Monday, 15 August 2016

5th August - Saltria to Verona, Italy, and the Holiday Wrap Up.

Well the forecast storm for today duly arrived, the tables safely stacked away on the terrace in preparation for the change in weather was not in vain.

As we had breakfast the witches on top of the pine trees at the back of the hotel were whizzing about in a ferocious wind.  We packed our bags after breakfast in preparation for a long day our plan had been to spend the time once we arrived inVerona in the city as our flight was not until 22.00 that evening, but if this weather was the same in Verona it would be very difficult to know what to do.

The taxi arrived just before 10.00 and our journey began, winding around the mountain roads back to Compatsch, and then down the slopes into the mist and cloud to Kastelruth and then onto Bolzano.  We passed many of the towns and villages we had walked through but they looked so different in the rain and mist.  

At Bolzano we boarded our train to Verona.  Unlike the journey here two weeks agao, the train was starting from Bolzano so we had time to get a seat and get the bacgs stowed easily.

It was just over two hours to Verona, the train stopping at many local stations.  The weather though was not behaving, after easing around Trentino, it came back with a vengance as we approached Verona, and as we got off the train, I can't recall seeing rain like it.  The heavens had literally opened.

We decided to wait it out and stopped for a drink in a cafe.  But unlike the journey two weeks ago the station was packed.  We decided to put our bags into the left luggage, and then attempt to get into Verona.  There were signs the rain was easing and blue skies were on the way.

There was a large queue for the taxis, and we waited, finally getting one as the rain eased and we headed into the city, being dropped off at the Arena.

The rain had stopped and the sun was coming out.  We had been here a few years ago so we set off down the main retail street in the direction of Piazza Erbe.

The last time we came here the rains came, but now we were lucky as we had blue skies.

We found a restaurant where we were able to get a good meal and drink, we had to pace ourselves for the long night ahead.

After the meal we wandered the streets taking in the lovely alley ways and colourful buildings so typical of Italian cities.

Open windows, feathery plants and frescos.

Buildings painted in earth colours.

And a mixture of culture and style, these windows portraying classic movie scenes.

But you are never far from a church tower.

It is the Arena that Verona is famous for.  It is one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind.  The building itself was built in AD 30 on a site which was then beyond the city walls. The shows and games staged there were so famous that spectators came from many other places.  Today the arena is used for open air opera and other major concerts.

the wonderful arches are fully intact.

The round fa├žades of the building were originally composed of white and pink limestone from Valpolicella but after a major earthquake in 1117 that stone was used for other buildings and the arena built using local limestone

As you walked around there were many props and scenery from the shows that were being performed.

An array of weapons.

It was time for an ice cream, and a walk back to the railway station to pick up the bags.  The railway station was a lot quieter than when we left, just one dog waiting in the taxi queue.

It was then a short bus ride to the airport where we sat and waited to check in for our flight home.  Plenty of time then to reflect on what had been a wonderful holiday.

In order of visiting the hotels and our thoughts;

Gasthof Zimmerhof, Radein
A wonderful start to the holiday, a lovely hotel in a wonderful location with stunning views. The room was nice and big with a lovely balcony.  The food was excellent, although the packed lunch could have benefited from some of the detail.  The staff were very attentive, but not intrusive and the waitress Susanne was excellent.  You felt welcome, and not just because you were a paying guest.

Gasthof Krone, Aldein
Set in the middle of the village and next to the church the hotel will never be forgotten due to the proximity to the church and the constant bells throughout the night.  The hotel was small, the rooms small too.  The food was good, but lacked that special touch.  The waitress was very nice, but overall the hotel had the feel that something was not well.  We were happy we only had one night here

Hotel Kohlern, Kohlern
Again a wonderful location overlooking the valley and Bolzano.  The room was nice and big with access to the views.  The hotel was quite busy, and it was difficult not to be thought of as second rate.  having a superior room would have been considered qualifying for maybe good restaurant and terrace seats, but on the two nights we were there we were rlegated to seats at the back, away from the view.  The food was good,a nd the wine list extensive, it was shame we felt out of place.

