The last stop on the Italian third of our honeymoon was Vahrn in South Tyrol. We found a room on Airbnb above a mill on a vineyard and apple farm. I have never been skiing or had any holidays in the mountains so we thought this would be a lovely thing to do together. Vahrn is in the Dolomites, in northeast Italy, part of the Italian Alps. We picked up a hire car in Verona and drove a couple of hours to the Dolomites. The closer we got the more beautiful the scenery got. Mountain valleys, forests, rivers and wooden cabins decorated with colourful flowers. The signs also started to change… to German! Until we arrived we had no idea that South Tyrol was part of Austria until the first world war. Ninety-six percent of the population speak German. The architecture, music, food and drink were all Austrian. All the other guests at Tschiedererhof were German.
Tschiedererhof was a working farm run by Tony and Margaret. Though the farm had already been handed over to their Son Florian, who was in charge. They mainly grew vines and apples and made their own wine and apple juice, but they grew all sorts of other fruit and veg which they sold in their onsite farm shop. It was beautiful. It was the height of summer so everything was at it’s best. Sunflowers, cherry trees, corn, elderberries, raspberries… flowers in full bloom. All the geese and goats had names: Lola, Ammy, King, Locke. Our room was just above the mill up a ladder. It was basic but comfortable and beautifully decorated. I felt just like Heidi sleeping in her Grandfathers loft on a bed of hay. We went for a walk through the farm and up the lane. Traditional churches with steeples peeked out of the valley. Local houses had little pictures and the family name painted on them. Tony was picking apples and offered us each one to try.
We were invited to have dinner with everyone on our first night. Homemade pizzas and wine from the farm at a long table outside. It was an evening to celebrate some of the guests who had been returning every year for twenty years. We met Johanna and Andreas, a young teacher and carpenter from Bavaria. They had stayed at Tschiedererhof for the last three years and knew most of the guests. Andreas was wearing Lederhosen and cow hide clogs.
We had breakfast in the wooden dining room in the main house. The whole house smelled of fresh wood and sweet baking. With a view of the mountains we had a spread with Italian coffee, German bread, yoghurt, muesli, boiled eggs, cheese, ham, and fruit from the farm. Johanna and Andreas were also at breakfast and asked us to join them in Brixen for the day. Brixen is Tyrol’s oldest town and the artistic capital of the valley. We spent the morning walking down the pretty narrow streets and stopping at the shops and churches. We had lunch at Fink. Johanna and Andreas recommended the Schlutzer and Knödel. The Schlutzer was a bit like ravioli with a nettle filling and the Knödel was a trio of dumplings. We had elderflower cordial, which is popular in Tyrol in summer, and schnapps and sweets to finish.
In the evening we were invited out for a traditional pub meal at Buschenschank Gschlössler. The pub is right up in the hills. It is run by two young guys who raise their own cattle and produce which is served at the pub. It was rural but packed with people. We enjoyed sunset over the mountains with a beer outside and moved in when it got colder. There were a lot of traditional features in the pub: old fireplaces, stoves, a bed, spinning wheel and tools hanging on the wall. Paintings and statues of Mary and Jesus.
We had Bratwurste mit rostkartoffeln (Bratwurst sausage and potatoes) and Spiegeleier mit speck und rostkartoffeln (Fried eggs, bacon and potatoes), two hearty Austrian dishes. One of the owners who knew everyone else at our table came over to say hi and brought out a tray of his homemade schnapps and liquers for Chris and I to try. He was such a friendly guy we couldn’t say no. We had peach, walnut, enzia, lemon, basil and mountain flowers. Some were better than others. When we left the wind had picked up and I could see lightening in the distance. By the time we got in bed the storm had reached us and we fell asleep to the sound of pouring rain and thunder.
We enjoyed our last Austrian breakfast and said farewell to Andreas and Johanna. We drove to Trieste past ski slopes, through alpine villages and up and down dramatic winding mountain roads. It was a shame to leave so soon, especially without doing some mountain walks as that is really what the area is about. To experience the mountains, lakes and rivers properly I think you’d need spend a week walking. We will be back.
Last Stop: Verona
Next Stop: Ljubljana