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.

August 13, 2019

Trail Markers

Lobishof Complex

Private Chapel attached to a local home

Neighborhood Home

On this day we departed the hotel about 11:00am for an hour long walk to Lobishof. The walk was on narrow roads which were well paved but meandered up and down the hillsides making for a strenuous walk at times. Lobishof is a farm, farmhouse, restaurant and guest house in a beautiful green valley surrounded by green pastures, the valley below and the mountains in the background.

After the walk we enjoyed cold beers, soft drinks, cheese platters and several varieties of cakes. They have picnic style tables under large umbrellas and beach style folding chairs for lounging in the sunshine. Families with children, locals and tourists all seem to gather here to enjoy the food and scenery.

By early afternoon we all headed back to our hotel either on foot or by taxi depending on how tired folks were from the walk over. Those who walked back to the hotel took a well-marked and wide gravel path through the woods. The walk took about 45 minutes. The taxi took about 6 minutes! Kent took a taxi with another fellow and two ladies.

At 5:30pm on the terrace of our hotel we had a lecture on wines of the Alto Adige region with Chris Mayr. The Alto Adige wine region is one of Italy’s smallest winegrowing regions, yet thanks to its geographical position, it is one of the most multifaceted. The Alpine climate mixed with the quality of the soils and experienced wine growers has made wines of this region prized by wine connoisseurs throughout the world.

The region produces twelve varieties of grapes with 38% red wines and 62% white wines. Grapes that we are familiar with include about 12% Pinot Grigio, 11% Gewurztraminer, 10% Pinot Blanc, 10% Chardonnay, 9% Pinot Noir, 4% Merlot, 3% Cabernet and 2% Riesling. We sampled four wines, one sparkling wine, one white, one red and one sweet dessert style wine.

For dinner we were treated to the salad bar again with all sorts of fresh vegetables, greens, breads and more. We then had cannelloni which was very good. This was followed by a zucchini soup with pumpkin seed oil. The main course consisted of chicken and turkey slices with a curry sauce accompanied by white rice, mushrooms and snow peas. Dessert was the apple slices deep fried in a batter and covered with cinnamon sugar and a vanilla sauce. All very good but once again more than we needed.

August 12, 2019

Mark milking Hilda outside the Munich Hilton Hotel

Views as we drove through the Alps

Views as we drove through the Alps

Hotel Regina Exterior

Hotel Regina Room

Church on the way to Bolzano

We left the Munich airport Hilton Hotel at 10:00am by bus headed for the town of Bolzano in the Dolomites of Italy. The drive took about five hours including a comfort stop for the toilets and ice cream and coffee. The drive through Innsbruck, Austria, and the Alps were very beautiful. Due to the amount of rain they have received, everything is extremely lush and green in color. Some of the high peaks of the Alps still have snow on them and people are able to ski in some locations all year. The drive took us through many tunnels bored through the Alps to make the drive less winding and more direct. The steep hillsides are terraced with grape vineyards and apples growing. The apples are grown on what I might call a bush more than a tree. They are grown on stakes about five feet tall and not more than thirty inches in diameter. Each bush might have many clusters of apples in colors of red and green.

Our home for the next couple of weeks will be the Hotel Regina located in Oberbozen on the plateau of Renon or Ritten in South Tyrol perched high above the town of Bolzano. The hotel is owned by the Unterhofer family. The hotel has rooms with beautiful mountain views, a heated infinity edged pool and access to miles of hiking trails.

The plateau of Ritten is about 3,000 feet in elevation and consists of 17 villages scattered among vineyards in the valleys to the Alpine highlands.

Once we settled into our new hotel we headed out on a short walk of the small town of Oberbozen. There several historic old homes and inns, small cafes, a historic railway system and the gondola that transports you down the mountain to the town of Bolzano about 2,000 feet below.

Every afternoon from 3-5pm cake and coffee is served in the bar and on the terrace. Dinner is served in the dining room at 7:00pm. The first course tonight was a self-serve salad bar. This was followed by a cheese soufflé like dish, followed by a pancake soup (think crepe rather than breakfast pancake), followed by a main dish of veal roast with a garlic and parsley sauce, potatoes and carrots. This was followed by a dessert of chocolate cake with espresso and caramel ice cream. Everything was very tasty but it was more than we needed to eat.

August 11, 2019

Alain, Matthias and Kent at the beer garden

English Garden Pagoda Style Tower

All of us at the Beer Garden

This morning we had breakfast with Alain and Matthias at our hotel before checking out. The boys had driven from Stuttgart so they had a car and drove us to the English Garden for a walk and beverages at the Chinese Tower. The Tower is a multi-level structure that serves as the centerpiece for one of the cities most beloved beer gardens. The beer garden is the second largest in Munich, offering over 7,000 open-air seats at tables and benches surrounding the tower. During good weather, the tower houses a band on the second floor playing local tunes.

After a visit to the park the boys drove us to the airport Hilton where we were to meet up with our group for the trip to Bolzano, Italy. We arrived about 2:00pm and had to wait a short while for a room to be ready. Christine meet up with us in the lobby and helped speed up the process of getting our room.

At 7:00pm we met up with our group of 20 including Kent and Christine Zimmerman, our program managers for the next couple of weeks. The group consists of mostly Americans from California to Virginia, and a couple of Canadians We walked a short distance to a local Bavarian restaurant for dinner. We started with cheese platters and wine followed by suckling pig with potato dumplings, pork knuckles, potato salad, salmon and more. This was followed by more drinks, deep fried and sugar-coated apple slices, ice cream, plum and apricot dumplings. All delicious but way too much to eat.

