August 23, 2019

Gardens of Trauttmansdorff with castle in the background

Dorf Tyrol Cemetery

Brunnenburg Castle in the center of the photo

Ezra Pound Museum Items

Ezra Pound Suite

Ezra Pound Museum Items

Agricultural Museum

On this day we headed out about 8:30am for the Gondola to take us down the mountain to Bolzano and the train station. From the Gondola it is about a ten-minute walk to the train station where we boarded a train to the town of Merano. Merano is a lovely 35-minute train ride to the northwest of Bolzano though apple country.

Since 1969 they have been growing apples using a slender spindle system of high-density planting. The apple trees are planted in neat rows about 36” apart and about 8-12 feet tall. The apple trees resemble more of a column than a tree with clusters of apples from the ground to the top of the column. This new system of growing reduced labor by about 10% and increased production yields by 28%. We saw mile after mile of apple fields growing green, red and multi-colored apples. It was time to harvest the apples so many fields had people in the fields picking the apples.

Once we reached Merano we took a local bus to the Gardens of Trauttmansdorf Castle. The castle was once the holiday residence of Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria back in the late 1800’s. Inside the coach house they had an exhibition on Killer Plants referring to the carnivore plants like the Venus fly trap. In the old castle they have a large exhibit on the history of tourism in the area. Merano is known for its mild Mediterranean climate and hot springs. People would come from the colder north to escape the cold and enjoy the mild weather beginning in the 1800’s. Wealthy people began building large stately homes in the area and the city has grown to about 400,000 people today.

In the main castle complex there is also a small exhibit on Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) and the time she spent there. The rooms of the castle have old frescoes on the walls, painted ceilings and greats views of the area.

The Trauttmansdorff Castle includes a large botanical garden with a lake, restaurants, a palm beach and even a cactus garden. At this time of year, the gardens are filled with colorful lavender, water lilies and perennials. In spring time, the gardens are filled with blooming rhododendrons, Japanese Cherry blossoms and 200,000 tulips. After touring the castle, we enjoyed lunch at one of the restaurants along the lakeshore.

We took a taxi from the Castle to a small village by the name of Dorf Tyrol where we visited a Brunnenburg Castle owned by the daughter of the great American poet Ezra Pound and her son Siegfried Rachewiltz. Today the castle is partially open as a museum and also the private residence for four generations of the family.

Ezra Pound’s daughter, Mary de Rachewiltz, now 94, is the daughter of violinist Olga Rudge who was his mistress and not his wife. Mary says that her mother wanted a son from her father but that her father did not want any children. Her mother succeeded, only that a daughter was born, and for her, it was such a shock that she didn’t want Mary. Mary was entrusted to a Tyrolean nurse, with whom she lived until she was 10-years-old. Ezra Pound was linked to fascism and appreciated Mussolini and spent thirteen years in a mental hospital in America as a traitor to his country. After his hospitalization he returned to Italy and spent many years here.

Inside the castle there are several rooms dedicated to the history and relics of Ezra Pound. The grandson has also built a museum filled with historical items from the area. The items include farm implements, blacksmith items, felt making items, bread making items, wine making items, cheese making items and more.

We were taken on a tour of portions of the castle like the rooms dedicated to Ezra Pound, the private residence filled with books, art, papers and memorabilia, the museum and the wine cellar. It was all very interesting.

After our tour we walked back into town where we enjoyed drinks and apple strudel before heading back to our hotel via bus, train and gondola. It was a long day but very enjoyable. After dinner went to our rooms to recuperate.

August 22, 2019

Carezza Lake

Kent and Christine on the Gondola to the Glacier

The Glacier

Bare land left from the 2018 storm

Scenic Views Everywhere

Another Mountain View

Typical Scenic Valley

This is one of the local resorts

The early morning was filled with thunderstorms and light rain but as the morning progressed, the skies cleared and it was a beautiful day.

Our entire group left our hotel by bus stopping to pick up eight Italians in a nearby village for a full day tour of the Dolomites. Our first stop was at the beautiful Lake Carezza in the hamlet of Carezza, a province of Bolzano. This small alpine lake sits at about 5,000 feet in altitude and was set in a dense forest until October 30, 2018 when there was a huge wind storm that destroyed thousands of acres of forest land. They believe that more than 14,000,000 trees were destroyed in just four hours. The storm had rain and winds in excess of 90 miles per hour. The trees have mostly been removed by now leaving the surrounding hillsides bare. The lake itself is quite small in size but the water is fed from a natural spring, is crystal clear and full of emerald colors of blues and greens.

