Another wonderful summer day followed, where I decided to start walking through the wildest section of the Raabklamm. This is Austria’s longest gorge and a protected European nature conservation area. My friends, Sophie and Herbert, set the tempo on our Nordic walking poles. We took a break to enjoy some Austrian food at a nearby restaurant before going on a trip to Graz, Styria’s capital and the second-largest city in Austria.
Trying Nordic walking sticks to hike Raabklamm
Inspired by my visit to Katerloch cave, I met my friends Sophie and Herbert early on Tuesday morning to go hiking through the Raabklamm (Raab River Gorge). The gorge is surrounded by limestone mountains that hold more than 700 caves, including Katerloch and Grasshhle. Both of these caves are accessible to the public and represent major tourist attractions in the Weiz area.
Again, we drove through the rolling hills of Gttelsberg, Haselbach, Leska, and Drntal to park our car near the entrance to the Raab Gorge. Sophie gave me a couple of Nordic walking sticks that I was trying out for the first time while hiking. Nordic walking is also referred to as pole walking or exercise walking. It is an activity consisting of walking with adapted ski poles. Originally popular in Finland and Scandinavia, Nordic walking has become extremely popular almost all over the world now.
Initially, I was a little skeptical about the idea, but once I started using the walking poles, I found that going uphill and downhill has become a lot easier, as the poles offer additional support and balance. Plus, constant arm motion consumes up to 40% more calories than walking alone, making it easier to advance even on flat terrain. The added advantage of Nordic walking is that a majority of the weight is spread to the poles, which decreases the strain on your spine, as well as on the knee and hip joints.
Once they persuaded me of the benefits of pole walking, we began our descent into the Raab River Valley. At first, the mountain path was gentle but then turned steeper.
Discovering the Raab River Gorge
The Raabklamm is Austria’s longest gorge, separated into the Grosse Raabklamm (large Raab Gorge) with a length of about 10 km and the Kleine Raabklamm (small Raab Gorge with a length of about 7 km). We went straight to the Grosse Raabklamm, which is the wilder of the two ranges. This area is characterized by steep rocky cliffs, wooden bridges, suspension bridges, walks along the river, as well as parts of the path that veer away from the water and carry you along the elevated portion of the hills.
The Raabklamm itself has remained natural and undeveloped and is home to a very varied population of animals, such as foxes, badgers and moufflons, a genus of wild sheep sometimes known as goat antelopes. Amphibians such as fire salamanders and several species of predatory birds have led to the classification of Raabklamm as a protected Natura 2000 area, a European nature conservation area. Plantlife along steep limestone cliffs also contains remains of ancient pine forests and a number of alpine species.
Our hike through the Raabklamm sometimes took us next to the river, and on other occasions along the slopes of the gorge. My friend Herbert used a pair of suspension bridges to illustrate the laws of physics and started shaking the contraption when Sophie and I walked over. Luckily, the suspension bridges are very robust and all the trails and ladders are well maintained.
After an hour and a half of hiking through the Raabklamm, we arrived at the dam that is part of the local hydroelectric power system. This part of Austria was electrified at the end of the 1800s. My home town of Weiz is one of the centers of early generation hydroelectric power. After admiring some pretty ancient looking hydro-generating machinery, we walked back to the local country road and headed back to my car.
Sophie and Herbert had to leave, and I was planning to continue on my excursion to Graz, the provincial capital. But before that, I had to nurture my appetite, and I was just a minute away from a well-known local restaurant whose Austrian delicacies were sure to hit the spot.
Lunch at Gasthof Dürntalwirt Graf-Reisinger
The Austrian idea of Gasthof is actually a lot more rustic and down-to-earth than the typical North American restaurant. The Gasthof typically serves traditional Austrian food; sometimes, there is also an outside patio since dining in the fresh air is very common in Austria. As the Gasthof is an inn, it also provides overnight lodging with breakfast.
This is indeed the case with of Gasthof Dürntalwirt Graf-Reisinger, which not only provides Austrian cuisine and a lovely patio but also serves as a bed and breakfast.
Once there, I sat down to admire the long menu and decided on two local specialties: the Fritattensuppe (pancake strip soup), an item that I always have to eat several times when I’m back home, as well as the Mulbratlbrot. The latter is a piece of Austrian rye bread, covered with a thin layer of butter and thin slices of a special tender slice of smoked pork, topped with horseradish.
Rye bread filled with a selection of cold cuts or grilled meats is a traditional in-between meal in Austria and is also a popular snack for hikers and tourists to the Buschenschanks (the restaurants serving rustic local food owned and run by a local winemaker).
After some delicious ice cream for dessert, I was well set for my next destination, Graz. Only a few minutes from the restaurant, I stopped my car to look back at these rolling hills, one of my favorite places when I grew up. Then, I continued my drive down 25 km of winding country roads to Styria’s largest capital city.
On this beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I enjoyed my drive through the quiet and serene hills of Eastern Styria. Once again, I remembered that the place I grew up in was a lovely neck of the woods.
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.
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