Title: Dwarfs, bread dumplings and mountains.. south tyrol, italy
Well, the original plan was to spend my last few weeks in Slovenia climbing with a friend Armin, who I met in Thailand last year. However, we waited until the last minute to book and at this time decided the weather in South Tyrol – where Armin is from- was going to be much better.
So on Monday- Aug, 14th we headed off to the city of Mülwald, in northern italy near the dolomites where Armin grew up. We took several trains and spent most of our day traveling, but by around midday time we arrived in Bruneck and his wonderful mother Kathi picked us up. When we arrived we met his younger brother Daniel and the infamous orange cat, “Rony.”
After, Armin took me on a tour of the house, we got all settled in and got to planning out things we wanted to do during our vacation. That night we had dinner of cheese, breads and a traditional rather salty meat called speck.
-Day 1- Aug 15
We woke up at a decent hour and Armin was sweet enough to have make pancakes and coffee for me by the time I made it down the stairs to the kitchen. Incredible start to a vacation.
Naturally we planned to go straight to the climbing walls.. but instead we got distracted by local event happenings. Turns out that Aug 15, 2017 was also a national holiday in South Tyrol Italy, called Feast of the Assumption.
First we stopped by a local church ceremony where many people were gathered for a beautiful outdoor mass with massive flags, 8 ft tall statues and extravagant flower arrangements. In addition many locals attending, were wearing military clothing or dressed in traditional clothing- such as lederhosen and dirndl; similar to the austrian/german style.
Then we headed into town to look for a rock climbing guide book, but no such luck.. Instead we found out the Feast of the Assumption parade was going to start in about an hr, so of course we had to stay.
While we waited, we went into a local shop that sold traditional wood sculptures, house shoes, socks, food, liquor and these adorable dwarfs. The dwarfs presence come from the history of mining in the area since mine workers needed hats to protect themselves. In german the hats are called Zipfelmütze and of course, they became one of my favorite things so I had to bring a few home to remember my amazing trip to south tyrol.
After the shop we watched the parade go by and right after we had a simple lunch of turkey, fruit and traditional Tyrollean Schüttlebrot.
Then finally by midday we made it to climbing and headed to the closest big area called the Pursteinwand in Sand in Taufers. There we found a variety of cool climbs, but much of it was quite overhanging so we choose this route called Schzengle, meaning guardian angel in english. Of course we did not think anything of this because the line was beautiful.. but soon we realized that this route was a bit scary and sure enough before the day was done Armin scraped up his shoulder and elbow on the first day…
No serious injures or anything.. but not the best start to a long climbing trip.
Following Armin’s fall we collected our things and headed out for the day to get food. We decided to go to a nice italian restaurant called Cascade and get pizza. Not only was the pizza to die for… they had these HUGE windows for walls and the most incredible views of sunset over the mountains with paragliders scattered across the sky.
Fed and happy we headed back to the house.. not for bed time, but to change our outfits and head over to the local city festival that happens once a year for each town. I had absolutely no idea what to expect and when we arrived it was already really going full steam. Armin was watching me in amusement, asking me what i thought and all I could do was process everything. The venue was quite large, most people had alcohol, some were dressed in traditional clothing, some were yodeling, the music was really quite loud and the whole place just seemed fast paced.
Then in the midst of the crazy we met both his brothers Daniel and Stefan, and said hello to lots of people they knew from their past or work. Most of them actually did not speak much english and my german still needs serious work, but Armin was a wonderful translator keeping me in the loop most the time and when he was busy we all did our best to communicate with the limited words we had. I even got roped into dancing later in the night with his friend Tobias in a style of dance completely foreign to me. I was hesitant to try, but it was really fun.
–What a day–
I had only been in south tyrol one day and I was falling in love…
-Day 2- Aug 16
On the second day we set out to the biggest city close by, Bruneck, to look for a climbing guide book again. On the way to the sports shop we stopped at the local church, took time walking the local shops and ended up doing a little shopping while searching for the book. We ended up finding it climbing shoes for Armin and a nice sports sweatshirt for me.
The most entertaining thing we saw in town was absolutely this pizza vending machine… never could i have imagined it existed, but i was in italy.. anything is possible haha. — no we didn’t try it.
Later that day we stopped to eat our chicken in the really beautiful park for lunch. We made some sort of wraps with lots of fixings and it ended up being really flavorful.
Finally that afternoon we used all of the remaining daylight to climbing at Pustinwand, close to his home. We did a variety of easier climbs and avoided the scarier climbs that looked unsafe.
Before bed we made a spinach spaetzle dinner at his house, brewed tea and baked these yummy nutella cupcakes without a recipe!
-Day 3- Aug 17
We started out fairly early and headed to the dolomites to climb. The area was farther away and many Italian tourists were in tirol for a long weekend so the journey took us a bit longer than anticipated. In addition, we took a few wrong turns trying to find the area.. but after a bit of searching we found the right trail and set off to the climbing area.
Little did we know that the journey to the wall would be a fairly long uphill hike taking 1-2 hours.. -_- personally i was not TOO thrilled about this surprise, but what can you do. At least Armin was extremely patient and some of the walk was flat.
We arrived at the climbing area called Landro Höhlen and boy was it beautiful. We could see miles around the cliff we were climbing with mountains, lakes and trees all around us. The climbing lines were really cool, but turns out this rock is REALLY REALLY sharp and that part is not so fun.
During lunch time we ate some fruits and I made a small butterfly friend. The butterfly was no so colorful, but really pretty mixing different shades of brown and black. He seemed to be really attracted to me because he not only landed on my arm, but then went all over my face and after my hand. He even tried to stay on my head while i was belaying Armin up a climb.
