Beer Reviews: Trapp Pilsner

BeerBohemian Pilsner
Brewer: Von Trapp Brewing
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.1 of 10)
Comments: A golden, sparkling beer with a musty grain and spice aroma.  The taste is of biscuits, but bitter around the edges.  No lace and no head quickly after you start drinking, just yummy basic Pilsner flavor.


Honeymoon + 10: Day #6: Lazy Sunday Hike from Marinzen and Meeting Oetzi

The final day of our honeymoon remembered….


While our first room at Hotel zum Wolf had a view of the mountains, the view from our current room was dominated by a close-up view of the church tower. As each bell vigorously called out to demand parishioners attend morning mass, we realize that sleeping-in is not an option. After a breakfast buffet at the hotel, we take a ride on the Marinzen chair lift. The open air rides provides a good view of the open meadows, the fairytale forest, and the skyline of Kastelruth dwindling in the background. Liam is anxious about getting off at the upper terminus, but discovers that chair lifts are lot easier without skis. We stop to write postcards and sip cappuccino at the Marizen-Hutte. Around the hutte is a children’s petting zoo and we look at the cats, goats, pigs, donkeys, and ducks. One Wilhelm-Goat is particularly impressive although uncooperative about posing for pictures.

Hiking through awe-inspiring open meadows.

We walk down the trails that return to Kastelruth. First they pass through thick forests, occasionally opening into small pastures where cow grazes. Liam poses with the cows for a picture and then inadvertently frightens one by getting too close. As we descend we pass by picturesque farmhouses, barns, and vacation homes. The forest ends and the trail crosses open meadows that make one want to spin around singing “the hills are alive.” We rest on a bench and watch as children ride up the trail on ponies, their guides stopping to give them lambs to hold (although we feel they’re far to young to be playing with these animals). At long last our stroll returns us to the city center of Kastelruth, where we have another yummy meal and more beer.

We take the bus back to Bolzano, Liam finding the close air inside the bus, the rapid twists and turns, and vertiginous drops to the right of the bus to be a bit nauseating. In Bolzano, we bail out our extra bags from luggage check and then check ourselves in the Hotel Feichter. We wander across the city to the South Tirol Museum of Archaeology, home of the iceman Oetzi. Susan wisely rents an English audio guide and is nice enough to share it with Liam when he discovers that all the labels are in Italian and German. The museum is a comprehensive collection of archaeological artifacts from the South Tirol region starting on the ground floor in the Neolithic Age and winding up the stairs through prehistoric times, the Roman Era, and into the Middle Ages.

The centerpiece exhibit is the mummified remains of a Copper Age man found by a pair of Alpinists in the mountains along the Italian-Austrian border in 1991. An entire floor of exhibits contain the well-preserved remains of this man’s clothing, tools and weapons with interpretations of how the iceman may have used them. As the two British narrators on the audio guide frequently comment, “We don’t know for sure.” The remains of the iceman – nicknamed Oetzi – are kept in a temperature and light-controlled room that visitors may peek into to see his shrunken, tattooed body. The narrators of the audio guide remind us that Oetzi is a dead human being and this is his final resting place and to treat it with respect – in fact they insist one turns off the audioguide before entering the room. It’s both eerie and amazing to see the 5,000-year-old remains of this human being (although it’s actually less creepy than the scourging of Christ on Calvario).

The museum is well-designed and fascinating, but museum-fatigue and hunger set in and Liam decides we must go. Finding a place to eat in Bolzano on a Sunday evening is not the easiest thing as most restaurants and pubs are closed, so we settle for a sidewalk cafe that serves food that obviously was heated in a microwave. We return to the hotel where Susan curls up with her fantasy book, but after packing his bags for the trip home, Liam gets restless and goes for a walk. After dark there are now numerous cafes and beerhouses open and overflowing with customers but Liam is not linguistically adventurous enough to go in for a drink. So he sits in Piazza Walther, admiring the catalpa trees that remind him of Williamsburg and the illuminated cross on the mountaintop overlooking the city which looks like it is floating in the dark of night. Liam also finds a machine that vends Pez candy and brings some back to Susan as treats from Mt. Pez that he found stuck to his hiking boots.

