Austria Travel: Local Excursions In StyriaAustria Travel: Local Excursions In Styria

For several months now I had been planning another trip to Europe, to visit my family in my home town in Austria, as well as to spend eleven days on the beautiful island of Mallorca and three days in the fascinating Czech capital of Prague, both destinations I had long wanted to visit.

On May 15, 2009 I finally landed in Graz, after an uneventful flight from Toronto via Düsseldorf. The only notable detail was the inspection by the "swine flu police" in Düsseldorf - since Canada has been affected by the swine flue epidemic all Lufthansa passengers had to fill out a health questionnaire and present themselves to two public health officials upon exiting the plane.

On this sunny yet cool morning I finally landed in my final destination. Graz, Austria's second largest city, is a wonderful destination; its late medieval and Renaissance-era city core have helped to make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother picked me up and we drove into my small provincial home town, and it was great to reconnect after almost a year.

I spent the first few days doing local excursions with my family. Styria, my home province in Austria, offers great travel opportunities, from active travel for hikers, bikers and skiers, to cultural attractions including many impressive castles, fortresses, monasteries and other architectural heritage sites.

Our first excursion took us to Wildon, a small rural town about 20 minutes south of Graz, that was first mentioned in historic records in the 13th century. The surrounding area has been inhabited since about 4000 B.C. Our destination was the Wildoner Berg, a mountain that is distinguished by a ruined fortress, the Hengistburg, whose original foundations date back to about 1000 BC.

Today there is not much left of the fortress other than a few walls and a relatively well preserved tower since the fortress was destroyed by lightning in 1810. Mountain goats were climbing around the medieval remnants of this once impressive fortification. The town of Wildon is well known for its legends, for the "wild man" who supposedly terrorized the local population, and the "white lady", a ghost who is said to haunt many castles and fortresses in Styria.

We capped our trip to Wildon off with a visit to a "Buschenschank", a local family owned wine restaurant that serves wine produced on the family's property. Styria is a popular wine growing area, with three separate regions that specialize in different types of wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer and a truly local brand called Schilcher enchant knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. Eight wine routes allow travelers to explore the Styrian wine country in scenic drives, and hundreds of local wine restaurants and cozy bed and breakfasts cater to the travellers' needs.

Our second excursion took us into the high Alpine pastures of Eastern Styria, the so-called "Almenland" region, the largest contiguous mountain pasture region in the Alps. The region is most well-known for its great hiking and skiing opportunities, and every year in early summer mountain cattle are driven up onto the mountain to start their long outdoor grazing season. The region has even developed its own brand of organically raised beef called ALMO. Various restaurants in the area dedicate themselves to serving local organic beef specialties in addition to providing traditional Austrian fare.

We went even higher than these Alpine meadows and started a hike up the "Rote Wand" (literally translated "Red Wall"), a 1,505 m high mountain whose characteristic is a vertical rock wall whose name is derived from the red-called limestone rock that gives it its unique colouring. Usually the Rote Wand offers a phenomenal mountain panorama, but today we had caught a foggy day and we had no scenic views at all.

After entering our name into the summit book we started our descent and came by a large herd of ibexes, large wild mountain goats that were grazing calmly beside a pond. Dozens of these large stocky animals with their impressive round horns were fascinating the hikers and my brother's dog admired them from afar.

After our equally foggy hike down from the summit we stopped at the Tyrnauer Almhütte, a typical rustic Austrian mountain hut that offers drinks and simple fare to hungry hikers. The sun was finally coming out and we enjoyed a nice hot Fritattensuppe (pancake strip soup) and rye bread with cheese.

In the early afternoon we headed down from the mountain and my brother, a gifted professional chef, cooked us a delicious rosemary chicken with vegetable rice and salad. To burn off some calories we went on a second hour and a half long hike from my home town of Weiz to the Kleine Raabklamm (the "Small Raab River Gorge"), a popular local hiking destination.Municipalities throughout Styria and Austria in general have invested great effort into expanding and signposting their system of hiking and biking trails. When I was a child, places like the Kleine Raabklamm were known mostly by local hiking enthusiasts with insider knowledge, while today all sorts of hiking paths are signposted and have been made accessible and are promoted to the wider population. Finally, after all this physical exertion we capped the day off with a delicious icecream at Gelateria Claudia, a popular Sunday hangout for icecream lovers in my home town of Weiz.
by Susanne Pacher
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Susanne Pacher is a Travel Journalist specializing in Unconventional Travel you can get tons of great unconventional and unique travel information and tips if you Click Here
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