After we visited the wood carver, we decided to go back to the hotel. I could have used a swim. It was hot outside. But I also wanted a drink, so we went to the bar and had the bartender make us a round. I had a gin and tonic with a locally produced gin– Edelschwarz Organic Gin. It was served with a blue ice cube. Bill had one a couple of nights prior made with a yellow ice cube. He laughed and said my drink looked like the blue water in a Tidy Bowl… and his… well, it looked like something else that goes in a toilet.
Thursday night’s dinner was the seven course tasting menu. And, as nightmarish as Tuesday’s mushroom debacle was, Thursday night’s dinner was worse, if only because I ended up getting sick. It wasn’t because I drank wine or because I got food poisoning. Again, it’s because I have some aversions to certain foods. I blogged about Thursday’s meal on my main blog, so if you want the dirty details, you can find them here. Suffice to say, it was a struggle to get through the meal. Here are some photos of what we ate.
I was mostly okay until we got to course six. I try not to eat veal. I can eat veal, but I choose not to. This was served with asparagus and a sauce that tasted very earthy to me. I never even touched the veal. The asparagus, which I am sure was fresh, but was kind of mushy, blended with the sauce, turned my stomach. I almost got sick at the table. I went to the ladies room and managed to calm down my stomach enough to finish the meal. But then, once we got back to the room and I started doing my routine before bed, I knew it was all over. I’m sad to say, that tasting menu meal didn’t stay with me.
I’ve read a lot of reviews of this hotel. Many people really like it. I will say that there were things about the hotel that I liked. I didn’t think the food was terrible, either. But I have definitely had much better and I shouldn’t have thrown up after a tasting menu. Yes, there was booze involved, but that’s not what made me feel so icky. I just don’t think half board is a great idea for me, although I did okay with it at Hotel Kristall.
The next morning, we got up, had our breakfast, loaded up the car, and checked out of the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. I did like the staff very much, and I thought the hotel was stylish and had a nice spa. But I think the management needs to decide if they want to be a family hotel or a spa hotel. Unfortunately, the way it’s laid out, the hotel is not so good for people who don’t have children, especially in the summer when the windows have to be kept open. Still, the staff presented us with a bottle of prosecco and some red wine salt after Bill settled the bill with them. He also contributed a tip to the piggy bank, the contents of which are divided up and shared among the staff each month.
On our way out of Italy, we stopped at Speck World, a shop run by Moser, a company that makes and sells pork products. They have a processing plant in Sud Tyrol. I didn’t realize it when we stopped in, but their shop also has a cool little museum and a public restroom.
Once we picked up some salami to take home, we stopped in another little shop where a bunch of guys were sitting around drinking beer. They were also selling Moser pork products, so we bought olive oil and wine.
Our drive to Switzerland was pretty interesting. Back in 2009, when I was looking for a place for us to visit, I strongly considered booking us a room near the Reschensee (Lake Reschen). This is a manmade lake near Reschen Pass that dates from 1950. Prior to 1950, the area was known as Graun im Vinschgau. It once was a normal town in northern Italy, until the powers that be decided to flood it by building the lake. All that remains visible of the former town is an abandoned church tower, which dates from the 14th century. We ended up passing it as we made our way north. It’s said that on some nights, one can hear the church bells ring, even though they were removed the week before the town was flooded.
This little town on the Reschensee is very close to both Austria and Switzerland. However, our route took us into Austria for quite a ways. I was surprised how long we drove in Austria before we got to St. Gallen. More on that in the next post.
Back in 2009, I spent about a week taking bus tours with Alpine Adventures, which provided services to guests at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. For those who don’t know, Edelweiss is a special hotel that is only for people affiliated with the U.S. government or military. It’s a very nice and large facility located on the small military installation in Garmisch. We haven’t been back to Edelweiss since 2009, but I understand it’s serving even fewer people nowadays, thanks to German tax laws.
When Bill and I were in Germany with the Army, he was working for EUCOM and they frequently had conferences at the Edelweiss resort. I would tag along with him and go on tours with Alpine Adventures. Most of our trips were in the winter, which to be honest, was a much better time to go to Edelweiss because they were a lot fewer people there. But in June 2009, after our very first cruise (Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas– Oslo to Stockholm), Bill and I had to rush back to Germany so he could attend a weeklong conference at Edelweiss. I spent that week taking tours that took me to Innsbruck, Munich, Berchtesgaden, and Italy– namely Vipitano and Bolzano (otherwise known as Bozen). We went to Bolzano to see Ötzi, the Iceman, and to mill around the city for the day. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in Bolzano. I remember eating lunch there and then getting back on the bus to go back to Germany, with a stop at a famous church to look at a ceiling painting.
I remember that week as interesting, yet frustrating. We had a very annoying tour guide who looked like an ancient version of Pippi Longstocking and, thanks to a chain smoking habit, had a voice like steel wool. She was obsessed with Stadls… (hay barns). Since she led most of the tours I took that week, I had to listen to her drone about the Stadls and Mad King Ludwig all week as I was forced to sit next to strangers on the packed buses.
Anyway, I had liked Bolzano, and wanted to visit again with Bill. But every time I tried to plan a trip there, something came up that made it impossible. That was why I had focused on Bolzano this time. By the way, it looks like Alpine Adventures has quit doing the Italy tours. I’m sure a lot of the tours they offered in 2009 and now defunct, thanks to COVID-19 and the need to socially distance.
