Hut Hiking in Northern Italy travel blog

Here's the view out my hotel room balcony.

Here's the hotel, from the rowboat dock. My room is the top...

This is the Dining Room. See if you can find a menu,...

Alta Via 1 traill head from the hotel northbound.

All trails should be marked this clearly.

Humans can get through, but cows can't.

This happy cow let me pet her.

About a third of today's trail was paved.

Your destination is ahead: Toblach (Dobiacco)

Saturday, June 9th, 2012: Hotel Lago di Braies to Toblach (Dobiacco).

A great surprise and two more trials.

This hotel was just what I needed after my lost in the wilderness and surviving the moraine field hike Friday. A nice hot shower, my own private room, a stunning view, nice proprietor, nice proprietor's dog, and dinner in the 5 star dining room included. It was luxury in a remote setting, like the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite, but without the crowd, or price.

It seems like you can tell if the proprietor will be nice or not by whether or not they have a dog. If they have a dog, they will be nice. If they don't have a dog, well, then it's a question mark.

The hotel itself was big and built in another era. The roaring 20's maybe? Big dramatic common rooms downstairs, with super high ceilings, wide open spaces, and big picture windows looking out on the deck and the lake. The big main floor rooms had lots of wood, and lots of frescoes; forest scenes painted right on the walls.

They had a dock with rowboats, they had a souvenir shop, they had a snack bar, they had a restaurant, and they had the dining room. And they had the trail head from the lake to continue on the Alta Via 1.

I donned my formal wear, and was right on time for dinner. 7 pm again. I was not going to miss it. My formal wear was my long black nylon pants that I wouldn't wear in the rain, and my one polo shirt. They gave me my own table where I sat facing the picture windows in front of the deck and lake. And after a minute or two I noticed a guy outside waving his arms.

And then I noticed that it was Volker! And there was Christine!

How could this be? They headed south on the trail from Valparola. I rested a day there and then went north. Now, two and a half days later, here they were waving on the other side of the picture windows.

I waved back.

Dinner with Christine and Volker was really nice. The food was really good, I got to find out more about Chistine and Volker, and I got to hear about their adventures the last couple of days.

Dinner started out with a salad bar and then continued with a small appetizer, and then two courses from the menu, and desert. They printed up a cute little menu each day, maybe you can see one in the photo above at an empty table, it was a nice touch. The food was the usual really good stuff I was now callous to. But two food items stood out: Christine's balsamic vinegar, and Volker's wine.

There were two bottles of balsamic vinegar at the salad bar. One was a usual brand and one was an unmarked homemade looking bottle. When I made my salad, I just went for the tried and true normal brand without noticing the other bottle until it was too late. Christine, on the other hand, used the homemade bottle. As we were eating our salads she commented how good her vinegar was. I didn't say anything but thought, “oh, that was that other bottle, I'm glad at least she tried it.”

But we all tried Volker's wine. It seemed like such an extravagance after the trail. It was white, and chilled, and just a little sweet. The glasses were big and thin and made a nice ring when we clinked them together. It was a perfect accompaniment to hear about their adventures the last couple of days.

And adventures they had. I'll have to wait until they contact me to get their OK to publish them, but it was really a great story. It seems like something always happens on these multi-day hikes. Especially during this early season June 1st to 15th , before all the huts are open, and when the weather is more variable than mid summer.

I missed them at breakfast. They were at the end of their trip so were sleeping in. And they had their car parked there. I needed to get going to avoid the afternoon rain. The forecast was one raindrop for the morning and two for the afternoon. So I left them a note, pet the nice black female newfie, and was on my way.

I had two more trials on this last leg of mine. One was a road block, and one was a bait situation.

The road block was right past a big old hotel from the 1800's. The hotel sign said it used to be the only stop between Toblach and Lake Braies and it had a medicinal spring that was a draw by itself. The hotel was shut, and fenced off, and it was hard to tell if it was open seasonally or not at all. But it didn't matter, the road block was the problem.

There was temporary fencing blocking the dirt road that was the trail. The fencing had signs that said do not enter and something about work. There was a detour that was a dirt road going, of course, uphill. So what did I do?

