Meran, Italy

 

PHOTO CREDIT:  Allison Lloyd

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

Hi! Rylie here while my mother is hunched over her laptop typing another romance. Today, I’m sharing more adventures from my trip to Italy this past spring.

We walked up the hill from Brunnenburg to Dorf Tirol on a rainy morning, able to see where the precipitation turned to snow farther up in the mountains. Waiting for the bus, we shivered in the cold mist and snapped pictures of the snow-sprinkled farms. The ride down the mountain to Meran was fairly quick, certainly less death-defying than our first bus ride, and I was excited to see the market that we were told spanned much of downtown.

PHOTO CREDIT:  Allison Lloyd

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

The market – a strange, eclectic farmer’s market, cheap clothing mixed in with designer clothes and handbags – was pretty impressive. I bypassed the several food stands, selling everything from pastries and dried fruit to links of sausage and heaps of vegetables and fish, and headed straight for the clothing. The town square was somehow colder than Dorf Tirol, and I bought two scarves for three Euros each with the hope of maintaining some body heat. I was semi-successful, no longer shaking, so my friend and I wandered around the market looking at leather jackets and sundresses before heading back to munch on hot pretzels and chocolate croissants. Unfortunately, the rain continued, and we decided to cut our visit short and return to Brunnenburg where we could work on our writing assignments by the kitchen fireplace.

Trail to Merano

Trail to Meran

We were disappointed about not seeing more of Meran, so we opted out of a six-hour hiking trip to visit the town instead on another day, this time in bright sunny weather. We walked the entire way on a beautiful winding downhill trail, which took us about an hour to travel. There were plenty of streams and eroded rocks to hop over and around. We could see the vineyards and farms near Brunnenburg on one side, and between the thick cover of trees we spotted the yellow-painted roofs of homes on the outskirts of Meran. (I later learned many of those houses belong to North Europeans who vacation in Meran during the winter season.) My classmates and I became a bit mixed up when we ended up at a roundabout road, but thankfully, after about ten minutes of asking for local passerby directions, some joggers understood enough of our Italian/English jumble to point us in the right direction.

Meran

Meran

At the end of the trail, we were on a residential street and had to find our way to the center of town. We ended up weaving our way into a wide alleyway, and happened upon little souvenir shops clustered together. We attempted to find the bus station before we began our shopping, but were unsuccessful. Every sign was in Italian and we had no maps, so we decided to worry about that later.

An Antiques Shop

An Antiques Shop

One of my classmates was obsessed with the tea shop. There were all varieties of the beverage as well as tea-related dishware. She bought a tea strainer in the shape of a submarine. It was really cute!

My Woodcarved Purchases

My Woodcarved Purchases

There were antique stores with porcelain, painted dolls and handcrafted wind chimes. I especially liked the woodcarving shops, which interestingly, were the only ones in Meran that I visited with German-speaking shopkeepers. There was a forest display filled with wooden deer, rabbits, owls, and other adorable creatures. I wanted to buy the deer for my dad, but it was priced at over two hundred euros, a bit steep for my wallet. My parents have a few ceramic plates from past travels, so I was thrilled to later discover a shop with the towns’ famous clock-tower in a cherry-and-lemon colored glaze.

Hand-Painted Collector Plate

Hand-Painted Collector Plate

Of course, we stopped by no fewer than three gelato shops to find the best gelato in town!
I suppose a trip abroad is not complete without the travelers getting lost. After spending ten minutes trying to ask for directions back to the main bus station, and another half hour searching around town, we finally stumbled upon a tiny, deserted, out-of-the-way bus stop that we hoped would bring us back to Dorf Tirol. I was kicking myself for not having brushed up on my Italian more before the trip, but lucky for us, a bus did turn up at the time we thought it should. We always could’ve hiked back, but even as a newly-converted hiking lover, I wasn’t too sure how we’d manage wearing jeans and lugging armfuls of made-in-Meran purchases up the mountainside.

Amanda at Merano

What’s the most fascinating souvenir you’ve ever purchased? Have you ever gotten lost and begun to panic like I did?

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Hiking the Italian Alps

Welcome to this week’s escape! Rylie is excited to share one of her favorite memories from her recent excursion to Northern Italy. First, I thank you, our readers, for your incredible response to her posts and for growing the blog through your Likes and Comments. Thanks, also, to those of you who recently subscribed to Margarita Moments & Other Escapes. I hope you enjoy your time spent with us.

Getting Ready

Despite the amazing food and picture-perfect landscapes I’d heard about regarding Italy, what got me hooked on the trip were four little words of a brochure headline–Hiking in the Alps. After months of dreaming about it, the day was finally here. Mentally, I was more than ready. Physically, I chose to gulp down pineapple juice and two slices of bread an hour before the event, my hands shaking with excitement. Ever since sustaining an injury during track, I’d been relegated to non-impact workouts, so the extent of my exercise lately had been trudging my overstuffed backpack around campus. Today my new backpack was stuffed with a jacket, my camera, a giant water bottle I bought for a Euro in town, and my wallet. I was stoked to hike the Alps!

