Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Strolling in Styria

During the spring months, it is well worth travelling around in Styria, which is in the southeast of the country. I love the rural parts of Styria, and there are some great hikes to be had in that part of Austria. In the north of Styria, we hiked amongst the southern Alps, where there are fantastic views. Our zimmer was located halfway up a hill, so we had a few days of fantastic hill walks. We also ended up trekking between Semmeringbahn and Mürzzuschlag, which followed the local railway.

In the center of Styria, in a place called Knittelfeld, is Seckau Abbey, which looks like something out of a fantasy novel. The mountainous backdrop and the ornate interior are both absolutely gorgeous, so it’s a sight well worth adding to any sightseeing trip in Austria. In nearby Tremmelburg are two huge wooden towers, and it’s a great route to hike. From the top of the towers, you can see for miles around—great if you want some stunning photos of Austria.

In southern Styria and Burgenland is a chain of ancient volcanoes that form the basis of Austria’s wine industry. We chatted to the owners and staff of the local pensions and hotels to find out about local paths, and we walked among the vineyards. After a few days of trekking in this area, it is nice to unwind, so we checked out one of Styria’s seven spas. It’s great to have a little relaxation time, and the volcanic water makes even the achiest of muscles relax. Topping off the day sometimes involved one of Styria’s wines at a Buschenschanken—around 70 percent of wine production is with white grapes, so there are some great white wines in Austria.

One of our favorite walks was in the south of Styria: a seven-day walk from Leibnitz, through Gamlitz, Leutschach, Kitzeck, and back to Leibnitz. The trip offered several stays in different hotels and exploration of the areas around the towns and villages. Walking up to 12 miles a day was relatively easy, and the scenery was amazing. If you plan on doing a route like this, make sure you know where you’re going to go and when. Plan for bad weather; we were lucky and had sun all the way through our trip, but we had a backup plan if the heavens decided to open. Admittedly it was as simple as taking a bus to the next place if necessary.

The hiking trails in Styria vary widely in difficulty. Part of it depends on the steepness of the climb, and part of it depends on how well the trail has been maintained. Styria’s lowlands, in the south of the state, generally have much easier trails than in the north of the state, as the Alps tend to be rather steep. We ended up being very tired at the end of each day in northern Styria, which meant we slept very soundly. In southern Styria, we tended to go out a bit more after walking as the trails were easier, and the wine was quite good. This meant we saw more of the towns where our hotels and zimmers were based, and they were very pretty.

Walking in Styria rewards you with amazing scenery, good food, and lots of little hidden gems that you would miss on a simple guided tour of the cities.