Classical Music, Reunions with Old Friends and a Final BBQ
Given this delicious yet substantial calory injection, we had to do a work-out and decided to do a hike up onto the Schöckel, at over 1400 m the highest local mountain. Around 2 pm we met up with Doris again and all three of us broke out our Nordic walking poles and we attacked the mountain from its steepest side. Doris, an experienced hiker, led the group at a rather hellish pace, and the two of us clambered behind her. Some areas were so steep we had to use our hands to brace ourselves climbing up between the rocks. But our walking sticks definitely aided in the ascent and about an hour later we were rewarded with an astounding 360 degree view over the Styrian hills and mountains.
Doris and Klaudia with their walking sticks
The Schöckel is also referred to as the “Grazer Hausberg” or local mountain of Graz, and we had great views down into the Styrian capital and the Mur Valley. To the south the Austrian and Slovenian plains were stretching out, looking east and right saw the foothills of Eastern and Western Styria, and to the north we took in the panorama of the more imposing mountains of the Styrian Alps. We also saw several ramps for hang-gliders, a popular activity in this region.
Gorgeous view eastwards from the Schöckel
We walked past some peaceful cows that were grazing on the mountain pastures and reached the summit area which is the location of the upper station of the cable car, of a couple of restaurants and a summer tobogganing course. The weather today was brilliant and many serious hikers, mountain bikers and tourists were congregating at the mountain top. We were quite fascinated by the summer tobogganing and Doris suggested that I should try it.
What a gorgeous day….
Well, I have always been a bit of a daredevil and she did not have to say it twice. She even sprang for my Euro 2.50 round, and a couple of minutes later I was sitting in the steel “buggy of death”, ready for my hair-raising descent down the serpentine curves of the course. Actually, the ride was a lot tamer than I expected, and I only occasionally pulled the brakes, but it was still an very entertaining experience. I figured if I did it again I would probably try to go down the course without breaking at all.
The Stubenberghaus, a registered heritage property
Once the lift had pulled my buggy back up to the summit plateau we started walking past the Stubenberghaus, a large mountain restaurant and inn, towards the summit cross which provides a beautiful view northwards into the mountainous area of Upper Styria. I have always loved mountains, and to see peak after peak after peak was just a great experience. We then started hiking back to the car and our trek back down was considerably easier than the torturous climb up. We stopped at Doris’ beautiful country house on the way back where we admired her recently created garden pond and her new dog. Equipped with some gorgeous ripe Styrian peaches from Doris’ family’s farm we returned to Weiz and I dropped Klaudia off.
The three girls at the summit cross
About an hour later we reunited when Klaudia, her husband and two children, her parents, her sister Andrea and her daughters Nina and Katja arrived at my brother’s place. Tonight we would all get together for a great barbecue, and my brother Ewald, the passionate chef, had a few special treats waiting for us. Anneliese, my sister-in-law, had been helping all afternoon with the preparations.
Arctic char – fresh from the pan on the open fire
After some initial chit-chatting we started off with a savoury vegetable soup, and then my brother started preparing the main course: 13 whole artic chars were waiting to be grilled in a large pan on an open fire. Ewald had already been marinating the fish in a special blend of herbs and spices the whole day. Tender young potatoes were to accompany the fish, and a solid Styrian salad with pumpkin seed oil rounded out the main course. A scrumptious raspberry parfait provided the sweet final note to our culinary symphony.
Everyone enjoyed the meal
So despite a bit of rainy weather yesterday, I had had a fantastic couple of days which included classical music, hiking, a reunion with good friends and an amazing array of gastronomic delicacies. Now there is only one more full day left of my trip to Austria, and tomorrow we will explore one of the medieval treasures of Styria: the Riegersburg, a massive fortress on a basaltic outcrop dating back to the 10th century, often referred to as the “strongest fortress of Christianity” because it was never conquered.
The final course: raspberry parfait