Escape Into The Mountains: Alto Adige

by Sara · 16.08.2013 · Escapism · 2 comments


This was the first year since liv­ing in Ber­lin that I’ve had the feel­ing the city is get­ting under my skin and I have to get out. The city is busy and I can’t get a minute of calm; rid­ing out to the lake ends up in one cata­strophe after another (no park­ing spots, kids jump­ing on my head, sud­den thun­der­storms). Ber­lin has its hid­den exiles but they don’t last for long if you really need a break. But where to go?

I have never been to the moun­tains. I’ve seen moun­tains before, but they hadn’t been intim­id­at­ing or massive and they didn’t take over the whole sky. I’m ashamed to say I never wanted to see the moun­tains either. My vis­ion of vaca­tions have always been lim­ited to city travels or beach bum­ming. Hik­ing — or any other sporty activ­ity, really — belongs to my list of “things to avoid always at any time in life”. Maybe I’m get­ting old, but I didn’t want to see yet another city, I’ve had enough of cit­ies. I wanted to get out. When Nico and I were offered a short sum­mer trip to South Tyrol I hon­estly didn’t know what to expect. “It’s going to be hot”, they told me. “You’ll have to climb up the moun­tain”, they told me. Need­less to say: I was scared.

But our trip to Alto Adige, that won­der­ful little sov­er­eign part of Ita­lys north, was one of the best short trips I’ve ever done, and this time I’m not being hyper­bolic. Alto Adige –South Tyrol — is all but Italian. It’s a weird but fant­astic mix of everything good in Austria/Germany and everything great in Italy. Infra­struc­ture and eco­nomy, being inde­pend­ently gov­erned, resemble what we know from here (mean­ing: everything works as it should). But the rest, i.e. the spirit, the culin­ary unique­ness, the tem­per tends to be Italian. And that is some­thing so charm­ingly spe­cial, you’ll ask your­self why the whole world can’t be like that (then you remem­ber that Ber­lin, being an exile for every nation­al­ity, is kind of like that– just busier, more hec­tic, and def­in­itely with no escape plan). Bonus point: you can reach it quite quickly. No need to plan ahead for months.

The Road Trip

We set out in Munich by rent­ing a car from the air­port and made our way south. It takes about three hours to get to South Tyrol from there and its quite a nice ride. Once the Bren­ner Pass becomes vis­ible on the hori­zon you’ll feel the first ting of humil­ity under your skin; I’d feel very small whenever I saw a new, massive moun­tain appear in front of me. At one point I real­ized: wow, we’re already high up, look­ing down from the autobahn-bridge. It’s crazy– sud­denly you’re so far away from everything you’re visu­ally used to.

Fran­zens­feste Fortezza

Our first stop: Fran­zens­feste Fortezza, an old fort­ress built by the Aus­tri­ans, which is now used as an event space and gen­eral venue. At the time of our visit, the 50×50×50 Art Südtirol exhib­i­tion was on dis­play in the many cham­bers of the fort­ress. Fifty artists from or liv­ing in South Tyrol con­trib­uted their works to the exhib­i­tion. — Web­site

South Tyrol Cuisine

But had come to take over the moun­tains, so we moved on. In Brixen we made our first con­tact with the beauty of South Tyr­ols nature and the won­der­ful regional cuisine. South Tyrol is fam­ous for its wines and a unique mix of rus­tic yet eleg­ant cuisine. The so called “Buschenschank” we ate at cares for a care­ful South Tyrol kit­chen. Buschenschanks are tav­erns, small res­taur­ants, usu­ally owned by wine grow­ers, and usu­ally sell lim­ited regional foods. Expect Schüt­tel­brot, fresh apple juice, intense cheeses and a dec­ad­ent assort­ment of sweet desserts. But most import­antly: expect them to be cozy and comfy.

Paraglid­ing

After a good nights sleep in a regional bed and break­fast, we finally did it. While I was prob­ably more scared by get­ting pulled up in the cable car, the paraglid­ing jump was both ter­ri­fy­ing and beau­ti­ful. I’d never felt such a rush before. This is like noth­ing I’ve ever done before — the whole world beneath my feet, and me, scream­ing, feel­ing like a com­plete idiot but hav­ing the time of my life (there was actu­ally a GoPro video taken of the whole flight and I had ser­i­ously con­sidered pub­lish­ing it, but I think see­ing my reac­tion would just pre­vent any inter­ested people in try­ing paraglid­ing). — Web­site

Moun­tain­bik­ing 

We didn’t stay on the ground for long. We picked up our moun­tain­bikes and got into the cable car yet again. Our mis­sion was to ride upwards to a nice gues­t­house atop the moun­tain, Schatzer­hütte auf der Plose. Let me just say this: I am SO out of shape. The tour wasn’t too dif­fi­cult (I think), but more than once did we have to stop so I could take a breath. Do you know how tough it is to con­sequently ride upwards without any sign of suc­cess? Although admit­tedly I did also stop a few times to pet the cows. Cows! Why don’t we have more cows in Görl­itzer Park?