The rest of the day was spent climbing and the coolest thing we found up at the climbing area was not a route, but this incredible wood faucet made to help people drink the delicious natural mountain water. When nightfall approached we headed down the mountain and went to see the Drei Zinnen (Three Peaks) in the Dolomites before right before dusk.
Logically.. this is the time most would head back to sleep. HOWEVER, yet again we ended up out somewhere else. This time we went to a street kitchen event, tried a variety of traditional foods and saw some traditional tirol music/dance. My favorite part no doubt was this type of flat meat Knödel. I ate two entire Knödel, half a pasta and desert. I am not sure how it all fit, but it was delicious.
-Day 4- Aug 18
On friday, Armin made my breakfast as usual and his mother made these AMAZING Triol Spinat Knödl (Tyrolean Spinach Dumplings) for our dinner later that night.
As we were about to start out for another day of climbing we stopped to talk with their neighbors, a couple named Alfons and Gertraud. They welcomed us into their homes while they were making homemade tomato sauces and offered us this delicious raspberry flavored water they made themselves. The two were both professors and did not speak much english, but were very sweet and interested in what we were doing during our trip. It was really fun to talk to them a bit and learn about different things happening in the area.
After we left their home we headed to a new climbing area called Burgkofl in Lothen near to the Sonnenburg. It was incredibly peaceful there, we had the entire place to ourselves and founds some really quality routes. A few were a bit scary and others were really tall, up to about 90ft or 35m.
-Day 5- Aug 19/sat
Over the weekend we did not climb, but rested our bodies and saturday we headed to the local mine to do a tour. Transportation there was slow and the mine’s english tours were pretty infrequent so we spent much of the day in transit or waiting. Then in addition, the day was pretty rainy and the atmosphere was not too energetic with all the storm clouds, but we tried to make the best of it.
We ate this delicious traditional meal called “” and had berry tea while waiting. Then once we made it down into the mine it was really a fun experience. I definitely should have dressed warmer, but I really liked learning more about the history of the area and seeing what it would have been like to work down there.
That night we made it back to the house, ate the knödel and just relaxed at the house.
-Day 6- Aug 20
Sunday we went on a multiple hour hike Day at Lappach – with Stefan and Kathi. We started out midmorning and drove out to the base of the hike. Armin was a bit concerned with the possibility of soft ground from the rain, but it turned out to be perfect. The temperature also was really prefect. I felt a bit cold when the wind picked up, but not too bad. Armin being driven and a bit impatient held a steady pace up the steep path and went out of view from the rest of us pretty quickly. I stayed behind with his brother and mother slowly making our way up the mountain exchanging minimal conversation when we could. I am by no means a fast hiker and really enjoyed the slower pace even though i could have kept up with Armin.
After a while we made it to a good stopping point where we found Armin making friends with the cows. Apparently in this area there were many farms that let their cattle wander with the bells on their necks. I had no expectation of finding farm animals this high up in the alps and really loved how they fit into this picturesque landscape.
We took a little break enjoying the view and then continued the journey up the mountain. During this time everyone sort of kept a different pace and I felt completely at peace. I loved being in nature, listening to the soft sounds of animals and soft breeze all around me, just soaking in all the incredible views as long as I could.
At the top of this mountain little did I know, but there was a small restaurant with perfect views of the mountains! We sat outside on their wood picnic tables and we stopped there for some lunch. I had the soup knödel and tried his mom’s kase knödel. Both had strong and complex flavors that just explode in your mouth when you bite. I was very impressed.
After a long rest and lots of food we headed down the mountain together, picking wild raspberries along the way.
-What a fun day of laughter and views like I have never seen before in my life.-
Once we made it back to the house, most of us were pretty TIRED… YET, Armin seemed to want to go climbing. I thought this idea sounded sort of fun.. but also a bit crazy. So, I said I preferred not to go and he headed off to the gym for a bit leaving me with his german speaking family. I wasn’t sure how that would work since we could not communicate well, but I wrote my blog, shared some photos with them and was well rested the next day. While Armin was gone we decided to order pizza for dinner and all ate together once Armin arrived back from the gym.
-Day 7- Aug 21
Previously I bought one Zipfelmütze, but over the last week in Tirol I realized that this was a terrible mistake and I needed at least 3 more. So first thing in the morning Armin and I set out shopping for Zipfelmütze. We ended up with about six in total .. a perfect complete family (:
Then once we had enough Zipfelmütze we headed back to the Burgkofl climbing area for the rest of the night. We climbed many many long routes and enjoyed almost every one and yet again we had the entire place to ourselves. What a blesssing! The peace and quiet in nature by a climbing wall was just amazing.
When we arrived back to the house we grilled fish Daniel caught and sautéd a bit of zucchini to go with. It was really a delicious meal!
-Day 8- Aug 22
Tuesday was our last full day and we first went to see the castle in the town of Sand in Taufers. It was pretty interesting and the tour guide created very good energy with her cheerful personality, even though it was in Italian I could still tell!
Later that night we just spent the rest of the day climbing as many routes as possible in the Burgkofl area. It had become our favorite area and we wanted to make the most out of that last day.
That night we had decided to try to make pork dumplings. Although I did not have all the ingredients I would have preferred, it was really fun to make the dumpling wrappers from scratch and provide a meal for the people that gave me so much! After a bit of a wait the dumplings came out delicious. I was doing a lot of experimenting so I am happy they turned out so well!
-Day 9- Aug 23
Finally early morning on Wednesday we drove to the train station with his mom, said our goodbyes and headed back to Vienna. After a great adventure such as this it was hard to say goodbye, but knowing I would really like to go back one day and visit agin makes it all easier.
Until the next adventure……which is now 100% confirmed! I will be heading to Greece to climb end of October with Armin, Joe from Denver and other great people from Vienna!