Val Pusteria (or in German Pustertal) is full of hiking trails. In the classic alpine manner there are huts along the trail to feed and shelter the hikers. We were starting in Italy. There was a hut in Austria. We decided to hike across international borders for our lunch.
The area is meant for tourists. Buses run frequently between towns and trail heads. We had bought a three day family pass and found there was no need to rent a car. We started our hike at the gondola in Sesto/Sexten, Italy. We bought a one way ticket up from 1300m to 2000m. The hike looked easy on the map, and the gondola had already done most of the work. The wide road in front of us just couldn’t be that steep. Less than 3km to the Austrian border. But, oh man, it was slow going. The trail was steep. We weren’t fully acclimated. It was hard work walking up.
And then there were the flowers with bees and my daughter. Catherine loves bees and loves flowers and loves when the bees are working on the flowers. When we got to the high meadow with flowers and bees, Cat was done hiking. It took Haribo gummi bears to bribe her further.
I first tasted these gummy candies when I was 16 on a school trip to Salzburg. It was 1979, the era of Saturday Night Live’s Mr Bill. The flavor of the bears was delicious. The various torture one could perform on an innocent piece of candy was delightful. What a wonderful treat the Austrians had! And it was enough to keep Cat climbing up that mountainside.
The climb was beautiful. And we made it to Austria. The kids jumped back and forth between Italy and Austria. They straddled the border in order to stand in two countries at the same time. They found rocks that were lying in both countries wanting to bring them home as souvenirs of an Austro-Italian union.
A little more hiking, past a patch of snow, and we were at the hut ready to eat. The wind was blowing hard as a storm approached. We had to lean backward to open the door. The hut inside and out was so very alpine; so was the menu. There was meat on the menu. With sauerkraut, or potatoes, or dumplings. For Cat there was Käsespätzle. Always the vegetarian option on German menus this is basically man ‘n’ cheese, but the noodles are flabby and the cheese is greasy. She ate a few bites then had some more gummi bears.
As we ate lunch we watched the storm clouds roll in. When we left the hut a pair of boots, the tops blown out and the soles melted by lightening, were hanging by the door. We knew we had to hurry. We had asked the chef for the quickest, easiest way down. Five miles of steep terrain we were at a train station in Sillian, Austria, back down in the valley with sore knees and a some regrets. Next time we spend a day hiking we’ll follow Cat’s lead: gondola up, watch the bees on the flowers, gondola down. That’s enough. Oh, the gummi bears should be part of the day, too.