Dolomites Diary Day 4
14,092 steps
A visit to the Lago di Braies, followed by a mooch around Brunico and an excellently alpine dinner at Saalerwirt

One of the main reasons for our trip to Canada a couple of years ago was to see breathtaking mountain scenery, the likes of which we just couldn't get in Europe.

It turns out that we had our very own Lake Louise on our doorstep all along!

After three days of pretty strenuous hiking, we decided to take it a bit easier and have a midweek slump instead. We headed out to the Lago di Braies, packing up a picnic of bread and cheese and vegetables and chocolate and cherries from our rather full fridge.

The lake was a little busy, to say the least. The large car parks were already nearly full when we arrived and the path circling the lake got fairly congested at times. At the start- and end-points, the path is mainly flat and level but it's worth noting that for those with accessibility requirements, there are some stairs and inclines/descents involved.

Aside from the practicalities and the bustling crowds, the lake was the spitting image of Lake Louise which we visited back in 2015. It's a jewel in all its splendour, nestled in the basin of the mountains. I quite honestly couldn't believe my eyes when we arrived.

We followed the crowds around the lake, moving at a relatively slow pace (a blessing for me after trying to keep up with my three fellow mountain goats during the previous few days). Due to the narrow width of the paths and the high volume of people, we weren't really able to stop and enjoy the views so as soon as we spotted a deserted patch of beach below us, we scrambled down towards it along stony slopes, grasping onto trees for dear life. Enjoying the relative isolation and quiet, we changed into our swimming gear and jumped into the lake which was absolutely ice cold and only bearable for a few minutes! We quickly swapped it for sunning ourselves on the rocks and reading in the shade, watching the little fish swim inquisitively up to the shoreline before disappearing back into the turquoise depths.

Our rocky little piece of shore was a bit too uncomfortable to stick around on for long so we clambered back up to the lakeside path again in search of a grassier spot for lunch before ambling back along the lakeside path to our starting point.

Once we had left our bags back in the apartment, we set out to explore the nearby city of Brunico. Within walking distance from the little village of Teodone, we followed the paths that flanked fields of corn and potatoes into the city centre. We sat outside the first little cafe we found and had a delicious affogato (which we obviously needed after the morning's strenuous hike... ahem) before wandering aimlessly around the town centre.

We wanted to explore up near the castle a little more and so took a path that snaked around the back of the shops and up towards the higher ground upon which it sat. As we climbed up, the sunlight shifted from white to gold and a blue storm began to roll down the green valley towards us (luckily we escaped getting drenched!)

The castle is now home to one of the Messner Mountain Museums (Ripa), this one specifically dedicated to the subject of mountain peoples and their culture. We didn't go in as we just missed opening times by the time we trundled up there but it definitely looks like it'd be worth a visit for those with more time! Instead, we walked back through Brunico towards home.

But our rest day wasn't over yet! I had been left in charge of choosing a spot for dinner and settled upon the Michelin guide recommended Saalerwirt up in the hills overlooking our valley.

We drove along winding roads through small towns and then clusters of trees and then out across the hillsides. Our destination was one of the oldest inns in Sud Tirol, perched up on the hillside with a view of the distant mountains receding behind a haze of rain. We sat out on the terrace with a glass of prosecco before moving inside to the most charming fairytale of a stube I have ever seen.

Dinner for me was a tartare of finferli (local mushrooms) and potato (deliciously savoury and excitingly meaty for a veggie dish) and cheesey canederli with a light cabbage salad on the side. All washed down with a very healthy dose of Gewurztraminer to boot!

(If you ever come across this wine, get it!!)

And how could I finish without ordering a slab of Sacher torte that was almost as big as my head? This was the third Sacher I ate that week (none of the others having been worth mentioning) and it was divine. Soft, chocolatey sponge sandwiched with a fruity apricot jam and slathered in rich, sugary chocolate. So. Damn. Good.

And to top it all off, we were treated to a performance from (what we were told was) the world champion accordion player! It doesn't get much better than that...

A wonderful day to recoup before getting out and about on the mountains once more the following day!