Hotel Cavallino d'Oro, Kastelruth
This was only Bed and Breakfast board and it was nice to be able to go out and find your own restaurant, although the hotel helped.  The staff were excellent prepared to help out and give advice.  The breakfast very nice, again with attentive staff.  The room was lovely, with a good balcony and great views.

Hotel Plaza, Compatsch
When we arrived it felt like the place wasn't open, and the hotel pretty much stayed like that outside of breakfast and dinner time.  There was a bar but it remained pretty much in the dark.  The room was compact, unfortunately when we were there the weather was bad, and staying inside gave you cabin fever, it was small.  The food was much in keeping with most of the trip away from that served in the Zimmerhof

Floralpina, Saltria
A large hotel, with many guests but you would never know it.  The room we had was superb, a double balcony and lovely view.  All the fittings were brand new, and kept in immaculate condition.  The food was very good, same style menu, but not too much and good quality.  The staff again attentive and not intrusive.  This came as very welcome at the end of the holiday, our number two for the trip just pipped by the Zimmerhof

Finally some tips on the guide notes.  The notes provide abbreviations with an explanation of what they mean.  What I wanted to do was to just provide light hearted definitions of some of the phrases used in the guide notes

"Carry on SA (straight ahead)" - It is probably uphill!

"which descends, then rises steeply" - It rises much more than it descended and is very steep!

"Continue uphill" - continue uphill very steeply for some distance!

"As it rises and bears round" - it rises steeply!

"Follow this quiet road" - It was when the notes were made, beware in August they are busy!

"Take a rocky path" - It will probably involve scrambling over rocks

"Leave the canyon floor here" - proceed on a series of many steps all going steeply uphill

"sticking to the forest contour" - it goes steeply uphill

"leading up to the magnificent church" - rises very steeply to the magnificent church.

jesting aside once again it was a wonderful holiday, superbly selected, supported and managed by Inntravel.  We were able to experience some wonderful scenery and to find and see the fauna and flora of the area.  

For the record our count of butterflies reached 51, the list as follows

Scarce Swallowtail
Black-veined White
Large White
Small White
Mountain Green-veined White
Mountain Clouded Yellow
Clouded Yellow
Wood White
Small Copper
Holly Blue
Alpine Blue
Marzine Blue
Escher's Blue
Turquoise Blue
Chalk-hill Blue
Adonis Blue
Common Blue
White Admiral
Red Admiral
Painted Lady
Small Tortoiseshell
Silver-washed Fritillary
Dark-green Fritillary
Lesser Marbled Fritillary
Mountain Fritillary
Titania's Fritillary
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Weaver's Fritillary
Marbled White
Arran Brown
Large Ringlet
Yellow-spotted Ringlet
Mountain Ringlet
Scotch Argus
Woodland Ringlet
Silky Ringlet
Piedmont Ringlet
Meadow Brown
Small Heath
Alpine Heath
Speckled Wood
Large Wall Brown
Northern Wall Brown
Grizzled Skipper
Large Grizzled Skipper
Olive Skipper
Small Skipper
Large Skipper

The birds were much fewer than normal, but it was really the wrong time of year, plus difficult to find them in the thick pine forests, and while you are looking at the ground for butterflies.  There were some notable finds though, Honey Buzzard and Red-backed Shrike

Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Pallid Swift
Alpine Swift
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Red-backed Shrike
Alpine Chough
Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Crag Martin
House Martin
Sardinian Warbler
Ring Ouzel
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Black Redstart
House Sparrow
Grey Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Mealy Redpoll
Common Crossbill

4th August - Williamshutte, Murmeltier Hutte, Priesen Prensules, Saltria, South Tyrol, Italy.

