Sunday Snapshots: Waterfront

Lake Garda, 2015

Considering that we just got through the Pentecost holidays, I’m guessing I’ve heard about Lake Garda somewhere between one and 10,000 times in the last month. It’s an extremely popular destination for Bavarians since you can get there in less than five hours. While I would’ve loved to get there again this year, I’m consoling myself with the thought that we leave for our summer vacation in a few days…

Sunday Snapshots: Lights

Lake Garda, 2015

Lake Garda, 2015

You know what I miss? Italy. Was that not obvious?

Slowly walking along the edge of Lake Garda after a fantastic dinner, searching for a still-open gelateria, finding that PLUS finding a outdoor bar/cafe with a live band playing blues rock*…. Oh my goodness. So wonderful.

*In my opinion, finding anyplace with live music that involves zero DJs is cause for excitement.

Sunday Snapshots: Roman Layers and Lines

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The forecast for the next few days in Germany looks snowier than our entire winter put together, so I thought it would be appropriate to see a bit more sun. My visit to Rome was pretty action-packed, and even in February it was warm enough to enjoy walking the city without a winter jacket. The bundled-up Romans might have disagreed with me, but coming from Germany it felt like a tropical vacation!

Weather aside, I love this photo because it represents so much of what I felt about Rome. It’s old, it’s new, it’s layers upon layers of history and thousands of stories. The people-watching is a sport unto itself, and you can hardly turn a corner without seeing something interesting. Or a cat. There are cats everywhere. And really, isn’t that what we all want?

Sunday Snapshots: Tuscan Streets

In an effort to share more of the many, many, many photos I take everywhere I go, this year I’ll be joining many other bloggers in sharing one picture every Sunday. Many people do a ‘Silent Sunday’ post, but since I have the inability to not write at least some sort of context, I won’t do that. I’ll try to keep it short though. After all, it’s Sunday in Germany and I shouldn’t be working anyway. 😉

Tuscan streets.

Tuscan streets.

Today’s photo was taken three years ago today* after a long walk over the Pratamagno. Unsuccessful in our quest for an open restaurant, we stopped in a random village to find streets empty save for their Christmas lights. Don’t worry though, we managed to buy a feast of Italian bread, meats, and cheeses to tide us over until dinner time.

 

*I’m also going to try to do photos taken in the same month and on the same day, if possible. Because I enjoy making simple things more difficult.

Memorable Meals: Winkelkeller

Just a few minutes ago I was engaged in the tedious task of making copies for my class tomorrow. In between pushing the copy button every 30 seconds, and pushing aside the accumulated junk that is forever on our “desk,” my eyes wandered to the new corkboard that BV hung on the wall. It took a moment for me to recognize the pictures on the little card that was pinned there, but a second later I was transported back to one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had.

Back in May and after a day of hiking up and down the mountainsides that surrounded us, BV and I showered and walked our aching legs into Toblach in search of dinner. We were ravenous, and I was fairly set on trying the food at the Winkelkeller. We had actually tried to go there the first night we arrived, but although the bar was packed and music was playing, they weren’t fully open yet. That was only their opening party, and while we were welcome to have a drink, they couldn’t feed us then. BV wasn’t too sure about the place, but judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd, the ambiance, and the picked-clean plates of finger food that were lying about, I had a good feeling about it.

We arrived at the restaurant at about 7:30, slightly paranoid that they would either be 1) already full, or 2) completely reserved. Instead, it was nearly empty (though not for long), and we were quickly ushered to a table.

Side note: going from Germany to Italy, even predominantly German-speaking Italy like South Tyrol, is such a shock to the system. You mean we can eat past 8 pm? The kitchen doesn’t shut down at 10? We can arrive at 7:30 and basically be the early-bird special people? Woohoo!

In other words, we were ahead of the game. However, that gave us the opportunity to admire the cozy side room that we were seated in. When we tried coming the day before, we had sat ourselves on the other side of the restaurant, which was decorated in a very Alpine-style. Think lots of wood, red accents, and a big Kachelofen (see previous post) dominating the room. This time, our curved-ceiling room really put the Keller (cellar), in Winkelkeller, if your cellar is this nice, anyway…

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A basket of fresh bread arrived promptly, and the very young-looking owner* in Lederhosen came to take our drink orders. After a brief consultation with him, BV selected a bottle of Cabernet that was so good that it turned into two bottles.

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Now that might sound like a lot, but apparently it was smart of us to get it while we could. BV has since tried to order more wine from the Alois Lageder vineyard, but out of the fifteen varieties of it listed on belvini.de, only one is available. We got two bottles with our last delivery, but we may have to make a pilgrimage to the winery and beat down the door to get more. It was fruity, velvety, and incredibly delicious. Plus, bio!