On Thursday of last week, we decided to visit Bolzano, a city that is as Austrian/German as it is Italian, although I noticed more people speaking Italian when we were there. As we were driving into the city, the amber check engine light came on in the Volvo. Bill, who is not the handiest guy when it comes to cars, started to freak out a little. The Volvo is a 2020 model and should not be having engine problems of any kind. But after about twenty minutes of fretting, he figured out that whatever the problem was/is (the light comes on and goes off at random) is something that needs to be checked, but isn’t urgent. We spent the day walking around the city, which was even more charming than I remembered it.
My Italian friend, Vittorio, was born and raised in Italy. He later became a U.S. citizen, but left the United States because he was disgusted by it. He now lives in Germany with his second wife, a German. Vittorio has told me more than once that Bolzano is the one city in Italy that “works” and that he would live there, but nowhere else in Italy. But he’s still very much a proud Italian and though he is also a naturalized American, he does not identify as Italian-American. I don’t get to “talk” to Vittorio much these days. He got disgusted with Facebook, too, and dropped off of social media (and frankly, I admire him for that). But maybe he’ll drop by my blog and leave a comment about Bolzano. I was glad Bill finally got to see it for himself.
At about 11:30am, I started thinking we should look for lunch. I wasn’t actually that hungry, but I knew the restaurants would quickly fill up, and I hate it when I’m hangry. So does Bill, although he didn’t really want to eat so early. I talked him into sitting down, and that was a good plan… We had lunch at Trattoria Filo d’Olio, a tiny place in an alley. I liked that their outdoor tables were in a shady place.
We kept walking down the street and I suddenly saw the museum where Ötzi, the Iceman was displayed. There was a line to see him that stretched all the way around the corner. I saw the Iceman in 2009 and though it was fascinating to see his bones, that’s really all there is left of him– bones. I only need to see it once in a lifetime. Bill wasn’t interested in standing in line, either, so we kept walking and soon came upon an art exhibit. Bill loves looking at art, so we went inside. Donning our masks felt a bit stifling, as we spoke to the young artist who told us he’d rented the building for a week to show off his paintings.
As the day wore on, it got hotter, so we decided to head back to the hotel. On the way there, we stopped into 1000 e un Vino, an enoteca near the parking garage. We wanted to get some local wines to bring back to Germany with us. A lady helped us select some local varieties and even told us to take off the masks so we could understand each other better. As we were paying for the wine, she told us that since we’re in Germany, we can order from her store’s Web site and she’ll ship wine to us.
Before we went back to the hotel for our last night in Parcines, we stopped at a wood carver’s studio. I bought us a few treasures, since I’ve been missing doing that lately. I had a few wood carvings from prior trips to the Tyrol region, including my “drunk monk”, which I’ll share a picture of in a later post…
Since Thursday night’s dinner was particularly rantworthy, I will write about that in the next post.
The second toe on my left foot itches a lot. A few days ago, it was quite painful. Why? Because a bee flew into my sandal after we ate lunch in a tiny little town. It got stuck there and stung me.
Prior to the bee sting, Wednesday was a fine day. We decided to drive around some more, in an effort to stay away from other people and see the different areas around the Sud Tyrol. This is also a great opportunity for us to talk about deep subjects and listen to music, not that we don’t do that anyway.
I was thinking we’d go to Bolzano on Wednesday, but instead, we did a big loop in wine country. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop to buy any wine. What were we thinking? We even brought the wine suitcase with us, but we neglected to fill it. Oh well… here are some photos.
As it got closer and closer to lunchtime, we started looking for places to eat. We found a little roadside restaurant called Ristorante Al Molin in a tiny town called Cloz in Trentino. They had an unusual way of luring in guests. Besides the usual signs, there was a table set up on the other side of the road with several bottles of wine and some fruit laid out. Bill saw it and immediately decided to pull over. It was a good place to stop. The food turned out to be excellent. I did have to use Google Translate a bit. What did I ever do without it?
I would have been easily talked into having dessert at this place. The lady who waited on us seemed extremely nice, although she apologized for not speaking much German (that’s okay, we don’t speak much either). A large Italian family showed up as we were finishing, along with four male German bikers (as in bicycles). The German guys were funny. They appeared to be good friends and they were joking around. At one point, the little dog in the pictures above sneezed. One of them said “Gesundheit!” We shared a laugh… and then the bee met its fate with my foot!
I’m pretty sure it was a bee that got me. When I pulled the sandal off of my foot, the stinger was still deeply stuck in my skin. Bill managed to swipe the bee off of me, but the stinger took some doing to remove. It really hurt! And it was also itchy and made me swell up. The little fucker. For some reason, the bees and wasps have been murder this year… although I have not yet encountered any murder hornets.
The bee sting kind of took the wind out of our sails, so we headed back to the hotel and had a couple of drinks at the bar. Then it was time for dinner, which was better than the mushroom fiasco, but not as good as Monday night.
By this point, I was starting to look forward to going home… although I can’t deny that Sud Tyrol is stunningly gorgeous. There was a lot of partying going on Wednesday night, too.
Tuesday morning got off to a somewhat bad start. We went down to the restaurant for breakfast, put on our masks and disinfected our hands, then got our usual fruits, cold cuts, and breads. I can’t complain about the breakfast at Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. There’s plenty to choose from, although I missed the Zumo machine at Hotel Kristall. As I was enjoying a pretzel roll, Bill took a look at the evening’s menu. He looked a bit concerned and said, “I don’t think you’re going to like this.”
