Sunday, October 29, 2023

Val di Funes

The Dolomites were calling.

* The Dolomites is a stunning mountain range in the northern Italian Alps, near Austria. It became a UNESCO Heritage site - around the time I was living in Italy. But I didn't have a car, so this is the first time I've been able to see them, up close and personal.

The Haflingers were also calling. 

A beautiful horse breed, popular in Austria and Northern Italy. Fell in love with them, a long time ago, when I lived in Bressanone, Italy

Even though I've been here before... This birthday vacation was sort of a dream come true.

The church of San Giovanni [1744] was our original horseback riding destination - you can't ride horses to this field - but we didn't know that! 

The countryside looked so inviting! So, we Googled our way into a reservation at Herr Gruberhof's stables in the high hopes we could get close.

* You can get very close to this historic church on foot. If and only if, the automated turnstile, on private property, is working. On our visit it was working beautifully for the property owners. Not so much for us. Gobbling Euros yet refusing entry. So... Janet created a diversion and I climbed a fence. To take this photo. ↑ 

Ages ago. Literally. Ages. I lived in Italy for a little while. 

When I was there I was educated on how Northern Italy isn't really Italy, at all. Hence the confusion when trying to drive to the town of Bressanone while everyone is calling it Brixen. [This area of South Tyrol was basically Austria for 14 centuries - the villages often have two names - and then a bunch of dumb Germans decided to start the world wars.]

I have always had a love affair with Austria -- and not just the mountains! 

Austrian Gardeners do up window boxes like nobody's business! 

And I'm gonna try this next summer! 

* You need Trailing Geraniums. Or Ivy Geraniums. Or Alpine Ivy Geraniums. Nothing is ever easy when shopping in the USA. FYI, it's all the same flowering plant. The 'common' Geraniums we typically purchase in America don't work as well in flower boxes because they don't 'dangle.' 

** And since they're annuals, lasting only one season, might be best to purchase from the least expensive nursery provider.

From the stunning scenery of the Dolomiti we drove to more civilized surroundings. 

Schloss Leopoldskron in Salzburg.

If you look, really close, you can see two horse statues near the water.
This palace is where Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp family 'lived' in the famous movie.

It's a really big deal to do the Sound of Music tour while in Salzburg. 

But why not just stay there? 

I mean.. Do we really need to drive 2 hours and then hike for an hour and a half up to a field - for you to sing The Hills Are Alive? 

Vacations often include a wee bit of negotiation. Frankly I'm surprised I won this debate 😇 since my travel buddy has watched the Sound of Music dozens of times. I saw it once, decades ago, but mostly I was just hoping that we could alter our plans, avoid the hike. And. And! Stay in a Palace!

You need Hollywood-size budgets to stay in the rooms in the actual Palace. ↑ 

But you can stay on the grounds - right next door - in the Meierhoff. It's a beautiful hotel.

You can stroll the gardens and relax in this fabulous, famous, library. ↑ 

Created by Max Reinhardt. If you don't know the story of the Max, it's worth a read.

Breakfast is served in this marvelous ballroom. 

We both agreed that even though we were far from Downton Abbey, it kind of felt the same. The Leopoldskron was as nice, probably better - you're not on a tour. You're allowed to stroll the palace on your own.

* Downton was our 2020 Is Gonna Be Our Year! vacation. Cancelled due to covid.

We trekked to quite a few other wonderful places. Including Gardone Riviera on the western shore of Lake Garda. Visited Bressanone, aka Brixen, my 'home' a decade ago. My apartment is standing! When I arrived, in 2011, I was expected to hand the landlady a fistful of Euros, she only accepted cash. It's now an Airbnb. Time marches on. 😞

Thanks for coming along. I hope these pics have inspired you to travel someplace wonderful, some time, very soon.

Travel Tip For Europe: People say Europe - and Italy, in particular - is too crowded. 

But that's not really the case

It's crowded where the trains stop. And you won't be treated very nicely in those locations because the locals are so damn tired of Americans it's not even funny. 

Consider renting a car. Cheaper than trains - considerably more flexible - your car will take you to the most remarkable destinations. 

* It is not at all difficult to drive in Europe. Unless, of course, you insist on driving in Rome.