Well, I consulted my Tobacco Map of course. And I recalled other similar situations from the past two weeks. Conclusion? Press on. I could always backtrack, and do not enter means for cars. This was definitely the trail. Plus there were truck tracks in the grass that went around the fence. And the detour looked like it was a big deviation on the map, and certainly had no trail-markers.

So around the fence I went. And soon I came to a logging operation, and a digging project. It was Saturday, so no surprise that all the heavy equipment was deserted. They had freshly cut trees all stacked up everywhere and a big ditch they were digging right in the dirt road and beside it. And I saw my old adversary, the triple strength mud! It was 4 feet thick in the ditches they were digging. Amazing. Dark, heavy, gooey. I wondered if you could make pottery out of it, or bricks.

So I passed through, no problem. Perhaps another day would have been a problem, but not today.

And then a way's further I avoided the bait. Approaching Toblach the trail is on a nice dirt road that goes downhill at a very comfortable grade. At a big building the map showed the trail going 90 degrees right. When I got to the what I knew to be the big building there was no sign, only a driveway and the nice comfortable grade continuing on the dirt road. Alarm bells went off in my head and I remembered the unnecessary uphill I had to redo when I took the bait after I had my trail mix at Punta Trieste.

I was tempted to continue down the nice grade, but instead searched for the trail. And there it was! It was on the opposite side of the building, way away from the nice dirt road. It even had a bench to rest on. How could anyone miss it?

So that was it for my trail fun.

Toblach (Dobiacco) had lots of hotels. The first one I came to was Gasthaus Weber and it was full but the nice proprietress took me outside and showed me two more across the street. And she was busy with a restaurant full of locals for lunch! The second one didn't have an entrance sign at the door, so I went to the third. The third was full too, and they sent me back to the second one and reassured me that the door with no sign was indeed the entrance.

A nice elderly man answered the door and took me to my room. It was absolutely fine. Private room, private bathroom, and a writing desk for 26 Euros. Half board would be better, but this was fine. I needed to catch up on my journal and the place across the street had internet access.

I took a shower, did my laundry in the sink, and went out in town to find an electrical adapter that fit the sockets here. Some places have outlets that have three prongs. I have that adapter. Other places, like this one and the hotel from last night, have a round two prong outlet with two metal contacts on the circumference of the circle. So I was off to a scavenger hunt of sorts.

I went to the supermarket, I walked around the town center, I went to a butcher shop, and finally I found what I needed at a little family run neighborhood grocery market. 4.50 Euros and I bought some unusual balsamic vinegar cream with thoughts of Christine's good balsamic vinegar from last night still on my mind.

Then I went back to my hotel room to write, and I stopped by Gasthaus Weber to see if I could use their internet after dinner, and they gave me a 24 hour pass right away, and it even had 3 bars from my hotel room across the street.

So I had dinner at Gasthaus Weber, and it was of course very good, and they let me sit in the lobby and use the 5 bar internet to upload my journal installment and clear out the junk from my email.

And that's pretty much it. The next day I wasn't expecting breakfast, but my proprietor had a place set for me in the dining room so I couldn't refuse very nicely. Mine was the only place set. And it was really good. He heated the rolls which was better than normal, and I got a croissant with apple filling! And I asked if there was “cafe della mokka” and he said no, there was only coffee the way everyone gets it. So that was fine. And it was good too. And he brought it in a little pitcher like with cafe della mokka and a smaller pitcher of milk. And he had a Tyrolean music station playing on the radio in the kitchen which was nice, and he knew about Arnold's breakup with Maria.

Then it was a 1 km walk to the train station and back to Bozen (Bolzano). The train station had two automatic kiosks. One was from the local entity, and the other was Tren Italia. The Tren Italia kiosk was out of order and the regional one didn't accept credit cards or give more than 19.50 Euros in change. All I had was two 50 Euro notes and the fare was only 14.50. So I had to go back a block and get change from the nearest hotel and they seemed to know about the out of order kiosk and were happy to give me change.

And the train ride back to Bozen was so nice. The train was electric, so it was really quiet, and it was vacant, and it went though the valley I had just hiked down so I could pick out landmarks I had seen. Then the train ended in Fortezza where there was a fort. ' makes sense. And another train to Bozen. I knew the next stop was Bozen when I saw the giant caterpillar out the window.

So, that's it until we see where Paul The Octopus used to live,

Until then,

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