Monday, January 6, 2014

Bolzano 16.12.2013: Christmas Markets and Local Delicacies, Drama En Route

Bolzano Christmas Market, 16 December 2013

In Bolzano now, and at our hotel--Hotel Feichter near the train station, the cathedral, and Walther Square. I just had to ask Steve what day it is, since it's--from our perspective--the same day on which we flew to Italy. Which is, Italian-perspective, now the next day.

I'm not sure of the time, because my cellphone won't work here. I brought it knowing this, but thinking it might be handy for snapping pictures. And, of course, one's perspective in time gets completely discombobulated when one flies thousands of miles in a day.

Whatever the time, it's after dark. And we're both bone-tired and could easily go to bed, but that accomplishes little as one wants to overcome jet lag. Best simply to keep going as if all is as usual with the time.
View of Bolzano from Hotel Room, 17 Dec. 2013
It was nearing dark as we got checked into the hotel, so as dark fell, we walked to the Christmas market, which is in the Walther Square just around the corner from the hotel. People standing around booths and sitting at tables, drinking mulled wine, hot chocolate, schnapps, or glasses of local wines. Steve and I saw a booth with bottles of Treber grappa, which someone recommended to us on the train from Verona to Bolzano (more on that in a moment) and asked to taste it. It really was good, strong and pure with none of the rough edges some grappas can have, or the perfumey flavors boutique grappa makers now seem to be going for.

And then we saw a booth selling wurst, and each had a wurst with a shared glass of Lagrein red wine, whose spicy overtones went well with the wurst. I had farmer's sausage with sauerkraut, Steve a sausage that looked like a Krakauer.

We saw a booth with local cheeses, and bought a wedge of Nusskäse and one of Kräuterkäse, and are now nibbling those with Schüttelbrot we got at a bakery as we walked back from the Weihnachtsmarkt. Steve also got some sliced speck from the grappa dealer, and is eating that. This, with the wursts and shared glass of wine, will be our supper, along with carrot and celery sticks and slices of apples I had prepared for our flight.

It was still dark when we landed at Milan just after 7 A.M. Steve had booked us (i.e., had bought) tickets on the train from Milan to Verona and then from Verona to Bolzano. The train to Verona was to depart at 12:05 P.M., so we assumed we'd have plenty of time to get from the airport to Milan's central train station.

That leg of the trip proved nightmarish, however. Though we'd been told three trains per hour run from the airport into Milan, we waited in the cold beside the tracks for 45 minutes, and then found it took another hour and a half to reach Milan. The train poked along at snail's pace, stopped hither and yon, and sat for ages at each stop.

Even at that, we had several hours' wait at Milan, also in the cold, since the board posting arrivals and departures which we had to monitor for the number of the platform of our train to Verona hangs over the wide al fresco archway heading from the station proper to the platforms.

Drama as we boarded, as a group of shady dealers, two men and two women working in tandem, tried to hoist our luggage and that of others onto the train, and the two women then followed us and others onto the train and tried to bedevil us with advice. They were clearly looking for something to make off with, and left the train before it started.

And drama again at Verona, where Steve asked a train official how we'd find our train to Bolzano, and he pointed us to the other track on our platform. Where, sure enough, a train to Bolzano then appeared on the screen . . . . But we noticed it was not our train number and was later than our train.

So Steve suggested going down to the next level where, again sure enough, we found a board with listings of all trains and saw ours listed. And about to depart.

We ran to get it, arriving just in time, and plopped ourselves down next to a young man who turned out to be from Bolzano, and was delightful--Helmut M. He's the one who told us about the Treber grappa. He very kindly helped us take our luggage from the train to the street leading to our hotel, after we'd arrived in Bolzano. Our hotel, whence I write this now . . . .

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