He handed me the menu, and sure enough, the side vegetable of the day was mushrooms. Anyone who has read my blogs for any length of time probably already knows how much I hate mushrooms. I hate them to the point of having a phobia. I’m serious. I know it’s an irrational fear– which is what makes it a phobia– but I have a lifetime aversion to mushrooms and I can’t eat them at all. I wrote about the “menu from Hell” on my main blog, so anyone who is interested can read that piece.
Fortunately, the hotel does offer alternatives for those who don’t like what’s being offered. One can have an entrecote (rib eye steak) or a schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet) with fries. That’s what I ended up ordering for Tuesday night’s dinner. We also signed up for a Schnapps tasting, which was offered by a lady who runs a winery within walking distance of the hotel.
After breakfast, we got in the trusty Volvo and headed west and I started taking pictures of all the apple and pear orchards. We had no agenda. We just wanted to see what we could find. After about forty–five minutes of beautiful scenery, we came across a curious looking roadside attraction. It’s run by an artist named Lorenz Kuntner, who asks for a one euro “free will” donation to look at his massive “open air” museum. Mr. Kuntner strongly identifies with Native Americans and he has many works of art on his property, which also happens to be next to a swiftly running brook.
It wasn’t long until Bill and I encountered the very friendly man himself. Kuntner speaks German, Italian, and perfect English. He left his day job– not sure what it was– and opened this museum, where people are welcome to stop and look at his many works of creativity. He has everything from sculptures to paintings on the side of the mountain, and all he asks for is one euro per person. But many people tried to skip out on paying. He has no qualms about confronting them, either. He talked to Bill for about 45 minutes or so, while I patiently waited for the opportunity to pee. The chance to whiz wasn’t immediately forthcoming, but I did get a lot of pictures of the artist’s unusual creations.
The artist reminded Bill and me a little bit of another artist we met in Poland back in 2008 named Dariusz Milinski. Actually, I don’t think Mr. Milinski’s art is that much like Mr. Kuntner’s, but they were similarly eccentric in terms of their personalities. Kuntner was speaking to us in rapid fire German and English as he spoke about how small Hitler’s penis was and how Donald Trump is ruining the world (can’t disagree with that). He also showed us a photo of Geronimo. Mr. Kuntner very much identifies with the spirit of Native Americans and he spoke to us at length about it, in English and German. Below is a video Lorenz Kuntner posted. It’s in German. Again, in this part of Italy, most people speak German before they speak Italian!
Bill was pretty fascinated by the shaman, Lorenz Kuntner. He loves talking to artists. I like them too, except for when I need to use the bathroom. So after we visited the artist, we headed back east, and made our way to Merano. There’s a big spa there. I kept thinking maybe we’d go there, but we never made it. Merano is a charming little city, with drinking fountains all around that offer fresh drinking water. The only other place I’d ever seen like that was Yerevan, Armenia. Water fountains are all over Yerevan, and they are really helpful in the hot sun! Here are some pictures I took on the way to Merano, where we had lunch and enjoyed some local beers.
We had lunch at a place called RÖMERKELLER. I see now that it’s a chain restaurant, which doesn’t surprise me. Still, the food was very good and the service was fine.
We enjoyed several drinks at the Kloster Keller. Or, at least I did. Bill got a kick out of a realization I made. I married Black Beauty and he married Ginger. If you’ve read the book, you might understand what that means… Bill is very well-mannered and kind-hearted and was taught well by his mama. I’m kind of a high-mettled, angry bitch who doesn’t tolerate abuse. Sometimes, anyway… Black Beauty was very helpful when an elderly couple wanted to sit down. There were umbrellas in the way, so Bill was quick to move one of them. Another man, much younger and probably less astute, jumped up to help with the other one. I was proud of Bill and his teaching by example moment.
After awhile, we headed back to the hotel, where I faced the menu from hell… I’m not going to go into detail about it here, since I already wrote about it on my main blog. I did get some pictures of the meal, though, and lots of curious stares from the people sitting around us, who seemed baffled as to why I was having a steak. After dinner, we did the Schnapps tasting, which was where we let people know that we weren’t in Europe illegally.
The Schnapps tasting was done in German, English, and Italian on account of the multinational crowd of six that signed up for it. We surprised the hostess by knowing some words in German that she didn’t know in English, although her English was way better than our German. We enjoyed the spirits, too, and she had a lot of interesting information to share about distilling spirits in Sud Tyrol. She had an Austrian license, which limited her ability to distill spirits. She said that the day she came to do the tasting was one day of sixteen per year she was allowed to make her Schapps. She also sells wine. I wish we’d visited her and picked up some wine to bring home, but she was only open from 5:00pm until 7:00pm and we were otherwise engaged during that time.
Anyway… Tuesday was a good day despite the fungus heavy menu and the gentle chastisement I got from the waitress for not cleaning my plate.
Monday morning, we woke up to clear skies and the prospect of driving to Italy. I was a little sorry to be leaving Leutasch, although I did hope our next hotel would have a bed with a softer mattress. The one at Hotel Kristall was pretty firm. We packed up our stuff, had another breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. One thing I didn’t mention in previous posts is that Hotel Kristall has a “Zumo” machine. I first encountered a Zumo machine in Spain. You load up fresh oranges into the machine and it makes delicious fresh squeezed orange juice. That was another thing I loved about our Austrian hotel. They also had a machine for carrot juice, but I didn’t try that. Since I prepaid the hotel, we only had to take care of the bar bill. With that settled, the receptionist gave us a small jar of housemade marmalade as a parting gift and we were then on our way to Parcines, Italy and Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. The last words I said as we left Hotel Kristall in Leutasch were, “What a great hotel!” I would definitely go back.
