Friday, September 19, 2014

in parts

A day of many interesting parts.

The first surely has to be the night itself, where I flipped my wakefulness, finding myself out of the sleep world and with eyes wide open at the indecent hour of 4 a.m.

I blame Scotland. The referendum vote was about to be posted and I had to know if Scotland would go at it alone, or remain linked with Britain. I have no Scottish blood, but as many of you know, I had rekindled my love for that country this summer and having listened to the debates for months on end, I was deeply curious as to the final outcome.

It got pretty tense at 5 a.m., when the yes vote was leading by 100 counted ballots.

Myself, I have no burning desire for one outcome over the other (though as a global citizen, self interest would lead me to think that perhaps unity is a good thing), but I understand the debate at another level: excitement versus prudence. I lived a life that leaned more toward the first, so I understand the temptations. And the pitfalls.

Back in June, I wrote that a wise Scot told me that in the end, the national character (which leans toward the tried and true rather than the risky and new) would prevail, no matter what the polls would show in advance of the referendum and that's exactly what happened. But I didn't find that out until about 6 a.m. and by then, there was only time for a quick catnap.

At dawn (sunrise here is at approximately 7) a light fog had settled into the valley. It feels just a wee bit closer to fall.


Still, I can't resist a breakfast outside. It may very well be my last one this year. Put on a sweater and carry out the plates and sit for a very long while.


My innkeeper's wife has plans for my day again. Since she knows I struggled with yesterday's morning connections (and it was partly her fault, as she inadvertently gave me the wrong station for the first bus, which is why I waited in vain for something that would take me to Ora), today she starts with a bright smile and a firm reassurance -- you will need no connections this morning!

She suggests I take the 10 a.m. tour at the local museum. Kurtatsch has what is awkwardly called "the Museum of People Through Time" and from all I'd heard, it's quite good: it has a rather large display of tools and implements used over the ages in furthering a more comfortable existence. Again Frau Pomella tells me the tour is in German, but she think I may benefit from it anyway. Now, I surely would have said no, had she not immediately offered a Part B to the day. I mean, I almost never take museum tours. I dislike moving at someone else's pace. Standing around beyond the span of my interest level makes me fidget. But still, I thought respects should be paid to historic times and besides, the plan she had for my afternoon was pretty active and so a leisurely listening session in the morning would not be a bad call.

Now, I know what you're thinking: why is Frau Pomella so taking over your schedule? Here's my thought process on this: when you have a local, small inn keeper who is willing to learn what your interests are (I had told her walking, vineyards, and photography) and then willing to share her knowledge of the area, I'll take her over tourist office people anytime. I find the tourist office staff in nearly every place to be full of good, basic info. What's the best walk through town? How do I take a bus from here to there? What shouldn't I miss while I'm here? Sterile stuff. The innkeeper -- she gets feedback: the walk you proposed was too arduous. Or in my case - the connections to Merano took me three hours. Years of these conversations have made her excellent at guiding you to the right stuff. The qualification here is -- it'll be right, if she is willing to listen carefully to what tickles your funny bone. (Ed and I once stayed at a Bed and Breakfast at the Canal du Midi, where the proprietor loved to listen to herself talk: a one hour recitation of her favorites in the area, for each guest, every day. Ed tuned out, I had to play the good guest and sit through it.) Frau Pomella is a good listener. And she's anxious to please.

[A digression on how hard this couple works to please: each evening, I find at my table a printed menu of the dinner selections. Five courses and always I have to make a choice for two of them. I notice at breakfast that Frau Pomella goes to each guest, asks her or him something in German and then takes notes on their response. Today I ask her -- do people pick their course preferences at breakfast? Because you never asked me to do that. Not until dinnertime. I swear she's blushing. It's because it takes us the whole day to translate the menu for you into English, so we can't give you the choices at breakfast. But it's fine, for one person, we can wait until evening.]

