Recently, the Concierge was in Sesto in val Pusteria to meet with his web designer. They wanted to talk about ideas for an upcoming redesign of the hotel’s website and decided to do so over lunch.
Their meeting was to take place in a mountain lodge in the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Three Peaks Nature Park.
We arrived at the parking lot of the Talschlusshütte which is about 2 km from the lodge. The Concierge’s web designer and friend promised him a (not quite serious) pickup in a horse-drawn carriage, which to no one's surprise, never arrived. Instead of this we enjoyed a short walk of 20 to 30 minutes.
On a sunny day the snowy mountain peaks of the Dolomites look particularly impressive. Walking in the brisk air, combined with the sight of the midday sun hitting the mountain peaks and crests is a unique experience. In these conditions even the longest of hikes would feel no more exhausting than a pleasant stroll.
Arriving at the lodge, the Concierge had worked up a hunger, but for now he had to wait. The lodge can only accommodate a limited number of guests, so after he and his group were checked for their reservation and their green passes, they were asked to wait outside. It was a bit chilly despite the sunshine, but no problem: warm blankets and hot tea were immediately provided by the lodge. Instead of the tea, the Concierge went for a cup of steaming hot mulled wine.
“SPARER!” rang out the voice of Frau Maria, who was in charge of our table. We sat in a traditional Tyrolean Stube, with a tiled stove on which masked teddy bears sat.
To give strength to all the hikers, climbers and other winter sports enthusiasts, the lodge serves typical Tyrolean specialties.
A glass of white wine was already waiting for us at our table together with the Web designer. We opted for a horseradish cream soup, followed by a risotto; while the Concierge’s web designer chose potato mezzelune with a chive butter and game filling. The Concierge had a parsley risotto with Brise, and for seconds, calf cheeks with a Lagrein sauce, served with potato mash and celery root. For dessert we enjoyed créme brulée with raspberry ice cream.
While sitting at our table in the corner, the Concierge noticed that from time to time people would walk into the kitchen or open the door to greet the chef working inside. He couldn’t help but wonder who this widely popular chef must be. They all seemed to know him and his family quite well. One of them even turned to the chef with a request: “Hanspeter, please give my regards to your son!"
Something similar played out with a lady, who briefly peeked through the doors and told Hanspeter: “Thank you for the delicious Schlutzkrapfen! If you hear your son, tell him I said hello!”
Another guest said something along the lines of: “Hanspeter! Tomorrow morning we’ll all be glued to the TV!”
Now what could he have meant by that, the Concierge wondered. What could there possibly be on Television, that all inhabitants of the small Fischlein valley would watch TV for?
Without being able to solve this riddle, the Concierge’s attention was drawn back to the matter at hand, his website. A few final details later and Frau Maria brought the bill, but not before insisting on treating the Concierge to a gentian Schnapps at the bar counter.
At the counter, two postcards caught the Concierge’s eye. On both of them was an autographed photograph of Jannik Sinner, the Italian tennis player from San Candido, ranked number 10 in the ATP rankings.
Jannik Sinner is considered one of the best tennis players of his generation. Suddenly something had clicked in the Concierge’s head. Someone on a table close to his had even said that the Sinner family sure knows how to get great at something. Until this point the Concierge hadn’t been able to connect the dots between the chef and everybody wishing his son well, but then suddenly everything made sense.
An incredible chef and a world star tennis player as his son. Only one thing left to say: Game, set and match SINNER! How will tomorrow’s match at the Australian open end? In any case, we’ll too be sitting in front of the television to root for Sinner!
It is a quiet afternoon. The gentlemen sitting on table one are waiting for the heavy snowfall to calm down. A quick picture snapped by the Concierge shows how the first snowflakes drop, as they quickly grow larger and larger. On another table, a mother sips her Cappuccino. She and her children arrived with their sleds. The children are warming themselves with hot chocolate, as they eat a Bauerntoast with ham and cheese to regain their strength.
The snow keeps on falling.
This weather only means one thing for the Concierge. Back pain, from lots and lots of snow shoveling. Unfortunately there is no one around to whom he could designate this task. An annoying task sure, but still, an important one. No one is breaking a leg on his watch.
While thinking about the upcoming task, the Concierge faintly remembers a conversation with a friend and guest last summer. While drinking a beer in the hot of summer they somehow came to talk about winter, maybe they thought it would distract them from the heat, maybe the topic made perfect sense in the context of their conversation. The Concierge could no longer remember.
However, what he did remember, between the beer and the heat of a summer long gone, was a boast – or maybe an offer? It probably was both. His friend had told him: “Snow shoveling is quite the easy task, as long as you have the will and the know-how.” - obviously implying he was the one with both. He continued by saying: “even your parking lot would be a walk in the park – in fact, let me prove it to you if it happens to snow this year.”
