Saturday, 8 April 2017

The Green Lake of Braies

The lake of Braies is a beautiful place in the South Tyrol region in the Alps mountains, in the north-east of Italy. A recent Italian TV series featuring Terrence Hill was shot here, which has made it famous.


I had been to Braies for a brief visit more than ten years ago. Since then I had promised myself to go back and visit it properly. Finally I had the opportunity to be there during the early summer. This post is about this magical lake which mirrors the deep green of the surrounding pine trees.

Braies and the Dolomite Mountains in South Tyrol

Tyrol region in the south of Austria and the north-east of Italy is known for its beautiful Alpine villages, emerald green highland pastures, lovely spotted cows with the tinkling bells around their necks, typical wooden houses bursting with flowers and the yoodling guys.

Till the first world war (1914-1918), South Tyrol was a part of Austria. As the Austrian-Hungarian empire lost the war, this part became a part of Italy. Thus, though it is in Italy, many persons here speak German.

The Braies lake is surrounded by the Dolomite mountains. These mountains are made of carbonate rock and are also called the Pale Mountains. With their craggy skylines, the Dolomite mountains make a very striking frame encircling this lake.


It is not a natural lake. It was formed by a landslide which blocked the Braies river. The deepest part of the lake are almost 40 metres deep. The lake's water looks green because of the pine tree forests at the lower slopes of the mountains surrounding it.

Reaching Braies

A local train or the suburban buses starting from Bressanone (Brixen) can take you to Braies town. Bressanone is on the main train line and along the highway connecting Trento (Italy) and Innsbruck (Austria).

We started our journey by car from Rio di Pusterla (Mühlbach), a small town a few kilometres north-west of Bressanone (Brixen).

The road going towards Braies, initially along the river Rivenza, was full of incredible panoramas. Often we passed Alpine villages with silken green meadows resting against the tall mountains in shades of blue, grey and green.


There were a number of small quaint looking churches with long bell-towers in most villages, inviting us to stop there and to taste the local cheese, wines and other specialities.


Braies lake (Pragser Wildsee)

Though we visited Braies in early June while the peak tourist season is in July-August, still it was crowded and we could only find a parking place some distance away.

The mountains around the lake are criss-crossed by high altitude hiking trails, some of which may take up to a week to complete. Simple hotels and dormitories called Refugio (Refuge) are built along these trails where people can stop and rest. Going on these trails requires proper equipment, practice and preparation. One of the most famous Alpine mountain trails called Alta Via 1 starts from the Braies lake.


However, we were not planning to do serious hiking. We took an easier pathway, which goes all around the lake. The complete walk around the lake requires about 2-3 hours and if you often stop for clicking pictures (like I do), you will need even more time. It has many ups and downs and therefore requires a modest resistance.


Among the other things to see near the lake, there is a historical hotel called Hotel Pragser Wildsee and a lakeside chapel called Marienkappel.


At the beginning of the left bank of the lake there is a wooden boat-house, where you can rent a boat.

Fame of Braies Lake

The first series of the Italian TV fiction "Un passo dal cielo" (A step from heaven) with Terrence Hill was shot here in 2010. In the first three seasons of this serial, Hill played a forest guard while the Braies boathouse was shown as his home. This serial was a big hit. Due to this serial, the Braies lake has become very popular among visitors.


Braies Lake in the Second World War

Towards the end of the Second World War, Braies lake was witness to an important historical event. In 1945, fearing the defeat, Hitler asked his SS troupes to take important persons kept as prisoners in the concentration camp of Dachau and to shift them to South Tyrol. The soldiers had the orders to kill all these prisoners before the arrival of Allied forces. However, the German Wahrmacht decided to protect these civilian prisoners, who were lodged at the Pragser Wildsee hotel and liberated by the allied forces.


Among those prisoners at Braies, there were many famous persons including, the former chancellor of Austria Kurt Von Schuschenigg, the former prime minister of France Leon Blum, the former prime minister of Hungary Miklos Kallay, the chief commander of Greek military Alexandros Papagos and many others.

The Legends of Braies Lake

There are stories of a legendary group of people called Fanes who are supposed to be hiding in the depths of Braies lake. On the night of full moon, the secret door to the hidden world of Fanes opens and the Fanes queen along with her daughter Dolasilla come out to walk on the surface of the Braies lake.


Another legend is about some wild persons who lived in the mountains around Braies and who had found gold in these mountains. Then shepherds and farmers from outside arrived here and started to steal their gold. Thus the wild persons of Braies blocked the river and created this lake so that outsiders could not reach them to steal their gold.

Ponticello of Braies

Apart from the lake, the areas surrounding Braies are famous for their beautiful panoramas. We visited one of these places - it is called Ponticello (Small Bridge).


The craggy skyline of the mountains as seen from Ponticello was very impressive.

However, on that day, the road for going up in the mountains of Ponticello was closed due to a landslide, so we could go higher up.

The old town of Braies was once known for the thermal baths containing sulphur. These are now closed. However, we did not visit it and promised ourselves to return to Braies to discover more of its surroundings.

Conclusions

Braies lake is famous for its beauty. We found that its fame is worthwhile. The clear Turkish-blue and green waters, the snow-covered majestic Dolomite mountains reflected in the lake and the beautiful pathway around the lake, make it a magical place. If you are visiting this part of Italy, do not forget to visit the Braies lake!



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4 comments:

  1. wow amazing place. Nice to read about Braies lake.
    Thanks for all pics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rupam, as always for your generous praise

      Delete
  2. Braies looks so serene and peaceful, filled with picturesque views! you have captured its beauty amazingly...:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you 2travelling sisters, it is a magical place! and so quiet :)

      Delete

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