The brilliant blue skies and the beaming sunshine woke me up the next day, and I went for a country drive in Austria. I searched out the impressive baroque pilgrimage church called Weizbergkirche in my hometown. Then, I visited Schloss Thannhausen, a Renaissance castle used as a venue for concerts and special events.
After that, I continued my country drive in Austria through the mountain gorge of Weizklamm, with vertically dropping calcareous cliffs, a river, and the main road patched against the walls. The lane is so narrow in some places that cars on one side of the road have to wait for those on the other side to pass.
Country drive in Austria to Weizbergkirche
Monday morning I opened my curtains to a wonderful day. The lush green foothills of the Alps and the mountains surrounding Weiz were competing with the brilliant blue sky to grab my eye. Obviously, I needed to get out on the road and explore. After breakfast, I got into the car, put on my favorite playlist, and hit the road.
I began my country drive in Austria with a visit to Weizbergkirche, a major pilgrimage church in my hometown. It is assumed that this church was already located on the hill above Weiz in the middle of the 11th century. Due to poor lighting conditions inside the building, the church was remodeled several times, until a decision was finally made in the mid-1700s to replace it with new construction.
The Weizbergkirche is a very imposing house of worship and has been a well-known pilgrimage church since the 12th century. It became a very popular pilgrimage destination in the 17th century, but since then the number of pilgrims has dropped considerably. It is the biggest church in the district capital of Weiz and a landmark that can be seen on nearly every postcard in my hometown. I was especially amazed as I stepped inside the church and saw the restored 18th-century frescoes that are fascinating tourists again with their beautiful colors and details after being restored.
Just in front of the church, you can find an elevated platform from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the city and the surrounding area. A sculpture called the Balance Beam reminds people of the passing of life. On the southern slopes of this hill is the Weiz Graveyard, which has many graves dating back several hundred years.
After exploring Weizbergkirche, I got into my car to continue my country drive in Austria and drove up to so-called Landscha, which also overlooks the city and has been a very popular residential area for decades due to its great views. The top of the plateau features woodland and agricultural fields and is a popular destination for joggers and bikers. From here, I went into the forest and turned to the east into a mountain valley called Ponigl.
Ponigl Valley, a must-see during a country drive in Styria
Just a few minutes away from the city, Ponigl is still very rural, remote, and agricultural. Several farms that are a few centuries old are dispersed throughout the country. They are still actively engaged in agriculture, be it corn growing or cattle raising.
The valley finishes in a dead-end and only forest roads and hiking trails can take you up to the surrounding mountains. One area nearby is known as the Galgenwald (Gallows Forest), a spot where local prisoners were hung until recent times. Many tales surround this town, and to this day there is an area with three stone columns that have long been used by the regional court for executions.
Schloss Thannhausen and a country drive in Weizklamm
My next stop was to visit Schloss Thannhausen (Thannhausen Castle), a large country estate that was originally listed in 1177. The current version of the castle was designed in a Renaissance style in the 1500s and features a beautiful inner courtyard with rounded arch arcades.
After that, I continued my country drive in Austria by heading for the Weizklamm (Weiz River Gorge), a steep incision into the nearby limestone rocks that plunge vertically to the Weizbach. The main road is built into the cliff and too narrow for two cars to pass side by side. Mirrors placed in the corners of the road let drivers see whether traffic is coming.
At the top of the rocks, you can find a hiking trail called Jagersteig (Hunters Trail) which offers fantastic views of the nearby mountains and the Weiz River Gorge.
There is a fork in the road past the gorge: on the left side there is the village of Passail, and on the right side, you continue along the river to Schmied in der Weiz. I turned right and decided to go on a steep country drive in Austria to the mountain village of St. Kathrein am Offenegg. This is a picturesque little spot with beautiful mountain scenery, plenty of local bed and breakfasts, hiking trails, and a nearby ski area. It also has an educational woodland trail and a public herb garden.
In the afternoon, I continued my country drive in Austria with a visit to Katerloch Cave. But I’ll cover that in the next article, so stay tuned!
Sarah Grossman was born in Austria but moved to Canada after college. She is an avid and savvy planner and organizer of worldwide travel and enjoys sharing her personal stories to encourage, inspire, and help other travelers.
You too can become a guest blogger on The Travel Bunny. Just submit a free guest post.
Other travel blog articles you should also read on The Travel Bunny
Why I love to go back and travel in Austria
Skiing in Austria: Best ski resorts in the Austrian Alps
Beautiful late winter weekend in Vienna: 48 hours in Austria’s capital