Residents of Bolzano commute to work by bicycle.

The next morning we take a cab to the Bolzano airport to begin our journey home. We fly a prop-plane to Rome and from there fly to New York and then on to Boston. It is a long day of travel with all three flights crowded and delayed so we arrive home more frazzled than rested. But we have our memories of Italy and our hopes to one day return.

Full photo album from Day #6: Kastelruth and Bolzano.

Beer Reviews: Whetstone Prime Porter

Beer: Prime Porter
BrewerWhetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7 of 10)

Another Brattleboro exclusive, this porter is jet black with a thin ahead and the aroma of roast coffee. The flavor is velvety milk chocolate.  The glass is lacey although the head dissipates.  Overall: yum.

Honeymoon + 10: Day #5: To Tierser Alpl and Back Down

The fifth day of our honeymoon remembered….


We awake to a chilly morning, the shadows and sunrise transforming the appearance of the surrounding mountains, and a dramatic undercast filling the valleys below. In the dining room, we’re among the first to take our seat and felt further shunned as all the German-speakers gather around the other table to chat and eat breakfast. After breakfast we begin our hike along the ridge of the Schlernalm/Altipiano Dello Sciliar. Again the views are quite impressive, the Alpe di Siussi on our left and a more distant valley down the steep slopes on our right. At one particularly dramatic overlook, an elderly couple we recognize from the Schlernhaus offer to take our picture. Susan and the gentleman converse awkwardly in German, while the woman tells her husband several times that we are “Amerikanische“. Finally the man hears his wife and says, fluently, “Well, in that case we should speak English!” After a laugh, Susan apologizes for not being able to speak German well, but that man replies, “That’s okay, we’re Norwegian.” We tell him about our problems communicating at the hutte, but he says reassuringly that it’s not a problem, “as long as you can eat.”

The language divide provides a moment of levity for Liam & Susan as a fellow hiker takes their portrait with a dramatic backdrop.

Past this point the trail winds around a deep gorge where several mountain ranges meet. The views here a particularly fascinating and Liam stops frequently to take photographs. Peaks of limestone tower over us looking like the drip-castles children build on the beach and perhaps are an inspiration for Frank Gehry’s architectural style. While the hike is generally not too strenuous, our untrained lungs find it difficult to breathe in this altitude, and after passing through the gorge a slight uphill grade feels like a deathmarch to Liam. We stop to refuel at Tierser Alpl hutte where Liam perks himself up with an espresso and fills his tummy with polenta, while Susan enjoys the Huttennudeln.

From here begins the descent back into the Alpe di Siussi along a series of maddening switchbacks that zigzag among loose rocks. The descent here is much steeper than our ascent of the previous day and Susan feels like a wimp not climbing up this side, but a smart wimp. Liam points out that she is in fact a luck wimp since she had no idea what the trails would be like. Numerous huffing and puffing Wanderen are coming up the trail and apparently ask us how far to the hutte. Susan is forced frequently to say “Es tut mir lied. Ich spreche nur Englishe.” Liam smiles and nods. Every time we think we’ve neared the end of the descent we turn a corner to find more switchbacks. Eventually we reach the meadow where the trail levels out. Along the trail, a Haflinger stands blocking the way and Susan enjoy a close-up look at the horse until it bares his teeth at her. The trail crosses the meadow where the ground is spongy and springs back after you step on it so that no footprints are left behind.

Susan befriends a Haflinger, one of the stocky little horses specfically bred to be workhorses in the high altitude of the Italian alps.

