A buddy and I met up with our bikes at the train station in Sinzing late this morning and biked our way to lunch near Bad Abbach. Then we pressed on to Kelheim for a nice ice cream treat. We went back the way we came a bit for me to catch the train in Saal an der Donau.
It was a cheap (local train fare is a pittance, a bit more to take your bike along with you, and the ferry dude gets a euro per head) and easy way to enjoy one of the last pleasant-weather Sundays for a while. I might need to acquire a book of bike path routes around here, like my pal has — he planned our route with it.
Seems like there’s a lot of local exploring that can be done without a car, if you can leverage the benefits of your bike and the local train system and plan your day around it. It helps to put the ice cream stop a few kilometers away from the lunch break.
The last part of our trip was a big change of scenery on the way back to Regensburg. Rather than going back the way we came through the mountains, we jagged west at Bozen/Bolzano towards Meran/Merano instead of east towards Brixen/Bressanone. The drive up through Bozen to the Brenner Pass is usually good for some oohs and ahhs, but the little towns along the route from Merano to San Valentino were adorable. It also took a lot longer than it looks on the map, because those are little country hillside roads getting you to Graun im Vinschgau, because those villages come with a speed limit of 50 km/h (≈30 mph) most of the way.
See what I mean?
When we got to our hotel, right on time for the earliest check-in possible, it seemed almost deserted. In fact, the whole village seemed pretty, but pretty empty. The ski lifts clued us in as to why. More on those in a moment. Enjoy these shots of the town first (make ’em bigger for maximum enjoyment).
The hotel owner asked what our dinner plans were and we asked for a recommendation. He named three places in town, and then said "…but it really doesn’t matter — they all have the same stuff." So we picked one, ate well, and zonked out in our rooms, exhausted from the drive.
The next morning, breakfast was in the hotel, and we chowed down on fresh Vinschgauer. Try these if you like mild anise and fennel flavors (but not caraway) in your rye bread. I suggest a little butter and honey. Yum.
For our last morning in Italy, we decided to take one of those ski lifts up to the top to soak up the views. There seemed to be a mix of serious hikers, mountain bikers, and some casual sightseers (us).
From there, we took the gondola back down, got in our car, and drove off, headed back north into Austria. But wait: UNEXPECTED ROUTE CHANGE! A detour forced us into Switzerland. We had a Vignette for Austria, but not for Switzerland. Ach Du meine Güte, we dreaded the thought of getting pinched for not having a Swiss road pass. It’s been about a month and nothing von der Schweiz has appeared in the mail, so …
Modena and Parma were undiscovered country for us. We’d been to Bologna before (ten years ago!). We’d heard good things about Emilia-Romagna and Italian cuisine from various sources — including our waiter at Colline Emiliane on our trip to Rome. But for all the famous foody aspects of this bit of Italy (balsamico, parmesan cheese, prosciutto), we’d never actually been. Well, why the heck not? We loved both these cities.
It was only a few hours’ drive from the outskirts of Venice to the former capital of the Western Roman Empire, Ravenna.
We’d been to the town before, but last time, it was dark, and cold, and difficult to navigate with our rental car. This time we arrived with plenty of daylight, parked the car once, and did all the exploration on foot. The weather was generally agreeable this time, too — though some fierce winds and a brief rain spell motivated us to spend a little more time under the awning at a restaurant eating piadine for lunch.
Some brief notes:
We stayed on the edge of the Altstadt in a cool (despite the dorky name) little boutique BnB called "M Club DeLuxe"
We did the FreinsheimKulinarischeWeinwanderungagain this year. And again our pal Snooker joined us for good wine, good food, and especially good company. This year was a little trickier than most with regard to accommodations. Seasonal demand in the area is always high, so we plan far in advance. But this year, our Ferienwohung host bailed on us with rather short notice, and we had to hunt for a place to stay months later than normal. The pickings were slim, but we managed to make it work through AirBnB. We stayed in Flörsheim-Dalsheim and used the local transit system to get into and out of Freinsheim on the Saturday of that weekend. This is a trick our pals the Heidelbergers taught us back in 2012 on our very first Kulinarische Weinwanderung.
Last week one of our city’s most identifiable symbols played dress-up. You can read more about the event on the city’s webpage here (in German). The occasion is the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Dom’s towers. We probably would have missed the memo on it completely, but a colleague of mine called our attention to it.
For reference, here is what it looked like before the light show began:
Music and a narrative, from the perspective of an apprentice and master stonemason, accompanied the light designs projected onto the cathedral. These stills look nice, but really it was the illumination’s animation that made it clear how the cathedral looked at different phases over its history.
We’ve visited Piombino Dese twicebefore, at the agriturismo "Ca’ de Memi." It’s a great place to stay on its own, due to its location in Veneto: Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, Treviso, and Castelfranco are all easily reachable by car or train. It’s also a fantastic place to eat. If you’re going to visit Ca’ de Memi, book it soon, because this month they got a write-up in the Guardian as one of the ten best cooking classes with stays in Europe. We have enjoyed their food immensely, but not yet taken a cooking course there…maybe next time!
This time the draw to us was the five-minute walk from the train station. From there we did a 40-minute train trip to Santa Lucia station in Venice.
It’s not every year that we get TWO trips to Italy. Last time our focus was Tuscany. This time was a mix of new and old destinations in Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, showing Sarah’s mom some stuff we knew, and some we didn’t. Clearly this is going to have to be split into several different posts. We took way too many pictures to cover it all in one post. Stay tuned for individual segments to follow.
For the last eleven months I’ve been cultivating a beard. I told everyone at work I’d shave it when we reached a certain milestone at work. Well, the work thing finally happened today. True to my word, the beard is gone, as of about 20 minutes ago.
I’m not excited about shaving (nearly) every day again, but I do look forward to eating without
straining my food like a baleen whale
giving food particles hundreds of jumping-off points as they try to land on my shirt
We planned a rendezvous with some of Sarah’s extended family months ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
We’d been to Berchtesgaden before, several years ago, in that dark, rainy period before Christmas. Visiting it in the summer was a very different experience! Also, this time we stayed in the Kempinski hotel above the town. We were only there one night — just long enough to catch up with the fam and send them back on their way home to the USA.