Walking is the thing that’s helped keep me sane – so far – throughout the pandemic. That and blogging with its virtual community, still there when I can’t see my other friends. I’ve resisted using the term ‘lockdown’ because, for me, that would have meant the end of the permitted daily exercise outside the house and I’m not sure how I’d have coped with that. Mountain walking wasn’t something I did until my late twenties, although I did start in a big way when H and I spent a few months travelling which included trekking in Nepal. There are three countries much closer to home of which I have fond hiking memories to revisit. If you fancy a bit of virtual exercise with the odd city break plus links to a few reviews thrown in, you’re welcome to join me. We’re off to Italy first.
It was on our way to the Dolomites that the idea of railway holidays took root having flown to Munich where we spent a very pleasant evening before catching the train into Italy. The destinations listed on the Munich station departure board held out the tantalising prospect of a bit of real travel. We’d booked two hotels for this trip, the first of which was in the tiny village of Badia and very smart in a laid-back kind of way it was too. The second was in Selva, still a village but it felt almost like a city after a week in Badia. The walking was all we’d hoped for although there were a few too many cyclists intent on keeping their stats up rather than avoiding us on the paths around Badia. The wildflowers were gorgeous as was the pudding buffet on offer in our second hotel, recced every night by a few anxious diners even before they tucked into their starters.
Our most recent visit to Italy had nothing to do with walking but I loved the city of Genoa with its splendid mansions and mosaic lined colonnades so much I can’t not give it a mention. Not nearly so crowded as the likes of Florence, where I spent a wet November week years ago, or Venice, which I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice, and it offered a glimpse of real Italian life.
We could go either way over the border to Switzerland or Austria but let’s take the Swiss route as H and I did a couple of years back, revisiting the sweet little town of Adelboden. Many of the walks were familiar from a previous holiday but just as gorgeous with spring rather than summer wildflowers to enjoy plus a bit of marmot-spotting. This time we managed to fit in a visit to the immaculately kept church opposite the delicatessen whose sculpted cow moos now and again advertising the cheese counter inside. With its richly coloured stained-glass windows and stars painted on its wooden beamed ceiling the church is a little gem. Its central window was designed by Augusto Giacometti, a relative of the sculptor Alberto Giacometti. This was the church where we’d seen a freshly married couple picked up and seated on top of some hay bales before being carried off on a very small tractor last time we were there.
Off to Austria for two more weeks high in the mountains above Zell am See where more marmots were spotted. We’d been hoping for another Adelboden but Zell has suffered from a little too much tourism losing some of its charm on the way. Oddly, it’s become a destination for young Saudis, some in traditional dress looking a little out of place against an alpine backdrop. The walking was so enjoyable we never got around to exploring nearby Salzburg. Apart from a brief stop in Innsbruck while hitching around Europe, back in the day, when we turned up to find everything closed on a Saturday afternoon, my other two visits to Austria have both been to Vienna, once on a winter break when I was struck by how conservative the city felt and the second in the summer at the end of our first Central European railway jaunt when it seemed entirely different. What a difference a season makes.
I hope that’s stretched your virtual legs a bit. Any vicarious travels you’d like to share?