This week’s blog post is a little late as I spent a long weekend enjoying some fun times in the Dolomites. I love the mountains and not just in winter. In fact, my first love of the mountains came on walking holidays in the French and Austrian Alps in summertime with my Dad and sister.
fantastic views, fresh air, exhilaration and relaxation
Now that I live so close to the mountains in Switzerland, I get to see first-hand how the landscape changes within a matter of weeks (sometimes days!) from green, green grass with little yellow and purple meadow flowers to having a white blanket of snow (and vis versa). In winter the mountains have a more even appearance, as many of the smaller dips are covered over, much like correcting flaws in a cake when icing! But in summer these little dips and bumps are clearly evident and look like wrinkles in the green carpet. They just seem to beckon me to come and explore. For me nothing can beat the combination of fantastic views, fresh air, (gentle) exercise, exhilaration and relaxation that a summertime trip into the mountains can offer. (Plus for me it has the added advantage of being the only place I seem to be able to pick up a bit of a suntan!)
So this last weekend was my first ever trip to the Dolomites, in the South Tirol (Italy) and it certainly won’t be my last. We stayed in a lovely little village called Valdaora or Olang, depending on whether you are a German or Italian speaker – this caused no end of confusion with the satnav! Valdaora sits at the foot of the Kronplatz. From December through to April Kronplatz and the villages beneath it are a hive of snow-filled activity and with over 100 km of pistes it is easy to see why. The area doesn’t just sleep during the summer. There are plenty of activities to try out. As we only had a couple of days we could only choose a couple.
a little bit of R+R
We decided to use our long weekend for a bit of R+R and to try to kick-start a bit of a “new you” health and fitness regime. So we booked into a lovely hotel with spa facilities offering jacuzzis, sauna, swimming pool, massages etc. We also booked half-board (which can be risky) but we were not disappointed – the food was amazing. A different but highly imaginative five course menu was freshly prepared for us every night. The portion sizes were just right, so that you felt only pleasantly satisfied and not stuffed to bursting at the end of the meal. And if you didn’t happen to like one of the options they were more than happy to prepare a substitute. So the hotel was a little bit of luxury to ensure we managed the rest part of the equation.
But what about the relaxation side? Well, whilst I could have spent all my time indoors enjoying the spa facilities at the hotel, this would not have helped me “switch my brain off” fully. For that to happen I have to be fully engaged in an activity, and I usually have to have some fear associated with it…this is why I find skiing so mentally relaxing, even if it is physically exhausting. I spend all my time worrying about staying upright that I cannot concentrate on anything else other than what I am doing in the here and now – so the office doesn’t even get a look in. So this last weekend, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to see some awe-inspiring scenery, to get the adrenaline flowing and to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes with trying or seeing something new.
Obviously a walk in the mountains was on the cards. So we took the cable car up to Kronplatz and walked down – in total we descended 1300m. Now whoever thinks walking down is easy, obviously hasn’t spent 3.5 hours doing it continuously without encountering even the slightest incline to help alleviate the pressure in the knees and thighs…not that I am moaning. It was just stunning scenery the whole way down, mountains everywhere, ski runs turned into meadows, the sound of cow bells, the butterflies fluttering around your legs as you walked though long grass interspersed with pretty flowers, the breeze helping to cool you down in the heat of the day, and best of all the peace and quiet. Bliss.
a plethora of activities
On our walk we encountered others making the most of the amazing landscape. There were the mountain bikers
The adrenaline junkies looking for some excitement by swinging out over the valley floor below
And all of this on one mountain!
don’t forget the rivers, lakes and forests
Where there are mountains, there are often rivers, lakes and forests….so even more activities to try like river rafting, canoeing, canyoning or just simply swimming in a mountain lake. But we didn’t opt for any of those for our second day’s activity…instead we chose the high-ropes course, a kind of obstacle course up in the trees. This certainly got the adrenaline coursing through my veins, especially as I am not overly keen on heights and am Little Miss Cautious. So whilst I know that it is safe, providing you follow the safety instructions, the idea of traversing a course several metres above the ground, whilst overcoming different obstacles to get from one tree platform to another, was, well, daunting.
adrenaline, fear, accomplishment
After our safety instruction (in English) and our first test course we were let loose on the different courses. There were several of differing difficulties. Once we had sussed out which was the easiest we were underway. It was not easy. Sometimes it was not elegant, but I navigated the first one. I felt amazing. I had had moments where I didn’t think I would be able to stop the legs from wobbling or my arms from shaking, but I had managed it. I was excited and thrilled.
After a short break to let the lactic acid dissipate and also to feel the relief of having solid ground under my feet again, I felt able to tackle another, harder, course. This time I was more confident, had greater control, but was as equally inelegant as the time before. It was awesome. Finishing with a zipline into a cargo net, followed by disentangling myself, whilst my heart was beating out of my chest, totally made me feel alive.
I love the mountains for their variety, for their magnificence and for their ability to inspire me. It won’t be long til I am back visiting them again.