The Hills Are Alive …

… with the sound of sizzling frying pans on our Selva-to-Monte-Pana hike in the Dolomites

Something I forgot to mention in the report from our first hike in the Dolomites: for the hiking guides, that hike served as their “orientation tour”, intended not only to familiarize the hotel’s newbie guests with the landscape but also to sort out the more resilient hikers from those who would probably be a danger to themselves in the hostile world of the high mountains. So what did Pauli and Thaddäus make of the Easy Hikers’ manner of handling a proper Alpine trail?

"Dolomites hills are alive on a hike to the slopes of Monte Pana."

They were unimpressed, I am afraid, and we were among those who were politely approached and gently nudged towards the “easy walk on next day’s programme” – the one we had laughingly dismissed as a “granny’s walk” when we had first seen it on the programme.

Hurt pride aside, I have to admit that the day-one hike, which had also been marked in green as a “family walk” in the programme, did not feel all that “easy” to us. It may not have been “hard” by Alpine standards – it certainly had no long or hard climbs – but it was not particularly short (approx. 12 km in total, 10 km for those who, like us, took the lift down at the intermediate station) and featured some fairly steep and difficult stretches on the descent. Mrs. Easy Hiker and I may have agreed that the going up was worth the coming down, but our knees begged to differ.

A “granny’s walk” then seemed just the ticket for the next day, giving our weary bones a chance to recover. We took the bus to Wolkenstein (Selva in Italian) and from there trail no. 30B to the slopes of Monte Pana.

The hike in itself may have been gentle and sweet indeed, not much harder than a walk in the municipal park, but the nature was just as grand as it had been the day before. The Dolomites are certainly no less impressive when seen from 1500 metres than from 2000 metres up.

"The Dolomites seen from the slopes of Monte Pana"

On the contrary: you get to see more, because there is a stronger human presence at these lower altitudes …

"A cabin on a valley in the Dolomites"

… and more of an animal presence, too, specifically at this (relatively late) time of the year. (The cows are brought back into the valley as soon as autumn starts to bite.)

"Cows on the Dolomites slopes of Monte Pana"

We were also pleased that we were able to do this on a sunny day after the mountain tops had been shrouded in mist the day before. This gave the scenery a somewhat different feel – still dramatic, but not quite as Wagnerian, less “Twilight of the Gods” …

"Dramatic dolomites"

… and more “The Sound of Music”.

"Dolomites hills are alive on the slopes of Monte Pana"

To conclude the walk, the group was led to a cabin half-way up Monte Pana, which is operated by Hotel Adler and where some of their kitchen staff were already waiting for us – with sausages, spare ribs and everything needed for a proper grill party.

That afternoon, the Dolomites hills were alive with the sound of sizzling frying pans.

"Dolomites hills are alive with the sizzling of sausages"

We had to admit that being a lame duck on tough Alpine trails certainly has its upsides. Because we took the car option on the way back (while the rest of the group continued the downward trek), returning in the van of the Hotel Adler kitchen crew (yes, I know, we were unforgivably lazy – but nobody will be able to say that we did not learn our lesson from the mistakes of the first day), we came back early and had the opportunity of exploring the award winning Hotel Adler Dolomiti at greater length – in particular to dip into the salt water pool, the one which we had so criminally neglected on our first trip to the spa area.

"Relaxing on the pool of Hotel Adler Dolomiti, premier hiking hotel in Val Gardena"

Photo courtesy of Hotel Adler Dolomiti

And it just so happened that, when we climbed out of the pool, we were ready just in time for dinner. It’s a hard life, being an Easy Hiker.

This was another of the numerous hikes organised by Hotel Adler Dolomitithe premier hiking hotel in Val Gardena, for its guests. We were fortunate to have been invited by the hotel to experience the wide range of services it offers active holiday makers like us. Did you know, Hotel Adler has won awards as a premium spa and sports resort

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Made it, Ma: Top of the World!

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In terms of drama, scale and majestic beauty, few areas in Europe can rival the Italian Dolomites

For us, one way of rating the quality of our hikes is simply to count the number of pictures that we have brought home.

On some of our hikes in the past, we have made no more than 20 or 30 shots, sometimes with half of them showing the same motive – a lake or a particularly picturesque water mill, let’s say. After hikes like that, it can be difficult to pick the six or seven photos that are the bare minimum for a viable post – and to find something meaningful to say about them, too.

At the other end of the scale, there are hikes that leave us simply speechless, but for the exact opposite reason.

From our first hike in

Continue reading Made it, Ma: Top of the World!

The Premier Hiking Hotel in Val Gardena

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Hotel Adler Dolomiti specializes on guided hiking tours in the Italian Alps

Hiking, skiing and “wellness” make easy and obvious bedfellows for tourist resorts and hotels in the mountains: skiing in winter, hiking in summer and there are spa-type activities, sports and swimming pools any time of the year, to help people rest and recover between more active pastimes.

Easy and obvious it may be now, but this was much less so 30 or 40 years ago. All successful new concepts start with a minority of one, so someone had to think about it first.

In South Tyrol, one of the pioneers for this concept was the Hotel Adler Dolomiti, established in 1810 (by the Sanoner family and now run by the seventh generation) as a village inn and still going strong as a luxury spa/resort hotel two centuries later.

The Premier Hiking Hotel in Val Gardena

Believe It Or Not in Gozo

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Seven outstanding facts about the church of St John the Baptist in Xewkija On our last day in Gozo, we simply had to make the trip to the church we had dubbed the “Sacre Coeur”, a large rotunda a couple of kilometres behind the ferry port: after all, we had lived in the shadow of the “original” for 20 years and were eager to find out whether their close resemblance was mere coincidence or not.

Although our visit failed to shed any light on this question, we found out a great many things about Gozo’s “Sacre Coeur” – such as, for instance, that there are only three larger free-standing domes in Europe: St Peter’s in Rome, St Paul’s in London and St Maria Assumption on Malta. And this was only the first of many surprises.

Here are seven even more astonishing facts about the church of

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Blood, Sweat and Sunburn

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A pilgrimage to the Ta’ Pinu Church and the Way of the Cross may help you acquire a deeper understanding of Gozo’s profound religiosity

One thing that no visitor of Gozo can fail to notice is the native Gozitans’ love for sculpture – and their refreshing lack of respect for (or even fear of) the Taste Police. The front door of nearly every Gozitan home is decorated by one or several small statues that range from the plain silly …

… to the classical-mythical-hallucinatory …

… and beyond.

(Please note that the cherub on the right still has a songbird on his hand, while the one on the left appears to have eaten his already).

By far the majority of statues in front of Gozitan houses, however, are

Continue reading Blood, Sweat and Sunburn