Hidden treasures, contact to locals, learning from each other, storytelling and the three pillars of sustainability. Reading more about what’s behind the Slow Trips philosophy in Eastern Styria, I find all this – and more – confirmed in my travel experiences.
Angelika Mandler, who like me shares her experiences on her travel blog Wiederunterwegs, and I recently went to explore more than half of the 20 newly founded Slow Trips experiences in Eastern Styria. Among them are quite unusual experiences for travellers, such as a shopping tour with donkeys (what the heck is that?). But also pilgrimage or alpaca hiking tours, both of which have become quite popular, are offered in a fresh, personal way at Slow Trips. More about that a little later.
So what exactly are “Slow Trips”? Are they only offered in Eastern Styria? Where can I book Slow Trips?
Slow Trips are derived from the Slow Travel philosophy: “Experience people and culture” is therefore not just a slogan, but the very essence of each such experience. All of the Slow Trips I travel to in Eastern Styria allow me to immerse myself and get to know the people, their very own way of life, their ideas and offers in a unique and very intimate kind of way.
Slow Trips are spread all over Europe, from the regions of Basilicata and Umbria in Italy, to the Austrian regions of Eastern Styria and Danube Upper Austria, to Luxembourg, Lithuania, Germany and Sweden.
The joint website www.slowtrips.eu is therefore completely international. You can easily browse the website for offers and book them right away: Availability is determined directly by the individual experience providers in the respective regions.
Travel accounts from my Slow Trips experiences around Eastern Styria.
If you want to see and hear how Slow Trips “work”, just watch my video. It includes a recording of various Slow Trips experiences and will certainly put a smile on your face. Taking the time for people and culture can be a lot of fun in Eastern Styria!
Slow Trips experiences in Eastern Styria: Nature, Mind & People.
Slow Trips are offered along several different categories; one of them is called nature, mind & people. These include autumn wreath-making, forest magic with yoga and mindfulness, pilgrimage on Styrian pilgrimage trails or watercolours in urban sketching style (I’d like to try that too, please!).
I met Veronika and Heidi, pilgrim guide and alpaca keeper, during the Slow Trips experience week. They inspired me with their dedication to pilgrimage and their alpacas respectively; I very much hope to repeat the respective experiences with my family one day.
House of Women: Practicing mindfulness during a pilgrimage experience.
In order to make the most out of my morning pilgrimage experience in Eastern Styria, I decide to arrive an evening before and stay one night as a guest in the “House of Women”. This enchanting hostel in St. Johann near Herberstein offers breathtaking views over the Feistritz Valley and contributes to me settling down, relaxing ahead of my pilgrimage. Thoughts of possible retreats for writing, creativity & mindfulness arise. “That’s exactly what we offer here at the House of Women”, says Christine, the manager, and gives me a folder called “Time-out offers”. I love them!
Veronika, our pilgrimage guide, meets me over a shared breakfast. Together, she explains to me, we go on a pilgrimage for a few kilometres through the forest towards Maria Fieberbrühl and return to the House of Women for lunch. However, pilgrimage with Veronika is not just “going for a walk and murmuring some prayers now and then”. The extremely warm-hearted Veronika sings, has poems and stories for us, and invites us to mindfulness exercises in a very loving way indeed. I would go anywhere with her!
Hohenkogl Alpacas: More than just another alpaca tour. Mindfulness exercises and picnic included!
From St. Johann near Herberstein, we continue our Slow Trips experiences towards Graz, to Slow Trip’s host Heidi and her Hohenkogl Alpacas. Even from a distance, I recognise the Schöckl, the local Graz mountain, and can only warmly recommend you to try out the “Bike & Hike Tour” I did up there recently.
In any case, Heidi welcomes us in a way that is very special to me. She has a little mindfulness experience ready for us, one that comes in “dolby surround” by her alpaca ladies!
Once we settle on her picnic blanket, Heidi has prepared a magical autumn story for us. I lie there in the sunshine, listen with my eyes closed and yet only have ears for the absolutely hilarious munching sound of the alpaca ladies grazing right next to me! They are so relaxed and content, in the middle of their familiar surroundings – it’s this feeling of peace that continues to wash over me as I listen to Heidi’s beautiful words. Now I am really looking forward to the subsequent hike with the alpaca boys, including another surprise Heidi has prepared for us.
Slow Trips experiences in Eastern Styria: Mobility & Slow Motion.
Another category among the Slow Trips offers is called Mobility & Slow Motion – the very essence of Slow Travel I’d say. It includes Slow Trips experiences such as a dating tour for singles, a zero-waste decoration workshop or a shopping tour with donkeys. We start the second day of my trip through Eastern Styria with creative travel, learning how to work with the softest stone in the world!
Kunstwerk.cc: From raw soapstone to a work of art in just one morning!