Parcines, Italy, also known as Partschins to German speakers, is well known for its waterfall. However, I didn’t know about the waterfall when I booked the hotel. I was just looking for a nice spa/wellness hotel to spend four nights. My German friend was the one who told me about the waterfall, which I understand is very beautiful. Unfortunately, we were not able to see it up close because although the waterfall is public property, the land around it is not. During the pandemic, the owner of the land around the waterfall decided to put up a fence. So now, if visitors try to get close to the falls, they are trespassing. Based on comments on Google reviews, the landowner is now engaged in legal action regarding this situation.
Still, some people were able to make videos of the falls before they became less accessible. Here’s a video I found on YouTube.
Our drive to Parcines was easy enough, with lots of nice scenery and a familiar trip through Brenner’s Pass. I took some photos, of course. The drive from Leutasch was maybe about three or four hours, so we arrived in Parcines in time for lunch.
We got to the hotel at about noon. Our room was ready, so the very kind receptionist, who was also the wine sommelier and bartender, as well as the proprietor’s son, welcomed us to check in early. We had another junior suite. It overlooked one of the three pools at the hotel. When we checked in, no one was using the pool. I remarked my surprise about that, and Janek, the barkeep said, “That’s because everyone’s out hiking. Trust me. They’re going to use it!” I should have realized what was to come. That pool was to be used by the kids, as the hotel also has an infinity pool for people aged 15 and up. There’s also an indoor pool in the spa area.
Like our room in Austria, the room in Parcines came with half board and a small fridge. We could order the fridge filled with beer and such, or just use it on its own. Like Leutasch, Parcines offers a lot, especially to people who are into hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, or swimming. Once again, we were allowed into the hotel without a mask. They were only required for the buffet, although we did not have to wear gloves, as we did in Leutasch. But then, Leutasch didn’t require masks. Like I mentioned before, the mask and glove requirements are oddly different everywhere we’ve been this summer. In Meerfeld, Germany, last month, we had to wear masks in the restaurant and at the buffet and Bill had to wear gloves to see the wine list, because it was in a book. In Austria we had to wear gloves, but no masks. In Italy, masks, but no gloves… and in Switzerland, no gloves OR masks. More on that later.
Since it was close to lunchtime when we arrived, we decided to have lunch at a pizzeria in town, which we were able to walk to. Weirdly enough, the pizzeria doesn’t offer pizza until after five o’clock. Maybe it’s because the oven is too hot for daytime use? I don’t know. Parcines has a couple of little shops. I noticed a shoe store and a tiny grocery store. There’s also a Weingut within walking distance of the hotel. The town has a lot of little hotels and apartments for rent.
After lunch, we walked back to the hotel, and sure enough, people were in the pool. We decided to join them. First, we checked out the indoor spa pool, which was empty. A little boy kept peeking in on us as we swam in there. I suspect it was because the kids kind of commandeered that pool, too, as I discovered over the course of the week.
When we got back to the room, the kids were back and in full play mode. Unfortunately, there is no air conditioning in this hotel, so we had to leave the window/door open for cool air. But that also meant listening to shrieking from the kids and, later on, people on the patio drinking, laughing, and enjoying themselves. Don’t get me wrong! I am all for doing those things. But I also like to take naps and enjoy peace and quiet when I’m in my room. If this hotel had air conditioning and we could have closed the door to the balcony, it would have been a lot better for us.
Later, we went down for our first dinner at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It was “Italian night”, and we’d made our selections when we checked in. Bill had saltimbocca– veal wrapped with bacon– and I went with the vegetarian dish– mozzarella cheese in a pastry with tomato sauce. We enjoyed aperitifs before dinner started at 7:00pm, and met the very friendly proprietor, who spoke only German and Italian, but was kind and welcoming.
I think of all the dinners we had at this hotel, our first one was my favorite. To be very honest, I wasn’t all that crazy about the food at the Klein Fein Hotel Anderlahn. It wasn’t the worst I’d ever had, but I would say it was kind of disappointing, especially for Italy. Although this hotel gets high ratings, the one bad review it got was by someone who didn’t like the food. While I wouldn’t go as far as that person did in their criticisms, I did think there was definitely some room for improvement in the culinary department. I’ll get more into why in the next post. But anyway, Monday night’s dinner was mostly fine.
Once again, we got some side-eyes from the many Germans who were also staying at the hotel. That’s another thing I don’t like about half board deals. You end up eating with the same people and it can be uncomfortable, especially during a pandemic, when you’re an American and Americans aren’t supposed to be in Italy. We felt a little bit under the microscope at this hotel. However, the staff was excellent. Again, it’s family run. The facilities are also very nice. I just wish they’d planned a bit better regarding the rooms over the patio area (which are many of them). If you don’t want to hang out and drink after dinner, you either have to wait for everyone to go to bed for quiet or swelter with closed windows/doors. It’s not a very appealing tradeoff. I think I’d like this hotel more in the cooler months.
Chasing a waterfall in Mittenwald, gazing at the Eibsee, and views from Germany’s highest mountain!
Saturday was a full day for us. It was definitely fuller than what I’ve been used to lately. We walked several miles in warm weather and the pedometer on my iPhone was giving me bursts of celebratory praise in the form of virtual fireworks. Still, even with all of the walking we did on Saturday, we missed the majestic waterfall at Leutaschklamm, which is most easily accessed from Mittenwald, Germany. So, on Sunday morning, we decided to visit the German side of the gorge.