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Frizzante?

We began the trek uphill through town, passing small housing developments and farms to get to the start of the trail. There was a moment of panic when my friend and I realized the drink we’d purchased, and thought was water was actually seltzer. (So that’s what ‘frizzante” meant on the label!) Luckily, we were able to refill our water bottles at a restaurant in Dorf Tirol before beginning our climb.

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

What sights!

The hike was exhausting, and admittedly painful, but oh so worth it. The trail, for the most part, was on a slight incline, with a wall of stone on our left and a thick forest on our right. Some parts were steep, particularly as we increased in altitude, and several of us skidded on pebbles on the way down. Between the clusters of trees we could often catch a glimpse of narrow waterfalls etched into the mountainside, plummeting into the brook below. The Austrian Alps peeked out from behind the forest and hills, their snow-capped peaks nearly invisible in the morning sunlight.

Can you see the Austrian Alps?

Can you see the Austrian Alps?

Our destination was a farm about midway up the mountain, and we rested briefly at the little restaurant on property to have a beer and the most delicious cranberry-cake dessert I’ve ever tasted. If you read last week’s post, you know how much I love my food and beverages.

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

I regretted chugging the rest of my beer when I tripped rather spectacularly over a small boulder on our way down. In spite of shooting pain in my ankles and knees at every step, I ended the hike out-of-breath and itching to do it all over again. I mean, who can resist climbing a mountain to have the chance to swirl around, pretending to be a character from one of the best movies of all time!

The Sound of Music…

I was Maria!

I was Maria!

Now it’s your turn. What’s an outdoor activity you enjoy best, or wish you could do more often?

Brunnenburg Castle and Dorf Tirol Italy

You’re in for a treat today. My daughter, Rylie, is sharing more photos and details about her recent ten-day trip to northern Italy. If you missed her first post, check it out here. I am in awe of all the beautiful landscapes and buildings, and hope you enjoy them, too!

Brunnenburg Castle

Brunnenburg Castle

Originally built in 1250 A.D., Brunnenburg was renovated by Boris and Mary de Rachewiltz. Mary, the daughter of Ezra Pound (who finished writing the Cantos while staying at Brunnenburg in 1968). She now lives there with her family.

We spent the first day at the castle exploring the extensive grounds, which consist of a vineyard, several animal pens, and an agricultural museum in addition to the castle, farmhouse-turned-kitchen, and dorm-style guesthouse where students from across the globe can spend up to a year working on the grounds and studying Pound’s work.

Brunnenberg 1

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

Walking around the castle grounds was beautifully eerie. There are no artificial lights outside and the sun peeks in around the tower walls. On rainy days, the pathway between the towers is cast in darkness. Ivy winds up and through the stonework. The wooden bridges and beams, though restored, are weathered and blackened.

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

PHOTO CREDIT: Allison Lloyd

The following morning we enjoyed an early breakfast to offset some of our jet lag. I normally don’t eat until lunch, but Brigeeta, Mary’s daughter-in-law and the resident chef, had baked fresh bread, and the juice selection was too fun to miss out on. I mean, who wouldn’t want to drink blood orange (Grapefruit??) and pineapple juices, along with other indiscernible flavors? After the quick meal, we had our first creative writing class before our walk.

Brunnenburg 3
Our walk was more like a hike since it took us twenty minutes just to reach town. Then, we took a gondola ride up the Italian Alps. Gondolas in Dorf Tirol are a type of ski lift (Who knew?), not the boats we would later see in Venice. I am not a fan of heights unless I’m firmly strapped in, so the ride was a bit nerve-wracking. The view, however, completely made up for it!
Once off the gondolas, we decided to hike even further up the mountain, with one of Mary’s grandsons as our unofficial guide. We walked the trail overlooking the valley as he taught us about its formation.

Brunnenberg 2The valley has two entry points, carved out by glaciers during the Ice Age. The varying ground levels, some with solitary farms or little towns such as Dorf Tirol, indicate where the glaciers stopped for a period of time. The point at which the glaciers collided is where the town of Meran lies–in the belly of the valley. The valley continued as far as I could see, flanked by snow-capped peaks of the Austrian and Italian Alps.
By the end of our hike, I knew my hiking sandals weren’t sufficient for this rocky terrain. So off I went to buy hiking boots in town, nervously bouncing between their two sports’ stores, trying to compare prices.

Overlooking valley of South Tyrol

Overlooking valley of South Tyrol

Unfortunately, employees in both stores only spoke German, so my limited Italian was useless, and they didn’t understand the words “cost,” “price,” or “money” in English. Eventually I just asked “Euros?” and pointed to different brand shoes. Eventually, I was able to purchase a pair I assumed was waterproof based on the employee’s hand motions. According to Mary’s grandson, the weather in Dorf Tirol was unusually wet and chilly for late May, so I was sure I would find out soon enough if I was correct.

Have you ever visited a castle? Do you have any funny stories about trying to communicate with someone when you didn’t speak the same language?

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