Apart from the material itself and the fact that soapstone is really easy to shape, there is one thing in particular that thrills me about this creative travel experience: the natural warmth of our hosts Kerstin and Andreas. Together with another couple, the four young creatives run the former municipal office in Hofkirchen near Hartberg as a creative workshop for their company Kunstwerk.cc: “The pandemic really gave us a boost”, Kerstin says, “and it was during this time that the idea for our soapstone DIY sets was born.”
Kerstin is a master sculptor herself. She loves working with soapstone and mainly teaches children and teenagers in her workshops, but also adults. When Andreas and she are not giving courses, they produce soap stone sets and commissioned work for the (online) trade. Both say they can make a good living from it. The more we chat (and carve), the more I take the young artist to my heart. Here, too, I hope to return with my family one day.
Apfelschmiede 3er: Taking a shopping tour with donkeys through Pöllau.
There is nothing more SLOW than going on a shopping tour with donkeys! So what exactly does this Slow Trips experience entail, you may ask? “For a start, let’s have you meet Kokos and Faxe and fetch them from their pasture first,” Carmen explains with a wink. In just a few minutes, she has “saddled” Kokos – that is, with a device for two generous baskets able to hold lots of shopping bags from nearby Pöllau!
The stops on our donkey shopping tour are Fandler Oil Mill, Mauerhofer Organic Mill, Buchberger Butchery and the local Pöllau Organic Farm Shop. If you want to taste your way through Eastern Styria like we did, taking the donkeys out for a walk in Pöllau is just the thing! We buy Fandler oils, freshly ground flour and mueslis from the mill, taste a range of local meat products and buy delicacies from the Pöllau farm shop (read more about it here). Everything ends up well stowed in the baskets that donkey Kokos patiently carries for us.
The donkeys (and Carmen) are an institution in Pöllau, I can tell. Carmen has taken Kokos and Faxe in and around Pöllau for almost ten years. Time and again, friends, children, families and passers-by come to say hello to Carmen and her donkeys. Meanwhile, they seem to have just been waiting for the carrots from the farm shop …!
Slow Trips experiences in Eastern Styria: Regional Food & Farming.
The third Slow Trips category, which I experience during this trip to Eastern Styria, is about enjoying regional products. It includes tasty experiences like the art of baking bread, for example, the world of biodynamic agriculture, the tree of life (elderberry) or the journey to cook a typical Styrian meal called Sterz.
Buchegger farm: A journey into the realm of stories, an ancient smoke house and a noble distillery.
Before we taste the excellent brandies at the Buchegger farm, Johannes first takes us out to “where it all began”. The three-generation farm (we get to greet the grandparents, Johannes, his mum and his younger brother – “I have to continue boiling down Dirndl fruit”, mum calls out to us, laughs and hurries on) extends over numerous orchards and houses.
The latest addition to the farm is a lavishly restored smokehouse dating from 1793. It houses a distillery, a salesroom, a pasta kitchen and a parlour. One day, the first floor could be restored to house holiday flats. “You’ve got a real gem here”, I say enthusiastically. It’s looking good for the big family – let’s hope life continues to smile at them in this way.
Kleinhofer’s Himbeernest Organic Farm: “Autumn in a jar” jam-making workshop.
Last but not least, I would like to tell you about a real discovery on my journey through Eastern Styria. Andrea Schmidhofer and her Himbeernest Farm, a member of the Austrian Farm Holidays Assocation, have truly earned her four flowers as the highest quality award. I am lucky enough to not only enjoy her Slow Trips experience, but also to spend a night at her lovely farm house accommodation. The breakfast … “I am a passionate hostess (with a great breakfast – my guests say)!” she writes on Instagram. An understatement. Her breakfast is more than great, it’s sensational: fresh raspberries in autumn. Lots and lots of real tasty food, even the vegetarian selection is large. Unfortunately, I can’t eat as much as Andrea offers me!
Her real passion is jams: “I boil down everything I can get my hands on,” I hear her say with a laugh. Before it’s time to “get down to business” and make some jams, Andrea has to show us her Angora goats. Here, too, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve forged the delicate bond of a new friendship: I’m sure I’ll see Andrea, her goats and her Himbeernest Farm again one day!
Check out further Slow Trips experiences on Angelika’s travel blog Wiederunterwegs.
Alpaca smarting, exploring “Lost Places” at the Waxenegg ruin, experiencing elderberry as the tree of life, tasting “Häfennigl” or discovering forest magic and, on top of that, sleeping in a wagon hotel – Angelika experienced all this and more on her travels through Eastern Styria.
Like me, she has fond memories of the Slow Trips experience providers and all their unique offers. On her travel blog it says “Jetzt mal langsam: Slow Trips in der Oststeiermark” (Slow Trips in Eastern Styria) with numerous tips, beautiful photographs and heartfelt details for your next trip to Eastern Styria.
Disclaimer: I have been invited on this trip to Eastern Styria by Slow Trips as part of the EU LEADER project European Slow Trips with the support of the Federal Government, the Province of Styria and the European Union. All opinions are my own.