In less than a week, I will be off to Italy to try my first via ferrata (or five of them, actually). I finally managed to buy the necessary equipment last week, so now I’m busy breaking in my new shoes and exploring all the hiking routes near where I’m currently staying.

Hiking down the Kogelberg, with a view of Seggauberg on the other side of the valley.

Hiking down the Kogelberg, with a view of Seggauberg on the other side of the valley.

One day, I went to the area of Seggauberg and Kogelberg. It only takes 20 minutes or so by car to get there, so I managed to do some hiking after getting off work at around four in the afternoon. I left my car in the village of Seggauberg, hiked down the hill on a very steep and narrow path and crossed a dry riverbed and a larger street until I was at the foot of the next hill, the Kogelberg. A beautiful path through the forest led me higher and higher, until I could see the entire city of Leibnitz. I might have seen down to Slovenia as well – but of course the border isn’t something you would have been able to distinguish from up there. In the end, I took the same path back again to get to my car and sat there on the parking lot enjoying the beautiful view of the valley at dusk and eating the snacks I had brought.

First signs of spring in the forest.

First signs of spring in the forest.

Another tour I did was up the Buchkogel, which is even closer to where I stay. I started at Lebring train station and walked up to the church of St. Margarethen. Going further up the hill, I wasn’t too sure if I was using a public hiking path or trespassing private property, so I had a brief talk with one of the locals. Once again, I realized how extremely friendly everyone is here: The old man even walked with me for a little bit to show the where I could take a path leading into the forest and further up the mountain. I had no map and no clear goal of where I wanted to go (except “up that mountain”), so I just hiked where my feet led me, making decisions on whether to turn left or right mostly by gut feeling. I love how the forests here in Austria always seem a littler “wilder” than the ones in Germany: Once I got onto the forest path, I didn’t meet a single person, but saw several wild deer and even a pheasant standing on the path directly in front of me. This, too, was a hike I did directly after work, so I started using paths leading back towards the village when the sun was beginning to set. At the time I emerged from the forest, I realized the route I was using abruptly ended at a house. But as I could already see the church I had passed on my way up somewhere below me, I crossed a very steep pasture until I was back on a paved road leading downhill. I arrived back at my car with the last rays of sun glinting above the horizon – perfect timing!

The church of St. Margarethen.

The church of St. Margarethen.

I’m sure I will do some more hiking in the next couple of days, but by now I’m starting to feel prepared for the week I will spend at the Garda Lake. I can hardly wait to finally try out my very first via ferrata next week!