“Mountains or sea?” a colleague lately asked me. “Mountains”,I answered spontaneously!
Living in the middle of Europe, maximally far away from all oceans, the sea always will always be exotic for me. And therefore I love to sit at the beach, listen to the calming sound of the waves, look for shells and stones, smell the salty air and grilled fish.
But then the mountains – especially the Alps – feel more like my home base. They’re linked with so many memories of family holidays, hiking tours … Just seeing their massive beauty from far triggers some excited prickling inside.
I feel I must stand on top of the mountain and look down, feeling tiny and big at the same time, breathing in the fresh herby air.
Mountains call for respect, otherwise they can be dangerous. You have no choice but to live with nature, carefully watch your feet, temperature, clouds.
It was already when we had to cross the Alps from Germany via Austria to South Tyrol that the impressive power and beauty struck me again. What a stunning panoramic view when we reached the top of Jaufenpass/Passo Giovo at 2100 m a.s.l.!
Gasthof Rabenstein – our first stay in South Tyrol – lies deep in the Passeier valley at 1500 m a.s.l. The little alpine village which it belongs to doesn’t consist of much more but a few houses and a little church in the centre.
Not only the fact that I had spent some of the best summers in my childhood there made me feel like travelling back in time.
The village and the Gasthof are traditional and remote in it’s best way, totally embedded in its stunning rough alpine landscape.
Nevertheless the newly renovated guesthouse offers all comfort you need – including hearty traditional food like Kasknödel (cheese dumplings), Gröschtl (Fried potatoes, bacon and eggs) or Kaiserschmarrn (sweet pancake with lingonberries),…
The installation above is part of a project called Timmelsjoch Experience which lets you trace history and culture of this alpine pass along its way. At five stations along the road – in the Italian Passeier valley as well as on the other side in the Austrian Oetz valley -, the traveller can learn about the natural surroundings, the history, culture and economy of the region. This one imitates the structure of red garnet, that can be found in the mica slate of this region.
When I was a child nothing could be more exciting and fun than looking for garnets at the Passer river bank and beating them off the stone with my little hammer. (Since it is a protected area now, you are not allowed to do this anymore.)
As spring hasn’t yet really started in the higher regions of South Tyrol, it wasn’t possible to hike up to the Schneeberg with its mining museum – until 1967 it had been the highest mine in Europe at 2000-2500 m a.s.l.! – or to the mountain lake Seebersee with a little stop at the Seeber Alm for some fresh milk, cheese and bread.
Instead, this time we visited the worthwile Museum Passeier in St. Leonhard with its focus on Andreas Hofer, the – not uncontroversial – (South) Tyrolean popular hero, walked along the Andreas-Hofer-path, ate some Vinschgauer, Schüttelbrot (South Tyrolean sourdough flatbreads spiced with caraway, fennel and anis) and Kaminwurz (smoked sausage) and drove a little bit further down the Passeier valley.
After passing St. Martin, the village where the German national football team will hold their training camp to prepare for the world cup (The whole valley is so excited!), we stopped in Riffian to walk a nice little Waalweg path.
You can find Waalweg paths all around Meran, especially in the Vinschgau area. They’re leading along old water courses – called Waal – that were build to irrigate the surrounding orchards. Today you can follow those channels on easy-to-walk promenades with great views.
As Riffian is only at 500 m a.s.l. and already close to Meran the climate here is much milder than further up the valley. Apple trees were blossoming, we saw the first palm trees … and I got some more freckles.
Riffian was kind of a foretaste of what awaited us in Meran, which felt – although only 35 km away from Rabenstein – like being in another world … but first we returned for another night to our alpine hideaway.