Fog hung heavy in the valley. I knew that mountains over 3000 meters high stretched towards the skies around me, but saw only misty clouds of white. I closed my eyes.
Feet placed firmly on the yoga mat beneath me, I breathed in. Out. In. Out.
For a little while, silence took over. Until softly, not far away, sounds of a Viola da Gamba started filling the fresh mountain air – Luciana Elizondo, Argentinian artist and singer, started her improvisation. Inspired by the atmosphere at Goasroscht, a little goat cheesery tucked away high up in the Italian mountains, she would provide live musical background for the day’s practice.
The second day of Talklang Festival in Sand in Taufers, Alto Adige (Southern Tyrol), Italy, was off to a good start.
The reason for my visit: Talklang Festival
I had arrived two days earlier, getting off the train stunned by the scenic ride through the Austrian, then Italian Alps. The reason for my visit: The very first edition of Talklang, a new festival combining (classical) music, nature, and mindfulness. It would take place during four days in different, powerful places around Sand in Taufers – mountain lakes, waterfalls, alpine chapels, summits, and villages – drawing on the natural energy around us, combining haunting music with stunning settings, and exploring both the sounds made by man as well as those created by our surroundings.
Photo by Manuel Kottersteger.
Before I let myself be awed into silence by Talklang, however, I still had one and a half days to spare. I had lost my heart to South Tyrol a few months ago, when I went to Merano and the surrounding area for a romantic skiing/spa holiday, and came back with a long list of places I wanted to come back to. My question was not exactly what to do – but how to fit all of it into the little time I had.
Scenic views and mountain insights: MMM Corones
In the end, I decided on a visit to MMM Corones. The little museum, perched on the very top of mountain Plan de Corones, or Kronplatz, is one of the six locations of mountaineer Reinhold Messner’s mountain exhibitions. Together, they form the Messner Mountain Museum.
To visit this one in particular had been on the top of my list for a long time. The cable car took me above green hills and steep slopes, soon to be skied on, all the way up to 2275 meters. Here, high up in the clouds, architect Zaha Hadid has created a breathtaking environment for artefacts, stories, and images of traditional alpinism. Almost melting into the mountain, the building is as much worth a visit as the exhibition itself.
I took my time strolling around the interior, taking in all I could, then went for a walk on the panoramic route around the summit of Plan de Corones. The air was fresh, but I relished the brisk mountain air, pulled my jacket a little closer, and happily watched a few paragliders soaring above autumn trees.
MMM Corones: Open from the first Saturday in June to the second Sunday in October; as well as from end of November to mid-April (depending on the cable car opening hours). Every day from 10AM to 4PM.
Castles, Bridges, and a beautiful hotel: Sand in Taufers / Campo Tures
A cab took me up the mountains to Sand in Taufers, or Campo Tures, where I sank into the white cushions of my bed at Feldmilla Design Hotel, exhausted. Funny to think that while the trip here took me the better part of the day, I still found myself within kilometers, beeline, of Austria, where I had started this morning. Mountains well over 3000 meters high create a natural border here that is best crossed on foot – my train had to take the circuitous way.
The simple wooden interiors of Feldmilla Design Hotel, as well as a soothing bath in the tub, overlooking the little town river, lifted the travel stress right off my shoulders. Relax mode: On! A short walk through town, half of it spent admiring the old castle and cute bridges, and a delicious dinner in the hotel’s gourmet restaurant later, I fell back on my bed for good. Sleep came easy that night.
Feldmilla Design Hotel: Feldmilla focuses on style and sustainability, right in the heart of the South Tyrolean mountains. Their restaurant serves regional and seasonal delicacies. Find room types and prices here.
All alone in the fog: Hiking from Neves-Stausee to Edelrauthütte
It was still dark out when I left the hotel the next morning. The cold had descended down from the mountains into the valley, but I only felt it for the first few minutes – my plan for the day was a hike from Neves-Stausee, a turquoise reservoir at 1860m, to the mountain hut Edelrauthütte. Moving my body kept me warm, and the stunning scenery left little time to think about temperatures.
The reservoir sunk back into the fog quickly as I climbed up the rocky mountain. Whenever the winds got too fierce, I adjusted my pace and hiked faster. I didn’t meet a single soul on the way up – was it because I was the only person on the trail or because the clouds swallowed any other sign of life completely, I couldn’t tell. One thing I do know for certain: I thoroughly enjoyed every second alone in the clouds.
When Edelrauthütte finally emerged from the thick, white screen of fog, I paused for a moment to look back. Every five minutes or so, the clouds were blown away to reveal gorgeous mountains, steep slopes, rocks, and snow. I smiled and turned back up to the newly renovated hut.
Edelrauthütte: At 2545 meters above sea level. You can take many different trails up here, mine started at Neves-Stausee and led up around 700 meters in altitude to the hut. Stay here for food and drinks, spend the night, or climb one of the summits around.
The energy of classical music and nature: Talklang Festival
When I came back down to the valley, Talklang Festival was already waiting for me. Four days of nature, silence, classical music, awareness, and mindfulness; curious, I sat down at the first event. Luca Pignata, an accordionist, opened Talklang with an improvisation in a small garden in Ahornach, a little village up in the mountains. As the sun was setting behind us, we went inside nearby Naturhotel Moosmair to listen to a short lecture about humans, nature, and herbs. A strikingly green soup, made out of different alpine herbs, was served alongside tea and other snacks, to experience the healing powers of nature we had just heard about. The first evening ended with a concert by soprano singer Olalla Alemán and pianist (as well as creative director of Talklang) Guy Vandromme – all set in a small mountain church.
If the first day was any indication, Talklang was likely to continue being an inspiration for all the senses. Yoga sessions in foggy mountain scenery, a small hike alongside three terrific waterfalls, accompanied by live music and poetry readings, a yodel workshop at Neves-Stausee, summit sunrises, and mountain bonfires – I was in love with the program even before I got to experience it.
I would have loved to stay for the full four days, but time was pressing and, sadly, I had a train to catch. What I saw, heard, and felt of Talklang Festival stayed with me, though – enough to convince me to come back again. South Tyrol, you did it again: I fell in love with you all over.
Did you, too? Let us know about your experiences in South Tyrol in the comments!
Disclaimer: I was invited to the trip by the tourism board of Kronplatz/Plan de Corones, but as you can see, I was already totally in love with the region (and festival program!) before I even got there. Needless to say – all opinions are my own.