Our hike comes to an end at the Panorama hotel, where a group of children are intrigued by a paddock filled with little goats (the kids like the kids). There’s a chairlift to Compatsch here, but since there is no staff to let us on we decide to walk down the road. Along the way we notice some rulebreakers hop on the chairlift of their own volition. From Compatsch we take the Seiser Alm Bahn again, this time hearing conversations in three languages among our fellow travelers in the gondola. The shuttle bus is crowded and we have to stand and hold onto our packs as the bus speeds around the bends of the mountain roads. Burgi greets us and apologizes that she cannot put is in a room with a balcony again. The room also lacks a sofa, a dinette table, a hairdryer and a shower curtain. We think that Burgi is trying to tell us something. Liam discovers that his water bottle leaked and wet all his clothing and thus has no clean shirt to wear. While Liam washes clothing in the sink, Susan heroically returns to the sporting goods store and purchase Liam a lovely plaid shirt made of a wicking fabric.

We dine at a pizzeria, recovering from our hike with a couple of pizzas and lots of weisebier. We write postcards and listen to the church bell ring frantically as it calls worshipers to the vigil Mass. After the sun sets we go on a walk around the Calvario/Kalvarienberg hill where life-size dioramas show the stations of the cross. The scourging of Christ is particularly creepy in the dark. We encounter other walkers including a pair of children out on their own playing with flashlights and some dogwalkers whose vicious hunden bark vigorously at us. Liam worries that we are walking further and further away from Kastelruth on the dark wooded paths, but then we turn a bend and come upon a view of the Kastelruth church tower. Susan claims that she knew the path was circular all along. After another loop around, we head back to our hotel and help ourselves to drinks in the self-serve bar and look through the stacks of German board games. Back in our room, Liam flips the TV channels vainly in search of soccer, fussball, or calcio, but ends up watching the end of Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy humorously dubbed into German. Susan just sits back obsessively reading her George R.R. Martin book until drifting off to sleep.

Full photo album from Day #5: Hiking the Alpe di Siusi and Seiser Alm

Beer Reviews: Whetstone WIPA Snappa

Beer: WIPA Snappa
BrewerWhetstone Station Restaurant and Brewery
Source:  Draft
Rating: *** (7.3 of 10)
Comments: The first of a couple of beers from this experimental brewpub in Brattleboro, VT.  It’s a cloudy, straw-colored beer with light carbonation and a thin head.  The aroma is a mix of grapefruit and sweet pastry, while the flavor includes lemon drops and rye bread.  It has a thin mouthfeel and leaves whispy lace on the glass.  Whatever it is, it works!



Sunday, 9/27 @ 2 PM: Cambridge Common walking tour



This Sunday I will be leading a Boston By Foot Tour of the Month of Cambridge Common, both the park and the neighborhood surrounding it which includes churches, collegiate campuses, and family homes.  It’s fun and chock full of history!  Buy tickets online at Boston By Foot, and meet us at the Harvard MBTA Red Line station/Out of Town News in Harvard Square before 2 pm!


Founded in 1631, Cambridge Common Park was once the common pasture for Old Cambridge. Later it served as an encampment for the Continental Army. Today it’s home to playgrounds and ballfields, surrounded by historic houses, churches, and buildings of Harvard University.  We’ll explore nearly 400 years of history & architecture on our loop of Cambridge Common.


Honeymoon + 10: Day #4: The Hike from Compatsch to Mt. Pez

The fourth day of our honeymoon remembered….


The sun rise and mist give the mountains a blueish tint in the morning. Susan watches from our hotel balcony as young backpapers pour out of the buses and remembers when European youths carried simpler leather rectangular backpacks. Susan needs a sleepsack to stay in the rifugio so we visit the sporting goods store next to the hotel. Susan is unable to communicate “sleepsack” in fractured German even to the staff member who speaks English, but when Liam mimes sleeping the woman leads us right to the sleepsacks. In the town square next to the church the Friday market is set up where we stock up on apples for the hike. One of the vendors wears a Tirolean hat much to Liam’s delight. At the bakery, Susan says “drei” when she means “zwei” so we end up with three pretzels and three rolls. There are worse things.

