And so concludes my travels in Italy. I sat here at my dinner table at the Hotel Madonna for several moments contemplating just how to begin this journal entry. After doing so, I couldn’t help but to think that this is most likely my last night in Italy, at least on this trip. I say most likely only because I may come back from Austria on Sunday to literally jump off a cliff in the Italian Dolomites with my friend, the Italian wood carver Ruben. But more about that in a bit.
The drive to Bolzano from Merano was quite direct and rather short with the exception of a short traffic jam getting out of Merano. Once on the road though, I arrived within a half an hour. Mr. Castelforte had told me to take an exit that began with an App…. something or another and so when I saw Appiano, I figured that was it. I guess it was a neighboring city and had more direct route to Bolzano’s city center. Within minutes I was in the heart of Bolzano. I found it to be a fairly good sized city, perhaps a bit larger than Merano but smaller than Verano. I found a city lot to park in and then stopped at a really nice hotel to find out where I was and where the museum was that I wanted to visit. As I walked through the streets of Bolzano, in the rain mind you, I immediately knew it was a place I could spend a day or two, as it was beautiful. I found the museum with no problem, and with it a line around the block. How often does one have a chance to see a 5,000 year old man I thought as I walked the que of umbrellas. Sure, I had seen him on the Discovery channel back home several times, but this was different – it was real life! So I waited, and waited, and waited, and waited. One saving grace was a nice couple who were in line with their kids who I engaged in a conversation. He is optometrist from Berlin I discovered and we talked about a variety of topics. I found it amusing he was wearing a Yankee’s hat of all things. Once inside the museum, I decided not to try the “I’m with the press routine” as it was only 8 euros to go inside, and two very well spent Euros for the audio guide. I must of spent two hours in the museum and I was not disappointed. The actual “ice-man” who was discovered in the nearby mountain ranges was found by a German couple on holiday. They reported seeing a corpse. Anyway, you get in a line to see him. He is in a space-age looking container of some sort and is quite interesting to look at. Then, as you walk the museum, they have all types of artifacts from the various periods of evolution. I left the museum feeling well satisfied.
It was getting late in the day and I thought it best to begin my journey to this small village called Castelrotto. I had some pasta and then hit the road. I had been told anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour to get there. The road was quite winding and certainly not for amateurs as the Italian are no the most careful drivers – at all! As I approached the village, I found myself continually debating my sleeping arrangements for the night. “You can sleep on the couch” an email from Elke, the wood carvers wife, that I had received some months ago read. My mind keep going back and forth, back and forth. Maybe I’d stay in a campground I thought. No, maybe Elke and Ruben are really looking forward to a stranger on their couch. Oh, I just didn’t know. Then it hit me. I’d go to the Cavalino D’Oro hotel and see if they had a room available. They had provided me with a complimentary room last year, but when I emailed them this year I was not as well received. “We will give you a dinner” the first email read, but then as I sat in the village gas station reading through the correspondence on my laptop, I read a later mail from Stefan, the owner, which read if I show up and their is a room, they will host me. Now my intuition told me if I showed up and either Stefan and or his wife were there, regardless of if they had a room or not, the answer would of been no. I’m sure they’d take a gamble on a “paying” customer showing up rather than give it to me for free. So, my strategy was to walk in and hope neither were there. Then, I’d just act like a “tourist” and inquire about a room. So, in I walked and there was a girl at the desk. I smiled and said (the girl at the next table just leaned over to her partner and practically laid in his lap. Moments like this are when I regret being alone…) do you have any rooms available for the night. “Oh yes Sir, we have only one left and it is a beautiful double room!” I smiled (inside) and said, “Great, my name is Thomas Hall… and you know the rest of the story…” I told her the room was to be complimentary and she looked puzzled, but said she’d check with the owner later. Within minutes, I was in the most beautiful of rooms with a spectacular view out my window. I felt an amount of guilt I must say, but the email had said what it said. “Show up and ask. If one is available, then it is yours…” Well, that is what I did so why feel guilty. I felt a lot better when I went back downstairs to be happily greeted my the Susanne, the lovely owner. Surely she must of been told about my presence so everything must be fine. Now with my accommodations out of the way, I could focus on the business at hand – dinner with the wood-carver and his wife!
