wild man

wild man

Austria Travel: Mountain Hut & Hospitality in the Alps

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On May 16, 2009 I arrived in Austria, ready to spend five days with my family. My brother and sister-in-law welcomed me with open arms and had lined up several days of local discoveries. After relaxing on the first day and catching up with my jet lag, on Day 2 we got the whole family together including my sister-in-law's 3 month old grand-niece and drove to the southern regions of Styria to a town by the name of Wildon. This town features the ruins of an imposing medieval castle. Legends of the "wild man" of Wildon have been told to little children for generations. The Middle Ages have always held a special fascination for me. After our hike around the ruins we stopped at a local family-owned winery and enjoyed some hearty local food. On Day 3 we embarked on a hike of one of the local Alpine peaks. The "Rote Wand" (the "Red Wall") is a reddish-coloured limestone outcropping with a nearly vertical drop-off. A hiking path snakes along the edge of the drop-off and offers phenomenal mountain panoramas, but on this foggy day we saw absolutely nothing of the surrounding mountains. Nevertheless, we made an entry in the mountaineer's guest book at the summit cross and started our hike back. Just steps down from the summit, next to a pond on a high-altitude meadow, was a large number of moufflons, a type of stocky wild mountain goat with curved horns, that were grazing peacefully on the meadow. Following our hike we stopped at the local Tyrnauer Almhütte, one of the typical rustic Alpine mountain refuges that hosts hungry and thirsty hikers and equips them with hearty Austrian food to continue their trek. After returning from the mountain we had a delicious dinner in the garden and embarked on another local hike through the river valley of the Small Raab Gorge and capped off our day with excellent ice cream at a local gelateria. On May 18, 2009 I embarked on a driving tour of Upper Styria, the northern portion of my birth province, with a friend of mine. Starting with the "Waldheimat", home of Austrian poet Peter Rosegger, we drove north and headed up to the Semmering mountain pass. The village of Semmering has been a popular vacation destination for more than 100 years; even some of the aristocrats of the old Austrian-Hungarian empire used to stay here. The historic Hotel Panhans, a grand hotel dating back to 1888, has been magnificently restored in recent years and serves once again as the anchor of the tourism industry on the Semmering mountain. From here we drove on to the famous pilgrimage town of Mariazell, Austria's most famous pilgrimage destination. We capped off our drive with a visit to the medieval castle of Oberkapfenberg, which had lain in ruins for more than two centuries and was completely reconstructed over the last 50 years. This fortress is now a centre of hospitality, with its atmospheric restaurant and the many medieval-inspired events hosted there. Finally, on May 19, my brother and I drove south to Slovenia, Austria's southern neighbour, and visited the town of Ptuj. We strolled through the old town which is anchored by a long square that is presided over by the Church of St. George and even features an ancient Roman gravestone. We then walked to the town's main square and admired the Art Nouveau-era city hall. After a walk past the shores of the River Drava we strolled up to the castle which towers over the city and offers great views of the entire area. My first few days in Austria had been great fun and had now come to an end all too quickly. Now the next leg of my trip would take me to one of my long-time dream destinations: Mallorca.