We ride a free shuttle bus to the Seiser Alm Bahn, the cable car which will carry us 800 meters higher in elevation to the town of Compatsch in the Alpe de Siusi. Aboard the gondola, a friendly couple from Stuttgart — the first of many middle-age German couples we’d encounter — point out the ruins of a 500-year-old ruins of a castle. They also tell us about the Haflingers, the stocky horses specially bred to perform hard work in alpine meadows. In Compatsch we are greeted by the sight of a Haflinger standing by a cross so still we weren’t sure if it was live or a model. Liam decides it’s a representative of “Haflingers for Christ.”

The Seiser Alm looks forbidding in the distance. Are we sure we’re going to hike up that?

We walk through the town and begin our hike on the wide paths across the meadow of the Alpe di Siussi. The grade is gentle as we amble across the meadow, but the limestone peaks loom ominously in the distance. Along the way we encounter paddocks of Haflingers, grazing cows and sheep, and a barnyard with free-range bunnies. The cowbells and sheep-bells add a gentle tinkling music to the meadow which can be heard clearly even at some distance from the animals. We stop at the Saltnerhutte, a rifugio that only provides refreshments for hikers. We enjoy the strudel and Susan quaffs a mug of fresh milk. Beyond the Saltnerhutte we cross a ravine by way of the Tschapitbrücke , a beautiful and award-winning wood bridge. After the bridge we begin the ascent of the Sciliar (in Italian) or the Schlern (in German). Despite the steepness of the slope, the trail follows gentle switchbacks which are much less exhausting than the vertical ascents of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. Around each bend is a beautiful view of the Alpe di Siussi or down into the valley as far away as Kastelruth. Changing light and angles have dramatic affect in altering the view.

More hikers appear to be descending than ascending so we offer many a “Gruss Gott!” all the way to the top. Near the end of the hike, Liam’s ability to say “God’s greeting” in German apparently convinces another hiker that Liam can actually converse in the language. The man says something that could mean “You gauche Americans wear shorts while hiking,” or looking at Liam’s Mets’ cap, “You root for a piss-poor baseball team,” or perhaps he said “The Schlernhaus is around the next bend, good luck!” We soon spotted our night’s lodging known as the Schlernhaus/Rifugio Bolzano, which sits dramatically on the mountainside, its peaked roofs giving it the appearance of a chalet. We check into the hutte and stow our bags in our room and head out again to complete our ascent of the Schlern to its highest point: Mt. Pez. The views from 2562 meters are astounding. We can see the across Alpe di Siussi and out to other mountain ranges for miles around. The tinkling of sheep-bells rises even to this lofty height, but otherwise the peak is soothingly quiet. On a nearby plateau someone arranged rocks in the shape of a hand so it looks as if a giant mountain climber is reaching over the cliff edge. Archaeological remains found on Mt. Pez show that it was a sight of sacrifices in prehistoric times as well as witch hunts in the Middle Ages.

A cross marks the tippy-top of Mt. Pez.

We return the hutte for supper, and at the family-style tables we join a German couple. They are friendly at first, but as more German-speakers arrive we begin to feel a bit shunned. The food is good and filling, and nothing is more satisfying than a glass of weisebier after a day’s hike. The hutte-master offers a German Scrabble game — the “Z” is worth a mere 3 points, while vowels with umlauts are worth 8 points each — but we are too tired to play. We head off to our room to crawl into bed. As a bedtime story, Liam shares the Legend of Mt. Pez. On moonlit nights at the stroke of midnight, the peak of Mt. Pez creaks open, and from the yawning chasm out shoots large pieces of candy. For a moment Susan is fooled into believing this to be an actual legend, but only for a moment.

Full photo album from Day # 4: Hiking the Alpe di Siusi and Seiser Alm.



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