I’m in Kastelruth, in the Italian Tirol. My chalet–sturdy as a bomb shelter, yet warm and woody–comes with a generous fluffy down comforter and serious German plumbing: Ka-chunk…ahhhh.
High in the Dolomites, tourism is huge. But April is the limbo time between the skiers and the hikers. The lifts are still. Most hotels are closed. It’s a lousy time to be researching. I survey the town from my two-chair balcony. There are no tourists…just busy-as-a-beaver locals getting things ready for the coming rush. A man in blue overalls swings a pickax. Children run free in the guest house lounges and gardens — learning to rollerblade, playing rollicking games of foosball.
As I sat down to lunch today with four representatives from the tourist board, they asked me, “Do Americans know this region as Südtirol or the Dolomites?” I answered, “the Dolomites,” and complimented their town as the only one that didn’t feel like a ski resort in the summer. We were presented with plates of shaved cabbage sprinkled with bits of bacon. Ignoring the meat, Günter, the man across the table, said, sadly, “Kraut.”
I’ve been on the road nearly a month. I’ve had just two hours of rain. I’ve enjoyed meeting countless Americans. All seemed to be having a great time (except a woman who shut the car door on her coat and needed a cleaner, a man whose wife was forcing him to tour the Siena Pinacoteca, and a kid from Michigan State who just couldn’t accept the fact that “pepperoni” was green peppers and not spicy sausage).
And during this month I’ve had absolutely no news. When at home, I consume news as entertainment — probably an hour a day. And for 30 days now I have not seen a TV or newspaper. I read a brilliant rant from Lee Iacocca (Lee Iacocca Excerpt). And I heard about the massacre at Virginia Tech…but only because so many Europeans wonder why we let anyone — even nutcases — own a gun, yet do things like legally requiring bikers to wear helmets. My news-fast will continue. It feels somehow healthy.
Enjoying this little eddy in the whirlpool of Italy, I’m savoring a quiet evening in my room. Freshly showered and in bare feet, I “cook” dinner: my tiny post-9/11-sized Swiss Army knife, a champagne flute from my minibar, and a paper bag ripped open as my tableware. The menu tonight: rough, bakery-fresh German bread, salami, carrots, a tub of yogurt, and Apfelsaft (apple juice). Everything’s in two languages here: I believe there’s a dot of yogurt on the bridge of my nose — it’s both frutti di bosco and Waldfruchte… that’s “berries of the forest.” The fact that my feast cost less than â‚¬5 makes it taste even better.
I dig out my iPod. Music takes me home — dancing with memories of family, friends, things non-European. Then, I turn off the iPod and return to Europe. With a happy soundtrack of German-speaking Italian children playing just out of sight, I watch a slow show as darkness settles on the Dolomites. Slowly those rugged limestone peaks and gaily painted chalets become two-tone, then gone.