Thursday, September 18, 2014

day tripping

Why don't you go to Merano -- Frau Pomella tells me. There's a bus from Kurtatsch to the Ora station, leaving here in 15 minutes. You'll get the train to Bolzano, then change trains for Merano.

I must admit that I wasn't processing things at full speed. In an unusual for me display of jet lag insomnia, fueled I'm sure by the spotty Internet that crashed nearly all evening long, every time I tried to load a photo (and there were a lot of photos yesterday!), I didn't drift off to sleep until sometime after 3:30 and now here I am at breakfast, setting into a delightfully slow, sunny and warm outdoor meal. I can hardly comprehend a sentence that has so many different parts to it and I surely am not looking for any suggestions that implicitly have the idea that I must rush somewhere. I give the gentlest shake of the head.

But Frau Pomella is excited by her plan for me and even when I plead for a later set of connections, she urges me to follow her suggested schedule, explaining that this really is the best way to get to Merano. Even so, according to her, I will have to invest some 90 minutes into the effort. Each way.

Well fine. Good-bye leisurely breakfast. Hello rush. I know what you're thinking -- just say no! But that slogan never really works for me. My sense of what's polite and acceptable as I navigate life, drives Ed nuts, but it is the way it is: I can't turn my back on good intentions. There's just one question that I have for Frau Pomella: what's Merano? In my groggy morning state, it all swimmingly sounds like the islands across the Venetian lagoon: Murano, Burano, Merano, Bolzano -- uff!

She tells me -- Merano is a very nice town up north, with a very nice Passeggiata (promenade) above it.

So I rush this lovely breakfast...


And I'm at the bus stop with a few minutes to spare. And I see that everyone around me has a sweater draped over a shoulder or an arm. True, we're in Italy, where everyone is always cold, but still, perhaps I missed the weather report today. Yes, I know I missed it. Do I have time to go back for a sweater? I do. I have three minutes. Let me dash.

I'm back at the bus stop in two minutes. Or maybe it wasn't two minutes, because had it been that, then the bus would surely be there and now, time passes, three, eight, ten minutes -- and no bus is in sight. It is now impossible for me to catch the train to Bolzano. Connecting to Murano. Sorry, Merano.

And now for sure I should have said to Frau Pomella -- that's okay, I'll just take my cappuccino and sit on the terrace by my room for about six hours and maybe load the two photos that I have taken today so far. To get a head start on the blogging enterprise.

But again I didn't say that. Frau Pomella is now poring over her computer timetables and she prints out a new set of connections: take the bus in five minutes to Ora, but not to the train station. The Ora central bus stop. From there, take the bus to Bolzano, then walk over to the train station and catch a train to Merano.

I dutifully try again. I'm regaining my focus. The quick sip of caffeine must have done the trick. I get on the bus and in my best Italian ask the driver to let me out at Ora, close to the bus stop where I can catch the bus to Bolzano.

Ha! You know how you sometimes take extra precautions and it's those precautions that ultimately do you in? All my careful explanation as to where I'm going and what I'm doing invited participation. And indeed, when we pull into Tramin (before Ora), my helpful driver points to a waiting bus. That one, he says. Take that one. It leaves for Bolzano in 20 minutes.

Just say no! Just say no! I have a schedule. I know what I'm doing!
Okay -- I tell him as I get off to wait the twenty minutes.


(in Tramin: the question isn't if there will be geraniums, but what colors will be included in the window box)

For a fleeting second I wonder why Frau Promella didn't direct me to this very easy transfer.

I didn't have to wonder for long. It is the sl--o--we--st bus ever. Stopping, going, working its way through the apple orchards. And speaking of apple production, did you know that the trees here are all upright twigs, planted just a couple of feet apart? They have an abundance of apples and it's all clearly intentional, but they are skinny! One main stem, that's all!

(taken from a slow moving bus, or train, or something!)

Once in Bolzano, I fare no better. I've been through this town before. Too many times, in my young adult years. I never stopped for long, with good reason. And here I am again, missing the next train just by seconds, thinking I really should practice just saying no in the future. Not this time. No thank you. Another time. No, can't possibly. Thank you for your suggestion, I deeply appreciate it, but

(Bolzano train station: school kids, enjoying an excursion; the girls)

Bolzano train station: ...the boys)

Okay, a terribly long winded story just to say that from the time of bus departure from Kurtatsch  (10:11), until the time I disembarked in Merano (1:00), much time elapsed. Do the math.

If Kurtatsch was partly sunny, here, in Merano, no part is sunny. Without the clouds, I would be gazing at towering Alpine peaks. Not today though. Not today.

And, too, as I disembark at the train station, I can't help but think -- why is this place so well regarded?

This is what happens when you haven't any idea why you're there, and the station is to the side, and the tourist office is nowhere to be seen. [Never ask locals where the Tourist Office is. I mean, do you know where your local tourist office is?]

I follow the general traffic pattern and work on readjusting my level of enthusiasm for this whole project. And I do begin to wonder why it is that I don't listen to my own inner-Nina. I have had a whole string of day trips to neighboring cities this year and I hadn't loved any of them. Maybe I should just take my country walks which I do love and ignore the rest of the world out there?

Still, Merano turns out to be, in fact, a pretty little place, in an Italy meets and greets the Germans sort of way.



But it is crowded. As if Germany had packed all her over-sixty population and asked them to go elsewhere for several weeks. Italy, for starters. How about to Merano?

[The downside of traveling in September is strongly obvious to me: you never see any young people or young families vacationing with children. Ever.]

 So what to do in Merano? After all those rides, I wasn't quite ready for German tourist people watching at one of the many cafes here, so I set out for a walk/hike along the Passegiatta.

It is, in fact, quite lovely up there, with views that would have been extraordinary without a cloud cover, but which were already great, even with the pouting skies.




A grand set of hours!

(And it's not as if I left the grape vines for the day. They're here, along with the hand pickers. From Poland maybe.)


( selling grapes: vintner grandpa teaches reluctant grandson entrepreneurial skills)

(how's it going, kiddo?)

It's getting to be late afternoon now. Should I now sit down and finally indulge in a beloved Apperol Spritz? No. For once, to no one in particular, I say no. I catch my trains to Bolzano, then to Ora and the vineyards and apple orchards of the Alto Adige...

(out the train window)

...(with high school kids returning to the villages, smart phones and loud banter, just like back home)...


...then finally, pack into the mini bus to my home in Kurtatsch, where I promptly request an Aperol Sprtiz -- heaven on earth, out on my own, quiet balcony.


Dinner: I need to say a word about meals here. It's grand not to have to think about where to eat and what to eat. We all eat at (more or less) the same time and we have few choices. Oh, you need to pick between soup or pasta and between meat A or B, but these are not big decisions. The food is fresh and honest for sure and it has a twist of innovation. Braised endive. A mushroom dumpling.  A zucchini custard. Venison with red wine. Delicious, and, of course, all of it -- five courses every night -- included in the price of the room.

I'll end the day with dessert: a pannecotta with forest fruit sauce. To a fitful sleep for all of us!