After an evening with classical music in Austria, a more physical and nutritional schedule was on the menu the coming day, since the sunshine had returned.
I went on a second photo-safari around Weiz, my hometown, and met with friends that I haven’t seen for more than 20 years. Together, we went hiking in the nearby Schöckl Mountain, where we tried summer tobogganing in Austria.
Another photo-safari in Weiz
On my second photo safari in my hometown, I visited the Taborkirche, which is devoted to St. Thomas of Canterbury. The Romanesque church was first mentioned in a document in 1188 and was added a Gothic altar area in the late 1300s.
Until the late 1600s, the impressive walls and watchtowers enclosed this cathedral, giving it a defensive character and making it possible for the locals to find safety within the building. This was particularly important during the Turkish invasions of the 1500s. The churchyard contains some tombstones from the Roman era, suggesting that this area was heavily settled more than 2,000 years ago, although much older pre-historic remains were also discovered in the surrounding regions. The Celtic Settlement on the nearby Kulm Mountain is the first outdoor prehistory museum in the province of Styria and reveals that the region has been populated since prehistoric times.
During my early morning stroll around Weiz’s Main Square, I came into two old friends: my neighbor’s girlfriend and a member on my former volleyball team, whom I haven’t seen for more than two decades. I’ve been living in Toronto for almost 21 years now, so it was very nice to see these familiar faces again and to reconnect after such a long time.
Catching up with old friends in Weiz
Around 9.30 am I went to visit Laura, one of my best high school friends, at her parents’ home. Our other schoolmate Mia was also there, and I loved seeing them both again, more than 23 years since we graduated high school. Following the initial embraces and kisses and how are you, we went for a walk on the nearby hill, the Weizberg. Our stroll took us through the local cemetery, where we admired a very prominent tomb: the last resting place of Aurelia Schwarzenegger, Arnold‘s mother, who had lived in Weiz for a long time.
In the vicinity, there is the so-called Kräutergarten (herb garden) created by a group of local residents (including Laura’s mother) with a wide variety of local herbs, many of which are used in regional cuisine. From there, we took the romantic stairs down the hill, a route that we had walked many times as children. Our walk also took us past our former high school, where we shared fond memories from our school years.
One of the highlights of our high school education was going on choir tours to Germany, to our sister school in Offenburg, where the two student choirs sang classical songs together. We were most fond of remembering the concert in which both school choirs came together to perform the last song for the final. Singing our hearts out among 120 performers from two different countries was an exhilarating experience, so it’s not surprising that my passions for cross-cultural exchanges were kindled at an early age.
Upon our return to Laura’s parents’ home, Mia went to her place, and the rest of us cooked a hearty meal together. I am by no means skilled in the kitchen, so I spent my time cutting and chopping the ingredients. Laura’s mom whipped together a fantastic meal for 10+ people in no time and we soon sat down in the garden to have some Austrian specialties: we savored Grießnockerln (semolina dumpling soup), stuffed green peppers, and tasty mashed potatoes with caramelized onions.
In view of this tasty and large calorie infusion, we had to do a workout and decided to go on a climb to the Schöckl Mountain. (With an elevation of over 1,400 meters, Schöckl is the tallest mountain in the area.) Little did I know that I was going summer tobogganing a bit later!
Hiking and summer tobogganing on Schöckl Mountain
We met up with Mia again around 14.00, took our Nordic walking sticks, and tackled Schöckl mountain on its steepest side. Mia, a seasoned hiker, led the group at a rather hellish pace while Laura and I clambered behind her. Several parts of our hike were so steep that we had to use our hands to support ourselves as we climbed up between the rocks. But our Nordic walking sticks were a big help on the way, so about an hour later we reached the top and admired a spectacular 360-degree view of the Styrian hills and mountains.
The Schöckl Mountain is also referred to as the Grazer Hausberg (local Graz Hill), and we had great views down to the capital of Styria and the Mur Mountains. To the south, the Hungarian and Slovene plains spread out. Looking east and west, we saw the foothills of East and West Styria, while to the north, we took in a view of the more imposing mountains of the Styrian Alps. We’ve also seen many ramps for hang-gliders, a common activity in this area.
We walked past some pretty cows grazing on the mountain pastures and reached the summit area, which is the site of the upper cable car station, a few restaurants, and a summer tobogganing course. Today’s weather was beautiful and many experienced hikers, mountain bikers, and other visitors gathered at the top of the Schöckl Mountain. We were very intrigued by the summer tobogganing, and Mia suggested that I give it a go.
Summer tobogganing in Austria for the first time
Okay, I’ve always been a bit of a daredevil, so I didn’t need to be asked twice to go on a roller coaster ride. Plus, Mia also offered to pay for my ticket. That is how, a few minutes later, I was seated in the steel buggy of death, preparing for my hair-raising plunge down the serpentine curves of the summer tobogganing course. Honestly, the trip was a lot tamer than I expected, and I only pulled the brakes a couple of times, but it was still a really enjoyable experience. I thought if I tried summer tobogganing there again, I’d probably try to go down the mountain without breaking at all.
As soon as the lift brought my alpine slide buggy back to the top plateau at the end of my summer tobogganing experience, I joined my friends for a walk past the Stubenberghaus am Schöckl (large mountain inn with a restaurant), towards the summit bridge, which offers a beautiful view north to the mountainous area of Upper Styria. Then, we started walking back to the car, and I must say that our trek down the mountain was much smoother than the torturous climb up or the summer tobogganing!
We arrived at Mia’s house after this summer tobogganing adventure. She lives on a beautiful country estate with a brand new pond and a large garden. Laden with some beautiful ripe Styrian peaches her father had just picked from his orchard, we returned to Weiz, where I dropped Laura off.
If you don’t or can’t hike that much, you can also take the Schöckl Mountain chairlift to enjoy the sights or try the mountain coaster in Austria.
Barbecue with friends in Weiz
About an hour later, though, I saw Laura again. She came to my brother’s house with her husband, her mother, her sister Sophie, and her daughters Lena and Katja. We gathered together for a wonderful barbecue, and my brother Tobias, the talented chef, had a few special treats already waiting for us. My sister-in-law Anna had been helping him prepare things all day, too.
After some chit-chat, we began our feast with a tasty vegetable soup. Then, my brother started to cook the main course: 13 Arctic chars grilled in a large pan on the open fire. Tobias had also marinated the fish in a special blend of herbs and spices all day long. Tender young potatoes were to complement it, together with a Styrian salad with pumpkin seed oil. A divine raspberry parfait was the sweet final touch to this culinary symphony.
Despite a bit of rainy weather, I had a wonderful time in Austria, enjoying classical music, cycling, gourmet delicacies, summer tobogganing, and time spent with family and friends. I had only one more full day left of my visit to Austria, and I planned to spend it discovering the historic wonder of Styria: the Riegersburg, a huge castle on a basaltic outcrop dating back to the 10th century. It’s sometimes referred to as the greatest Christian fortress since it has never been conquered!
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. Oh, and she now loves summer tobogganing!
You too can become a guest blogger on The Travel Bunny. Just submit a free guest post.
Other travel articles you should read on The Travel Bunny blog
The wonderful Austria wine region of Southwestern Styria
Amazing hike in the Raabklamm (Raab River Gorge)
An interesting visit to Katerloch cave