If you drive behind Graun in Vinschgau through a tunnel up towards the Reschenpass, you rub your eyes in amazement: Is that really a church tower up there?

In the middle of a lake, now armored by a snow-covered ice surface in winter?

There is no doubt about it: a tower with a pointed roof rises up from Lake Reschen, a cross at the very top and the faded remains of a clock.

The Romanesque double windows in the weathered stone building point to the distant Middle Ages, the parish church of St. Katharina was consecrated in 1357.

A wedding party is paddling around on the ice, supporting each other by the arm.

The bride and groom - she freezing in a floor-length cream-colored dress with a train, he in a dark suit with a white rose in his buttonhole - line up in front of the tower for the photographer.


“We come from Sicily, but have been living and working in South Tyrol for a few years,” explains a stout older man, while sucking on a cigarette that he is an uncle of the groom.

Again and again other strollers approach to take pictures of this strange landmark of South Tyrol.

The church tower is a popular photo backdrop, especially in winter when you get very close

Source: Suedtirol Marketing, Italy

Despite Corona, tourist entries to South Tyrol are permitted under certain conditions;

Hotels, restaurants and shops may also open under certain conditions (see below).

The opening of the South Tyrolean ski areas, originally planned for January 18, has just been postponed to February without a specific date.

Despite good snow conditions, winter tourism will therefore remain within limits compared to previous years.

Today Graun attracts vacationers with the reservoir

At the Reschensee, too, it's pretty quiet at the moment.

Said church tower is an exception - because you can get so close to it, it is a popular backdrop, especially in winter.

Not only for photos, it also plays a role in literature: In 2018, Marco Balzano, one of the most important and successful Italian writers, published the novel “Resto qui”, the German translation “I stay here” followed in 2020.


It is set on Lake Reschen and is about a local family whose fate reflects the history of South Tyrol - from the suppression of German culture and language by Mussolini's fascists to the so-called Optanten, who left their South Tyrolean homeland after 1939, to Hitler's call “Heim ins Reich ”until the flooding of the villages Alt-Graun and Reschen in 1950. Where the villages once stood, there is now a reservoir, only the old church tower still protrudes from the water.

For many South Tyroleans, the tower was a memorial for a long time.

It is only recently that people have dared to use it as a tourist attraction.

Balzano's novel was nominated for the Premio Strega, Italy's most important literary prize.

The fact that an Italian thematizes the story of Graun and the sunken church tower was received positively by many South Tyroleans as a sign of reconciliation.

Despite Corona, the Netflix series brought many visitors

In the summer of 2020, the Netflix series “Curon” started - that's the Italian name for Graun.

The church tower also plays a major role in the seven divider, and the film was shot on the original location.


“That attracted numerous visitors.

Despite Corona there was a real traffic jam here on some days, "says David Stecher.

The wiry early forties with a mountaineering tan on his face runs a farm and is also an ice cream master on Lake Reschen.

Stecher knows its history very well.

Only one church tower reminds of the old Graun

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In 1950 the houses in the South Tyrolean town of Graun were blown up, the 1200 residents were relocated and the village was flooded.

The government wanted a reservoir here.

Source: pa

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So the natural lakes of Graun and Reschen were dammed into a large lake.

Only the church tower of Altgraun can still be seen.

Source: Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Keystone

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Today the Romanesque tower stands in the water of Lake Reschen and is perhaps the most ironic building in South Tyrol.

Funny and tragic at the same time.

Source: pa / picture agency Huber

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Many citizens of Graun emigrated after the flooding.

A few families built a new existence for themselves a few hundred meters away on a steep slope.

Source: pa

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Life in the upper Vinschgau is rough.

Graun only has 400 inhabitants.

Most have a farm with cattle and some land - but that is no longer enough to live on.

Source: pa / picture agency Huber

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Some work on the ski lift nearby in winter.

Source: pa

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The Grauner began to market their unique village history.

After all, the Reschenpass is an important north-south connection across the Alps.

Source: pa

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On their way to vacation, tourists are amazed when they see the church tower in the lake.

Source: pa

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It is of course popular to have your picture taken in front of the tower.

