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Published: August 16th 2014
For the last weekend of our trip, I had booked two nights in a small alpine style hotel in the Dolomites. We had an hours drive from Innsbruck to the town of Bressanone. The scenery was lovely, as it had been all along. Now the mountains were much starker with lots of sharp peaks. At the end of summer there wasn't much snow and the bare mountains rose up dramatically against the deep blue sky. The rolling green hills and valleys were much the same as in Austria but just a little less cared for. It didn't seem that every hill had been mowed and the hedges along the roads were not all perfectly trimmed. All the towns also have German names and people are mostly German speaking but Bressanone/Brixen seemed to me to have a very Italian flavor. It is a very old town with Gothic, Rennaisance and Baroque buildings lining the flower filled lanes. The town is built around a cathedral with many cafes, small shops and gardens to explore. We stopped for a glass of the local wine and wondered round the town before driving up to our hotel.
The hotel was 8 kilometres from Bressanone, up
in the mountains. All the way up there are farms with their flower covered houses and one-street villages against the backdrop of the stunning Dolomites. The road is narrow and there are no lights at night. All the hotels are with breakfast and dinner included because you can't drive after 8 pm on the dark road. The hotel was in typical Alpine style, basic rooms with balconies and stunning views. Dinner was three courses -- fresh, simple food, made from local produce, eaten in the cozy dining room. The hotel had been a farm and now the family's son and daughter ran the hotel and the fields were rented out to other farmers. They didn't speak much English but it didn't matter. There is not much that you need to ask. There is a good tourist office in the town where you can get information about hiking and trips in the area. After checking in we went for a walk in the mountains above the hotel. We walked up to 1,500 meters, passing farm houses, fields, cows with their ringing bells, small waterfalls, lots of red poisonous-looking mushrooms. We stopped to talk with an older couple that were making their
way down a particularly steep track. We didn't really have a common language but we didn't need words to see that they had been mushroom picking and had three big buckets full. They were happy to show us some of the more impressive specimens. The man indicated that we too should scale the mountain to get some mushrooms. He then offered us a cigarette and when we declined lit up and inhaled deeply, indicating with his fingers that he has been smoking for 60 years. We said goodbye and the two of them walked off briskly while we continued our gentle amble up the mountain.
The weather was perfect. The nights are cold but after so much walking, it's nice to have an after dinner drink and then head up to your room and dive into the deep eiderdown for an invigorating sleep before starting another magical day in the mountains. There is a great deal to do in the area. You need a week to really enjoy everything. We only had one full day. We decided to visit the high-altitude plateau at Alpe Di Suissi. Taking a cable car to the top you are greeted by an enormous
green meadow that is surrounded by mountains. It is a popular ski resort in the winter and in the summer it is a paradise for biking and hiking. We spent the day walking, drinking in the amazing views. In the late afternoon, on the way back to Bressanone, we stopped in at the walnut festival in the medieval town of Klausen. We didn't see much evidence of walnuts. Maybe it was the chestnut festival. We didn't see any of them either. There was a lot of apple strudel and beer drinking, some traditional dancing and some carts with vegetables. Don't know if we were too late or too early but we missed the highlight (whatever it was). It was mostly very crowded with a lot of good natured drinking and laughing and falling about. There is a very impressive monastery above the town, we didn't have time to visit because we had to get back before dark. It is a 45 minute walk up and the nunnery is closed but you can visit the church. The view must be amazing, although around here, that is true of just about everywhere that you care to look.
So we had a
really fabulous weekend in the mountains and we could have easily spent the whole week there but unfortunately we had to be in Prague in another three days for our flight home. We liked Cesky Kremlov so much that we decided to drive back as quickly as possible and spend our last two nights in the town. We drove back on the highway via Innsbruck and Salzburg. Salzburg mocked us with lovely, sunny weather. We passed by Montreux and decided to make a stop as the last time we had been there it was raining so much that we couldn't see anything at all. We saw a Sunday brunch advertised at a restaurant on the lake and it also said that there was a salad bar. Both of us felt in need of some salad and after asking if we could just have the salad bar found a place to sit. The buffet was fabulous, with piles of fresh food everywhere. We are not big eaters and although everything looked delicious we only wanted some salad. The waiter didn't seem very impressed with us and when I asked if I could fill my plate again -- after all, it was
a buffet -- said "You have had enough!" On the way out, I decided to take some photos of the cakes. Two waiters quickly surrounded me and while they didn't confiscate my camera, they let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it was forbidden to take photos of the cakes. The bill for the two plates of salad was probably our most expensive meal in Austria.
We arrived at Cesky in the early evening, after a really nice drive down deserted country roads, through forest and past rivers and lakes. There were harvest festivals at many of the small towns we passed along the way. When we got to Cesky, we went back to "our hotel" and checked in for two nights. That night the bar of the hotel was packed. We sat and ate at an outside table. The weather was much warmer than it had been two weeks previously. There was a man playing accordion and another singing Czech folk songs and although it was so crowded, some of the couples, with a little encouragement from the big mugs of beer, got up to dance between the tables. Lots of laughing and a warm atmosphere with
several nationalities, drinking and eating together. The next day, the castle museum was closed but we revisited the castle anyway, walking up to the gardens and wondering around the old streets. After one last night in our cozy, little room it was time for an early start back to Prague. This time we didn't get lost and arrived in good time, leaving us with nearly the whole day and wonderful, sunny weather to enjoy the city before driving to the airport and our flight home. It seems that you can't go wrong when travelling in the alps -- We would have liked to spend less time in Salzburg and more time in the Salzkammergut but that is dependent on the weather. If the weather is bad, you can always drive somewhere else. There are so many options -- it is not possible in one holiday to experience it all -- and they are all linked together with good roads that will get you to your destination in the least amount of time. Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein and Switzerland are right next door to each other and they are all breathtakingly beautiful -- whatever you choose to do
and whatever direction you take, you really can't go wrong in the beautiful European Alps.
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