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Swiss Pine Cone Spirit from South Tyrol
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Swiss Pine Cone Spirit from South Tyrol

This special Swiss pine cone spirit is a true mountain quality Schnapps

The regional Swiss Pine Cone Spirit, Zirbelkieferzapfen schnapps in German, and simply Zirbeler in rural Tyrolean dialect, is actually made out of Swiss stone pine cones. These are collected high in the mountains, close to the timber line, where one can find quiet and fresh Alpine air, and no cars or noise. In the woods surrounding these rustic romantic mountain pastures where time stopped a long time ago, the Swiss stone pine grows high in the mountains. And here you can find inns serving traditional South Tyrolean dishes and hosts who take time for their guests.

These Alpine huts and mountain inns and shelters in Merano and Environs and the Vinschgau Valley are united through the "Real Quality in the Mountains" project. This initiative honors those hosts who run their huts with passion and dedication in the traditional way. All of the local businesses to be awarded this seal of quality are listed on our website and the corresponding free app. The app is well organized and easy to use, and is divided into three categories – Alpine huts, hiking tours and recipes. In addition to information about local mountain huts, it also provides recipes for Tyrolean cooking and great hiking tips.

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Up to the mountains to hike and gather in the Tyrolean Stube. Hike through forests and rhododendron fields, along mountain ditches and over Alpine meadows. A stop at one of the traditional Alpine huts, where rare regional delicacies are on offer, such as buckwheat dumplings, Riebl or chicory noodles.

The innkeepers who have been awarded the "Real Quality in the Mountains" seal focus on regional products and prepare all of their dishes in a fresh and traditional manner. Therefore, do not be surprised if the menu is completely different every time, because only fresh ingredients are wanted and used for preparing local dishes up here. As much as possible comes from the innkeeper‘s own garden. So when tomatoes are ripe and in season, the dish of the day at the Mahdalm mountain hut above Merano/Meran could be just dumpling and fresh tomato carpaccio. And if it is wild garlic time, then you should try the wild garlic Cordon Bleu at the Hoferhof inn above Marlengo/Marling. Every host has their own special dishes and secret recipes.

No mass market grocery products such as industrial cheese can be found here! Speaking of cheese: you should absolutely try the award-winning cheese of the Schwemmalm mountain dairy in the Ultental Valley. In summer or winter, this Alpine farm is open year-round. It is located in the ski and hiking area at Schwemmalm. And if you are already in the Ultental Valley, you should definitely make a stop at the Steinrast inn. There, dishes are prepared by Brunhilde, who never thought she would be a cook one day, and who now prpares dumplings in many diiferent ways: with gray cheese and rucola, with celery and goat's cheese and much more. She even gives dumpling cooking lessons today.

The huts awarded with the "Real Quality in the Mountains" seal not only offer authentic food, but are places with unique character where you can meet people with a mind all their own. Like Karl, the asparagus farmer at the Tschigg inn in Marlengo, who formerly did not even know what asparagus tasted like, but once he got into it, started to grow these tender vegetables himself.

Or Irene at the Waldbichl inn in Verano/Vöran, who is sure that one should sow vegetables only according to the moon, otherwise they will not be the same.
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You will also meet happy children who spend their summer holidays in the mountains, like little Heidi at the Bockerhütte mountain hut, who lives here together with her younger brothers and knows every stone, every location and all the names of the meadows and mountains in the area. Not to mention all of the animals: cows and goats, smooth Haflinger horses and curious pets, such as the two miniature hogweed pigs at the Wurzeralm mountain hut in Verano called "Speck" (bacon) and "Kaminwurz" (sausage). A little black humour does no harm to these pigs, whose lifes are safe and comfortable.

You can also stay overnight at some of the excellent mountain huts in the area. In the evening, traditional meals are served and after the sweet desserts, it is time for a high-quality Swiss Pine cone spirit, the Zirbeler, before retiring to a good night’s sleep in one of the traditional wooden bedrooms, after a serene day in the mountains and a full immersion into the local delicacies.

As the hostess Berta of the Faltschnal Alm mountain hut in Plan/Pfelders in the Passeiertal Valley says: “Up here in the mountains one can find true happines." And she is probably right.
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