From My Hiking Archives

Since apparently young minds growing up across the ocean seem to perceive guesthouses - and at that rather derelict shacks claiming to guesthousehood - as some sort of european sophistication in hiking matters, I find myself required to unearth pictures from old hiking archives to put the matter to rest.

First of all, a guesthouse (even an actual one as opposed to that exercise in dilapidation found in Panama) is about as sophisticated as a horse drawn carriage is - perhaps it could be called some sort of sophisticated if only you compare it to walking barefooted or even directly to the half a man riding on a half a lame rabbit perhaps? I'm a bit at a loss in matters of considering in detail the sophistication of village life essentially and not because of a lack of direct knowledge of village life1 but simply because of a lack of anything I could call other than basic (to be kind and not say base instead) in there. I don't really know how to make it plainer than this so if it's still unclear, do use that comments box and ask me more about it.

Second, hiking and sophistication really don't go well at all as far as I can see - not that it isn't tried in the most absurd ways of "trying" of course, what with all the glamping fashion2 and all the money there is perhaps to be extracted through this attempt. Hiking is just that, going about in the woods and you may carry with you only as little or as much sophistication as your own person has - not much to do with the activity itself. And finally, pitching tents and even more generally sleeping outdoors3 doesn't have to be in the muck at all, what malevolent interpretation of "tents on the back" is this!

As my digital archives don't really go back all the way to uni time4, there will be indeed no tent illustrations at all and I'll just skip instead to what a guesthouse looks like in more civilised parts of Europe. Since I took the time to dig through all those archives, I'll sample from two trips rather than just one, as one is in larger company but more along the beaten path while the other is more of my closest group just going as high up as there was any way to go in that direction. But before getting to either of the hiking trips themselves, I still want to emphasise5 that tents != muck and moreover, tents-in-muck is as far as I'm concerned a British perversion *only* and one that they happily indulge in at festivals even (Glastonbury comes to mind), what hiking. Let's not mix therefore British perversions with European traditions - after all, they say it themselves that they had enough of pretending to be part of Europe and I can see their point, pretending is a very tiresome activity indeed! If only they stopped with it all together, now that they figured out just how tiresome it is. Any chance of that?

Getting back to hiking, here's a 28 year old me6 going hiking in the Alps with quite the group. We met for starting point somewhere in town7 at about 300m above sea level on a bright and warm summer day8:
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We took the cable car - the one to San Genesio9 - and I have no idea who took this photo10:
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Once high up at about 1080m, we started off, at first along the tracks of a little train. If it looks like they are following me there, that's because it's exactly what they are doing - I organised that trip as part of a bigger thing and there was quite a group11:
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People wanted photos - or possibly they just wanted a break, so break and photo place we found:
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Leaving the railway to its own path, we went higher up and then we had some view - and more photo requests:
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We passed by well-manicured meadows, old trees and even lakes and little huts at crossroads of sorts, along wooden fences at times but those fences are really more for marking than for keeping anyone out:
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We got to see the "earth pyramids" that are supposedly formations from the last ice age or so it's written everywhere and the pyramids themselves don't care to contradict :
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And we saw a bee museum, ate some honey, looked at the old properly thatched roof and listened to what was new to some and known to others, including for instance how people used to live and even sleep close to the animals in the barn, not out of concern for them but simply out of poverty and otherwise the basic need for heat during the harsh and at times rather long winter at that altitude in the Alps.
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As to the guesthouse interior, here's an illustration of one of the more basic sorts and I'll leave the comparison with the "hostal" to the reader:
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For the second trip, we started by bikes12 from somewhere further along the valley, closer to Meran13 than to Bozen and one of the photographers in the mini-group was apparently not seeing quite straight despite it being really early in the day and before any alcohol at all - or even multiple languages! - were involved:
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I had apparently a straighter camera though and I aimed it at someone too:
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Once high enough, we parked the bikes and checked - or rather some very prepared people with binoculars and all that checked - the far away misty tops right from among the guesthouses14 we didn't have - yet - any interest in:
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We then went up some paths and into the woods where animal-shaped wood grows or rather doesn't grow any further:
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There were some people at work on the grass too and certainly not with a scythe - though they used at least some sensible tools for gathering the hay:
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From high up, the town of Meran can be seen down in the valley:
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For that matter, the valleys in that part of the Alps are quite generous and hold many other things too:
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Somewhere on the route, we had a break at a guesthouse - another one, fancy that! - and I ended up with a cap on too - I don't recall exactly how and why but I have a strong hint in that empty plate that it was part of a deal involving an apfelstrudel mit sahne15:
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We got to one of the tops around and circled an old church of sorts, had a look inside
and then started heading back on the other side of the mountain:
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There was also a little shack that lost its chicken leg16 and so fell down on the side but sadly I couldn't see any fence of bones around it:
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Towards the end we got back to a road that led back into the valley and it seems I didn't quite manage to lose that camo cap either but at least I clearly didn't mind it all that much - it's just hiking after all:
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  1. And I'll spare the reader various descriptions of village life in different parts of Europe. 