We were a little bit confused about this part of the walk. When we read up on visiting the gorge, people mentioned a three euro fee to “see the waterfall”. I was under the impression that it was on the gorge trail itself. It’s not. If you go to the German side of the gorge with your car, you have to park at a lot in the town, walk down a pleasant country road alongside the rushing brook, and then you will encounter the German entrance to the gorge trail. However, you won’t find the waterfall on that trail, which looked pretty steep and obviously leads to the panorama bridge. I shared pictures of the bridge in part three of this series– one post previously.
Instead, you have to go to the nearby snack bar– which you can’t miss– pay three euros, go through a turnstile, don a mask, and then walk through a misty crevice on a wooden planked trail. Your three euros also gets you access to the toilet, which is pretty handy. I didn’t take a picture of it, but the sign on the men’s room reads that that toilet is for men only. The ladies room is for both men and women. I guess the men’s room only has a urinal. Unlike the gorge trail, the waterfall path is narrow and it’s impossible to “socially distance”, hence the mask requirement. If you don’t have one, you can buy one at the snack bar.
I took video of our walk to the waterfall. At the end of the video, there are a few clips from Saturday’s walk on the Austrian side. Here it is!
I also got a lot of nice pictures of this excursion. The walk took about twenty minutes or so, and only because we stopped to enjoy the waterfall and the cool mist it created. I would say this experience was easily one of the highlights of our trip! I’m so glad we didn’t miss it.
It was late morning by the time we were finished seeing the waterfall. Once again, I was glad we arrived early. Parking spots were filling up fast, and just as they were on Saturday, people were lurking for a place to park. We noticed that the lot on the Austrian side was completely full when we passed it on the way to Mittenwald. And as Bill was trying to vacate our spot, two dumbass guys parked their car directly behind us temporarily so they could get a Parkschein (parking ticket). They were completely oblivious to the fact that they were blocking us, too. But even once they noticed Bill’s annoyed face, they still didn’t move, and they almost caused an accident. Unfortunately, they weren’t the only dumbasses we ran into on this trip. But, in fairness, I’m sure some drivers thought Bill was a dumbass, too.
After the thrill of the waterfall, we decided to visit Eibsee, which is a huge, beautiful lake at the base of the Zugspitze. First, we’d have lunch in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which we hadn’t visited since 2009. It was a bit of a ghost town, probably due to COVID-19. I noticed a favorite Konditorei that we visited a few times back in the day was closed. I was sad to see it. Last time we were there, we parked next to a car that had been keyed… looked like maybe the owner’s ex girlfriend was a bit of a psycho. S/he had scrawled “Fucking bastard” on the side of the car, or something like that. I remember feeling sorry for the guy, having to drive around with that on his car. He might have been a bastard, but it was still not a great look. Plus, the thought of the sound the key must have made on the metal set my teeth on edge. That was at least twelve years ago and I could see that the Konditorei, which had served such delightful pastries, coffee drinks, and beer was closed up tightly. What a pity. Edited to add: my German friend says the person who ran the Konditorei when we visited had a bad reputation. Maybe he was the owner of the “Fucking bastard” car. He disappeared sometime in 2009 (same year we left) and a much better tenant took over. She closed the business last fall.
We had lunch at an Italian restaurant called Pizzeria Renzo, although I would have loved to have stopped in at El Greco, which was a favorite Greek spot we used to visit back in the day. We thought El Greco had closed, but as we passed it on the way back to the car, it was obviously open. I guess they took down their outside menu because of COVID-19. A lot of restaurants are offering abbreviated menus right now, since a lot of them are printing them on single sheets of disposable paper instead of handing out thick books of pre-COVID days.
After lunch, we made our way to the Eibsee in Grainau. We knew it would be crowded. I wasn’t expecting it to be the way it was. I thought the lake would be like a lot of the other lakes I’ve seen in Germany… kind of low key. Well– the Eibsee, which is right next to the huge tourist attraction of the Zugspitze and either the Seilbahn (cable car) or cog wheel train to the summit– is not an easygoing place. Lots of people were taking advantage of the lake– swimming, sailing, paddle boating, hiking, and picnicking. I had really just wanted to get a few photos, so that’s what we focused on… then, kind of on the fly, we decided to take the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze, where we enjoyed a beer and got even more photos.
These pictures of the Eibsee are kind of misleading. I managed to get some that don’t show a lot of people. The place was very crowded, and we would have been hard pressed to find a spot if we’d wanted to go swimming or boating. I didn’t have a bathing suit with me, anyway. I was glad to get the pictures, though, and now that I’ve seen the Eibsee, I don’t have to visit again. Since we were already there, we decided to see the Zugspitze, too. Bill was last up there in the 1980s, when there was no Seilbahn. The cog wheel train still runs and you have a choice as to which method you want to use to get to the top of the mountain. Since face masks were required for either method, we chose the Seilbahn, which is super efficient and only takes ten minutes. The basic cost for either method of getting to the top of the Zugspitze was 59 euros per person, although they had other tickets for families or those who wanted to visit other attractions.
We could have spent a lot more time exploring here if we’d wanted to… They have lots of exhibits as well as other activities that we didn’t try. It’s obviously a popular attraction for children, too. But it was a very full day for us, so we were ready to go back to the hotel. Getting out of the parking lot was obnoxious– we encountered a trifecta of dumbasses. As Bill was backing out of his space, an oblivious young fellow with water toys almost collided with the hood. Then, another dumbass with his buddies and perhaps a girlfriend, decided to aggressively angle for Bill’s spot. He came very close to hitting our 2020 Volvo. I sure as hell am not looking for another legal issue this year, although it would not have been our fault if he’d hit us. Bill just sat there and stared the kid down until he let us leave.
