Hitting the nail on the head. Striking the iron while it still glows. Having “several irons in the fire”. “Scything grass”, traditionally meaning an activity that is easy as pie. Our language is marked by proverbs from another time. Here in the Lower Austria’s Mostviertel district, a region south of the Danube river on the border between Styria and Upper Austria’s Alpine regions, you are actually able to time travel. How is this possible? Easier than you think. Not even an hour’s drive away from the modern Western motorway, you will find Sepp Eybl‘s famously large hammer mill, a traditional forge at the creek in Ybbsitz with more than 500 years of history: “When I tell this to the Americans, they are always impressed!”, he laughs happily as a mischievous expression flits across his face. Sepp Eybl is a true icon here, known all over the place for “living his passion”: From the manager to the blacksmith. A model of a man. Full of muscles. What a guy. We are thrilled!
My Travel Tip for you: For your next visit to the Mostviertel district, you should get yourself a SEPP. We are lucky and our SEPP is called Leopold. Because “S.E.P.P.” actually means …
… “Service Seekers with Profile & Personality“.! Really. The “SEPPs” of this district are extremely warm-hearted and knowledgeable local tour guides who seem to know literally everything about every place, every river, every mountain and every family history. The agency “Rent a S.E.P.P.” tells you all there is to know in more detail, and allows you to make a booking for your next visit, too (in both English & German languages). We immediately fall in love with our tour guide SEPP Leopold. All day long, he accompanies us on our journey through the creative Culture Park of the Iron Trade Route in Mostviertel, covering a total of 10 creative partners who have teamed up as part of the network “Creative Travel Austria“. Last spring, I was already here visiting with my travel blogging friends Monika & Petar Fuchs accompanied by our charming SEPP Maria. We visited the pear blossom at the end of April in the Mostviertel district: What a beautiful trip that was.
This time, however, our focus lies more on active & creative work rather than purely enjoying the landscape or the area’s culinary delights. As we drive around the Mostviertel, our SEPP Leopold starts telling us the first stories of the tradition of iron working in what today is known as Culture Park “Eisenstraße” (Iron Trade Route). At the sight of the gently rolling foothills of the Alps, a little nostalgia starts building in me. Our first programme point is the forge centre in Ybbsitz, a creative forging workshop & a visit to the traditional hammer blacksmith Sepp Eybl. Could I imagine what would await me there? Never in my life.
Visiting Sepp Eybl’s hammer forging plant was an incredibly strong (creative) travel experience. Its nature & intensity is what I would like to share with you here today.
We continue our way along the Iron Trade Route in Mostviertel. Finally, we are face to face with what creative travel is all about!
Only 100 metres from Sepp Eybl’s hammer mill is another forge dating back to the golden age of iron processing, an ax forge with an attached museum. Here, we are able to inform ourselves about the production of coal used in the forges and the processing of iron, while Franz Holzinger has already prepared a glowing piece of iron for us: Now, finally, it is our turn to roll up our sleeves and to have our cameras ready for some action! With full force, I let the blacksmith’s hammer fall on the glowing iron, held and twisted by Franz so that under my blows a four-sided shaft is formed. At times, the hammer bounces back from the heavy iron anvil and I jump at the loud metallic sound – we really have landed ourselves in a different world and time here! As the glowing shaft is finally beaten enough, Franz puts it in a prefabricated form and prompts me to hammer at the thick upper part, which still glows golden. Soon, the first nail forged by my very own hands and tied together under the heat of more than 1.000°C is ready. I am excited, and so proud! Now finally, I can better understand Sepp Eybl’s “glowing passion” when he speaks of the joy of forming his “hot potatoes”: “Blacksmithing is almost like plasticine for adults. Creativity of expression really knows no limits in this art form.”
And once more, we are asked to become creative along the Iron Trade Route in Mostviertel. Now, we are in for learning how to scythe, at Johann Lueger’s 1st Austrian Scything School!
Should you only ever make it to the Lower Austrian Mostviertel district once in your life, then I would highly recommend you to visit this warm, friendly and immensely creative farm run by Johann & Marianne Lueger in Opponitz. On their steep, lush green slopes around the house & farm, they have created a place where interested visitors can learn the scything & mowing of their beautiful alpine meadows: “Many visitors, who have previously moved to the countryside and who do not want to look embarrassed in front of their neighbours, come to us for advice: We show them how they are able to mow using traditional scythes where no machine can go”, Johann Lueger laughs when asked about the motives of his students in the first Austrian Scything School! I am already intrigued by the name, and it is not only me: Two of our Tyrolean friends Christina & Thomas have also come here to learn from Johann in Lower Austria. “Now, you really are able to boast about what you have learned here back home”, I say with a grin.
After a brief greeting with the “Mostviertler Smith Pearl“, a type of sparkling wine made locally and served to us in the farmhouse parlour, we are off to do some “creative scything“. Patiently, Johann sits down with us and explains to us the first proper handling of the scythe, including its preparation for the act of mowing the grass on the steep slopes of the mountain pastures. Then, it is our turn to use the scythe and experience a traditional part of farming in the Mostviertel district!
Disclaimer: We have been invited by the Culture Park of the Iron Trade Route in order to travel into the Lower Austrian Mostviertel district. All opinions are my own.