The annual St. Paul Mostwandernweg or ‘Cider Walk’ is held in the surrounding hills on May 1st, which is technically Austria’s Labour Day, and is therefore a public holiday. It is a pilgrimage of the alcoholic kind so it is definitely right up my alley (only in moderation, of course!).
Thousands (ok, but not too many thousands I guess) of people converge on this day to complete the Mostwanderweg, which is basically taking a long, scenic walk in the hills, stopping at various Farmers Huts along the way – and if you haven’t already worked it out – we’re talking about Apple Cider Farms.
I’ve participated in two of these now, and I have to say, it’s a definite highlight of the year. It’s kind of like Winery Walkabout, which I’ve done up in the wine regions of northern Victoria, expect you can walk between places, and the snacks and cider are (mostly) free. Basically it’s just a big open day for all the Farmers Huts.
Upon arrival at around 8am, it’s important to get straight into drinking cider and eating chunks of crusty brown bread with salami and spreads. If you can handle it, a schnapps is also quite acceptable at this point.
Around the half way point there are a number of places that provide lunch. This part is (for good reason) not free, but the pricing is so random and minimal that it barely matters. Upon sitting down we are simply ‘served’ breads, cider and various other snacks. We are entertained by live music, and any point our food or cider reserves are looking low they are immediately replenished. A schnapps or three is mandatory following this meal and then the bill will be calculated… simply by someone looking at the table of leftovers, counting bottles and estimating how much was consumed. And they are seriously underestimating here!
After lunch, we roll ourselves out, woozy and full. But of course, it’s not over. No, the best part is still to come – that being: Schnappskrapfen. If you’ve read other blogs of mine you will know what Krapfen is – delicious, doughy cakes (like donuts) traditionally filled with apricot jam. At our final stop (which is conveniently located very close to where we’ve left our car – this is intentional folks) we are showered with plate after plate of Schnappskrapfen. That is: small pieces of Krapfen, soaked in schnapps. Schnapps in Austria is nasty, potent stuff – in fact it has to be over 40% alcohol to even be called schnapps. I can tolerate strong schnapps only due to the fact that I can throw it down super-fast. But with the Schanappskrapfen… you actually experience and taste it to its full potency, chewing and mushing it around in your mouth for many glorious seconds as it does its best to make you gag.
But despite the fact that I’m not a fan of Schnappskrapfen, I dutifully tried it each time… just in case I’d missed something previously. And it’s also the final peg on the ladder, the final challenge to overcome before total annihilation. Last year I ended up in tears and asleep following jetlag and homesickness, this year I just ended up asleep, and missed a dinner we’d planned with friends. I wonder what will happen next year!