A Day Trip to Slovenia and Italy – Monte Lussari

Lunch time had arrived and we decided to sit down on one of the balconies looking southwards into the Italian Alps. On this gorgeous clear day the view was astounding, and our appetite was stimulated by the crisp Alpine air. We each ordered a dish called “Tris” which consisted of three types of pasta and also featured porcini mushrooms and a local sheep cheese. The imposing mountain in our view was the Cima di Cacciatore (Hunter’s Mountain). Neither one of us could finish this hearty lunch and we decided to walk it off a bit with another walk in the summit area before we took the cable car down into the valley.

“Tris” – a three-cheese specialty

We drove back to Tarvisio where we stopped for about an hour and checked out the local market. Tarvisio is the main town in the Val Canale area of Italy, a very unique region since it is the only area where Europe’s major language families, the Germanic, Slavic and Romance-language speakers, meet, a unique constellation. Tarvisio itself used to be part of Austria-Hungary until 1918 and the town used to be mostly German-speaking. For many years it was an important market town and benefited from the border traffic with Austria and the former Yugoslavia, and respectively today’s Slovenia. Even today there is still a significant amount of shopping activity going on on weekends.

Street view of Tarvisio

As the afternoon was rapidly coming to a close we decided to start our drive back to the eastern part of Austria which would take about three hours. Near the Carinthian city of Klagenfurt we happened upon a traffic jam on the highway and the constant stop and go action brought our car close to overheating again. As we started to ascend the mountain chain between Carinthia and Styria, we drove onto a parking lot where we let the vehicle cool down again to make sure we’d be able to get across the mountains. Finally in the late afternoon we had reached our home town of Weiz and my brother and sister-in-law were looking forward to resting and relaxing after a somewhat stressful drive.

5 litres of wine for 6.10 Euros?

Well, I had had a bit of a snooze in the car, so I was ready to keep exploring. I hopped into my rental car and decided to continue with some local explorations. I drove through the picturesque Weiz Gorge along the Weiz River into the mountain highlands that frame my hometown. I drove up into the region of Sommeralm which is a landscape characterized by high-altitude alpine meadows, located at about 1200 m. Most of the area is above the tree-line and cows graze freely on wide open spaces. I watched a local farmer feed the cows and continued driving along the narrow road that connects the Sommeralm with the adjacent region of Teichalm (the word “Alm” refers to “Alpine meadow or pasture”.)

Pedal boats wait for customers at the Teichalmsee

Some years ago seven small local municipalities came together to form a region called “Almenland”, a designated natural park region that offers opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing as well as wonderful mountain vistas. Several restaurants and bed and breakfasts provide opportunities for hearty Austrian dining and accommodation, and a small local lake features pedal boats. I parked my car at the “Teichwirt”, a large local restaurant, and started my walk around the lake.

An over-sized wooden Alpine ox

At the southern end of the lake is an over-sized statue of an Alpine ox, a symbol of the successful local free-grazing cattle operations that sell their products to numerous restaurants in the region. Every summer more than 4000 Alpine oxen graze in this area and apparently the meat that they produce is the most popular brand in all of Austria.

The Latschenhütte, a place of rustic Austrian entertainment

I walked past the very rustic restaurant and local entertainment centre called the “Latschenhütte”, a place that features Alpine disco parties every Tuesday and “Over-30” parties every Friday. Typical Styrian live music is also offered regularly and this complex of wooden structures is a popular entertainment destination for people from the surrounding region. Just next to it I stopped to watch a group of grazing cows and was entertained by a duo of bovine creatures that were “horsing around” (or should it be “cowing around”?) with one another. They were snuggling up to one another, occasionally one tried to jump the other and all around they seemed to have a good time.

The sun starts to set over the Teichalmsee

The sun was now setting and the air was getting cool, so I started my drive home past the mountain villages of Fladnitz and Passail, two major villages in the Passail Basin, a high-altitude plateau that is framed on all sides by mountaineous terrain. I definitely had had a full day today and was looking forward to new adventures tomorrow.

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