I go to the Museum promptly at 10. The person who works there is a little put out by the fact that I don't speak German. I can see why. First, his English is just okay (for instance, it took me a while to understand what he meant when he referred to the "plaff". He actually meant plow, spelt plough by the Brits, leading him to read it as plaff). Then, too, he spoke nonstop during the 90+ minute tour. There was no time for him to translate. Except for the basics and after a while, he just gave up.


But the implements and tools were, in fact, interesting to see. I would have productively spent some ten, fifteen minutes studying some of them and that would have been just perfect.


Instead, I felt like I did when I was in second grade: having just arrived in the States, not speaking the language, listening to the teacher say things to kids that made them laugh, and me, not getting any of it. I suppose I could have walked out, but again the miss manners within me said no. Besides, I felt kind of sorry for him: he did the entire show with his fly completely down. The six Germans in the group were so engrossed in his story telling that they did not notice. Or, their politeness quotient was very high.

I have much to say about the very amusing attempt at high tech special effects in the museum, but perhaps that's for another time. You don't really need to hear about what happened when he moved from prehistoric to modern man (he pressed a remote and there were sound and light affects to indicate, he told me, the passage of time; weird).

I  did have one question for our guide -- all these tools (from the earliest plow to the spinning Jenny) -- are they all from this region of Alto Adige?
He says -- From this region of the South Tyrol.

I think that if there had been a referendum on South Tyrolean independence yesterday, he would have voted yes.

Tour over, I excuse myself from the post tour chit chat (that would be geplauder in German). In a few minutes, I have a bus to catch for the next part of this informative day.

A word about the bus: it's actually a little van -- seats maybe twelve -- that they use for local transport in low density areas. Every time I grumble about public transportation back home, I get the retort - nothing can be done because there just aren't enough users to fill a bus all day long. Well now Fitchburg (my home town), how about a small van that goes back and forth, back and forth, until you teach people that it's quite nice not to have to think about parking, traffic and all the other irritants appended to driving into town?

This particular van/bus travels up a very steep incline with a lot of switchbacks -- all the way to the hamlet of Graun (five kilometers up the mountain from Kurtatsch). My inn keeper suggested a trail from there, down to Tramin. The trail meanders along the crest, then slumps down through the upper vineyards and orchards, right into dense forests, emerging again in vineyards and then, eventually in Tramin itself. From there I can finish with a pretty easy another hour's walk back to Kurtatsch.

All downhill. A breeze, no?

Well, the top part is a breeze. And a beautiful one at that. Despite the mists that refuse to let go of the mountains (or perhaps because of it?), it is a gorgeous hike!


(the skinny apple trees)

(they do also grow plums here)

(but significantly more apples)

(autumn is in the air)

(cheepers! Italian style...)

(and always the grape vines. and the mountains)

(misty skies)

But the midsection of the trail is steep and a challenge. I did not take my best hiking boots, since this is probably the only day where they would have helped greatly. Too, jumping down rocky ledges onto loose stones worked much better when I was 20. I have promised a daughter or two that if I continue to go on solo hikes, I will take extra care. Busted bones would be tough to manage if something trips me up near the top.

I do get down. Slowly. With just a few twists and stumbles.

(finally, Tramin)

(...and the familiar vineyards)

(...the pergola again)

(a quick selfie, to convince you I was really here)

And I end the hike with a grand finale  -- past the vineyards of course. And harvests. And rows and rows of beautifully undulating vines.






 I come home to an Aperol Spritz on the terrace.


Tomorrow, I leave the Alto Adige. A bus and then three trains to catch, all heading south. It's my most questionable portion of the trip, in that the owner of this next, very rural place is hard to track down and it is clear that they never have overseas guests (no American would put up with the terms of their confirmation requirement). Moreover, though I really pushed hard to get an answer on the state of the WiFi, all I heard back was that it is installed and so far, cross fingers, it's been working.

I'll end this day not with the usual notes on a wonderful meal (even though I had just that), but with this: the most perfect bunch of grapes.