Finally, the last dumbass of the day was an old guy on a moped. He suddenly got a wild hair up his ass and cut Bill off as he carelessly pulled into traffic without even looking for oncoming cars. It was a very near miss. The guy could have met his maker if Bill weren’t such a good driver.
On the way back into Leutasch, I spotted a little fest going on. We stopped and listened to some Austrian folk music, bought a small piece of art and some locally produced gin, and checked out a camel who was brought in for camel rides. They also had pony rides.
And finally, our last dinner at the fabulous Hotel Kristall to cap off this gargantuan post about our Sunday. I really enjoyed Austria and it was far too long since our last visit. We need to come back again and explore more of this underrated country with its warm hospitality and breathtaking views!
I would say that Sunday, August 9th, was the best day I’d had in a long time. It was worth the cost of the entire trip. But there were more thrills to come in Italy. More on that in the next post!
Tackling the Leutaschklamm- Geisterklamm and visiting Innsbruck
Leutasch has the great fortune to be located in an area where there are a lot of things to do. Many people go there for hiking, biking, or perhaps whitewater rafting. But it’s very close to Innsbruck and not that far from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I had been wanting to see the Eibsee, which is at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. I had not been there before, but I had read it was a very beautiful lake. Then I got distracted by posts about the Leutaschklamm– the beautiful gorge walk I wrote about in my previous post. I love gorges. Bill and I visited Vintgar Gorge in Slovenia back in 2016 and it was unforgettable– and not just because it was so beautiful and we had fresh trout for lunch, but also because we walked about ten miles to get there. This time, we were smarter and drove to the gorge, although we probably could have hiked there if we were game to do it. It’s not far from the hotel.
It was lucky that we decided to discover the gorge in the morning. Saturday, August 8th, was a beautiful, clear day with mild temperatures. We easily scored a parking spot, but by the time we left, the gorge was very crowded and people were lurking around the lot in their cars like mechanized vultures. The Leutasch and Mittenwald entrances to the gorge are both next to snack bars, where you can also use the restroom. The Leutasch side appears to have more of a selection of food and beverages and doesn’t require walking through a turnstile to access the toilet. I’ll explain more about that later. For now, here are some photos from our walk.
After we finished visiting Leutasch, we decided to go to Innsbruck for awhile. I went there on a bus tour in 2009, during Bill’s last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I remembered it to be a charming city and bought Austrian refrigerator magnets and a beer stein there. Since then, I’d been wanting to visit there with Bill. We finally got our chance on August 8th, although we didn’t stay long because it was really hot outside and the city was a bit crowded.
We had lunch at the Augustiner Bräu Stiftskeller, mainly because I really needed to pee. I totally wasn’t planning this, but that turned out to be where I had lunch when I visited in 2009, too. That time, I sat inside in the smoking section and the very annoying tour guide who had a voice like steel wool advised me to move as she lit up a cigarette. This time, we sat outside in the crowded Biergarten, where people were also smoking. However, it was a fun place to people watch.
As we were headed back to our car, which was crammed into a tiny spot in a garage, a guy tried to scam the lady ahead of us by dropping a twenty euro bill. He called out for her attention, but she ignored him. This is a common scheme in Europe. Someone drops cash, and a Good Samaritan tries to return it, but it turns out to be a way to hook hapless victims into parting with their own money. It was good to see this dude wasn’t successful in his bid to rip off someone.
We stopped by a grocery store for some wine and personal items. Everyone in the Austrian grocery store was wearing masks. I took the opportunity to buy a new stash of them for the rare times I go out in Germany. We went back to the hotel and decided to take advantage of the refreshing pool. Hotel Kristall has two of them. One is a rather dated looking pool for doing laps. It’s not very big and the water is a bit chilly. The other is a slightly warmer heart shaped pool that has jets in it. There’s also a rather antiquated hot tub, which was nice after a day of walking. We put in about six miles worth!
After our swim, it was dinner time. Here’s what we had! We also had salad from the buffet and I had a little bit of cream of broccoli soup. I had just wanted to taste it. It was very good.
After dinner, it was off to the room for quiet time. Bill watched an Austrian show about cops while I did some reading. Sunday, the ninth of August, promised to be a busy day too!
When I was planning our trip, I knew we were going to visit Italy. Bill and I both love Italy, and it had been way too long since our last visit over Labor Day weekend in September 2018. I remembered visiting Bolzano on a day trip I took on our last business trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, back in 2009. I thought it was a nice city. So I started looking for places around there to go… and my German friend suggested Merano, which isn’t too far from Bolzano. But I wanted somewhere outside of the city– somewhere that was likely to be cooler and prettier. When we finally settled on Parcines, I looked for places to stop on the way there and back.
Bill and I went to Lermoos, Austria in September 2015, when we did our much heralded “Beer and Fucking Tour” (Fucking is a place in Austria, as is Fuckersberg– we visited both on that trip, as well as two beer spas). I knew I liked that part of Austria, but I wanted to go somewhere different. I ended up choosing Hotel Kristall in Leutasch, mainly because I got pretty fatigued trying to look through all of the hotel choices. What I didn’t know is that Leutasch is very close to Seefeld, Austria, which is another place we visited back in December 2015. I’m glad I didn’t realize it until after I booked because I would have probably chosen another place. That would have been a shame, because Leutasch turned out to be a great choice for us.
