Our Hiking Trip through Styria’s Vineyards

After an enjoyable hike along the ridge of a vineyards we started our descent into the valley and spent about 45 minutes walking down a forest road and then headed into a cool forest that took us back to our vehicle. A fifteen minute drive later we arrived at our lunch destination: “Buschenschank Koschak” is a popular local destination for good wines and excellent local Styrian food. We had reserved a table and sat outside under trellises covered with grapes and vine tendrils.

One of my favourites, a “Fritattensuppe”

It was seriously time for a traditional Styrian meal: I started with a “Fritattensuppe” (a clear beef broth that features thinly cut pancake strips), my favourite Austrian soup. Then all five of us shared a big platter of Austrian Fried Chicken as well as a Rosemary Chicken with Rice. Austrian fried chicken is very crispy and less greasy than North American varieties and is a staple of traditional Austrian Sunday lunches. Traditionally, the largest meal is eaten at lunch time in Austria, although modern work routines have changes the traditional rhythms of food preparation and consumption as well.

Austrian fried chicken

The obligatory side dish is a mixed salad containing lettuce, tomatoes, beans and other varieties of vegetables, marinated with vinegar and pumpkin seed oil. Pumpkin seed oil is a popular Styrian speciality, a specialty oil made from the roasted seeds of pumpkins. Styrian pumpkins are unique: the seeds have lost their wooden shell due to a mutation about 100 years ago and only a tiny silver-coloured membrane protects the seed. This soft consistency of the seeds facilitates efficient pressing of the oil. The final product is a thick, dark green oil that has a nutty flavour and is used primarily as a salad oil, but also to refine soups and other dishes. You can even get a “pumpkin seed parfait” as a dessert, which is exactly what my brother ordered after we were finished.

A pumpkin seed parfait

Incidentally, pumpkin seed oil is the only Styrian delicacy that I buy in Austria to bring back to Toronto, or I might request someone traveling from Austria to bring me a bottle. As a passionate salad eater, Austrian pumpkin seed oil is my favourite salad dressing, bar none. And just recently I found a German delicatessen store that apparently carries Styrian pumpkin seed oil right here in Toronto. So thanks to Toronto’s multicultural culinary landscape I might actually be able to get my favourite Austrian delicacy right here without having to beg an Austrian visitor to bring me a bottle.

After a great meal I got really tired, especially considering the fact that I only had a few hours of sleep last night. I slept all the way home in the car and once we got back to my brother’s house, I crashed for a few hours. I woke up at about 7 pm, and just before having a light dinner, I hopped on Anneliese’s bicycle and went cycling for an hour throughout my home town.

Austrian mixed salad with pumpkin seed oil

Sunday night Austrian towns are traditionally very quiet since everyone is getting ready to go to work the next day, so the roads were nice and peaceful. When I came back my brother and sister-in-law were ready to go to bed so I turned in early to rest up for today. Well, unfortunately the weather today did not cooperate as planned and the entire morning was grey and drizzly. At noon time I visited my friends Andrea and Herbert, whose daughter Nina had stayed with my husband and me last year to as part of her Canadian stint to work as a nanny.

Andrea is the older sister of one of my best friends from school, and I had not seen her for at least 23 years. It was great to see her again, we had already chatted numerous times for free using www.skype.com, and I knew she had the same love for languages, travel and cosmopolitan thinking as me. She graciously invited me to join her family for lunch and I was listening intently to Andrea’s and Herbert’s travel stories from Rumania. Just in the last few weeks they had spent some time in Bucharest and in Transsylvania and learned much about Rumania’s interesting history as well as about the tyrannical Ceauscescu regime. We all agreed that we view traveling much differently as we get older, that today we really see travel as an opportunity to learn and to understand the world and its historic and environmental contexts.

A delicious lunch and a reunion after 23 years

We decided that we would jointly visit another local tourism attraction tomorrow: the “Katerloch”, a famous local limestone cave that is a popular regional tourist destination.

After a little walk in town I met my friends Luis and Isabella and their friend Wolfgang to play a couple of hours of tennis in an indoor tennis facility. The tennis club also features a bistro where we enjoyed a couple of pizzas afterwards and a beer. I thought to myself “these Austrians know how to live”. None of the Canadian tennis clubs that I have been at feature a bistro or any kind of gastronomic establishment. So I realized these Austrians have their priorities straight: you can work out and burn calories, but you have to cap it off with a nice tasty meal and a local beer because “Gemütlichkeit” (loosely translated as warm cordiality in a cozy environment) is an important factor here.

An intense round of indoor tennis

After about an hour I thanked my friends for a great tennis match and a cozy evening and headed back to my brother’s house to reconnect with him and to rest up for another eventful day tomorrow.

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