Rock Steady (Sauce Bolognese)

The past week was a neverending battle of old cold germs versus new cold germs... jumping from one person to the next.  I swear, it's been an epic dance off for the last three weeks!  But, (hopefully!) we are nearing the end (with warmer weather and happier moods) to bid these winter bugs - adieu!

Nevertheless, the weekend started off slowly... as we welcomed our first Clematis flower!

I started kicking around some block ideas for a new project...

And, then came the Foehn winds... This was new to me when I moved to Austria.  A Foehn wind is a system of dry, warm wind (yesterday, it came from Italy, hello warm air!) that moves over a mountain range and moves down fast into the valley (where we live!).  And, if said wind system is very wet, the moisture (called a rain shadow) will be caught on the backside of the mountain... where it will surely catch up in the next few hours (or days).  And, it can get really windy.  REALLY windy!  The winds accelerate so fast down the mountain... it creates sometimes storm force winds.  For some folks, the Foehn winds bring with it quite a headache.

Anyway, yesterday we had a Foehn wind (that was dry, thank goodness!) pass by and so the weather was warm and sunny!  And you know what that means for us - road trip!!!

The Route

A few weekends ago, we went on a scenic trip to Kochel (see the star).  This week we decided to explore the Ziller Valley and the Kitzbuhler Alps.

Ziller Valley (Zillertal)

Ziller is a valley in our Austrian state of Tyrol.  Archeologists have found artifacts going back to the middle Stone Age.  The oldest remains of settlements in this area date back to the Illyrians, a tribe from the Balkan Peninsula, during the late Bronze and early Iron ages.  This tribe was later absorbed by the Bavarians.

The area endured countless back and forth claims and quarrels between counts, countries, and territories... mostly, these quarrels can be traced back to a gold mine documented in the 16th century. In 1803, the mine, as well as the entire Ziller Valley, passed into the hands of the Counts of Tyrol.

The Zillertal is particularly renowned for its musical tradition. For instance, several families of travelling singers and organ builders from the valley have been credited with spreading the Christmas carol Silent Night across the world during the 19th and early 20th centuries.

If you're a big ski buff, there are several glaciers still around upon which you can ski year round!

We Need A Closer Look! [Credit:Link]

One of these, the Hintertux Glacier, is located in the Ziller Valley.  The total amount of ice on the glacier is 190 millions of cubic metres, which corresponds to 171 billion litres of frozen water! The ice sheet is up to 120 m thick and the glacier features a length of 4 km, which varies from year to year.  Due to glacial movement, lift facilities have to be adjusted up to three times a year! I think we need to go back again just to take the lifts for a closer look!

Next, we made it to the Gerlos Pass - a mountain pass in the Austrian Alps between the Oberpinzgau region in the state of Salzburg and the Zillertal valley in Tyrol.   It is a road of much history and dispute between the states of Tyrol and Salzburg... but in 1630, a surprise find of gold in the area motivated the two regions to get at least a cart path started!

In the 1960's, the Gerlos Alpine Road was officially completed once everyone stopped quarrelling!

Next stop was the Durlassboden Reservoir.  Quite majestic in the winter...

... and quite beautiful in the summer.

 Summer at Durlassboden Reservoir

So many things to do here!

Then, we passed by Bramburg... where the Habachtal Valley (along with spots in Norway and Italy) is one of the sites of Europe's natural emerald deposits.  Habachtal emeralds go way back in history.  The famous St. Louis Emerald, a 51.5 ct. square emerald cabochon mounted into the Holy French Crown, is of Habachtal origin (1271).

Passing through Hainzenberg, we passed by this little eatery, Goldschaubergwerk, by the side of the road.  Little did we know, but it was the entrance to a two hour tour that includes a stop at the dairy farm and cheese shop, then the animal park, and then through a gold mine!

goldschaubergwerk [Credit:Link]

The pilgrimage church, “Maria Rast”, the most frequented pilgrimage site of the Zillertal valley, is located at Hainzenberg at the passage to the Pinzgau and is even eternalized on the emblem of the village in the form of a star. A hiking trail takes you to this little church dating back to 1738. It starts at the tourist office and takes promenaders via the Gerlosstrasse road to the Waldheim tavern, further on along the Via Crucis and past the Lourdes grotto to “Maria Rast” in about 1.5 hours.

 Maria Rast (Exterior & Interior)

In Hainzenberg, there is also the longest toboggan run of the Zillertal valley. The Gerlosstein funicular takes you comfortably to the start at 1,650 m.   Enjoy the 7 km long ride down into the valley!

Kitzbühel Alps

Walking through this entrance to Kitzbühel was like walking back into time.  Historical and romantic, this little gem of a village (also known as Chamois City) is such a real treasure surrounded by all of the Alpine mountains.  Some call it 'the pearl of the Alps'...

‘The Pearl of the Alps’

Here, the earliest known settlers were also Illyrians in 1100 BC.  The Romans expanded their empire to contain the Alps but then, in 15 BC, the Western Roman Empire fell and the Bavarians stepped in.  Today, it's a world famous winter sports destination where stars and celebrities find their way here.


St. Catherine´s Church was built in 1360 and consecrated in 1365. The church is a perfectly preserved example of the high Gothic style. The "Kupferschmied-Altar" (coppersmith´s altar) is a gem. The winged altarpiece, created between 1513 and 1515, is the only one to survive in the region and is recognized as one of the early masterpieces of that period. The church was restored in 1950 and is now used as a war memorial. A carillon, placed inside the former fire watch room of the tower, is rung daily at 11.00 a.m. and 05.00 p.m., in memory of the fallen of the Second World War. 

St. Catherine's Church

The Kitzbuhel Museum is located in the historic district and holds a permanent collection of the Tyrolean painter, Alfons Walde, who single handedly made skiing a legitimate painting subject!

“Aufstieg” / Ascending Skiers (1935)

Also, a little secret, Haddaway lives here! Anybody remember,  What is love?!

Continuing on, we made it past Wilder Kaiser - or just the Kaiser - a gorgeous mountain range between Kufstein and St. Johann.

The Kaiser Mountains

The first dated evidence of human settlement in the Kaiser Mountains goes back 4000 to 5000 years. These are discoveries of the remains of Stone Age hunters in the Tischofer Cave. Other discoveries have revealed the presence of Bronze Age settlers in the cave. Documentary evidence of human settlement in the Kaisertal in the Middle Ages date back at least to 1430.

Tischofer Cave  [Credit:Link]

Artifacts, such as bone tools, dating back 28,000 years, can be found at a local museum in the fortress of Kufstein.  This cave has been recorded as the oldest proven site of human occupation in Tyrol. 

. . .

Finally, we made it home! And, after such a long journey, the cherry tomato on top, so to speak, was a warm and comforting pot of Bolognese Sauce!!

Bolognese Sauce

*Roughly adapted from Mario Batali
* Print Version

  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • handful of speck
  • a few dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 pound ground beef/pork
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 handfuls of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Soften onions in oil in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add carrots and dried mushrooms, sweat some more.
3. Add pancetta, veal, and pork and cook over moderately high heat, stirring and breaking up lumps, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.
4. Add sliced mushrooms, cook til they are nice and softened. (Sautee them in butter, then toss in for better flavor!)
5. Stir in tomato paste, milk, wine, and thyme.
6. Gently simmer, covered, until sauce is thickened, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Add salt and pepper and remove from heat.


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