FROM THE CITY INTO THE MOUNTAINS –
MY PERFECT GETAWAY
IN SOUTH TYROL (PART 1)
“The mountain calls!” That was clear to me when I planned my vacation for the end of October. The plan was to rest, wind down, relax but have an adventurous experience none the less; something to challenge me and give me a chance to discover nature. It needed to be accessible without a plane and with Pucki, a promenade poodle, in my luggage. And it needed to happen in 2 weeks. The squaring of the circle would probably be refuted by most, but the Green Window team said something completely different: “No problem,” Kathrin said, laughing, “I know just the place.”
Bam! Shortly after, I was there. It almost felt like being teleported; I was swept from frantic everyday life into this paradise so quickly. Never before had I experienced a holiday starting so effortlessly. With bag and baggage and poodle I entered my home for the next two weeks, the Leitlhof in South Tyrol.
“The Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes once said: “The road is always better than the inn.” Good, because I’ m here to hike. I was smiled at tiredly by some colleagues for this project. I heard whispers calling it a “lame retirement vacation.” But due to the gorgeous pictures on my social media profiles, this fatal misjudgement was soon corrected wordlessly. The new whispers said, “I wish I’d been there…”
Fortunately, with the Leitlhof I had caught the most beautiful hotel that you can imagine. Upon entering everything smelled of Swiss stone pine wood, its beneficial effect being familiar to me from Swiss stone pine saunas. Another highlight was the panoramic view from the bed resembling a freshly painted picture by TV painter Bob Ross. The menu had more to do with art than with food. And the service? The receptionists were so warm and welcoming that you might consider if the staff was adopted as opposed to employed. In short, the hotel is perfect. Next was the road ahead of me.
It’s difficult to describe a time in which rush and pause become synchronized and the moment leaves all thoughts silent. This may sound somewhat theatrical, but given the overwhelming landscape, any verbal capriole seems appropriate. No one can say it better than Kofi Annan: “Humility, commanding and uplifting at the same time, yet hardly anything in nature instills as much reverence in us as the sight of mountains.” And it is precisely at their feet that I stood and planned the next few days.
An impressive natural setting: Surrounding the striking monument of the UNESCO World Heritage Dolomites lies a unique world of alpine landscapes. In the Pustertal I was in the heart of the Dolomites surrounded by the national park “Drei Zinnen” and a breathtaking display of colours.
“You have to do good to the body so that the soul feels like living in it.” If I had to use my motto in a poetry book, I would probably quote that phrase from Winston Churchill.
Guided as I am by my curiosity, I am led into the kitchen by chef Matthias, and together we cooked a typical Tyrolean dish. Since he is responsible for the appetizers at the hotel, he chose the starter “Erdäpfelplattern,” which he adapted especially for me, as he knows I mostly cook vegan food. I rolled up my sleeves and put on my apron; I was here to learn. I was still a little relieved, however, when he whispers the famous sentence “I’ve gone ahead and prepared a few things.”
The most challenging task remained to be done, and that turned out to be pressing the potatoes. As you can probably imagine, they were from the region, but these were such regional potatoes that we first had to dig them out of the ground with our own hands. This knowledge alone promised an explosion of taste. First Marco, my Green Window escort for a few days, tried his hand at it. He squeezed the life from the potatoes and turned bright red before exertion. Secretly, I’m pretty proud of my arm muscles. After all, I regularly drag all my groceries up to my home on the fifth floor in Berlin. Now, all that training might pay off. However, embarrassingly nothing happened at all when I tried my best to put all my strength into the press. Matthias stepped in to help out and crushes the entire contents of the bowl without batting an eyelid. It looked like he pressed 500 potatoes with his left hand, I was impressed. The rest was easier. Roll out the dough, cut out the shape, bake the potato bits and fill them with super delicious sauerkraut (homemade, of course). Done. Unanimously we agreed that this tasted as it should!
Rustic and regional: Marco and I worked hard and dug up the biggest potatoes.
THE TREE FELLING
I have, of course, never actually felled a tree before. Once, as a child, I cut down a small Christmas tree with my dad’s help, but never anything like this giant. In front of us, growing towards the sky from a steep slope, stood a fully grown spruce. Stefan, the son of the family owners of the hotel, showed us how to cut down a tree correctly and how to use the wood properly. What is special about the Leitlhof is that it is an energy-positive hotel. What that is exactly and how it all works was revealed to us during our tour of the hotel’s own wood-fired power plant. You heard that right. They actually have their own power station there. To get the wood-fired power station up and running, we needed a spruce, and so we found ourselves in the woods.
While I’m standing here in the middle of the forest, some questions come to my mind. Is it sustainable to cut down trees? What about the reforestation? Can the power plant cover the energy demand? Would the same concept work somewhere else? After Stefan brought down the spruce with an incredibly heavy chainsaw, he answered my questions. In the end, I have the feeling that with each of my questions I have only just begun to skim the surface of his knowledge.
As a goodbye, I got a souvenir of the finely sawn out fracture of the tree. This beautiful piece of wood, which looks like a miniature of the South Tyrolean peaks, now stands in my living room and smells like the forest; what an extraordinary souvenir. Thanks, Stefan, that was a really great experience!
Well, did that you get in the mood for the mountains, too? In part 2 I will share even more insights and among other things present the hotel’s built-in power plant as well as report about my hiking and e-bike experiences. So stay tuned.
To be continued.