I didn’t know it when I booked, but Leutasch is home to a very beautiful and supposedly haunted gorge. There’s a very secure path that allows visitors to see the gorge and even walk into Germany if they have the stamina. Leutasch is literally just over the border in Austria, but it definitely feels different there. The gorge is a great activity for kids and there’s no admission charged. All you have to do is pay five euros for parking if you visit from the Austrian side. If you visit from Mittenwald, on the German side, you park in a public area and can pay three euros to see the waterfall (well worth the money and the short walk), or you can skip the waterfall and walk up the steep path that takes you to the Austrian gorge walk and the panorama bridge. All along the path are fun activities for children, although the signs are in German. The gorge turned out to be the highlight of our time in Leutasch.
But– I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to write about our journey to Austria, which started on Friday, August 7th. We dropped off Arran at the Birkenhof Tierpension, and headed south, which took us through our familiar former stomping grounds near Stuttgart. It was just as full of traffic as ever, although we did notice that some of the road work we thought would never be finished was finally done. We stopped at a truck stop near Kirchheim Unter Teck. It had a KFC, which we thought we’d like better than McDonald’s or Burger King (seriously, these are pretty much your options in Germany, unless you want schnitzel). That particular truck stop also had a regular German restaurant, though, so we decided to eat there instead of dining with “the Colonel”.
The waitress seemed surprisingly calm about masking. She wasn’t wearing a mask and actually asked us to remove ours so she could understand our orders. Then, while we were waiting, we filled out the contract tracing forms now required in Germany. It was nice to be in Baden-Württemberg again. It still feels kind of like home, even though it’s not ours anymore.
After lunch, we got back on the road. I happened to be experiencing the last death throes of August’s visit from Aunt Flow, which made the journey somewhat less comfortable than it could have been. But we were in beautiful Austria before we knew it. And boy is it BEAUTIFUL there! The scenery is just insane. I kept craning my body to take pictures of the magnificent Alps, limestone colored streams, and green meadows.
It was about 4:00pm when we reached our hotel. I was in dire need of a shower, thanks to Aunt Flow’s death throes and the heat of the afternoon. I was feeling rather cranky and irritable as Bill parked the car in the free lot outside of the hotel’s entrance. But then, as we approached, I noticed two awesome things. First, there was a table outside with a bottle of housemade Schnapps and shot glasses and hand disinfectant. And second, no one was wearing face masks except for the people running the hotel.
Austria has so far had very few COVID-19 cases, particularly in the Tyrol region, so the rules there are pretty relaxed. I know a lot of people will disagree that anyone should be without a face mask right now, but personally I thought it was great. We checked in, and were assigned room 36, which is a junior suite.
Our rate, which I prepaid, came with half board. We got breakfast and dinner included. I actually liked the food at Hotel Kristall. They did have interesting rules for the buffet, though. No masks were required, but everyone had to don disposable rubber gloves. After we checked in, I took a shower, and by then it was about time for dinner.
I noticed the people sitting next to us giving us curious side-eyed looks. I’m sure they realized we’re Americans and most Americans aren’t currently welcome to travel to Europe at the moment. However, if you’re American and live in Europe, it’s okay… A lot of people figured we were Dutch, since Dutch people will often speak English in countries where they can’t speak Dutch.
Anyway, I mostly enjoyed the food at Hotel Kristall, although being American in Europe when Americans aren’t supposed to be in Europe was a little stressful. But the service at the family run Hotel Kristall was friendly, professional, and welcoming. And I genuinely felt like the people working there enjoyed their jobs. That made for a very pleasant stay.
Bill and I are finally back after our ten day road trip vacation, which took us from Wiesbaden to Leutasch, Austria, to Parcines, Italy, and finally, to St. Gallen (Rorschach), Switzerland. For the most part, we had a wonderful trip. Yes, there were a few minor annoyances, but on the whole, it was a fantastic journey outside of Germany for the first time (for me, at least) since February. It was great to get away, if not because we needed a change of scenery, then because it was very interesting to see how different countries are doing in this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic situation. Each country/region has a different way of operating right now and, at this point, Austria, Italy, and Switzerland have all done a great job of getting things back under control.
Although there are still a lot of places I would like to see before I die, and we had been to the Tyrol/Sud Tyrol areas before, it was nice to take a trip there, stay in different areas, and do different things. We even did a few things we never got the chance to do on previous trips. For instance, Bill and I used to visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen fairly regularly when we lived in Germany the first time together (2007-09), but those trips were always work related for Bill. So I never got to go to the top of the Zugspitze before last weekend, and I had never before seen the beautiful (and terribly crowded) Eibsee. Ditto for Lake Konstanz (Bodensee). We used to live somewhat close to Switzerland, so we didn’t visit there much– we would just travel through to get to Italy. Until this past weekend, I thought Switzerland was beautiful, but dull. I have since changed my opinion about Switzerland.
And yes, I know traveling right now might be seen as frivolous, tacky, cruel, risky, irresponsible, or whatever other adjective the worried and jealous can come up with. I don’t feel guilty at all for going away, though. There were many times in the past when we wanted to travel but couldn’t, mainly due to not having the time or money. Now, we have the time and the money, and there are people whose livelihoods depend on travelers. We have the good fortune to live in a place where government and public health leadership and disease transmission prevention tactics have been strong and cooperative. So we are going to embrace our good luck and enjoy traveling while we can. Because there will surely be a day when we can’t anymore.
