© Sebastian Stocker
Our destination this time was the Parnaud Alm. A walk through larch forests, surrounded by the Schnalstal glacier.
While the sun was shining in Vilpian, in Karthaus the mountain tops were covered with clouds. The concierge asked a local for directions, who also let him know that the cloudy weather was not ideal for the Pernaud Alm.
Fully motivated, the concierge his entourage began the 2:30h hike. But as soon as the first raindrops started to fall the motivation was gone. Stop. It is time to turn around.
In these mountains, but much further up, the Similaun Man was found, the mummy from the ice, also known as Ötzi. While it takes worse weather to end up as Ötzi, rain in the mountains isn’t to be taken lightly. It was high time for a change in plans. With lunchtime approaching the concierge decided to dine in a local restaurant.
Smoked char, roasted suckling pig with potato salad, tagliatelle with chanterelles, and of course, a good glass of wine.
With a full stomach the concierge visited the former Carthusian monastery of Monte degli angeli, where “strength lies in silence”. Enjoying the peaceful, absolute silence, the concierge found it difficult to return to Vilpian, where his telephone vibrates, and the reception bell rings.
The silence is very relaxing. Almost like a vacation.
The concierge considers himself a very lucky person, living, where other people come for holiday.
After the Concierge recently received fresh strawberries from the Willelehof, he promised farmer Paul that he would pay a visit to his farm. Not only out of curiosity and to assure himself that Paul’s cultivation was top of the line, but also as an excuse to get out of the office.
The concierge had already seen all kinds of farms, some with broken tractors in the front, scrap metal and machine parts scattered everywhere, with unsold apples being stored out front and a couple crates of pears rotting in between.
But once he arrived in Glanning, in Jenesien, at first the concierge was convinced he was at the wrong address. There should be a farm here, right? Instead, the concierge finds himself standing in front of a villa that could be straight out of Hollywood, with freshly mowed lawn and every pebble on the road precisely where it belongs. But a raspberry plantation right next to the villa confirms that this is indeed the Willelehof.
The plantation is in perfect condition and Pauls strawberries follow suit. He grows to types of strawberries, one in raised beds and one on the ground.
On the well-kept lawn stands Paul’s son, who is taking care of the tractor. Scrap metal and broken parts nowhere to be found.
Paul goes into detail about the strawberry market. His farm isn’t the only thing that impresses us, the taste of his strawberries does as well.
Out of nowhere we notice something strange! As we look across the strawberry fields we discover a hemp plantation in the middle of his fields!
Paul! Not for smoking, is it?
Paul assures us that his hemp is not suitable for smoking. This hemp is grown when changing fruit crops.
The Willelehof is in impeccable condition. After the visit we enjoy the landscape of Jenesien on a walk to the Jöchl-Almhütte, from where we continue to the Möltner-Kas, where we enjoy a light lunch.
Cabbage salad with roasted Speck and typical Vinschgerle bread.
Are we sure our appetite didn’t come from Paul’s hemp?
Above Bozen, at an altitude of 1200 meters, Paul and his wife have been running the Willelehof in Jenesien since 1996.
From June to September, strawberry season begins at the Willelehof. Paul and his family also produce raspberries and cherries on an area of one hectare each, which ripen from mid-July to the end of September.
We mostly serve the fresh Willelehof strawberries with ice cream. On weekends we use them to make "tartellettes aux fraises", pastries with strawberries and patisserie cream. Our homemade strawberry jam is also made from Paul's strawberries.
We can’t wait for him to harvest the first raspberries and cherries. What treats will we use them for?
Tuesday is the perfect day to look for new and exciting excursions and hikes that the concierge can then recommend to his esteemed guests. This time he dives into the mountains of Merano, which we can see simply by looking out the window, but rarely have the time to actually visit.
Starting form St. Walburg in the Ulten valley we are accompanied by mountain guide and expert in botany, “Aunt Resi”.
We hike towards Malghetto di cloz at 1894 meters above sea level. Before us towers Monte Luco. Usually we only get to see this mountain from the other side.
We are on the Proveis nature trail and admire the mountain pastures. Here in South Tyrol most pastures are high mountain pastures, which means they lie high beyond the treeline and therefore most of the soil is very acidic. On such soil the vegetation isn’t very varied. However, mostly young cattle graze on alpine pastures which are less demanding then adults.
