It was time for us to go shopping for lederhosen and a dirndl for Herbstfest! Herbstfest is a smaller beer festival, celebrated in Rosenheim, leading up to the infamous opening date for Octoberfest in Munich. Many cities throughout Germany hold their own beer festivals, celebrating the beers of their local breweries within the city. Shopping for these unique outfits was an interesting experience! The lady who helped us was very helpful as she guided us in the right directions: from not choosing the “old man” clothes for Wade and how to properly tie my dirndl apron so that other men would know that I am married vs. single. The things tourists would easily not know! It amuses me to hear all of the little things locals will instantly judge a non-Bavarian or German person and instantly be able to point out who the tourists are. Some of these things will be ordering Weisswurst (white sausage) following lunch, which seems to be forbidden and simply by the way you cut and eat your sausage (apparently there is a certain way)! I’m sure both Wade and I stood out like a sore thumb because not only have we ordered the Weisswurst around 5pm without knowing, we also ate the sausage without taking the skin off and ate it with our hands!
Wade’s team was planning a team party at Herbstfest for their day off but Wade and I were anxious to see what it was all about. On the Saturday it opened, we were already downtown and instead of going out for dinner, we were thinking we would do some food tasting at some of the vendors. We had no idea how to get to Herbstfest but it was easy to find, seeing all of the people walking in the same direction, all dressed up in their lederhosen and dirndls! As we approached the entrance, we couldn’t look any more like tourists, wearing regular street clothes, taking tons of photos and Wade wearing a backpack with a Canadian flag on in! I was in awe from this beautiful boutique like carnival, filled with adorable wooden vendors selling the most amazing food and treats! But what really took us back was walking into one of the beer tents for the first time!
The second I saw the entrance for the beer tent, I told Wade, “let’s go sit down for a beer”! When we walked into the tent, it almost felt as if everyone in the room was looking at us and some bluntly laughed at us! I guess we didn’t get the memo but on opening day, it seemed to have been mandatory to be dressed in your Bavarian attire! It seemed almost impossible to find one seat in the massive tent filled with hundreds of people! We were about to turn around to leave the tent and wait to experience it with the team, when all of the sudden we were approached by the car dealer, who helped us get set up with our cars when we first arrived. He invited us up to his table where we realized he was actually the father of one of the guys who was practicing with Wade’s team, getting ready for his own season in North America! His name was Phillip and was sitting with his girlfriend, Lisa, who I instantly adored! We ended up staying for quite a while, visiting and getting to know their family. They were more than generous and treated us to a couple of beers (which are insanely massive in the beer tents) and to our first real pretzel (also insanely massive)! As we were talking, Wade’s game for the next day got brought up which was going to be in Italy. It happened to be one of Phillip & Lisa’s favorite city so they seemed excited about it. They briefly spoke to each other in German and then Lisa looked at me and suggested they both could take me for a day trip if I wanted to because they would love to go back before the end of summer! I of course said “Yes!” and was instantly so excited for our spontaneous day trip to Italy for the following day!
We left first thing the next morning and began our 2.5 hour drive into Neumarkt, which is in South Tyrol, Italy, just outside of Bolzano. I have done the ‘Best of Italy Tour’ before but it never took us to this part of Italy. The drive alone was absolutely breathtaking! As we drove out of Germany, we were driving in a valley surrounded with the most beautiful scenery, filled with huge mountains in every direction. The drive literally got better by the minute as we made our way up the mountains and drove through the Alps into Italy! I felt like a little kid as I was constantly having to switch sides in the car, so that I could look out the window at the best views possible. The drive sort of reminded me of driving through the Rockies, only a billion times better! The steep hills were covered in the brightest shades of deep green grass, with houses scattered in random places throughout the mountains. Along the way, we drove across the ‘Bridge of Europe’ known as Europabrücke, which is over 2,500 ft. long and stands 620 ft. off the ground, curving around the mountains. Randomly, we would see so many castles along the way and as we got closer to our destination, there were wine vineyards that slowly started appearing more and more. The vineyards were all on steep hills throughout the mountains and created the most breathtaking scenery.
Once we arrived in Neumarkt, we were going to meet Phillip & Lisa’s family friends for lunch who lived there. They were both Italian and only the husband was able to speak some English. They piled into our car and we started driving up the hill through the most authentic Italian neighborhoods I’ve ever seen! The streets all looked like they should have been made as one-way streets. Every time a car would be heading in our direction, neither cars would slow down, yet both would magically pass each other seamlessly. As we made our way up the hill, we had passed through the old town and now were surrounded by trees, driving on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the beautiful valley. I had no idea what to expect based on where we were heading for lunch. Once we almost reached the top of the mountain, we pulled into a long dirt driveway and arrived at what it seemed to be some sort of ranch with a prime view of the city below. Lisa told me it was a team lunch for a hockey team and their families. We helped ourselves to the buffet and sat under the trees at one of the open picnic tables. There were so many people sitting around eating lunch as their kids were all running around in the grassy hills, wearing their lederhosen and dirndls. I felt as if I was living in a real life version of The Sound of Music! I learned that this area in Italy, a lot of German cultures would been seen here such as through their clothing and many people not only speak Italian but also speak German.