We continued on through the Dolomites experiencing beauty in every direction. The panoramas of forests, barren rocky slopes to ski slopes and chairlifts can be found around every turn.

For lunch we stopped at the Marmolada Glacier located on the mountain Marmolada in the district of Trentino, Italy. It is the only glacier in the Dolomites section of the Alps. We boarded open air Gondola cars that only hold two persons for the climb up the mountain to the glacier. The ride over pine forest and barren rock takes about 20 minutes to reach the base of the glacier. Today the glacier has shrunk and it’s not that impressive but it was an interesting thing to see.

For lunch Kent and Christine ordered plenty of beer and water, goulash soup and bread. We spent about 90-minutes up the mountain near the glacier before returning to the bus. The temperatures were cool but a heavy sweater or fleece was adequate at the glacier.

We stopped at the Sella Pass, the highest mountain pass between the provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol in Italy. The pass is 7,727 feet in elevation and has tremendous views of the surrounding mountain peaks. In winter this is a tremendous ski area but in summer the ski lifts continue to operate taking people up the mountains to hike, bike and enjoy the beauty of the area.

Our last stop of the day was at a small town by the name of Kastleruth with a population of only about 6,500 inhabitants. This area is known for its wood carving of all types. You find carvings of religious figures, tree ornaments, figurines of all types, animals and more. The town square houses a beautiful church and clock tower with many shops on the meandering surrounding streets.

It was a long day of touring but it was a wonderful experience and gave us a good idea about everything that the Dolomites have to offer. The scenery is spectacular. There is a unique style of architecture of most of the local ski resorts. Many of them are smaller hotels about four stories tall with beautiful flower boxes hanging from every balcony.

Some Bolzano area observations: bus drivers are not very personable; lots of people smoke; there are fewer observable Muslims in the area; you don’t know what language people speak….it could be Italian, Ladin, German or English…..all are possible; locals don’t say “excuse me” or “pardon” if they bump into you; generally, if you great people in any language, they will respond.

We arrived back at our hotel about 6:45pm where the barbecue for dinner had already begun. The dinner was similar to last weeks but delicious and plentiful as well.

August 21, 2019

Monumento Alla Vittoria

Monumento Alla Vittoria

Shopping Arcade

Dominican Church Frescoes

Ancient Gries Parish Church Cemetery

Church of St. Agustine Interior

Overnight, we had some heavy rain, lightning and thunder but the days have been mostly warm and dry.

On this morning we took the Gondola down the mountain to Bolzano where we visited the Kolping Center for a lecture by Professor Andreas Hapkemeyer. The Kolping Center is a place where folks can go to learn a trade like cooking, woodworking, parenting, horseshoeing, wood carving and more.
The professor discussed the Tyrolean region and how the change in borders over the last 100 years or so has resulted in the need for four passports even if you lived in the same home. This area was once a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria, German and now part of Italy.

At the end of the 1920’s there were about 30,000 residents in Bolzano but Mussolini wanted it to be more Italian to show his power on the border. He had a goal of increasing the population to 100,000 residents, mostly of Italian descent. The area was producing steel and magnesium and they needed a larger work force so mostly poor people from all parts of Italy were brought here to live and work.

New shopping arcades, apartments and streets were built to accommodate the new influx of workers and to increase the population. The new construction was much more streamlined and modern in comparison to the architecture that had existed in the past. The new shopping arcades lined new avenues and the covered porticos were much larger in scale than anything that had existed previously.

Between 1926 and 1928 a monument was built called the Monumento Alla Vittoria in what would be the new center of town strategically placed between the old town and new town. This would become the first Fascist Monument and would become the scene for the most important public gatherings in the city. Political rallies and ceremonies of the Fascist Regime took place here.

The monument is similar to the Arc de’ Triumph in Paris designed with the symbols of the Fascist regime. Columns resembling a bundle of wooden sticks with protruding axe-heads had been an ancient Roman symbol of power and were used for the monument. The bundled wooden sticks were a symbol that together we can be greater than we can be individually.

After the second World War, the monument has remained a focus of tensions between Fascists and anti-Fascists and between linguistic groups. Today the monument remains although there have been many discussions about whether this monument should be torn down. To help educate the public about the history of the monument over time, it now houses a museum in the basement.

During our lecture Christine snuck out and purchased twenty gelato ice cream cups in all different flavors for us to enjoy. After the lecture we had time for a small bite to eat before meeting back up with the group at the monument museum for a self-guided tour. The museum is not too large and but has a lot of information on its history and photos over history.

We also visited a couple of different churches in town. The first was the Dominican Church with very old frescoes painted on the walls. The second was an interesting cemetery at the Ancient Gries Parish Church. The third was the Church of St. Augustine with its very ornate interior.