We continue our hike through the mountains and enjoy the beautiful views. But from time to time we ask ourselves if there could be a bear nearby, this is after all the area of the Life-ursus project, where the Brenta brown bear population lives and is protected after nearly dying out a few years back. The chances of meeting a bear however are very slim and the mountains are too beautiful to spend all hike unnecessarily worrying.
Once arriving at Malga cloz, the concierge enjoys lunch, huts like this are known for their cheese, alpine cheese as used in our Schlutzkrapfen. One table over, the ladies enjoy the guitar playing of the alpine dairyman.
One wonders what they are admiring more, the mountains, or the dairyman?
The concierge is of course only slightly jealous. Next time a group of ladies ask for advice on where to hike to, he’ll send them to the dairyman and his alpine pasture.
Well, we harvest the chives, wash, and chop them and add browned sunflower seeds. Then we add a clove of garlic, a little grated Parmesan cheese and a pinch of salt. Fill into jars and seal with seed oil.
Et voilà. Chives-pesto, perfect for pasta.
A sunny day, clear skies.
At the Sparerhof the weather is always nice. If you work in tourism like the concierge, the weather is "always nice", even when it rains.
But today it was actually nice. So what to do with such splendid weather?
How about we pay our colleague Anton Dalvai a visit.
Where to then? Onwards to Montan, south of Bozen. From Montan we go on to Gschnon where the Dorfner restaurant is situated.
Anton, owner and chef, has been working behind the stove since he was a boy.
For him cooking means: "Think global, act regional, for us, that’s a thousand meters above sea level."
This is one of Anton's core beliefs; next to his hotel and restaurant is the family-run farm, which is a source of inspiration and success for Anton.
Mere meters form the restaurant, they grow many of the ingredients they use in their dishes themselves. The concierge is visiting for the second time and the food still tastes excellent, each dish carefully and masterfully prepared.
Great attention to details is put into everything. Even the porcelain and cutlery, right down to the glasses in which Baron Longo's "Solaris" wine is tasted, have been carefully selected.
It might be best not to order a second glass of wine though, as the pathway back is narrow and steep.
Next time it would be best to come prepared. Sturdy shoes, a comfortable backpack. It might even be best to dine and then stay the night. Ah well, next time…
From Munich to Vilpian by bike: 270km, a 16-hour ride, 2500 meters of altitude difference. Starting at 4:00 in the morning, passing Bad Tölz, the Sylvenstein dam, Lake Achen, riding through the Inn valley, up the Brenner and then along the cycle path from the Italian border exactly 100km to the Sparerhof. Could it be a coincidence that the Sparerhof is exactly 100km away from both Reschen and Brenner?
Time for a road trip. The Concierge loads a big quantity of wine from the Cantina Terlano into his truck, to deliver to the wine cellar of a good colleague. Then he continues towards Treviso, more precisely towards Roncade, on his own initiative, to visit the Bekeke winery, whose wines were created by Simone Maculan, agronomist, and oenologist.
The journey continues, with the aim of loading a pallet of Prosecco in Valdobbiadene and then continuing towards Belluno to buy new glasses.
After Belluno a short detour to the Dolomites, which are particularly beautiful in this early summer sunshine, and then back to the Sparerhof.
A detour that is strenuous but rewarding!
At least that was the plan...
From Terlan we take the A22 motorway in the direction of Modena; in Verona we leave the motorway and follow the road until the Oppeano exit. This is what the navigator indicates after all, and then... JUNCTION! abrupt braking, clutch and... Hello? The clutch won't work.
HI-VIS vest pulled out of the car drawer, safety triangle on the road and the next car-workshop called. With all these fine wines in the car... Fortunately, the depot where we wanted to bring the wines is only a few kilometres away. One phone call and one reloading later, the car is still in the same place, but at least without load.
At lunchtime, the car is at the mechanic and the concierge is busy with phone calls to postpone or cancel appointments, a trip to the Dolomites? Impossible.
Lunch consists of a porchetta sandwich and a glass of Soave in the green of the Veronese hinterland.
