Europe offers some of the most exciting vacation spots in the world! Inevitably, Paris, Rome, Barcelona and Amsterdam are on everyone’s list of desired travel locales, as they should be. However, one must not neglect visiting the many hidden travel treasures on the continent. The past two summers I have visited the Tyrol region of Austria and must say, it is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have encountered, with some of the kindest people and most delicious cuisine!
As a young soprano, I have been engaged in several European summer programs, in which singers work through long hours of coachings, language classes and voice lessons to grow as a total performer. For the past two summers, I have traveled to Maurach, Austria, about thirty minutes northwest of Innsbruck, to participate in such a program. Maurach is a gorgeous town, hidden between Austrian Alps and as one might expect, much of the activities here revolve around the mountains. In the Winter, I understand that Maurach is a bustling ski town but having only experienced this beautiful town in the summer, I will share its warm weather offerings. I must note too, that I use the word “warm” somewhat loosely, as the mountain weather vacillates from sunshine to near snow within any given twenty-four hour period.
However, when the sun is shining, there is nothing better than a hike up one of the several mountains that surround Maurach. This is a fairly physically challenging activity, so I do not suggest it for the weak of heart. I have personally hiked up the mountain twice in tennis shoes but it may be wise to invest in hiking boots and poles, which are sold at the local supermarkets. Furthermore, when one does reach the precipice, which takes approximately two hours, the feeling of accomplishment is remarkable. To stand on the peak and gaze down at the enormous mountain one has just conquered is unlike any other experience!
But there is more than one way to conquer a mountain! Many of the mountains offer a gondola service, which allows visitors to experience the splendor of the mountaintop without all of the hard work. I have also witnessed many hikers who ride the gondola up the mountain and then hike down. Another popular mountain activity in Maurach is parasailing. For about eighty euros, visitors can launch from the mountaintop and sail over the green Austrian landscape and land safely in a field near the town center. I do not quite understand how all of this is accomplished but over the two summers I have spent here, I have never seen an unsuccessful landing, so they must be doing something right!
For those who do hike to the top of the mountain, or ride for that matter, their efforts can be rewarded at one of several restaurants that are strategically positioned at the peak. I personally like to indulge in a hefeweizen and the Tyrolean specialty käsespätzle, after a tiresome hike.
On that note, have I mentioned that the food here is spectacular? Firstly, the beer offerings of Germany and Austria cannot be matched. The flavors are vibrant and fresh and I suggest weisbier (white beer) or hefeweizen (wheat beer), whenever possible. Also, Austria is known for its delicious Grüner Vetliner, a wine varietal notable for its crisp acidity, green notes and fragrant fruity bouquet. I always suggest drinking and eating anything produced locally and this wine is no exception. It pairs nicely with the pickled vegetables that make their way into most Austrian salads. In regard to food, Austria specializes in beautifully prepared meats such as venison, lamb and rabbit. One also cannot go wrong ordering any kind of schnitzel, pounded and lightly fried cutlets of veal or pork, in Maurach. Moreover, pizza and pastas are wonderfully prepared here too, which may be due to the Tyrolean region’s close proximity to Northern Italy, only a little more than an hour away. The pastries in Maurach are also fabulous and one cannot visit this part of the world without indulging in apfelstrudel. But I must confess, my favorite thing to eat while here is käsespäzle: freshly made tiny dumplings cooked with flavorful cheeses, onion and bacon, then topped with fried onions. If America’s macaroni and cheese had a love child with Italy’s gnocchi and then it died and went to heaven, it would be Tyrolean käsespätzle. Absolutely delicious!
More to come next week on lodging and dining in Maurach, Austria and its surrounding cities!