This weekend separated the boys from men. It was full of adrenaline, testosterone, and the sheer will survive. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that extreme…but the preceeding accounts of my perilous adventures in the Alpies may cause great anxiety in the parental figures of mine who read this. Although in this post, the pictures will do most of the talking. All photo creds go to Wolfgang and his Betsy.
Many firsts were achieved, so I’ll go ahead and rattle them off
- First time in Italy (touched Switzerland as well)
- First time in the Alps (picture the Rockies X 2)
- First time driving a car in the Alps (good place to take a rental car, right?)
- First time driving a manual in the mountains (…it was fun)
- First time driving a manual in the mountains in the snow (with snowchains)
Wolfgang and I set out on our adventure with high hopes on Thursday morning, flying out of the Lübeck airport, just a hop, skip, and jump away from Hamburg on the regional train. It was more of a barn hangar than an airport, as we booked our tickets on the budget friendly airline RyanAir for a ridiculously low price. After arriving in Milano, and after getting scalped by the rental car operator, we set off into the labyrinth that is Italy’s road network, headed for the Aosta Valley and the small town of Valtournenche. In the twilight hours of the evening, we passed by castles perched up in the hills that suddenly came upon us, as well as terraced vineyards.
When it suddenly started to downpour and the temperature began dropping like a rock, we knew it would be a good weekend. Snow was in no short supply in this region of the Alps, in fact one can ski year round in the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, located at the base of the Matterhorn.
The pension we stayed at, Albergo Panoramo Al Bich, was nested precariously up in a high Alpine meadow* (Just a guess of what it looks like in the summer, the 50 or so feet of snow covering the ground made it difficult to tell what lay beneath). It is inaccessible by four wheeled vehicles, although there is a trail for snowmobiles. We also saw a helicopter land right in the front lawn, presumably to pick up a heliski client.
The trail up the mountain to the lodge was a perilous journey without snowshoes, but we made due by digging our heels into the snow like real men.
I woke up to a blinding light coming from the window Sunday morning. Around two feet of snow fell over the weekend, covering everything in pure whiteness.
We were fed two square meals a day, cooked and served by two sisters who were about our age. Their family owned the pension; it was a true Italian household. They spoke some English, but there were a lot of miscommunications between us, most notably on the first night.
When we first arrived, we were famished from a full day of travel and only a sandwich for lunch. So after checking in, we simply asked the sister who knew less English than the other…..food? She got to work in the kitchen and we patiently waited, drooling in anticipation of authentic Italian food. We had no idea what we had set in motion. First a picnic basket filled to the brim with bread was brought out, and we finished that in under 10 seconds. It was immediately replenished with another. Then a steaming dish of manicotti came out. At this point, I was thinking, “Wow what I quaint little meal”. Then came the Italian sausage roll (sorry but Germans do it better). Then a salad. And more bread. But wait theres a more.. for dessert we were a served a whipped cream, espresso, nutella, and nuts concoction that sealed the deal. Best meal of all time. I thought the food would never stop coming out. But it finally did, and we awkwardly asked for the bill. When she handed it to us, I almost passed out when I saw 3 digits before the decimal. Picking my jaw up off the floor, I reluctantly forked over the money. We later learned that we had payed for half of our stay, the food was included in the 1/2 board accomodation price.
That’s me laying on the trail in awe. That’s how most of the time was spent, looking up at the mountains instead of paying attention to other skiers and the trail. These mountains were like none other. They are so indescribably immense. I took it all in and enjoyed every moment I had in the mountains.