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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!