When the lake is frozen over, you can get very close to the bizarre sight.

Source: pa

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Not only in winter ...

Source: pa / dpa

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... but also in summer it is not exactly a swimming paradise with its 14 degrees cold water.

After all, the best kite surfers in Europe have been coming for some years.

Source: pa / chromorange

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The wind is perfect for the sport and there is a small kite school on the shore.

Source: pa / chromorange

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But despite all efforts, the people in Neugraun have not come to terms with the situation to this day.

For them, the Reschensee remains a foreign body even after 60 years.

Source: pa / picture agency Huber

The old people in the newly built village of Graun would understandably never have wanted the reservoir, which was planned for power generation during Mussolini's reign.

Even the pleading visit of some delegates to the Pope in Rome could no longer stop the misfortune.

Many migrated.

Most of them because their livelihoods were deprived of their livelihoods; after all, their fields and arable land were also under water, and the compensation the state paid was ridiculously small.

Others refused, on principle, to relocate to the newly built replacement village called Graun / Curon.

Ice skating, snow kiting and cross-country skiing on Lake Reschen

"It was only my generation who discovered Lake Reschen as a playground for themselves, at some point we recognized the tourist potential, today it is a magnet for visitors," says Stecher.

Would today's tourists know about the origins of the curious landmark?

Stecher shrugs his shoulders.

His job as an ice master is to please the winter guests.

Since the Reschensee is surrounded by high mountains, it is located in a natural wind tunnel.

In summer it is therefore a paradise for kite surfers and in winter an arena for ice skaters, snow kiters and cross-country skiers - after all, the lake is 1,500 meters high and freezes over reliably.

Windy: Snowkiter on the Haidersee south of the Reschensee

Source: Getty Images

In the early morning Stecher had already polished the ice rink with a converted mower tractor.

In the meantime he is preparing the 15-kilometer-long track for winter hikers around the lake with a roller machine that hangs on the back of a caterpillar quad.

However, Stecher has just climbed off the box.

He wants to draw attention to a phenomenon.

Between strollers and ice-skaters who slide rhythmically with their torso bent, the ice master trudges towards brightly shimmering lines on the blackish ice.

Stecher stops in front of the lines.


Suddenly a bang, a long drawn out, muffled whistle.

You can feel a vibration under your feet.

"The light lines are actually centimeter-long cracks," says Stecher.

Just now, with the bang, another one came back.

Such a jump occurs because the water moves under the ice.

“But don't worry: it's at least eight inches thick.

Strong enough for the two-ton tractor mower.

And definitely for people. "

Soak up the sun in front of the mountain hut on the Alm

If you prefer solid ground under your feet, it is best to stay on the white band that runs around the lake.

The snow crunches under your feet.

A crowd of crows crouches with their heads bowed on thickly powdered meadows next to a few houses.

At the northern end of the lake, a stationary drag lift marks the ascent to the Reschner Alm. Past frescoed farmhouses, a wayside cross with a snow cap, then along a stream, on whose banks numerous traces reveal the drinking place for deer, it goes uphill over gently sloping meadows.

Idyllic: huts and hay barn in Vinschgau are snowed in

Source: Suedtirol Marketing, Italy

Weathered hay barn made of tree trunks form brown spots in the white mountain landscape.

Spruce trees, the branches pressed down by the load of snow, flank the zigzag passage through the immaculate white.

After about an hour, you will reach the Alm, which is located on a pulpit.

If you turn back, the Reschensee flashes like a giant mirror at the bottom right.

The through road, bordered by snowdrifts, winds to the left in the direction of the Reschenpass, the connection to Austria.

Tourers sit in front of a hut with half-empty beer mugs and hold their sweaty faces in the sun.

The cheese dumplings that other guests are pricking with a fork look inviting.

So there is still a little something going on up here, this Corona winter.

The Plawenn manor is typical of South Tyrol

Back in the valley, you come across the dam at the southern end of Lake Reschen.

Shortly after that, there is another natural lake, the Haidersee.

Here too, rolled paths lead up to hamlets and alpine pastures like cobwebs.

For example, according to Plawenn.

After a good hour, the 40-inhabitant town is reached, a dozen nested houses.

