Travel Diary: a weekend in South Tyrol

3:30 am on a Saturday is no time to be awake. And yet, thanks to the summer heat making it impossible to sleep properly, and sprinkled with a little bit of excitement, here we are.

By 4:30 am, we are packed in the car and heading south. We have 2 hours on this leg of our journey.

First stop: Eibsee

I have wanted to come here ever since I saw a photo of it on Instagram because, yes, I am that basic. I decided that viewing it at sunrise would be the best time. a) it would be beautiful to watch the sun come up over a picture-perfect lake with Germany’s highest mountain sitting behind, and b) there would be very few people around, and even less screaming kids ruining nature for us.

It did not disappoint.

Picture. F***ing. Perfect.

Even Zac, who is master of the weekend lie-in, says how beautiful it is. I am impressed because Zac is a man of limited public emotional range. I am used to receiving a “yeah it’s alright” in a low, mumbled tone. The fact that he too found it beautiful enough to express joy should be how they sell this place to tourists in future.

There’s a stunning hotel right on the water (also costly), and the Zugspitze cable car is directly next to the lake. You can rent boats or walk the trails surrounding the lake and the forest. There are loads of people already up and about paddleboarding, mountain biking, hiking and swimming. My dream world. Exactly how I want to live. Just build me a wooden hut on the side of this lake and leave me to it.

We take a short walk and a water break. A quick pit stop in the local Supermarkt for some breakfast (Brezen, obviously) and we are back on the road and heading even further south. So far south, we’re about to cross two country borders. I don’t think the novelty of being able to just cross borders to these beautiful, scenic, European countries will ever stop being a novelty for me. One of the significant advantages of the EU and its relatively open borders, I suppose (me? Sarcastic towards those Brexit voting Bastards? Never!).

Austrian Roads

First, we head through Austria (remembering to purchase our Vignette before entering the country – very important to anyone travelling in that area! Trust us, we’ve had the fine!). This is our second visit to this beautiful country and, honestly, I totally get the high taxes and tolls you have to pay because Austria does not look like it’s real. The grass is so perfect and so green, it seems like it’s been painted. The sun is just coming up, and it hits the mountaintops to provide the most beautiful morning glow you’ve ever seen. I’m shocked there are not more car crashes here, I spent the whole time looking up and around me (fear not dear reader, I am riding shotgun!).

A short drive through Austria, and we hit the Italian border and the Autostrada toll roads. Getting a ticket is fine, but as we come to our toll road exit, we find ourselves queueing to pay. As a Brit, I am well versed in queueing. It is one of the first things we learn, after the alphabet and how to make a cup of tea.

However, this is Italy. So there are no clearly signalled lanes, it is merely a crowd of cars trying to push in front of each other, changing lanes immediately if another toll booth looks to be moving faster, and beeping horns. Of course, there are beeping horns. I feel very uncomfortable.

To Italy!

But we make it through safely and pretty smoothly. Now, to Lana.

We arrive at the little B&B that Zac’s aunt has booked for us. While the owner is lovely and has a dog (always a plus), the interior is somewhat unsettling.

But it is for one night only, and I’m sure the lady in the painting on the bedroom wall won’t steal my soul while I’m sleeping…

Overnight bag dumped, we head out to meet Zac’s aunt, uncle and cousins at their local Lido for a day of relaxation and catching up. In the evening, we head to a local Italian restaurant for pizza and drinks, before Zac’s uncle takes us on a mini-tour of the town and to one of the local pubs with exceptionally good beer. 

Mountains, Gandalf!

On Sunday, we awake and awkwardly fumble our way through breakfast with the other German guests. Zac and I silently decide we are not B&B people, but for just €60 for the night we are not complaining.

This morning, we are heading up Vigiljoch, a mountain pass in the local area. We take the passenger cable car up halfway, where social distancing measures are totally ignored, and there are way too many people stuffed into the car for the current times we are in. Then we take a chair lift to the top. This is my first time in a chair lift, and I highly recommend it. It is 20 minutes of peace while marvelling at nature. Very meditative.

The view from the top is, of course, spectacular. We take a short walk down the main pathways to a restaurant for lunch, where we sample some fantastic mountain food and the Austrian speciality Kaiserstarmm. After lunch, we wander up to St. Vigillus Kirche, one of the highest churches in Italy. Some wild horses are grazing close by who are catching the attention of many passers-by. I am not scared of many things in life, but I do find myself extremely nervous around horses. So when one of them nudges me, I am naturally a little bit jumpy.

Horse scares over with, we head back to the chair lift taking the forest path, complete with big ants, ticks, and mosquitos! With the Dolemites towering in the distance and the valley towns below, the ride back down is even more beautiful and peaceful.

Back at base, Zac’s aunty makes us an excellent (Italian) pre-drive coffee before we say our goodbyes and make our way back to Germany, exhausted from our weekend of adventures.

All in all, we had a 10/10 weekend. It was great to see some familiar faces again after so long with only each other for true company. While the Italian way of social distancing and mask-wearing leaves a lot to be desired, we loved South Tyrol itself and will definitely look to return in the future!

bis zum nächsten Mal / until next time,

Steffi x

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