One of the lovely things about hiking in the Dolomites is that there are so many animals and humans to meet, or perhaps we should say, when you hike in the higher regions you may spend the whole day not meeting anybody or any animals… but normally over the period of one or two weeks you will have a reasonable chance of meeting lots of interesting people and animals.
Meeting people – Meeting people is great because you never know if they are Italian, German, Austrian or Swiss. There are other nationalities, but they are normally lolling around the village and the very lowest paths. They are not terribly interesting, have two or three dogs along with their older deaf parents and grandparents, who generally need more than two sticks to get along.
Most of the Italians you will meet in this area are German speaking like the locals. When you pass they will say the normal “Servus”, “Sante” or “Buon giorno”. It is also fine to greet any passerby in German with a strong “Grüß gott” or “Guten Tag”… either way you will hear a rejoinder in the passerby’s own language. When we had a bunch of grandchildren along with us we practiced greeting Italian couples with a molto forte “Buon giorno” in unison – all eleven of us – and that always raised a smile or two!
In the Hütte you often get to share a table because the seating is arranged around big communal tables. This is the place to try out your German, Italian or English.
We have a rule that we must talk to three strangers each day. It does not matter who the other person is or appears to be. All true hikers are outgoing people who love the outdoors, the mountains and the big blue sky. The rule is that when it is clear that the other is not in a hurry and is not in the middle of argument with his or her partner, then ask a question like “Where are you from?” or “Isn’t this view wonderful?” The rest follows on because hikers are smart people…
One of the most memorable times was meeting the three lumberjacks seen in this picture. They were bilingual in. Italian and German local men and the younger son spoke excellent English too.
They were collecting up trunks from the mountain side that had been uprooted by the heavy wet snow of the last winter… a never ending job. We spent 30 minutes talking to them and learnt that they only used Finnish Valmet tractors on the very steep slopes with thick steel wire to winch them down hundreds of meters to the side of the dried up river bank.
The following week we saw them many times on the other paths as they hauled the logs to their farm high on another mountain side.
Meeting animals – this can be an exciting experience because most of the animals are big and heavy – cows especially…
We met these cows as they were being walked down the side of the mountain to the lower grazing areas after spending the whole summer on the mountain top pastures above the tree line. Around 100 cows with horns came calmly down the path that had been cordoned off with red and white plastic ribbon by the farmers’ extended family. The whole family had gotten up at the crack of dawn and walked up the mountain with their dogs to round up these hulking big animals. It took them the whole morning to reach the bottom of the mountain… We were a little surprised by this gang and had to move smartly on. Naturally, the rest of the walk was a little tricky because cows leave their pancakes on the whole path…