SWMBO froths at the mouth with all the FREE STUFF!
Gruss Gott aus Steiermark! Austria is 2/3 Catholic and the normal way to greet people in this country is by saying Greet God. Good-bye here is “Pfirtie” which is short for “Pfirtie Gott” – May God Guide/Keep You. Everybody’s catholic and that shapes the country but for the most part the people aren’t very religious. It’s a secular form of catholicism where catholic tradition is the basis of daily life but people don’t really go to church or think about religion. There sure are a lot of road side shrines though – all beautifully maintained.
Steiermark is Styria in english and it is a southern province tucked away next to Hungary and Slovenia. We’ve never been to Steiermark and are eager to experience some “green gold”. Steiermark is famous for pumpkin seeds. Seriously. They lightly roast them and then press them into oil. The oil is shockingly green – like pesto – and smells heavenly. It is extra-virgin and cold pressed. Right now, the fields in this province are covered in yellow pumpkin flowers and green vines.
Today we checked into a new farm stay in Riegersburg and received our Genusscard. Because we are staying more than three nights, we each get a card that allows free entry into 120 different sites during our 5-day stay.
We would need weeks to visit everything but we are being self-limiting by picking sites close-ish to our homebase, ones that interest us most, that would normally cost a lot and which are open at convenient times. It is still shoulder season and a lot of things are only open on the weekends, particularly ones geared to children.
We checked in early so we could start using our card. First stop, the highly touted Vulcano Ursprung. This is the prosciutto factory everyone is raving about. I was a little sceptical. I don’t mind eating my words (!) because these guys are 100% classy. We drove up a hill into the middle of nowhere and there was a tour bus and a full parking lot. The tour/tasting was at 3:30 pm but since there were 30 Germans waiting, the guide wasn’t able to offer an English tour. No problem – I could easily translate. But he came back a few minutes later with a solution. He would set us up with the English version of the movie and then explain to us how to navigate the site and we could do a self guided tour. This ended up being fantastic. We were sad that Firstborn, the film-maker, wasn’t with us because we were shown two creative, witty, professional short films that she would really have enjoyed.
At the end of our tour, we heading into the dining area for our sample plate. Man, was the meat good. The business is based on animals that are well treated and that have ample space, music to listen to, a scratching post and good feed. The prosciutto is aged for longer than normal and the breeds are heritage ones from the region. So well done from start to finish.
From there we headed further into the back of beyond. Up and around and down and back up and around again. Down a little windy road with a sign pointing to the “Weltmaschine”. What on earth could this World Machine be? And where the heck was it. Well, it was honestly in the middle of nowhere in a farm house. Somehow we don’t have pictures of the whole of this beautiful machine. I urge you to Google “Gsellman’s Weltmaschine” and click on “images”. Wow.
Gsellman was born in 1910. He only did a few years of primary school and then became a farmer. He attended the World’s Fair in Brussels in 1958 and saw an amazing machine. He set about building one at his farm and spent the next 23 years building. He bought all his pieces at the Graz flea market, loaded them on the train and then hauled them from the train station to home either on foot or by oxen. He used hula hoops, ship rudders, vacuum cleaners, potato baskets, salt and pepper shakers, toys and loads of other stuff.
He’s been dead since 1981 but his ancient daughter-in-law still answers the bell when you ring and gives you a private tour of the machine. It is truly a fascinating place. Afterwards, she let us pick cherries from her tree. It is surreal that in this out of the way place in rural Austria, this simple farm woman greets visitors from all over the world several times a day. They ring the bell, she comes down and gives them the tour, then she continues on with her chores. Thank-you Genusscard for showing us this! We were more than happy to buy a few postcards and a litre of Green Gold from this lovely person.
Got to get some rest for tomorrow’s Genusscard day! It’s gonna be a big one…
– Pfirtie from SWMBO