It’s good to be home, if only because I was running out of clean underwear and I have really missed Arran. I also always enjoy writing about our trips, and it’s easier to write about them on my big desktop instead of my laptop. I hope you will enjoy reading along as I relieve our ten days of vacation bliss.
So… on with my blow by blow of our trip through the Tyrol and Sud Tyrol regions.
Well… we ended up scrapping the idea to go to the Piemonte this year. I never heard back from Marla, although since it was a Facebook message I sent to Bella Baita’s Facebook page, I can hardly blame her. If you’re not friends with someone, it’s easy to miss Facebook messages. I guess I could have contacted her through her Web site, but I kept thinking about Bolzano and how I’d like to visit that area, too. So finally, I just decided to scrap the idea of visiting the Piemonte again, at least for the time being. We needed to go ahead and book, since our trip begins in a week. There are so many places we haven’t yet been to and want to see, and where we booked our “anchor” town would determine the “sides” of the trip, on the ways down to Italy and back up to Germany. (Edited to add: Today– Sunday, August 2, Marla responded and said Bella Baita is temporarily closed due to the many rules related to COVID-19. But when the pandemic is less of a threat and there are fewer rules, she and Fabrizio will be ready for guests again.)
We spent a couple of hours looking for places last night. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. There are so many hotels! And it’s hard to choose what is most important. I’m definitely lured by nice amenities and don’t mind paying a premium for comfort, but not at the expense of being in a crowded, impersonal, overpriced place. I saw a bunch of places that looked really nice, but I suspected were slickly marketed. I saw other places that were reasonably priced, but didn’t have much character and weren’t particularly comfortable looking.
I finally decided to book a place in Parcines (Partschins), Italy, which is not far from Merano. My German friend had recommended Merano, but it appeared to be more of a city. I didn’t know it when I booked, but Parcines has a waterfall. It also has a very nice looking Alpine hotel, family run, with lots of mountains around it. There are also castles nearby… I think we’ll find enough to do in four nights. Our hotel comes with half board, which is sort of hit or miss. I like to try different restaurants, but it looks like this resort is kind of in an isolated area. Hopefully, the food will be as good as the hype.
Once I was finished booking our “anchor” town, we decided where we would spend the rest of our time. I had been looking at hotels near the Eibsee, in Germany, which is an absolutely gorgeous lake near the Zugspitz. But I didn’t find any hotels that were appealing to me, and we have been to that part of Germany more than a few times. I would not be averse to stopping there for a break or something on the way to the town we ultimately chose– beautiful Leutasch— which isn’t too far from Innsbruck. I had also looked at Seefeld in Tyrol, but we’ve also been there before. It’s a beautiful place, but touristy and resort oriented. Leutasch may be the same way, and in fact, it’s in the same area as Seefeld is, but at least we’ve never been there. The featured photo was taken during our last trip to Seefeld, in which I took a picture of the stunning mountains. It was winter at the time and colder than a witch’s tit. It will look different when we visit next week.
And then, I must admit I was getting pretty tired… the hotels were all blending together. I asked Bill which way he wanted to go home. Was he wanting another journey through Austria? Or was Switzerland more appealing. He said he wanted to go through Switzerland, which would add an hour to the journey back. However, we have two nights to get from Italy to Wiesbaden, so we will be stopping in St. Gallen, near the town of Rorschach, which is on Lake Constance/Bodensee. Yes, I know, we could stay in Germany or Austria and pay less to see the lake, but we wanted to go to Switzerland. So that’s where we’re going, and we’re going to stay in a hotel that reminds me a little of a 60s era hospital.
Yes, Rorschach is also the name of the Zurich born Swiss psychiatrist, Herman Rorschach, who came up with the famous ink blot tests. But Herman Rorschach grew up in Schaffhausen, which is a town in extreme northern Switzerland, right by the German border. We’ve passed it more than once when we used to live near Stuttgart and were able to come and go from Switzerland easily.
I’m not sure how we will get back from Switzerland. Rorschach is close enough to the Austrian border that we could just cross back over and go up that way, rather than driving through Switzerland. A lot of people think Switzerland is extremely beautiful, and it is… but it’s also very expensive and, in some ways, kind of dull. I still like to visit when I can, though, because even though it’s kind of dull, it’s also kind of different. It has four official languages and isn’t part of the European Union… and I discovered that I have a little bit of Swiss heritage, too. Just a little bit.
Apparently, someone from my ancestry was from the Canton of Grisons, which is the largest and easternmost canton in Switzerland. That may be why my first DNA test indicated Italian ancestry. Actually, it was probably Swiss– from Italian speaking Switzerland. But it’s just a tiny pinch– enough to make me slightly more interesting, I guess. I have a pretty boring DNA makeup. It’s about three-quarters British and Irish. The next largest part is German, then Scandinavian, which Ancestry.com further narrows down to Norwegian. That makes sense, since parts of Scotland were once part of Norway. And then, I have a tiny dash of Native American ancestry. So, based solely on genetics, I could totally be European, even though I’m definitely American.
Anyway… this isn’t interesting to most people, except that it’s obvious the people who went into making me were pretty clannish. They all fucked among themselves. It wasn’t until recently that family members started branching out and adding some spice to the mix. My sister, for instance, married a man who is half Jamaican, half Chinese. He looks like Tiger Woods. And they have a son. I’m surprised there aren’t more genetic diseases in our family, besides depression and alcoholism.
Well, I’m glad to have all of this stuff decided. Hopefully, it will go off without a hitch, especially since coronavirus is still a problem. I look forward to posting a lot of pictures from our upcoming road trip. It’s been much too long since the last one of any length.