Perusing the menu, we both got a bit excited. Everything looked good and narrowing down our choice was not going to be an easy task. But since we decided to make this BV’s birthday dinner, we figured we’d go all out.

It was a bit chilly that day, so we both decided to start with a soup. Mine was (I think) a squash curry with apple, and skewers of shrimp. BV had a cheese/beer soup with croutons. Both were wonderfully flavorful, and an excellent way to start the meal.

 

While we ate our soup, the rest of our room filled around us. I was happy that I had taken a few photos beforehand, as there wasn’t an empty table for the rest of the night. Like us, every table was filled and every guest seemed content to enjoy a long meal, a few drinks, and the excellent service.

With the next bottle of wine, our main courses arrived. BV had selected lamb in hay, with sides of roasted potato and zucchini. I’m not a lamb-eater, but he assured me that it was the best lamb he had ever had. If his face while eating it was any indication, it was really that good.

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For my main, I had selected black pasta stuffed with goat cheese. I had literally no idea what the hell “black pasta” meant, but here it was…

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I have since learned that black pasta is usually made with squid ink, so I’m assuming that’s what this was. This is probably a case of “things I’m glad I didn’t know beforehand,” because I probably wouldn’t have ordered it and I am oh so glad that I did. These pockets of deliciousness were stuffed with goat cheese, and topped with tomatoes and arugula, as you can see. But the sauce was what made it something special. I would guess that there was some kind of liqueur, perhaps amaretto, involved, as it had a syrupy sweetness that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It was amazing, and if we go back to the Winkelkeller and this is still on the menu, it’s going to be hard to try something different!

After a pause for digestion, we turned our attention to the dessert menu. Because, when in Italy, right? We selected a mixed plate, involving a wee chocolate cake, and magical triangles of tastiness… that’s all I can say five months later, sorry.

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To be honest, I’m amazed I even got a picture of the dessert course considering at that point we were totally full but still wanted to eat all the things that came out of that kitchen. I do remember the berry sauce was almost enough to make us lick the plate. Almost.

Finally though, there was nothing left to eat and the wine was gone. We paid the bill while having a hay Schnapps at the bar, and embarked on the full-bellied walk home. A memorable meal indeed, and I do hope that we can get back there before too long. I guess what I’m saying is, if you are in Toblach/Dobbiaco, go here!

Winkelkeller**

Graf-Künigl-Straße/Via Graf Künigl 8,
39034 Toblach/Dobbiaco

*Our Airbnb host thought that the restaurant was under new ownership. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but the owner was our waiter, and the chef was at the bar at the end of the night. They both looked to be maybe 30, so if they just took over this place, good on them.

**Website only in German/Italian.

A Slightly Random Story About Slightly Random Things

Once upon a time, BV and I were in South Tyrol and slightly concerned about finding dinner. Though it was raining slightly, we followed the signs out of our village to check out a restaurant and see if it was open yet. The restaurant was called the Enzianhütte, which seemed promising, as both Enzian and Hütte are good things.

Enzian, pre=Schapps

Enzian, pre-Schapps

Slightly more than a kilometer down the road, we found the restaurant… slightly closed. But across the road from the restaurant, we found something slightly more random. Click away to see what….

Continue reading

Riomaggiore in Pictures

Subtitle: Sweet Mary, Mother of God do I miss accessible water.

Our last (but certainly not least) two nights in Cinque Terre were spent in Riomaggiore, the southernmost of the five villages. After we left our apartment in Vernazza, we hopped the train looking forward to relaxing in Riomaggiore and having somewhere to leave our things for more than one night!

Originally, our plan was to hike the entire length of the park, but unfortunately some of the main trails are still closed. We thought about trying the more difficult trails but since we’d already been struggling with the green “easy” trails on our first two days, we decided that we were due for a train break, rather than tacking the yellow “intermediate” trails. Our aching legs were 100% okay with this plan.

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Technically this picture was from when we were leaving… hence the blue skies. You get the idea though.

After a bit of breakfast and checking in to our next apartment, we headed out to see the town. The first order of business was looking for a beach. It wasn’t a particularly nice day, but it was humid and we were dying for some accessible water. This is what we found…

riomaggiore1It’s water… and the same Fonzi guy that we saw in Vernazza…

riomaggiore2… buuuuut those waves didn’t look promising for accessibility.

We made our way down to the harbor, where the crashing surf made it patently obvious that swimming was not going to happen that day. In fact, the ferry boats that run between the Cinque Terre villages weren’t even landing in Riomaggiore that day. The good news is that the view was still lovely.

The churning waters complemented the colorful boats very well. But I hope the underwater one isn’t for rent; that doesn’t seem particularly water-safe.

