Sunday, September 23, 2007

All Singletrack leads to Strudel

All singletrack leads to strudel...well, let me be more specific. On September 7, 2007 in the tiny town of Seis, Italy, all singletrack leads to strudel.
The first 2 weeks of September, in the Castelrotto region of Northern Italy, the celebration of apple/grape harvest is celebrated in fine fashion. This is not redneck ville cotton pickin' apple fest. Strudel Weeks is a serious occasion and is no free-for-all, money grubbing vendor showdown, hillbilly's strutting around in halter tops selling greasy inedible treats labeled as "strudel".

Italians take enormous pride in their cooking, or baking, as the case may be. Especially older nonna's that can make better strudel than any old grandmother from America. I don't care if she is from Helen, GA. Strudel Weeks is a grand celebration representing decades of tradition of the fine art of making the best strudel in the world from the region that produces the best apples in the world.

After coming down off cloud nine from our grande climb up Mt. Tremalzo in Lake Garda, we drove back north returning to the magical town of Castelrotto. Today was Friday, and we had the whole day to rest up and recoup before joining our friends on Saturday for our last big ride of the trip. We would be climbing the great Stelvio Pass, so we wanted to be nice and fresh for the grand finale.

Based once again at the wonderful Residence Vroni, we started out in search of singletrack. Armed with a tourist map and a misguided sense of direction, we pedaled on in oblivion to the strudel fantasy taking place less than a mile away from our fatty treads.

Raja had picked senterio #6 just down the street leading towards Bad Ratzes.
Handy markings on rocks and other various surfaces, clue you in to if you are on the right path.

Those markings make things easier. Easier for your sense of direction, not always for an easier effort. Sometimes that lovely red trail on the map turns out to be a steep rocky trials course.

Our route takes us from narrow paved lanes, to tricky rocky hikes, to nicely groomed gravel doubletrack, to sliced thin singletrack. With nice views during every transition, of course.

I love the exquisite detail on this home's "tiny" balcony we find as our trail pops out onto a small lane. Reminds me of the cabins we ride by in the Cohuttas.

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I feel like we've entered a fairy tale land. Lush moss covered foliage covered by a canopy of towering firs and pines creates the perfect scene complimented by the overwhelming sound of a rushing mountain river.

Today is rest day, playtime, no agenda, it's okay to get lost day.

Having spent the previous 4 days riding on open road climbs or descending doubletrack, it is a welcome change to pick our way through the forest on glorious singletrack.

Gingerly we tackle the uphills. Our minds are still stoked from yesterday's climb up Tremalzo, but our legs are living in real time. Easy now, work out that acid so tomorrow we can climb to the heavens.

We pedal by Ruine Hauenstein, a relic from the past. No big deal. We ride by these back home all the time on the Pinhoti trail.

This is when you wish you had a tour guide along to tell tales rich in history, of castles and kings, prisoners and valiant heroes (this was probably someone's vacation home).
We came across Ruine Salegg, providing a stunning backdrop for a view of the valley and mountains beyond.

Enough viewing, the singletrack beckons, we must heed its call.

Thank goodness we're going down this part.

We consulted the map and realized our current path would continue to take us down a few thousand feet. Having to return back up the singletrack would be a long and arduous task that we were not up to today. Climbing back on the narrow mountain road filled with traffic was also not a favorable option. We decided to pop out of the trail system into a nearby town, Seis.

That's when it happened........

There she was, Nonna Helga with her best friend, Nonna Greti, whipping up a batch of homemade strudel.

Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Raja and I were falling over our pedals trying to contain ourselves. What do we do? What do we do?

Okay, alright, let's hurry back to the room, shower, and get back down here, STAT!
No monkeying around. I want there to be strudel still on that tree when we get back!

We pedaled up the hill to our hotel in record time. With forks in hand, we raced back down to Seis like two kids running down the stairs on Christmas morning.
We scanned the scene. How does this work? You buy strudel vouchers at the booth for 2 euro each. "I'll take drei strudel, bitte."

Out of my way, little bambino. That piece of strudel has my name on it!

Laden with 3 strudels(2 apple and 1 ricotta), we planted ourselves down on some stone steps, ready to engage. Not much talking between us now, just the sounds of MMmmmmmm as we indulged in the most delicious strudel in the world.

If you are wondering what the big deal is over strudel, then you obviously have never been to Strudel Weeks or have never had strudel prepared by a loving Nonna or Grussmutter in Europe. Trust me, it's heavenly. The apples are different, the flour is different, the technique is different. Odds are the food prepared for you in Italy was made from ingredients grown within a 5 mile radius of the community. Food takes on the characteristics of the soil, the people, their way of life. The lively and vibrant lives of these people is transfered into their food of rich flavors and delicate taste.

With smiles on our faces and full tummies, we wandered around to see what else was happening. A lively ensemble of 5 playing Tirolean music made me walk a little lighter on my feet. I strolled over to take a picture of the group when I noticed a familiar face. It was our own Hubert Plunger, from our hotel, playing the horn (3rd from left); the Plunger's are the hotel owners.

I knew the owners were serious musicians (the hotel has a soundproof room for practicing), but I didn't give it much thought. Hubert gave us a CD his ensemble produced. When we play it here at home, that wonderful atmosphere is recreated. But without the strudel, it's just not the same.

AH, the Dolomites. Where dreams really do come true!
Another perfect day; beautiful singletrack and delicious strudel.
What more could you ask for?

I don't know how, but this trip keeps getting better and better!
We didn't do too much planning, and it has been our most memorable trip ever!
Tomorrow would be another dream come true for Raja! Climbing the Stelvio!
We're not done yet!
Today's slide show:

a video from yesterday's finish of Tremalzo

riding thru the piazza in Riva del Garda

I love riding thru tunnels!


James Bigler said...

I love the picture of the valley looking through the ruins. I also like the one of the flowers. It looks like you photo-shopped the colors since they are so bright.

I think Amy and I might have passed you on the Silver Comet yesterday. I thought it was you, but I couldn't be sure since you had on a roadie disguise.

Mark D. said...

Hey stranger......just stumbled upon your blog.Nice work.

Mark D.

Becky said...

Great story as always - and the pic with the flowers and church steeple AND mountaintop is breathtaking! Yeah you must be the master on photo-shop ;)