The emergency plan was to stay overnight in Verona and continue the planned tour the next day after the car was repaired. However, as shops, restaurants and maybe even hotels might be closed during the Corona pandemic, it was best to return that day by regional train. Verona - Bolzano.
Two days later: return to Verona. This time with the Freccia Argento, the Italian version of the Shinkansen, the Japanese super-fast train. In the meantime, the car was repaired in the workshop. As good as new.
The concierge returns to the wine depot, hundreds of pallets of wine are stored here ready for dispatch.
In a corner, a treasure chest:
Many bottles, individually and carefully packed. One label in particular strikes the Concierges eye: Château d'Yquem, 1944. The bottle is in mint condition. It has been carefully stored under optimal conditions, temperature and humidity constantly controlled, for many years. Price at the appraiser? About 10.000€
I wonder who they're selling it to. A rich American? A Russian oligarch? Or maybe a scratch-off winner?
Hah! On closer inspection of the Sauterne bottle, the fill level seemes to be slightly lower than it should be. That wouldn’t fly with a new one.
I wonder who'd want to drink it now. Maybe we'll find out.
Our hotel management software has a useful function.
If a supplier's invoice has not been paid by the due date, it will light up red.
Now that the lockdown is over again, in between all the items that need to be paid in cash to maintain a good relationship with the suppliers, there is also an invoice for the maintenance of our fire extinguishers.
According to the law, these must be checked by our fire safety outfitter from Tisens in their Lana branch.
The office manager of "Firetech", is a childhood friend of the concierge. Time to pay Karl a visit, or "Karele" as he is known to his friends.
On the concierge's day off, equipped with the exact amount of 102,48€ and armed with the South Tyrol Pass - an electronic public transport ticket, he takes the train to Lana - Postal.
On to Karele's office.
A quick affair. A delivery note and an elbow greeting later, the concierge is ready to head out.
Now, what to do with the rest of the day?
The concierge decides to return to the hotel on foot. A nice walk, about 8-9 km.
Starting point is the historical railway locomotive in Lana, along our walk we pass the old "Pomus" headquarters, a cooperative for fruit and vegetables, which in 2009 merged with "Ogol" into "Lanafruit".
A sculpture tells about the work of the farmers. If you continue to follow the route, you will pass historic farms like the Bach and Gerengut, which has been owned by the Karnutsch family since 1739, or the Tonner Hof, where wine was cultivated for the Tegernsee monastery in Bavaria until 1803.
We reach the parish church of Maria Himmelfahrt, consecrated in 1492, a late Gothic church with a bell tower that is 79 meters high.
Here you’ll also find the Schnatterpeck Altar, the largest altar in Tyrol with a height of 14 metres, almost 7 metres wide, made by the master Hans Schnatterbeck in 1503 and decorated with over 80 figures. After visiting the church, it was time for the concierge to get back on the road. 7 kilometres remain.
That’s not nearly far enough for the concierge and so instead, he decided to continue along one of the ancient water channels, the so-called “Waalwege”.
The Waalweg runs for 12 km from Töll to Lana and is thus the longest Waalweg in South Tyrol and offers a view of the church of St. Margaret of Antioch and its beautiful frescoes.
The Waalweg leads right through the middle of chestnut woods, which grow to an average height of over 20-25 metres and can live to be over 500 years old. These trees are cultivated in South Tyrol not only for their edible fruits, but also for their wood. In addition, the chestnut trees provide a habitat for many birds and other animal species and protects the soil from frost and erosion.
The route takes us to the Lebenberg Castle. Along the path we look down on the city of Cermes and walk along the long walls of Lebenberg Castle, also known as Castel Monteleone in Italian.
The castle is the villages symbol. It was built in the 13th century by the Lords of Marling. The castle can be visited, but unfortunately for the concierge, not today. The way is still long, and he is beginning to feel his legs.
The concierge arrives on a hill above Marling and enjoys a spectacular view of the Merano Hippodrome and the city. A short break offers itself.
Unfortunately, this break proves to much for the concierge. The view is just too good and the bench to comfortable. His strength continues to dwindle.
The concierge decides to leave for Marling and heads toward the train station. A short wait for the train later, he boards the train and finally heads home.
Thank you Karele and the bill I had to pay. The concierge was able to spend a nice day because of it.