Schatzer­hütte

Arriv­ing at the Schatzer­hütte — a res­taur­ant and gues­t­house on the moun­tain, very lovely and pop­u­lar with the loc­als — just as the sun set was prob­ably the most reward­ing exper­i­ence of my life. That moun­tain­bike ride really got the best of us. We were hungry, almost starved, and com­pletely exhausted. It had rained in the mean­time and we felt that the air we were breath­ing didn’t con­tain enough oxy­gen to keep us alive. But all that com­bined made us iron­ic­ally feel more alive than ever. The view from the moun­tain… you should not miss out on that. It grounds you. And no thought goes astray: everything of import­ance is right here.

There’s prob­ably no need to men­tion how great the food tasted that night. Even without the exhaus­tion it would have been deli­cious. The basic menu of the Schatzer­hütte is homegrown and organic. It’s just some­thing entirely dif­fer­ent. The homemade bread and jams, the freshly brewed cof­fee. Just think­ing about it right now makes me want to beam myself back. A thun­der­storm and a big full moon oppos­ite our hut accom­pan­ied us through the night. The Schatzer­hütte taught us a dif­fer­ent kind of basic lux­ury for a very afford­able price per night. I highly recom­mend vis­it­ing this place if you ever get close to South Tyrol. — Web­site

Bozen

We spent the rest of our stay in Bozen, where we ren­ted out E-Bikes, vis­ited a nearby lake, jumped into the ice cold stream of the won­der­ful little city and ate some of the best ice cream to be found in Italy.

Nico and I ori­gin­ally had some plans to dis­cover the old indus­trial archi­tec­ture of Bozen and ended up just lazy­ing around on the grass, really not even will­ing to talk to another. The sun kept our mouths shut. Our thoughts drif­ted back to the moun­tain­top. We’re def­in­itely going back there — maybe next winter. Noth­ing com­pares to that view from a moun­tain­top and to that exhaus­tion in your body when you’ve really given all to get there. The thrill of jump­ing down on in a paragliding-chute and scream­ing your lungs out in excite­ment. The relief when you finally — finally — reach your des­tin­a­tion after a long hike and you’re warmly wel­comed with an amaz­ing sun­set and the freshest air you’ve ever tasted. The charm of the little towns in the val­leys that tend to heat up in the sum­mer, the fresh pro­duce and that ever con­fus­ing mix of Austrian-German and Italian cul­ture… I don’t even want to ima­gine how won­der­ful it must be in the winter. South Tyrol is fam­ous for its ski regions and range of winter sports areas– so I did have a pic­ture of what it must be like there although I’ve never been ski­ing in my life. But in the sum­mer… in the sum­mer it is the per­fect escape. A day on a moun­tain feels like three in Berlin.

Südtirol Rad

Bozen is very easy to dis­cover by bike, espe­cially when its got some extra-power. We ren­ted our bikes from Südtirol Rad in the South of Bozen. — Web­site

Hasel­burg

Din­ing at Hasel­burg is a won­der­ful exper­i­ence. The view over Bozen is not just romantic but stun­ning as well, with a clever kit­chen that choses from local pro­duce. Even if you’d rather just enjoy the view, visit the Sky­bar instead of the res­taur­ant. — Web­site

Gelateria Avalon 

Hid­den some­where out­side the tour­ist cen­ter, the Gelateria Avalon is sup­posedly one of the best ice cream par­lors in the whole of Italy. I’m pretty sure who­ever said that was right. — Web­site

Fisc­hbänke

Open doors: this bar is for those who like to enjoy the Bozen breeze. Local favor­ites such as Hugo are a must at Fisc­hbänke. Dec­or­ated with all sorts of funny philo­soph­ical rumin­a­tions, this bar makes for a per­fect quick stop. — Web­site

There’s some­thing about being so close to nature without any dis­trac­tions. You calm down, mes­mer­ized by the view. Noth­ing needs to be on your mind. There is no need to read a book or watch TV or use your phone up there. And who cares about the crowded beach with its annoy­ing sand and scream­ing chil­dren. South Tyrol has cows and rab­bits and entheal thun­der­storms, man. Nico and I were cap­tiv­ated by the move­ment and the exhaus­tion that would then be com­pensated by the view, the cool drinks and the won­der­ful, won­der­ful food.

And here’s one thing I per­son­ally learned from this trip: there’s no need to go far away to exper­i­ence new and excit­ing things. Espe­cially in the sum­mer, when every­body is hunt­ing for beach vaca­tions deals (and end up on over­filled or over­priced tour­ist traps), it’s way more eco­nom­ic­ally feas­ible, eco­lo­gic­ally respons­ible and def­in­itely thrill­ing to opt for the mountains.

Stay tuned for the video of our South Tyrol trip and check out Saras travel blog 80days if you’re inter­ested in more stor­ies about places bey­ond Berlin.

One comment
  1. so nice photo & col­lec­tion of sweet memories :-)

What others had to say about it

  1. […] Oh, South Tyrol. There hasn’t been any­thing that hasn’t been said about amaz­ing, bliss­ful, gor­geous South Tyrol. That view from the Alps in the sum­mer­time is some­thing you need to strike off your bucket list, my friend. The fresh air up there (and the much needed cool­ness when diving into a moun­tain lake), the cows, the down-to-earth folks, the deli­cious Italian-Austrian culin­ary mix, the proud and unique dis­pos­i­tion of the autonom­ous region Südtirol in gen­eral… all that, worth a visit. If you’re going any­where south of Ger­many by car, I can full heartedly recom­mend a stop-over with a hike to Schatzer­hütte. Read more about our South Tyrol adventures. […]

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