The Concierge’s friend liked to talk a big game. The Concierge was eager to find out if any of it was true, in the best case scenario – it wasn’t his own back on the line.
A call later, dim lights were seen on the street. Cars were few in this weather except for the snowplows keeping the streets a tolerable, albeit not a pleasant experience to drive on.
A tractor pulls into the driveway. The Concierge’s friend and client Sebastian Stocker proudly shows of this Fendt Vario V211, a brand-new model, as he explains, with snow chains by König and the plow itself fabricated by a friend of his, Aldo Annovi from Modena.
Sebastian is the owner of a company specialized in the design and production of innovative agricultural machinery. The Concierge should have realized Sebastian wasn’t about to shovel the whole parking lot by hand.
Sebastian clears the parking lot in no time. The resulting hill is named Mount Sparerhof. If it keeps on snowing like this, eventually you’d be able to ski on it.
Ok, Sebastian, how can we thank you? All Sebastian asks for is a hot Gerstensuppe and a piece of fresh bread, right out of the oven.
Sebstian can’t stay for dessert though. He and his plow are needed in Bolzano. Apparently he made the same offer to multiple people.
They say it is supposed to keep on snowing for the entire weekend. The Concierge is sure that even then, Sebastian is going to honor his word. In the mean time, he can think about what specialty to serve him as thanks.
water channels, the so-called ”Waale”
recently became the scene of a humorous story told to the Concierge by a fellow colleague in the hospitality business. One hot summer month, a group of sommeliers from the Commonwealth of Independent States were guests of one of the, back then still known as, four wineries in Kaltern. The director of Sales and Marketing of the winery in question, was in charge of the small group of about ten as their guide.
She welcomed the group at the airport and supplied them with brochures and information regarding their stay and the surrounding area. After escorting the group to the hotel for check-in, she led her guests on a tour of the winery, followed by a wine tasting and an aperitif in a local bar. All this followed by a gourmet dinner of regional specialties, prepared by one of South Tyrol’s most famous chefs, and, of course, accompanied by various wines presented by the winery's cellarmaster himself.
After dinner, the group strolled to a bar to enjoy an after dinner drink. One would expect the activities of this evening to be entirely professional and not overindulging, seeing that all participants of the group are experienced tasters of wine and spirits…
At the end of the evening, the lights in the bar were getting lower and lower and the bar staff were eagerly waiting for the group to leave. The group however was not convinced that the night was coming to an end. In time the winery director serving as group leader did convince the, let’s say “tipsy”, group to leave. The director, still sober and 100% professional, led the group back to the hotel on a path through the vineyards, but upon arrival the group changed their mind. It was not time to go to sleep they said, instead, they wanted to go for an after midnight swim in the lake.
The group leader, as professional as she was, didn’t object, organized towels and discretely left the scene, as some of the group's participants at this point in time were rather scantily clad, and since they were supposed to leave for the airport in the morning, she went to get some sleep herself.
At 9:00 AM the bus was waiting to leave. Only the group was nowhere to be found.
A few calls later the bus was almost full with hungover sommeliers. Only one lady was still missing.
She was eventually found sitting at the lake. No, she wasn’t feeding the ducks, but instead she was searching the waters edge completely distraught. The group leader asked her to get on the bus as they had to leave if they were to catch their flight. Crying, the sommelière refused. The previous evening , while swimming in the lake, she had lost her cellphone containing all her contacts. This lady was one of the most respected sommelière in Russia and her smartphone was not backed-up. The numbers on her phone belonged to the who’s who of the Russian upper society. She had lost the numbers of Russian officials, ministers and allegedly, even heads of state. On top of that, she was supposed to organize the wines for a state dinner the next evening.
Naturally quite upset about this loss, the sommelière insisted on calling the fire department and a diving team to look for the cellphone. Only after half an hour she was finally convinced to get on the bus, as the phone was hopelessly lost in the lake.
Just as the bus was about to leave the yard, a hotel employee sprinted across the yard and tried to get the passengers' attention. In his hands was the missing cell phone. To find it he didn’t need the fire department or a team of divers, he didn’t even have to get his toes wet, the phone was found lodged in a space in the bathroom, in between the bathtub and the toilet.
Upon arrival at the airport, when the guest finally boarded the airplane just in time and she was no longer required to look after the group, relief broke out on the group leader’s face.
The Concierge heard this story from the very director for marketing and sales who was responsible for the group, and did not miss the opportunity to visit the lakeside hotel himself. At lunch in the hotel, the Concierge can’t help but remember the story with a smile. In the course of his years as concierge, he had also often been a group leader leaving his guests at the airport, and he, like his colleague in the story, could only breathe a sigh of relief once the plane was finally in the air.