“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl
As Mid-July settled over Rome and people from all over the world descended, we knew it was time to go. Our early mornings at the Trevi fountain alone or our lazy evenings listening to music on the Spanish Steps, were now entering their peak season and it was time say arrivederci. We have traversed over diverse landscapes but the majority of our time has been in mighty, noble cities. We have been voracious students of Western Civilization and its many grand contributions to the world. From Rome to Madrid, to Paris and beyond, we have been humbled, each day, by architectural wonders and artistic genius. Where do we go now to reconnect with each other away from the crowds on this popular continent?
As we drove north through the Dolomites and began to explore Tyrol and the Austrian Alps, we knew we had found our place. The crawling, numerous day trippers and shoppers were still evident in towns like Merano, Selva di Val Gardena and Kitzbuhel but in minutes we could be all alone on an alpine trail smelling of saccharine hay and dripping berries, with the birds chattering anxiously about our arrival.
As our confidence grew, we wandered deeper into the Zillertal Alps and spent many days alone with some of mother natures monuments. We will never forget the power of the “Wasserfalle” in Krimml. It is the largest waterfall in Europe and the fifth largest in the world AND it is still dwarfed by the peaks from which is tumbles. The toothless grin from the woman collecting mushrooms near the Patscherkofel peak was the first person we had spotted in three hours and the last we would see on that ominous trail. The storm that draped over the Mayrhofen Valley drove us quickly from the trails back to our cozy rooms over a working dairy in Ellbogen (population 1,000) where we were treated to warm bread and fresh milk each morning.
This region, although not a secret to many, was a hidden, unlikely glittering place for our family. We discovered magic in the solitude and found the crowds full of joyful noise when we came out of the woods to welcome their company. Up to this point we have been intent on connecting with culture and history and our ancestry. This time, rooted in the great forests of Tyrol, connected us to each other through the ease and majesty of nature.