We awoke this morning to misty skies all around with no views what so ever of any of the mountains.  Slowly the gloom lifted and by the time we had finished breakfast there were signs that the mist would burn off.  Outside the hotel the House Martins were gathering in large numbers on the chair lift cables, a sure sign that Autumn was not too far away here.

Like yesterday the plan today was for a leisurely walk of my own design after consulting the map.  Both the maps and the waymarking are excellent and it is very easy to navigate yourself around the many paths.

It was the chair lift once again that was going to do the climbing so we set off with the sun now definitely burning away the cloud around the mountains.

We were earlier than yesterday, and the chair lift was quite quiet.

We reached Williamshutte which was still quiet, and none of the tables had been dressed yet.  Edelweiss, the flower everyone wants to find up in the mountains fronting the views.

I confess this is a cheat, the Edelweiss was in a pot as has all the ones we have seen.

With all the mist and clouds around us the views were not as clear as yesterday.  As we walked through the Hutte the staff were just beginning to prepare the tables for another day of beer and food.  We followed the path we had taken yesterday towards Zallinger Hutte, and turned off on to path 9A. 

The sun was now out and the bees were all over the cow parsley as we approached the first flower meadow.  Orange butterflies, Mountain Fritillaries could be seen in the middle of the field.

And closer in Large Grizzled Skippers and Olive Skippers were warming up in the sunshine tucked away in the grass.  This is an Olive Skipper.

From the meadow we took a detour down a gravel path alongside a stream with plenty of flowers, and with the flowers came more butterflies, this is a Marzine Blue

This is what I think is actually a moth probably a Latticed Heath but I am not certain.  It displays much of the characteristics of a butterfly, its flight and the shape of the wings when settled.

The meadow though was a delight, with the lovely old hut to complement the wild flowers and the views.

It even looks spectacular in Black and white

There is always danger what ever form of life you are, there is always someone looking to eat or harm you, and never was that a truer statement as here amongst the flowers, spiders had cast their webs.

We watched a female Marzine Blue come up from a flower, and waited for it to land, Our expressions were "Ahh", then "Oooh" as it was suddenly it caught in a web, and instantly the spider was out and grabbing it and wrapping it in silk.  Earlier we had seen the same spider do this with a fly, and thought nothing of it, but to see a beautiful butterfly go this way was quite disturbing, strange really.

Leaving the stream we crossed to another small meadow on the other side, again with plenty of butterflies about.  

An Olive Skipper on Scabius

Helen gave me directions to one, "on that blade of grass" she said!

I found it though, our first Silky Ringlet

Leaving the flower meadows we walked up to Murmeltier Hutte, where yesterday we had a drink, today we sat and drank a cappuccino while scanning the mountain ridges and crags again, still trying to turn rocks into Chamois.  I didn't realise yesterday that the name Mumeltier is the German name for Marmot, and as we sat scanning the rocks we could hear the whistling calls of the Marmots away in the distance.

We followed the path beyond the Hutte into the wonderful Rock Garden.  

A combination of sunshine and sheltered dips produced many more butterflies, the Mountain Fritillaries being the most numerous.

The rock garden had been created by the many fallen rocks from the mountain over the years, and the grass and trees have taken them over producing the perfect conditions for the flowers, mostly daisies and scabius.

Out through the gate and into the valley we had explored yesterday, suddenly the sun suddenly went in, so we stood and waited.  A male Black Redstart once again was concerned by the close presence of a Nutcracker, and mobbed and stayed close to ensure it did not threaten the younger birds that were about.

A strange call in the trees behind had us searching, and soon we flushed a female Ring Ouzel, which was joined by a male later as it flew across the valley.

Once the sun came out again we were treated to another good show, more Mountain Fritillaries, and a first Turquoise Blue.

After a while the Clouded Yellows we had seen yesterday, now known to be Mountain Clouded Yellows appeared, and they would whizz around and not settle, but once the sun went in they would take to the ground, lying still with the wings on one side.