As we were eating, a lot of the Italians sat around us to visit with Phillip and Lisa. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming. Once we were finished lunch, we were all served glasses of limoncello which looked like a shot glass. We all saluted and thankfully I took a moment and waited for someone else to go first because I was about to down mine and take it as a shot! Everyone casually sipped it so I followed to do the same. As we were about to leave and head to the game, I noticed someone who was wearing a Canucks jersey, sitting in the middle of a random mountain in Italy! I asked him why he was wearing it and he said it was from a player from the Canucks who was playing in Neumarkt during the strike – small world! Most of the conversations during lunch were not in English but I couldn’t stop smiling from all that I was surrounded with!
Neumarkt is apparently warm with nice weather all year round. Going to a hockey game in Italy was pretty interesting because the rink was joined to a public swimming pool! In the lounge area where you buy your drinks, it was in an enclosed room for the swimmers to also have access to. This was pretty funny because in the room, there were a ton of people standing in bathing suits, watching Wade’s hockey game (this was my second European hockey game)! Wade later told me he looked up and had to take a second look that he was actually seeing someone watching his game, wearing a speedo!
I was beyond grateful for Phillip & Lisa to have taken me on that day trip! It was an incredible experience, surrounded by amazing people. I couldn’t stop telling Wade all that I had experienced and really wanted to take him back to see all that I was able to see. A couple of weeks later, he had two days off, when he normally only has one. We decided to take our first overnight trip, back to Neumarkt and treat it as the beginning of our never ending honeymoon! Prior to us leaving, I emailed my brother in-law, who is a sommelier, asking if he knows of any vineyards in the area that are worth checking out. He wrote back giving a couple of places and said he was jealous we were going there because it is considered one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world (which doesn’t surprise me)! We looked up both vineyards and Franz Haas ended up being just up the street from where we were staying! Once we arrived to our hotel, they had bikes available to use, so we rode them up to the winery. The road we were riding our bikes on looked like a slight incline but once we made it halfway up to the winery, we both desperately needed a break. We decided to stop for a drink on a cute little patio, covered with trees giving off needed shade. We sat and ordered a cheese and meat platter, a couple of glasses of wine and fully took in the gorgeous view.
What was said to be a 10 min bike ride, ended up taking us over an hour before we finally arrived to Franz Haas. I insisted we stop for a photo opp along the way because the view was yet again insanely breathtaking! After our wine tasting, we made our way back down, purposely getting lost amongst the old windy streets with hidden gems found in every corner! We found cute cobblestone alleyways, an adorable downtown area and then came across another cute patio covered in trees with hanging lights scattered around, creating the most beautiful ambiance. We decided to stop for dinner and had the most delicious, authentic, gourmet, gnocchi either of us had ever tasted! Everything about our day was perfect from start to finish and neither of us could believe we were just doing a quick overnight trip in Italy!
The next day, we packed our car up and before going back home, I wanted to take Wade to a restaurant we drove past with Phillip & Lisa. It was back up the mountain where we went for lunch, which was an experience I wanted Wade to have as well! We made our way up the mountain and Wade was just as taken back from our surroundings as I originally was! It literally feels like a whole other world up there! We first drove past the restaurant to check out what was beyond that point and came across a small town called Trodena at the top of the mountain! We were astonished with this small community and what their way of life would be like, away from it all. It was literally on the top of a mountain and all you could see were the peaks of the many other mountains that surrounded it. The drive to get back into the main part of town is probably 30 minutes, driving down the scary one-way road on the edge of a cliff! We finally had lunch outside in the garden of the adorable hotel restaurant, zur Mühle. The building reminded me of an old Bavarian home, filled with beautiful colorful flowers on all of the deck’s railings and again was sitting in the middle of the mountains. I asked our server if we could have a tour of the hotel's updated, modern, interior because I may just need to come back!
As we were driving back down the road, we decided to drive around the authentic town we drove through to get up the mountain called Pinzano. Once again, we purposely got lost in the cobblestone streets which lead us into another authentic town call Montagna! It was filled with the most interesting homes and buildings and suddenly you overlook incredible views into the valley of Neumarkt. I could drive around, getting lost in those streets for days! Since this region is also covered in fruit orchards, we stocked up on some fresh fruit and made our way back, experiencing the most epic drive imaginable! I must say, to this day, Italy holds two of my all-time favorite drives – The Amalfi Coast and driving through The South Tyrolean Wine Road! It is something I will forever recommend to anyone and will most definitely promote the idea of going back to any of our future visitors!