  2. For the innocent of relatively modern terms, glamping is essentially a form of glorified camping - it's meant to provide a sort of 5 stars tent where someone else takes care of everything for you but you can still pretend you slept outdoors and otherwise saved the planet or something. 

  3. One certainly sleeps very nicely and entirely not-mucky at that in a bed of hay up in the aired hay-attic in summer and all it takes is proper hay (yes, even hay can be spoiled), a clean sheet and one who knows how to make a bed, I can tell you that. 

  4. Student's hiking in Romania used to be this early morning full train to the mountains, up and about, pitch tent and make fire, play guitar and talk (or listen to) a lot of nonsense, get little to no sleep anyway and then head back to town. There was also more adult hiking including significantly less nonsense. 

  5. Jacob, I'm looking at you!  

  6. That's 10 years ago! 

  7. Bolzano-Bozen, South Tyrol, Italy; it's a rather small town at that. 

  8. I have no idea anymore who exactly took those first pictures in this archive but they are a weird size that I really lost the patience futzing with, so forgive the slight distortion there, sorry. 

  9. The town is basically in the valley, with mountains all around so one gets to choose and pick - which way shall we go *up* today? Down is not really an option much, no. 

  10. I think quite a few pictures in this archive are from Tiago Miguel Laureano and Alessandro Murgia so thank you both! And do let me know if I need to thank someone else too! 

  11. It's not just now that I started teaching people, what can I tell you. After that trip, hopefully even the girl in flip-flops learnt the usefulness of proper shoes or so I've been told. Not like I hadn't warned her upfront that flip-flops are not shoes and doubly not shoes when going hiking. 

  12. And I'm happy to inform Jacob that all bikes involved had perfectly working breaks, well pumped and well adjusted tires, as well as shiny coats of paint, working lights and so on. Because they were our bikes, of course. 

  13. Merano in Italian - South Tyrol has both Italian and German as official languages with all signs bilingual; there's also Ladin as a third language but that's something you'll find mostly in the few Ladin valleys so not much of it in this main part. Meran/Merano is a little town at the entry to the Vinshgau valley and it used to be rather popular in older times with the Empress Elisabeth of Austria among others; currently it's mainly touristical really, as otherwise the route across the Alps into Austria goes through Brenner so through a different valley really. 

  14. Yes, that one with parasols is a proper guesthouse! And that particular one also has a sauna and a pool inside too though I wouldn't go as far as to claim those two are requirements for guesthousehood. Still, mould-free rooms, non-leaky roofs and otherwise a reasonable building standard are a requirement indeed. 

  15. You may call it apple pie with whipped cream but the translation has nothing to do with what I had there. 

  16. You do know about Baba Yaga, yes? 

One Response to “From My Hiking Archives”

  1. [...] (which rather seems like it should have been obvious from the previous day's thread), and provoke a dig in the archives (which unfortunately I've only skimmed so far but looks like it will be [...]

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