Some of the rewards of traveling are the memories we make as we make our journeys. During my time in Europe, I traveled quite a bit. Most of my travel consisted on visiting friends who I met in Brussels who had moved to other cities. In 2012, at the invitation of my friend Sabrina who I met in Brussels, I took a road trip to southern Austria to discover a new magical place, Styria. Two other Puerto Rican friends and I hoped on my trusty 3 series, Hans and embarked on a short yet memorable trip.
|Rolling Hills of Styria|
Our road trip was smooth as we crossed Holland, Germany, and finally, Austria. Although the trip was easy and picturesque, I had a little toll sticker shock when I arrived in Austria. Not only did we have to buy a decal in Austria for 8 Euros, we also had to pay an additional 16 Euros to get to Graz in tolls. The roads are very well kept, just a warning for those looking at an Austrian road trip.
|Dirndls and Wine in Gamlitz|
We arrived to Sabrina's family lake house on a sunny and hot Friday afternoon and quickly jumped in the lake. The lake homes had a beautiful alpine look and the water was perfect given that it was very warm in Graz. I became enamored with Austria during my first visit in January 2010 with a solo trip to Vienna. I love the elegance of the city. These feelings were reaffirmed for a second time when I returned to Vienna and was then enchanted by Salzburg. This time, Graz and Styria gave me third reason to love Austria. Sabrina planned an aggressive agenda for our 72 hours in the region, at first what we thought was impossible, turned out to be an amazing trip. I am very grateful for all the things we experienced in such a short period of time! Our Austrian, Peruvian, Belgian, and Puerto Rican gang enjoyed our short yet eventful trip as we called ourselves the Austrobelgoperurican family....
Our hostess had a very busy agenda for us but it was great to experience so much in such little time. We took in a gorgeous view of the city at Schlossberg , where we experienced one of the beautiful elevator rides, riding on the inside of the mountain to the top, where we took in the sunset followed by dinner and drinks. The following morning we headed for a day tour of Graz. The city is filled with beautiful decorated buildings which make you want to waltz around the square! I even took the opportunity to buy a summer Dirndl for our winery tour. After our tour of Graz, we headed to Gamlitz for a tour of the Tement winery.
The view from the winery was gorgeous: rolling hills of vineyards and perfect sunny weather. We were even able to see Slovenia from the terrace of the winery. The wine tasting was composed of six different local wines. What was even more surprising was the fact we only paid 10 Euros for the tasting which includes a guided tour. One of the things I've enjoyed the most about my three trips to Austria is the quality of service and the politeness of the people. Gamlitz did not disappoint. To end the evening, we headed to the Skoff winery for dinner. We tried all the local specialties, plates of local cheese, hams, and vegetables. My favorite of the dinner was a bean salad with one of the staple ingredients, pumpkin seed oil. Ten bottles of wine later and some schnapps, we were singing show tunes at the bar of the winery!
The following day, we received a guided tour at the Vinofaktur, a shop which specializes in all local products from Styria. We learned how the main products of the region, pumpkin seed and honey were produced and luckily we got to sample all kinds of wine, oils, and honeys. My favorite honey was aptly called the "dirndl" it's a strawberry and honey mix. Delicious! We concluded our Sunday with a tasting at the home of the revered schnapps maker, Zieser. The owner, Johann was very passionate about what his craft and it was fascinating to see how he continues to makes it by hand. As we twirled around our glasses we can smell the fruit of the Austrian country side, we ate a delicious carpaccio and local cheese. When we first arrived we were tired from all the activities, but when we saw his energy and passion we quickly got into the schnapps drinking spirit!
|Where Artisan Schnapps is Made|
I am grateful I had the opportunity to experience such a beautiful landscape Styria has to offer and the warmness of its people. I may be a little hesitant to share this experience because I want to keep this place for myself. It was lovely to walk around the vineyards, seeing local families dressed in dirndls and lederhosen and not huge group of tourists. I know I will return to the land of waltz, dirndls, and most importantly, schnapps! This is a great memory I fondly talk about whenever Austria comes up! Again, thanks to Sabrina for making it happen!