August 10, 2019 Munich, Germany

City Hall and the Glockenspiel

Roast Pork and Dumplings

White Sausage and Pretzel

St. Peters Church Interior

Asam Church Exterior

Asam Church Interior

We had another restless night, still adjusting to the time change of nine hours from home. After a morning of mostly light rain it dried out and we ventured out to the Marienplatz to catch the Glockenspiel clock performance. The Marienplatz is the main town square housing the city hall. The ornate City Hall building includes the Glockenspiel in its tower.

The Glockenspiel dates from 1908 and consists of 43 bells and 32 life sized figures. The top half of the Glockenspiel tells the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine. In honor of the happy couple there is a joist with life sized knights on horseback representing Bavaria and Lothringen. The lower part of the Glockenspiel shows dancers dancing the coopers dance. The show lasts between 12 and 15 minutes depending on the tune played that day. At the end of the show, a very small golden rooster at the top of the Glockenspiel chirps three times, marking the end of the spectacle.

We then visited St Peter’s Church before stopping at the Deutsche Eiche (German Oak) Hotel and Restaurant for lunch. The hotel is one of the most historical meeting places in the Munich art scene and gay village. The hotel consists of 32 rooms, has a restaurant, roof top deck and bathhouse. For lunch, Mark tried the roast pork with dark beer sauce topped with pork rind, a potato dumpling, a bread dumpling and the bacon cabbage salad. Kent enjoyed 2 Munich sausages with sweet mustard and a pretzel. The sausages were short, fat and white in color while the mustard was sweet and delicious.

Our next stop was at one of the most ornately decorated churches in the city of Munich called St. Johann Nepomuk or better known as the Asam Church. The church was built from 1733 to 1746 by brothers, Egid Quirin Asam, a sculptor, and Cosmas Damian Asan, a painter, as their private church. The church is small in size measuring only about 75 feet by 25 feet. It is extremely gaudy with ornamentation everywhere. We were not allowed to access the church as there is a wrought iron gate not far inside the church that you can only look through. Even so, it was quite a site to see.

In the afternoon our friends Alain and Matthias from Stuttgart arrived at our hotel. We headed out to a street fair where they had beer and food stands out in the street and folks gathered to have drinks with friends in the street. As it was raining lightly, we decided to stop in at a local café where Matthias and Alain had a lunch snack and we had coffees and a piece of cake. Afterwards we walked back to our hotel for a short rest before heading out to dinner.

We met Alain and Matthias on the World Cruise on Holland America Lines in 2013. We visited them in Stuttgart in June, 2013. Next, we met them in Paris in October of 2015; Lucerne, Switzerland, in October, 2016; and London in May, 2018. It is wonderful to be able to catch up with these fellow travelers whenever we can.

For dinner the four of us headed to the Viktualienmarkt in the center of Munich which is a daily food market. It features about 140 stalls and shops offering flowers, exotic fruits, game, poultry, spices, cheese, fish, juices and more. Here we dined at the Laurin Restaurant on a charming and pleasant outdoor patio. When we arrived, Kent spotted our friends and program managers, Kent and Christine Zimmerman, for our upcoming trip to Bolzano, Italy.

For dinner Alain, Matthias and Mark enjoyed an excellent veal schnitzel with a cranberry preserve and potato salad. Kent had the cheese plate with a variety of cheeses, nuts, grapes and crispy dark bread, along with regular sliced bread and butter. It was a very nice dinner and we enjoyed catching up with Matthias and Alain.

August 9, 2019 Munich, Germany

Gartnerplatz Circle

Cemetery Monuments

Lush Green Cemetery

Cemetery Monument

On this day we set out on foot to an area called the Gartnerplatz, formerly the main square of the gay and lesbian scene in Munich. Today the area is one of the trendiest in Munich and is filled with many cafes, bars, hair salons, clothing boutiques and small unique shops. You don’t see any name brand stores that you see around the world in this neighborhood. There was not a lot of evidence of a gay community here….perhaps we were too late.

At a local café on the main circular plaza we had coffees and a croissant filled with what they call nougat, a creamed filling with hazelnut flavor. For lunch we stopped at a local pasta restaurant for spaghetti carbonara and a mixed green salad with tuna. It was all very good.

Nearby we toured the Alter Sudlicher Friedhof or Old South Cemetery founded by Duke Albrecht V as a plague cemetery in 1563. It was also the burial ground of the dead from the Bavarian uprising of 1705-6 which was a national people’s revolt against the occupation of the Austrian Habsburgs during the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714). The revolt lasted 75 days with the number of deaths on the Bavarian side numbering over 5,000 men. This led to the collapse of the uprising against Austria in January of 1706 when peace negotiations led to the surrender of the Bavarians.

From 1788 to 1868 this was the only cemetery for the entire metropolitan area of Munich and why it contains the graves of many prominent Munich figures of that period. Painters, philosophers, mayors, sculptors, actors, composers, architects and more have a place here.

Today the cemetery serves as an Art and Cultural history monument and is open to the public. From 2004 to 2007 most of the monuments were renovated and cleaned but today the cemetery is quite overgrown and in need of maintenance.

The weather has been a mixed bag but today was the warmest we have experienced thus far. It was clearer and sunnier and the temperature rose to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

For dinner we walked next door to the Le Meridien Hotel where they have a local German restaurant. Since we had a late lunch we were not that hungry so Mark had a salad and Kent had the local delicacy: Apple Strudel with ice cream and vanilla sauce.