August 20, 2019

Kellerei Bozen Winery

Inside the Winery

Winery Barrels

Winery Bottling Machinery


This morning we headed out on the Gondola to the town of Bolzano below. Once in Bolzano we caught a bus to the Kellerei Bozen Winery where we took a wonderful tour. The winery used to have two locations where they produced their wines until 2018 when they moved into this new facility.

The winery is not owned by one family or corporation but instead is a co-operative of about 225 families who own vineyards in this region. They pool their small vineyards grapes to create about 50 different wines with a production of about 3,000,000 bottles a year. Each member of the co-operative is paid on the quality of the grapes that they bring to the winery for processing. The members receive payment for the grapes when they are harvested as well as receiving a quarterly payment from the profits of the winery.

This new facility was designed by an architect who had never previously designed a wine processing facility. It was built at a cost of about $40,000,000 and is built into the hillside and partially covered with vineyards making it both productive and eye appealing. Eight stories of soil had to be removed from the hillside before beginning construction from the ground up. Much of the rock in the soil was used in the concrete and the remaining soil was sold. There are ramps and scales for trucks and tractors to deliver the harvested grapes. The grape processing begins at the top floor of the facility in a drive through warehouse where the grapes are delivered. Gravity is used, rather than pumping, to move the grapes and juice through each process of the wine making until it finally reaches the ground floor cellar for storage and sale.

The facility is the most modern and complex winery I have ever seen and the multi-story processing plant is like none I have ever seen. They have a beautiful store and tasting room where they offer tours and sell their wines.

We tasted three white wines, three red wines and one dessert wine in a classroom- type tasting room. The wines sell in the range of $15 to $40 a bottle and everyone seemed to like them all, even if they had favorites. They do export some of their wines to the US and Canada, although most are consumed locally.

After our wine tour and tasting we took the bus back to the center of Bolzano where we had a walk through town. We stopped for a sandwich and a soft drink before returning to our hotel at the top of the mountain. Dinner is always something special and this night was no exception. We had delicious spinach dumplings with brown butter and parmesan followed by a wine soup. The main course was a veal saltimbocca with scalloped potatoes and cabbage. Dessert was a very light chocolate mousse with a hint of orange accompanied with pears.

August 19, 2019

Kent and Mark in Bolzano

Bakery Cookies

Model of Otzi the Iceman


View of the Dolomites









On this morning we headed down the mountain to Bolzano to visit the Otzi or Iceman Museum. Otzi is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived between 3400 and 3100BC. The mummy was found September 19, 1991, at an elevation of 10,530 feet in the Otzal Alps on the border of Austria and Italy. He is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy and has offered an unprecedented view of Copper Age Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology here in Bolzano.

The mummy has been extensively examined, measured, x-rayed and dated. Tissues and intestinal contents have been examined microscopically, as have the items found with the body. By current estimates (2016), at the time of his death, Otzi was 5’ 3” tall, weighed about 110 pounds and was 45 years of age. Using modern 3-D technology, facial reconstruction has been created showing Otzi looked old for his age with deep-set brown eyes, a beard, a furrowed face and sunken cheeks. Otzi wore a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather and different skins.

Other items found with Otzi were a copper ax with a yew tree wooden handle, a knife, a bag with 14 flint tipped arrows with stabilizing fins, a 72” longbow, bowstring, and several other unknown items.

The cause of death remained uncertain until 10 years after the discovery of his body. In 2001, x-rays and a CT scan revealed that Otzi had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder and a matching tear in his coat. Bruises and cuts to the hands, wrists and chest as well as cerebral trauma were also found indicating a blow to the head. It is now believed that Otzi bled to death after the arrow shattered the scapula and damaged nerves and blood vessels before lodging near the lung.

The museum is quite fascinating as is all of the research that has been done to understand this mummy’s history, life and death. The mummy is displayed in a temperature-controlled cabinet with a small window that you can look into to see Otzi’s remains. The clothing items have now been beautifully displayed in climate-controlled cases and are in extraordinary condition given their age.

The afternoon brought out a mix of sunshine and a rain shower. The clouds continue to hover around the surrounding mountains creating an everchanging landscape.

August 18, 2019

Mountain Views

Mountain Restaurant

Kent in the Mountains

Mark in the Mountains

This morning we headed out from our hotel at 8:30am bound for a spectacular mountain setting in the Alps for the day. We first had to take the gondola from Oberbozen, where our hotel is located, to the town of Bolzano below. From here it was a short five-minute walk to the bus station where we caught a bus up the valley and into the mountains. The bus ride took about thirty-minutes to reach the Seggiovia Panorama Chairlift. The chairlift took us on a twenty-minute ride up and across beautiful green pastures and forested areas to a place called Compatsch. Here in the winter it is a bastion of skiing and snow activities. In summer families flock to the area to hike, ride bikes and enjoy the picturesque scenery.

