There is no place like home, or so They say. But other places can be homey and sometimes home isn’t so much, so it’s a pleasure to return to a homey place delightfully unlike home. Some years and several generations of Centre employees ago a charming little valley in the Dolomites was discovered and anointed to be the destination of Annual Sledding Weekend.
Hotel Tyrol in St. Magdalena is our place, a beautiful Tyrolean accommodation run by a lovely family, filled with wonderful art ~primarily created by the family patriarch~ where we are welcomed back warmly every time, fed well, and avail ourselves of the excellent spa facilities looking out over the mountains.
Villnößtal is a pleasantly undeveloped little valley, no big ski resorts to bring the hoards. But popular summer mountain trekking huts are open, offering sleds for rent. So we hike up the fire road to GeislerAlm, eat a hearty Tyrolean lunch ~consisting solidly of cheese, Knödel (dumplings), and pork products for those who partake~ far overcompensating for the walk, then sled back down, whooping, hollering, laughing, and usually sustaining only minor bumps and bruises. Then back to Hotel Tyrol for steaming, sauna, massages, Ruheraum, and outdoor jacuzzi ~snow angels, weather permitting. And maybe a quick nap. There is even a Kinderraum, but a room just for the amusement of children gives me the hibbedy jibbedies. I’ve never gone in.
When we are soothed, relaxed, clean, and rested, dinner begins with a gorgeous salad bar. Truly, I look forward to that salad bar as much anything, except the hot tub of course. I intended to photograph its bounty but every evening was distracted by same and was at table tucking in before I realized it. Having selected entreès and mains at breakfast ~which is itself a feast~ from the offerings of the day, dinner proceeds with lively conversation among friends until we are stuffed and waddle into the common room for a digestif and card games. It’s most convivial to be in a cozy room with other guests playing games, being sociable. Germanophones call it gemütlichkeit. It is one of my favorite things for which there is no single English word. The host family is running the bar, answering questions, joining in conversation, or toddling about with a sippy cup. It’s a whole-family operation, so we the guests feel much as though we are lounging about their living room. I wish my living room had such a ceramic stove!
In fact, the family have their own quarters elsewhere in the building into which they may retire. But through all our “adventures,” ranging from a car incapacitated by its own chains to a dog lost on the mountain to an actual emergency requiring hospitalization, the family Senoner have been beyond helpful, gracious, and concerned for our welfare. And they continue to have us back! Also, Dragon Empress Kiwi Pu is always welcome (and any other family animules, up to and including 3 quite wolf-like Husky-type dogs; the most wolf-life one proving that he is in fact a house pet, being the one lost on the mountain over night and a very sorry pup in the morning when he was rescued). I’m fascinated by the idea of growing up in such a place. The valley is our occasional playground, but these children grow up with it as their back yard. They see their parents’ work, learning hospitality while they are exposed to people from around the world. The patriarch, getting on in years, is still able to stay in familiar surroundings, with his family nearby all day. It’s long days of hard work, so I hope they know how much we appreciate the experience they reliably provide. We’ve been many times for Sledding Weekend, but also in summer and fall for hiking and biking and eating and a deep breath of near-Austria when true Italy wears us to a frazzle. The Südtirol is a special, semi-autonomous region of Used-to-be-Austria/Made-to-be-Italy where things are cleaner and work better, but don’t require crossing the Alps for us to enjoy.