Above the harbor, we found the walkway that led to the boat landing and the beach. Many people were trying to get a glimpse of the beach like us, but mostly we all just got wet. BV and I found a perch up some stairs, watching as the waves rolled in and people braved the splash zone.

After many, many minutes of standing, sweating, and watching other people get splashed, I got curious about the few people who had made it around the corner to the alleged beach. Additionally, I was hot as hell, and couldn’t watch the water any more. Soooo…

riomaggiore11BV found this very amusing. But we had been standing there for at least 20 minutes, and I knew perfectly well what was going to happen when I went down there. No, I did not see the beach, and yes, it felt amazing.

After I cooled off, I attempted to dry off with some ice cream. Logic. Over our snack, we determined that there was no way we were going to get to swim in Riomaggiore that day, so we headed back to put our swimsuits on, and hop a train to a different village that may have better conditions.

Long story short: it was at this point that we realized that my swimsuit from the day before was exactly where I left it. Hanging on the handle of the window in our Vernazza apartment, where it was hidden by curtains when we left that morning. Change of plans! Back on the train to Vernazza, where happily the next guest had checked in and was happy to let me in to retrieve my suit. Whew. After that, we headed to Corniglia in search of beach. It was pretty (more on that later), but still no beach action for us. Here’s the view from the Riomaggiore train station, because that’s the majority of what we saw for the rest of the day.

As far as train station views go, this is pretty good.

As far as train station views go, this is pretty good.

After our rail adventures, we spent a relaxing night in town, eating dinner and meeting the locals.

Our full day in Riomaggiore couldn’t possibly have dawned any differently. And thank goodness because if we couldn’t get into the damn water that day, we might have lost our ever-lovin’ minds.

So. Much. Better. To the beach!

riomaggiore17We quickly ditched this spot in favor of an area with much smaller stones, right next to the waterline. That meant a little bit of splash from the waves, and later some shade… very important. The day was filled with lounging, reading, struggling in and out of the water, and watching other people do the same. Waves + stones = trouble.

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That blue.

After we were sufficiently sun-struck, we went back to the apartment for a pre-dinner nap. On the way, they were decorating for some sort of procession. We had seen signs for it the night before, but definitely slept through whatever it was. Tourist fail.

Refreshed and relaxed, we decided to have a “fancy” dinner for our last night in Cinque Terre. We ate at a seafood restaurant right next to the harbor, which was predictably touristy, but really good. Highlights of dinner include watching the waiter de-bone a fish for an American child at another table (I can’t do it either… our education system seems to have a gap), and enjoying street traffic over mussels. They had a fairly decent duo playing music, who had been at the same restaurant we had eaten at the night before. It’s a small town… I daresay they rotate.

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The only downfall of our stay in Riomaggiore was that our room didn’t have  a window. We knew that beforehand, so it wasn’t an issue, but it didn’t really make us want to kick it in the room in the evening. So after dinner we looked around a bit for somewhere to enjoy a nightcap. Nothing really jumped out at us, so instead we grabbed a bottle of wine and found a bench on the street to lounge on.

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Seriously… if you can, I highly recommend spending the night in any of the Cinque Terre villages. It’s so much better at night!

With that, our last evening in Cinque Terre was at an end. I miss that salt air…

Have you been to Riomaggiore? Did your room have a window?

 

Pope Art

First off, a little business. Since I fell off the blogging wagon for the last few weeks, Italian Month will be rolling right along into August. Wee! I figure since I still have approximately 7238239 photos to share, and no trips planned for the foreseeable future, we might as well keep this  party train going. So, to the pope!

It’s probably safe to say that everyone knows that Italy has some gorgeous churches and cathedrals. And today you don’t even need to go to Italy to see them thanks to this magical thing we call the Internet. For my money though, some of the best parts of Italian churches can be found inside, and for once, I’m not talking about vaulted ceilings (though I love them), or stained glass windows (also lovely.) No, this time I’m talking about art that’s a little more… arts and crafts than Neo-Gothic.

While in South Tyrol, we took a drive and spent an afternoon walking around the lovely town of  Cortina d’Ampezzo. During the ski or summer seasons, I’m sure it’s packed with tourists but since we were early (or late, depending on your preference), it was nearly empty. Our first stop when we reached the town center was the lovely Baroque-style  Basilica Minore dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo (got all that?)

cortina church

As you can see, Cortina was hoppin.’

The Basilica’s interior perfectly matched its exterior; it was all pale shades, frescoes, grand columns, and saints peering down at you. Plus there was the usual assortment of grand paintings, relics in ornate caskets, and (my favorite) gorgeously carved woodwork. But that doesn’t sound very arts ‘n crafts, does it? Nope.

