St Daniel

Dear Christine, it's now Wednesday, I've finished my exploration of the Karnischer Höhenweg and I'm holed up in a hotel down in the valley.  I've come down a day early, the weather is terrible, I've got stiff legs, a headache, sore throat and I'm feeling sorry myself.  Hopefully by the time I've completed a slow journey back to Brighton I'll be fighting fit again. 
Machine gun post just above the Plöckenpass
Despite the weather the last three days hasn't been a complete waste of time.  In particular I've filled in gaps in my knowledge about the alignment of the front in First World War which will help enormously when it comes to preparing the Karnischer Höhenweg guide. 

Trenches on the Museumweg
On Monday I caught the train along the valley from Arnoldstein to Kötschach Mauthen.  I had planned to walk back up the Gasthof Valentinalm but it was raining so I checked into a hotel and visited the First World War museum which is located in the town.  Although the museum doesn't make many concessions to English only speakers it was very interesting. In particular I was able to take pictures of a map of the front line. What I have not been able to get my head around is how the opposing trenches were configured.  Walking along a ridge it's easy to spot one trench, and work out its orientation but not both at the same time.  My assumption was that one side, typically the Austro-Hungarians, were on top of the ridge with the Italians 100s of metres below them at the bottom. What the map made clear is that very often both sides were contesting the same ridge and on it together.
100 year old barbed wire
Fire positions on the Italian line
The full significance of this came home the next day when I started to walk the route Plöckenpass to Casera Paramosio.  This is the missing leg of the Italian variant the Karnischer Höhenweg the rest of which I walked last week.  The route follows the Museumweg, a walk along a ridge where the remainsfrom the war are particularly rich.  In the rain and mist I was of course the only person to be making the trip but it added to the spookiness.  The trenches in places were like a maze and at times difficult to navigate.  Steps in the bottom of the trenches and tiny slots in the concrete on the top made it clear that these trenches were pointing south and that the Italians were the enemy.  Wandering along, past huge mounds of rusting barbed wire, I found myself, perhaps 20 metres later in another set of trenches, similar in configuration, but pointing north.  I found the intimate proximity of these two sets of trenches - crude and harsh, rock, metal and concrete - really shocking. 
The remains of barracks
Perhaps I had spent a little too much time in the maze of trenches because I still had some walking to do. Essentially I had to walk east along the north side of a ridge and then climb 700m to cross a 2100m pass.  The rain was intermittent but it was very windy and at times visibility was down to a few metres.  After numerous false horizons the top, marked by strands of barbed wire dating back to the War, arrived and after wandering around for a while trying to find the path I was heading down to the Casera Paramosio. Emerging from the rain and the mist into a huge room with a massive log fire fire felt great but I think the family running the place thought I was mad. The incomprehension at my arrival was made worse by the fact no-one there, unusually not even the young people, spoke a word of English. It was a nice place though, agri-tourismo, making its own cheese and with an excellent restaurant. It was clearly a family business, husband and wife running it with children taking on various responsibilities.  The family resemblance was very strong, everyone moving around at great speed and none of them more than 5 foot tall
Casera Paramosio
This morning they showed just as much incomprehension at my departure as my arrival and in the mist my plans didn't make much sense to me. I had wanted to go over the Hoher Trieb and then stay at the Straniger Alm and experience some more non-hut hospitality.  The Hoher Trieb involves fixed cables and given the conditions, the way my legs felt, and the total lack of visibility it seemed stupid to attempt it.  On the lower level route to Straniger, most of which I've walked already there was an option to head down, back to the main valley, and the certain comfort of a hotel.  It was an option I just couldn't ignore.

See you on Friday.

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