reach the apple orchards outside Dorf Tirol.

For a couple of kilometers the path winds up and down, up and down. Then, above the orchards the Schloss Thurnstein appears in the distance. You can zigzag up to the castle, but we didn’t. We had other plans.

From there we walked skyward to the Waalweg Algund path, a popular walk for locals and tourists alike. The path winds around the mountain along an artificial waterway meant certainly to provide irrigation for the vineyards that blanket the region. We stopped at Café Konrad for a drink. As in many of these mountain restaurants, the service was awful. You have to tackle the waiter and beg to be served.

The Waalweg Algund walk is perfect for all ages, but it often grows narrow in places where one false step could land you 50 meters below in a vineyard. So watch your step. Smell the flowers, greet the walkers, take some pictures—but watch your step.

I must be off,