For several months now I had been planning another trip to Europe, to visit my family in my home town in Austria, as well as to spend eleven days on the beautiful island of Mallorca and three days in the fascinating Czech capital of Prague, both destinations I had long wanted to visit.
On May 15, 2009 I finally landed in Graz, after an uneventful flight from Toronto via Düsseldorf. The only notable detail was the inspection by the “swine flu police” in Düsseldorf – since Canada has been affected by the swine flue epidemic all Lufthansa passengers had to fill out a health questionnaire and present themselves to two public health officials upon exiting the plane.
Preparations for a festival in my home town.
On this sunny yet cool morning I finally landed in my final destination. Graz, Austria’s second largest city, is a wonderful destination; its late medieval and Renaissance-era city core have helped to make it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother picked me up and we drove into my small provincial home town, and it was great to reconnect after almost a year.
The ancient Taborkirche (church) of my hometown, dating from 1188
I spent the first few days doing local excursions with my family. Styria, my home province in Austria, offers great travel opportunities, from active travel for hikers, bikers and skiers, to cultural attractions including many impressive castles, fortresses, monasteries and other architectural heritage sites.
Our hike in Wildon with my family
Our first excursion took us to Wildon, a small rural town about 20 minutes south of Graz, that was first mentioned in historic records in the 13th century. The surrounding area has been inhabited since about 4000 B.C. Our destination was the Wildoner Berg, a mountain that is distinguished by a ruined fortress, the Hengistburg, whose original foundations date back to about 1000 BC.
Religious shrine along our hike to the ruined castle of Wildon
Today there is not much left of the fortress other than a few walls and a relatively well preserved tower since the fortress was destroyed by lightning in 1810. Mountain goats were climbing around the medieval remnants of this once impressive fortification. The town of Wildon is well known for its legends, for the “wild man” who supposedly terrorized the local population, and the “white lady”, a ghost who is said to haunt many castles and fortresses in Styria.
The castle ruin of Wildon
We capped our trip to Wildon off with a visit to a “Buschenschank”, a local family owned wine restaurant that serves wine produced on the family’s property. Styria is a popular wine growing area, with three separate regions that specialize in different types of wines. Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer and a truly local brand called Schilcher enchant knowledgeable wine enthusiasts. Eight wine routes allow travelers to explore the Styrian wine country in scenic drives, and hundreds of local wine restaurants and cozy bed and breakfasts cater to the travellers’ needs.
The columbines are in full bloom in the forest