You probably noticed that recently our Instagram turned turquoise… Yes, our “little” dream came true recently and we visited the famous Lake Braies, considered to be the most beautiful lake in Italy. Has reality met our expectations?
In the heart of South Tirol
Lake Braies is located in South Tyrol, in the Italian Dolomites. When you start googling the name, you will soon discover that the lake has two equally common names. The Italian one, Lago di Braies and the German one – Pragser Wildsee. This speaks volumes about the complicated history of the region.
Until 1919, South Tyrol was part of Austria. After the end of the First World War, it was incorporated into Italy. When Mussolini gained the power, German-speaking people were forced to became Italians, for example by changing their names to sound like Italian ones. In 1939, they had to make the final choice: either to return to Germany or to stay in South Tirol and completely abandon their German roots. Those who left for obvious reasons were considered Nazis, those who remained – as traitors of Germany. There were a lot of animosities (even acts of terror) between the Italian and German-speaking population until 1972, when the German and Italian languages were finally recognized to be equal in South Tirol. Despite its rather difficult history, nowadays it’s one of the richest (and of course the nicest!) regions of Italy. However, don’t be surprised if you get a menu in the restaurant in German, and you’ll be offered a schnitzel instead of pizza…
Lake Braies, Lago di Braies, Pragser Wildsee… – how to get there?
The lake itself is slightly off the main roads crossing the South Tyrol, but the way is marked very well. At some point on the main road SS49 you have to turn into a smaller one leading directly to the lake. We spent the previous night in a hotel in Valdaora and we set off early in the morning from there. I can recommend you coming here before 9 am. Later, hundreds of coach trips arrive and in some places it’s even difficult to get through the narrow path around the lake. There is a big car park next to the lake. Next to it, there is also Hotel am Pragser Wildsee from the nineteenth century, located straight at the lake. I wanted to stay there so bad, but unfortunately, all rooms were booked already for several next months.
It is worth to know that the lake itself and the above-mentioned hotel, also “got tangled up” in the stormy history of the 20th century Europe. In April 1945, the Nazis, feeling the impending disaster, chose 139 prominent prisoners (eg. former Austrian Chancellor, Prime Minister of France or Hungary) from all German Nazi concentration camps. They intended to transport them initially to Dachau and then to the South Tyrolean camp, Niederdorf. The SS men guarding the transport were ordered to kill the prisoners, not to be taken over alive by the Allies. One of the Wehrmacht officers, Wichard von Alvensleben, learned about these plans. He took a courageous step and ordered the SS to free the prisoners “from the order of the Wehrmacht”. They stayed in the hotel at Lake Braies until May 4, 1945, when they were finally liberated by the Allies.
Lake Braies – getting around
After a few steps, we saw a breathtaking view… The turquoise waters of Lago di Braies reflected the snow-covered peaks surrounding the lake. On the shore, you’ll find also probably the most photographed boat cabin in the world. We were a bit unhappy because it was windy and we couldn’t capture this total “mirror reflection”… But we couldn’t stop taking pics anyway! It was such an awe-inspiring experience.
|Tip: Of course, you can take a boat ride as well (20 EUR per hour, cash only!)|
There is also a narrow path around the lake. Many people come here only to take a “selfie” with the boats and run back to the car. However, I encourage you to take even a short walk. Is there anything better than crispy fresh mountain air in the morning? Besides, you can find beautiful and definitely less “photographed” spots. The farther from the cabin, the fewer tourists.
I must admit that, although we only spent one weekend in the Dolomites and South Tyrol, I totally fell in love with this place. For me, the views were even more spectacular than in the Bavarian and the Austrian Alps. Even better than in the Southern Alps of New Zealand!. We’ll be back soon, maybe this time in winter? 🙂
How do you like Lago di Braies or, if you wish – Pragser Wildsee?
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