When I was in this lovely village last year, I stumbled upon a small shop called Ladina. ( visit the store ) Inside, I saw some of the most beautiful hand-carved works of art. And as beautiful as anything sitting upon the shelf, was a lady who greeted me with a wonderful smile. I told her I wanted to do a panorama inside the shop and if it was ok. She wasn’t sure, but called her husband to find out. I had also showed her a panorama on my laptop, to which she was quite impressed. Anyway, to make a long story short, her husband arrived and we visited for a couple of hours and at the end, I gave them the images and they told me I could have anything in the store! Anything in the store? You had to be kidding I thought to myself. Some of the items were very, very pricy. I then decided the most appropriate item was that of a very small crucifix with a corpus of Christ on it. Surely my efforts were worth this one small item, one I would treasure for ever. (it is still on my wall of course) Elke had felt so bad, because she wanted to have me for dinner that night but had nothing prepared. Maybe next year I said, and she replied, yes, definitely next year. Well, “next year” was here and now I thought as I entered the store. (if you want to see the store, go to my panoramas (trip two) and scroll down and you will see the link) Ruben’s father recognized me right away, and then Ruben. He was so happy to see me and got on the phone right away, to call Elke in the house not even a five minute walk away. It felt good to see someone so excited to see me I thought. Not since Amanda in Scotland had I felt so welcome… It was only five in the evening and we said I’d be back at 7, when Ruben would close the shop. Elke speaks much better English than Ruben, so when I asked what was for dinner, he shrugged. I said as clearly as I could – “I can’t (won’t) eat fish”. He looked puzzled and I was worried maybe he thought I would love to eat fish. Oh God, please not fish I prayed… Anyway, I came back at 7 sharp and I brought some flowers to bring to Elke. I had offered wine but I had gotten the impression they might be “holy-rollers” and don’t drink at all. (I was wro*&^#*$!) When we arrived at his house, his little boy came running out to greet us. He of course only spoke German, but I told Ruben to give him the flowers to take in to “mommy”. The little boy was so happy to oblige. Once inside, I found quite a simple home, which was actually an apartment with two sleeping rooms, on living room, a kitchen and a bathroom. It was quite small and cozy I thought. Anyway, the initial uncomfortable ness wore off quickly and before I knew it, we were laughing the night away with some bootleg cognac their friend had mad for them. Boy was it strong. So much so, it burned my nostrils as I took each sip. So on went the night, and I must tell you it couldn’t of been any better. And if I may, as I know Elke and Ruben will be reading this – “Thank the two of you so much for welcoming me into your home, and your continued friendship. I look forward to many more future visits in the years to come.” Oh, I should not forget to tell you that Ruben’s “hobby” is para-sailing off the nearby mountain ranges. He showed me some great pictures and has invited me to return for a tandem ride. What a kick it must be, though a tad bit scary as well. We will see if I return on Sunday to do this or not…
Not much more to say about the night except that fell asleep to some loud drunks outside in the village and woke up to some little boys playing with their cars in the streets below. Once I got showered and went downstairs, I handed the girl my key and she asked if I wanted to settle my bill? I look puzzled and said – “Don’t you know who I am!” Ah, c’mon folks, you know I wouldn’t say such a thing! Let me try again, I looked puzzled and said it was supposed to be free. I then booted up my laptop and showed her the emails. The same ones she also found on her computer. Yes, she said, it looks like you are right. How much was it I asked, fearing an astronomical amount. $55 Euros she said, and I went whew. I told her to tell Stefan where I would be tonight, in the same village, and call me if he wanted to discuss payment. I haven’t heard from him. 😉 So, to finish this journal entry, the rest of the day was spent doing some work on my dental web site and taking some panoramas of the village. I had stopped at the office of Tourism and the director “hired” me to walk the village, take some panoramas, and then come back in the morning as he would buy them from me for $50 each. Oh yes I thought, more income! So there you go, I will finish this journal entry in telling you how much I enjoyed Italy, and also how much I am looking forward to my final leg of Austria, Hungary, and Prague before going back to Scotland to see Amanda. Sorry I didn’t write more about Castelrotto, but it is a magical and beautiful place and definitely a must see.
PS. Oh, Elke served cheese, melon, and a variety of bread and meat – it was great!