In doing this you could understand why you would completely miss them until you almost stepped on them.

When the sun came out once again I took the opportunity to see if I could photograph them in flight.  It wasn't easy but you can see the pattern of the upper wing, which clinched the fact that these were Mountain Clouded Yellows.

A different blue butterfly caught my eye, a paler blue male Chalk Hill Blue

The sun went in once again and the clouds were building around the slopes.

We decided to walk back past the Hutte, and start the journey back to the hotel.  This would involve taking the 531 way marked path through the Comumweiden, and down through meadows and forests to the Priesen Prensules to join the way marked path 30 that would take us to Saltria.

Just before we made the turn a calling bird on a post caught my attention, an it turned out to be a juvenile Red-backed Shrike.

Common Redpolls were also in the hedge and trees as we turned onto path 531.

The path wound downhill through flower filled meadows, but unfortunately the sun was not out, and we had to be content with Siskins and White Wagtails.

Every so often the sun would come out and the butterflies would appear.  Mostly Mountain Ringlets we passed them by and enjoyed the view in front of us

And away to our left.

There were small streams crossing under the path, and at one point we came across a small pond that appeared to be the source of one of these streams as we could not find any trace of a stream feeding the pond.

As we left the pond Helen found a Mountain Ringlet with two red mites.

It would appear that this is infestation by the larvae of the mite Trombidium breei. These live on the blood of the butterfly and can often be found on many in a colony. It is not quite as bad as it looks. The larvae only stay attached for two or three days, although of course some butterflies only live a few days. Investigation has shown no evidence of the mite affecting the lifespan.

The path then went through a gate and immediately the land changed, it became very muddy and boggy as if this was the extent of the water table in the limestone below.

We walked on down with still a few more butterflies, a Small Heath.

And a Dark Green Fritillary.

From the open meadow the path then went into a forest with elusive Crossbills calling from above us as they flew between the tops of the larches.

At the bottom of the hill we turned onto the way marked path 30 the landscape again changed with more boggy conditions and open grassland covered in cotton grass.  Unfortunately clouds were consuming the Plattkofel, other wise this would be a lovely place to get some great views of the impressive mountain, I had to be content with the partial cloud cover.

It was also possible to appreciate the extent of the scree and rock fall still on the mountain.  A close up shot of the side of the mountain reveals the scree present.

The path then winds down through a valley with a fast flowing stream, back up the other side then down once again towards the chair lift station where we had set off from this morning.  Turning back up path 9 towards the hotel, I took a detour to once again try to photograph the Grey Wagtail.  I wasn't able to see the adult birds, but did find three juveniles which was going to be the best I could do.

As well as the wagtails there was also a lovely male Black Redstart that was acting more like the Water Redstarts we had seen in India.

The Black Redstarts has definitely been the bird of the trip, they seem to have been everywhere, this environment clearly suiting them very well.

One thing that has also been a common theme has been that of the region and witches, the Witch's bench, and in the hotels witch dolls hanging almost everywhere. 

Every local knows that the long ridge of the Sciliar Mountain is a popular meeting place of the witches, who come from all parts, flying on their broomsticks. Bad weather often brews at exactly the highest point of the Sciliar and is attributed to the presence of the witches.  But where does this folk lore come from?  As it became dusk I noticed from our balcony that the shape of the top of the pine tree was familiar.

A big spiked hat, what looks like a head and pointed nose, arms and maybe even a broomstick?

After dark the shape looks even more menacing, is this the witch that all the locals fear?

Many of the pine trees have shapes just like these, and as you look around at night you could be forgiven for thinking they were witches.

We leave in the morning for Verona from Bolzano.  Tonight being our last night here, we had hoped for a last drink on the terrace, but the forecast was for heavy rain the next day, and all the benches and tables were stacked away early to protect them form the rain.  After dinner we sat on the balcony once more and watched the witches dance in the wind.  They were brewing up a storm.