Once we reached the top of the chairlift we hiked on a trail about two-miles to an area called Saltria where the elevation is about 5,500 feet. From here you have exquisite views of the mountains all around you that rise to over 10,000 feet in elevation.

The hills of the area are sprinkled with single family homes, cattle barns, ski resorts, horses and cows. Kent and Christine took us to one of their favorite restaurants where we enjoyed lunch outdoors on the patio surrounded by natural beauty. Lunch in this case meant plenty of wine, beer, water, meat and cheese platters, several types of pasta, local pancakes with preserves and powdered sugar, coffee, espresso and the local liquors to top it off. The setting really was spectacular and we enjoyed our time out in nature.

To save a bit of hiking on the return journey some of us opted for a bus ride back to the chairlift for two-euros each. Once back at the chairlift, it was a ride down the mountain, back to the bus to Bolzano and finally back up the mountain to our hotel by gondola. It was a long and exhausting day.

Back at our hotel they use Sunday dinner to use up what food is left from the week so there is less waste and it is the chef’s night off. Dinner started with a bean and vegetable soup followed by a cold buffet of vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, fish, roast beef, salmon, cheese, tuna and more. Dessert was a baked apple with caramel sauce, ice and whipped cream.

August 17, 2019

Messner Mountain Museum

This was a free day for everyone to do whatever they wanted to do rather than having a planned day of activities. Mark was still feeling a bit under the weather from his fall yesterday so he stayed close to the hotel. Kent went with Susan (60-year-old daughter) and Dale (80-year-old mom) on the Gondola down to Bolzano where they took a taxi to the Messner Mountain Museum.

The Messner Mountain Museum addresses the subjects of man’s encounter with the mountains. The museum is organized as an itinerary between the various works of art, installations and relics that it houses. The paths, stairs and towers lead visitors from the depths of the mountain, where their origins and exploitation are brought to life, and the religious significance of the peaks are an aid to orientation and a bridge beyond, to the history of mountaineering and the alpine tourist industry as we know today.

The museum castle squats on a spur of Mitterberg overlooking the confluence of the rivers Etsch and Eisack at the edge of Bolzano. Sigmundskron was always something special which at the time was called Formicaria or the Rinkelstein Castle; it is one of the oldest castles in South Tyrol and, with its five-meter-thick walls, an early example of the art of fortified construction. 945 A.D. is the year of the earliest extant record of the castle.

August 16, 2019

Rittner Horn Mountain where we hiked to the tower at the top.

Tower at the top of the Rittner Horn

View from Rittner Horn

Cow on the mountain

Llamas on our hike

Views on our hike

On this morning we headed east from Oberbozen on the train towards the town of Klobenstein. There we transferred to a local bus which took us up the mountain to Pemmern, a ski resort. Once at the ski resort we boarded the enclosed chair lift cars to the top of the chair lift on Rittner Horn. From there the majority of folks took a long hike up the mountain to the top where there were magnificent views of the Alps. The hike up took about 90-minutes. At the top folks enjoyed coffee, beer and snack before heading back down the hill for the 45-minute descent.

Meanwhile a smaller group of three older ladies and Kent were walking a circular trail around the rim of the mountain where they enjoyed the views of the Alps. Their walk took about two-hours in total and they then enjoyed lunch in the only restaurant at the top of the chair lift. When the larger group returned they too had lunch before taking the chair lift back down the mountain.

By this time, it was about 3:00pm and the group once again took alternate routes back to the hotel. Seven of the group were driven back to the hotel by car which only took about fifteen minutes. Twelve of us took off on foot through gorgeous meadows of wild flowers, through tree covered paths and past old homes and inns. Unfortunately, Mark slipped on a wet and muddy rock along one of the paths and took an ugly fall which took his breath away. After a few minutes to catch his breath, he was up and back on the trail to the next stop.

A short distance later we stopped at a local pub where we enjoyed more waters, beers, apple cakes and a home brew of plum schnapps. It was already about 4:30pm by this time and it would have been another 90-minutes to the hotel on foot. Kent and Christine put Mark in a taxi and sent him back to the hotel to rest. It does not appear that he broke any bones but he is moving slowly and his muscles are sore.