On our trip to Tuscany a few years ago, we discovered that every little church we stopped in had an elaborate nativity scene. Some of them were even coin-operated; insert a coin and lights sprang to life, music played, and the figures moved. They spanned the range from professional to primitive and were endlessly fascinating to us. Of course, I didn’t take any pictures of them at the time, but you know… the next trip.

Since May is decidedly the wrong time to see Christmas decor (unless you have particularly lazy neighbors), I was happy to find something maybe even better.

I give you… Pope-dioramas! (Pope-oramas? Nah.)

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I love these so much it’s absurd. And to be clear, I am not in any way, shape, or form making fun of these. I think they’re fantastic. And lest you think our crafters forgot the big JC, have no fear…

church art

Now the big question. We were there at confirmation time and in a few churches we did notice some signage that clearly had been done for/by the new confirmation class. So, were these also done by a particularly crafty confirmation group? Or is this what the priests get up to on Tuesday afternoons in between hearing confessions? Anyone have some insight? Let me know in the comments!

Vernazza in Pictures

Every once in a while, you visit a place that is exactly as gorgeous in person as it is in postcards. Vernazza is one of those places, and we were lucky enough to spend our second night in Cinque Terre staying right in the heart of the village. Seriously though, we weren’t even there for 24 hours, and together we took over 200 pictures. This place is crazy amounts of  photogenic. So let’s have a look!

We arrived in Vernazza mid-afternoon, after about three hours of hiking from Monterosso al Mare. Remember in that post when I said that it was too cold to swim when we left in the morning? Scratch that. By the time that we reached this incredible overlook…

vernazza overlook

…I was about ready to throw myself forward and just hope I’d hit water. That’s what a couple hours of hiking combined with 90 degree (F, of course) temperatures and a heavy backpack will do to me. It was toasty.

As soon as we got down to sea level, we made a beeline for the water. Vernazza doesn’t have a real “beach,” but people swim in the harbor, and while it wasn’t what I would call crowded, it wasn’t empty either.

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We spent the next few hours alternately submerging ourselves, resting our aching feet, people watching, and lounging on a big rock while giving our sweaty clothes a chance to dry off. Shout out to the American girls who sat behind us for a bit and commented on how sweaty my gray t-shirt was… thanks ladies! I hadn’t noticed at all… and also thanks for commenting on the fact that BV was wearing *ahem* a more Euro-style of men’s swimwear. So was every other guy on this beach. Note: most people speak English, act accordingly. *Rant over.* Back to the pretty.

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Dark clouds did roll in, but the six drops that fell on us were most welcome. But eventually it was time to put clothes back on, grab a beer, and check into our AirBnb for the night. We were situated right between the end of the trail into/out of town, and the train station, which meant that it was a fairly high traffic area. This afforded some solid people-watching fun, and a bit of creeping. Always a good combination.

For dinner we decided to leave the main street and water behind, to see what else was on offer. We happened across a sign that promised a restaurant if we headed up the hill along the path to Corniglia, the next village. After going up far more than the posted 50 meters, and past a few places that looked like they had been restaurants at one point in time, we were rewarded. Perched on the cliff above terraced gardens and groves of lemon trees, was a restaurant wrapped in grape vines with a million Euro view.

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Blogger fail: I don’t know the name, and can’t seem to find it via Yelp or Google Maps. If you’re there… just follow the questionable signs towards Corniglia. That’s all I can say. The food was great, the wine was good, the service was friendly… and that view. Come on.

After dinner we meandered our way back down into the main village, and decided to return to the beach with a bottle of wine.

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Like Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza was much quieter after dark, allowing us to have a good wander. Taking pictures is always much easier when you aren’t dodging hordes of tourists running for their trains and boats. We grabbed a bottle of wine – handily this seems to be the norm which meant the shopkeeper was happy to open it for us and provide plastic cups, and looked for a suitable spot to lounge.

Finally we settled on the same rock we had occupied early, and toasted to our sore legs. There were a few people around, but mostly we were on our own. Minus a disagreement on the merits of drinking wine out of plastic cups (darn BV, being all classy and European), it was pretty high on the romantical scale. I’ll recommend it to any of you out there wanting a good destination to go with your significant other. Plus, it gave us an opportunity to creep on shadow people. Sensing a theme here?

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Just realized this looks kind of dirty. He was setting up a camera and tripod… I swear.

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Eventually though, our bottle of wine was empty, and it was time to tuck ourselves in for the night. But not of course, before a few more shutter clicks on the way home.

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95% sure that's Fonzi.

95% sure that’s Fonzi.

That concludes our short stay in Vernazza… next up, Riomaggiore!

Anyone out there booking flights yet? Perhaps a cruise?