Castelrotto, or Kastelruth in German, is a small town in the Tyrolean region of Italy. It was once part of Austria, but when Austria lost World War I ,Mussolini claimed it for Italy and renamed it Castelrotto. Here, the people still cling strongly to their previous Austrian heritage. Signage is in German, most people speak German and most of the food up there is German influenced. Castelrotto is a very unique and interesting place, influenced by two different cultures that merge to form this little town.  It lies in the north-eastern part of Italy, at the foot of the mighty Dolomites!  The Dolomites are a mountain range that run through the north-eastern region of Italy. The weather is often windy and cold. It wasn’t this cold anywhere else we had been, but because we were so high up the temperature had dropped. When we first arrived, we had been told that the day before had been the first snow on the mountain! We rushed to the ski supply store in town and bought fleeces for the hike the next day. Early the next morning, we bundled up for our little adventure in the mountains. We rode the feniculare, an enclosed ski lift, up the mountain. It took a half an hour, and when we got to the ‘top’, we realized we had to get on another feniculare that would take us even higher! Now remember, I thought it was cold back near the hotel but I was in for a surprise when we got to the top.  We had ascended to 1800 meters above sea-level! When we got off of the feniculare, it was absolutely freezing! It was only around 50 degrees but perhaps it felt colder because we had become acclimated to the balmy 90 degree days.  I was only wearing sweatpants and a windbreaker, so I was super cold, but I think I was the only one! We zipped up our jackets and began to walk  along the alpine meadow towards the edge of the mountain to take some pictures. The mountains were extraordinary. They looked fake, like we were standing in front of a green screen! We hiked around the mountains for a few hours, coming across parts where the mountain just ended at a cliff or where we were in a field. We stopped at a little cabin on the side of the trail for some hot chocolate before we headed back down the mountain. We sat outside despite the cold, and when it began to get colder we decided to get going. On the way back to the ski lift it started snowing! It was so cool to be walking on this huge mountain in Italy, and then have it start snowing. Then, as if things couldn’t get any better, we saw a lady yodelling while playing an accordion on the side of the trail!  We stopped and listened to her for a bit and Mom wound up buying her cd. The scariest part was the feniculare back down the mountain. We were thousands of feet up, and the gondola was shaking and swinging side to side a little. In my opinion, going down was worse than going up because you could see all the way down the mountain! Yikes!  Auf wiedersehen Castelrotto! ~Payton

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