No car noise, at first only the flapping of the wings of the crows can be heard, which flit as shadows over the white surfaces and roofs.

At first only a woman with a headscarf can be seen bending around a corner of the house with firewood in her arms.

At the edge of the village, some toboggans are jacked up in the snow - a beautiful natural toboggan run leads from the place, which is 1730 meters above sea level, down to the lake.

The Church of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, next to it the cemetery with wrought iron grave crosses, is not the focus of the hamlet.

This is made up of the Plawenn manor with a corner tower and battlements, which dates back to the twelfth century.

On a hill in front of it, smaller children rush towards a self-made ski jump with slide plates - great hoots.

A couple of young people next door throw snow into a pile with shovels, they want to build an igloo out of it.

A fine example of the residences in South Tyrol is the Plawenn manor

Source: De Agostini via Getty Images / DEA / ALBERT CEOLAN


“It's better to get to know each other for three months than for two days,” replies the gentleman who opens the entrance door to the Plawenn residence when asked whether you can rent a room here.

Residences are typical for South Tyrol, this is the name given to the former residences of the lower nobility, which are more representative than a normal residential building, but are far away from a castle.

Konrad Meßner, a man in his early sixties with a fluffy mane, has been running a restaurant in the mane for 20 years and describes himself as a “culture host”.

For example, he organizes events on "Adaptation and Mental Health".

In any case, the landlord himself seems quite unadjusted in terms of his service.

His answer to the question of whether you could get a coffee was: “If I feel like it, yes.

If not, no! "

The church tower of Alt-Graun rises solitary into the sky

So you sit in your arched soot-blackened kitchen and wait.

Fortunately, the host feels like it - Meßner brews the coffee in a mocha pot over a crackling stove.

Meanwhile, it is steaming from iron pots.

Messner is currently making pizzoccheri, noodles made from buckwheat and wheat flour, with savoy cabbage, potatoes and alpine cheese, originally a poor people's dish from the neighboring Valtellina.

You quickly come to the topic that the landlord considers to be future-oriented: ecological management, pesticide-free agriculture.

"What I need grows in the garden, I get other things like bread, bacon or cheese from the neighboring farmer."

The inn itself, says Messner, is a form of culture.

“It takes time to do that, you ponder the same questions over and over again, and at some point the situation has improved.” In Plawenn, it seems, the many thoughts were followed by deeds.

The landlord assures us that the village world is all right here.

When leaving the place it got dark.

The moon has risen over the Ortler summit, a humpbacked, ice-armored almost four-thousand-meter peak.

Down at Lake Reschen, where the wide expanses of snow and ice reflect the pale moonlight, the tower of Alt-Graun rises lonely into the night sky.

Tomorrow, like penguins, curious visitors will slide around on the ice and point their cameras at the strange structure.

When the daylight fades, it becomes quiet at the tower in Reschensee

Source: pa / imageBROKER / G.


Tips and information



The Reschensee can be easily reached by car via the Reschenpass or the Brenner motorway and Merano.

Take the long-distance train to Merano, then change to the Vinschger local train to the Mals terminus, then continue by taxi or bus.


“Gasthof Lamm” in Mals, district of Laatsch, bed and breakfast from 50 euros per person, full board from 75 euros, hotel-lamm.net (open from January 18).

"Kulturgasthaus" in Plawenn, accommodation only for members of the "Club of Mult", which anyone can join from a fee of one euro, double rooms from 60 euros, the landlord can be reached on tel. km@ortler.com

Corona rules:

Since January 7th, entry for tourists has been possible without being

required to

be isolated; no stopover is allowed when passing through Austria.

Requirements: negative corona test (carried out within 48 hours before entry) and online registration with the medical authorities.

Accommodation may open, as well as shops and restaurants (the latter until 10 p.m. with reservation).

There is an extensive mask requirement and a night curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Returning travelers have to register digitally in Germany and go into quarantine for ten days, which can be shortened after five days with a negative corona test.

In addition, since 14.1.

an obligation to test, no later than 48 hours after entry, the result must be presented to the authorities upon request.

Further information:


Source: WORLD infographic

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG.

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