last day in Europe
16 September 2011 | Gaschurn, Austria
We made a lot of time in the last few days for hiking. We picked up a book on alpine huts located in the Italian Tyrollean region, which includes the Dolomites and the area where we have been driving. The book lists 80 some huts just in that area, all with food service and most with overnight accommodations, and with walking times from the parking areas of 1 to 5 hours. It was hard to choose! We picked one that listed regional food specialties and was convenient for fun driving. The hike in was spectacular again, through green pastures of grazing cattle, small private farm homes and log huts, and a cross-valley view of the entire, dramatic Dolomite range. It was hard to imagine a more stunning and serene place. We arrived at the hut at sunset, and were served beer and dinner. The next day we walked a long route out, passing by two more huts, one where we had lunch. It is possible to string several of these huts together for a multi-day hike, carrying little more than a toothbrush, rain jacket and extra clothes. Many are also open in late winter for ski touring.
Today is our last day in Europe. We make our way back to Stuttgart, drop off the car for shipment to Fort Collins, and fly to Chile. We spent most of our time in northeastern Italy, where the mountains are beautiful but not too extreme, and there is a high concentration of fun roads to drive. It is a beautiful place, easy to find a place to stay, lots of recreation, and the local summer fashion is high top hiking boots and walking sticks. Now on our way back to Germany we passed through Austria and crossed the beautiful Silvretta Pass, a 40-something hairpin turn road with smooth pavement and an absolute joy to drive. It was pass number 26 for us and the last for this visit. The main Alps mountains are more severe than the Italian mountains we were in, making for fewer roads crossing the high passes. We loved our time in Italy, and can easily envision spending a longer time there. Yet there is similar hiking and mountain culture in Austria, Switzerland, and France, places we have barely touched on this trip and are worth exploring.
I want to close out this blog chapter by saying “you can do this!” If you want a simple trip to Europe, exploring charming villages and mountain towns, hiking with the sheep and cows, cable car lifts to high and wild places, then simply fly to Innsbruck or somewhere nearby in late summer, get a rental car, drive a couple hours south, and start exploring. Bring a mid size backpack, comfy hiking shoes, and the Michelin map Northeast Italy in scale of 1:400,000. All of the small roads and ski lifts are shown on this map. Maybe you can find a hut and hiking guide book stateside, too. No need to have hotel reservations or any sort of detailed itinerary, just go! The Euro is very strong against the dollar now, so things can be expensive, but it is possible to make a nice trip for under $250 per day for two.