Back at the hotel we enjoyed a delicious barbecue dinner prepared poolside for all the guests. First, there was a buffet of fresh vegetables to make a salad of your own as well as pre-made salads like potato salad and coleslaw. Next, came the entrée which included a wide selection of grilled meats like lamb chops, pork, chicken skewers, turkey and zucchini, beef tenderloin and more. Finally, for dessert there was a selection of beautiful fresh berries and fruits, a variety of mousses, cakes, strudel and more.

August 15, 2019

Church Interior

Assumption Procession

Assumption Procession

Assumption Procession

Assumption Procession





Alpine Horns

Assumption Day was celebrated in Italy on this day. The Catholics believe that on this day the body of the Virgin Mary was taken up to Heaven after her earthly life had ended. Teachings about the Assumption of Mary became widespread across the Christian world, having been celebrated as early as the 5th century.

Across Italy schools are closed, banks are closed and it is a public holiday. In Oberbozen we visited the local church where the local community has a church service followed by a public procession. People carry statues of Christ and Mary along with many religious banners on tall poles through the countryside. Many of the locals were dressed in traditional clothing. The men wore lederhosen and the women wore traditional dresses.

Adjacent to the church is a beautiful walled cemetery with plots of soil in front of each grave planted with colorful flowers. Many of the graves also have elaborate metal work crosses and placards with the names of the deceased.

After the religious celebrations there is a public party similar to what you might find at an Octoberfest celebration. There was a giant tent with a large band playing all sorts of tunes and picnic table after table of people celebrating. There were lots of beer, pretzels, wine, roast chicken, sausages, French fries and lots of sweets. Kent and Christine ordered lots of food and drinks for everyone so we could enjoy the flavor of the holiday celebration. The festivities went on from about noon until 2:00 in the morning. The festival grounds were just behind our hotel so we could hear the band from our hotel.

Around 2:00 in the afternoon we watched the local neighborhood celebrating with a parade down the main street. Since the community is small the parade consisted of a few marching bands, a few horses and a few floats. The theme was “bee honey” and the entire parade, organized by the firefighters, lasted only about fifteen minutes.

As if we had not eaten enough at the festival, we had our usual five course dinner in the dining room.

August 14, 2019

Gondola Views

Bolzano below the gondola

Bolzano Main Square

Bolzano Church

Bolzano Church Interior

Bolzano Street

Bolzano Sidewalk Bar

View of the Mountains from our Hotel

Hotel Dining Room

This morning we took the gondola cable car from our hotel up on the mountain top to the city of Bolzano 3,000 feet below on the valley floor. The cable cars each hold about 20 passengers and take just 12 minutes to reach Bolzano. The cable cars cross many lush green pine forests, many lush vineyards and the hillsides are dotted with charming single-family homes and small hotels.

Once in Bolzano we took a short orientation tour from the cable car station into the old town. Once in the old town we found a café where we waited for about 30 minutes for our tour guide to arrive. While waiting Kent and Christine, our program managers, ordered beers, coffee, and gelato ice creams for everyone.

Doris, our tour guide, led us on a two-hour tour around the old town. We visited the town church dating back to the 14th century, the main town square called the Piazza Walther Platz, the fruits and vegetable market and more. The old town includes a main street lined on both sides with a covered colonnade filled with shopping opportunities. The shops range from unique local shops to recognizable name brand shops and yes, even a McDonald’s. Most of the buildings in the old town are three to four stories tall, are well maintained and many of the streets are pedestrian only. In comparison to Oberbozen where our hotel is located, Bolzano is filled with tourists and locals, shopping, dining and going about their daily lives.

After our walking tour, Kent and I found a local café where we had a lunch of a salad, a pesto pasta with shrimp and a gnocchi dish. We then explored the old town a bit before heading back up the mountain via the cable car.

At 5:30pm we had another wine lecture where we tried another five varieties of local wines. At 7:00pm the hotel had prepared an outdoor cocktail party in celebration of the arrival of Assumption Day the next day. They had prepared drinks and a large variety of appetizers.

For dinner they had put out fresh light-colored linens, hand folded napkins, fresh white roses on each table and candles. The dining room looked beautiful. The chef had prepared a special dinner starting with a seafood plate of mussels, octopus, scallops and a small green salad. This was followed by a pasta course with two freshly made pastas with a chanterelle mushroom sauce. Next was a basil cream soup with fresh cream and a dollop of pureed tomato for color. The entrée was a veal medallion steak on a potato pancake, accompanied with roasted carrots, spinach and zucchini. Dessert was a delicious plate of fresh tropical fruits like kiwi, mango, plum topped with a panna cotta ice cream. It was all very delicious.
We dined this evening with Susan, a fellow traveler, and Christine, one of our program managers. We shared life stories…..very amusing.