MiNDFOOD’s Editor-in-Chief, Michael McHugh, ventured to St Anton, Alberg while in Austria and was blown away by the village’s stunning scenery, delicious food and local traditions. The train ride to the small Austrian town revealed the region’s idyllic countryside. “It was very pretty scenery; lots of green paddocks, cows with bells around their necks, sparkling lakes, mountains that reach the sky,” Michael says.
As for St Anton itself, the village won the Entente Florale Europe award in 2017 for being the prettiest and most environmentally friendly village. With a population of only 2600, the strong Austrian culture is evident. Whether it’s the rifle club, fire brigade, mountain rescue or folk dancing group, this is a very family-centric mountain environment with a low-stress level and friendly, welcoming people.
Hiking, Biking and Alpine Flowers
The St Anton hiking guides are a walking encyclopaedia of alpine flowers; they know more than 250 species by name. Along the alpine rose path – known as the “red sea” when the roses are in full bloom – on the Rendl and up to higher pastures, there are more than 20 different varieties of orchids and the meadows are also home to the endangered rare edelweiss. Some of the alpine flowers also possess healing powers, so fans of medicinal herbs are often seen over the summer months collecting herbs for teas and remedies. Mountain biking around St Anton offers different pathways for varying levels of experience. Grades of difficulty are classified in blue, red or black, starting with easy trails through meadows and forests through to moderate climbs and more challenging steep slopes for the hardcore. Paths are signposted and the views are spectacular.
Iris Höll is the organiser of the Mountain Yoga Festival St Anton, where yoga fans gather to practise while enjoying nature and glorious mountain scenery over four days. “In the village the locals went to yoga classes and were already living the yoga lifestyle,” she says. “The concept for the festival was simple: why don’t we use this lovely energy that is in the village and base a festival around it?” This year will be the third year of the festival, which attracts big names in the international yoga scene and incorporates workshops, talks and lectures around the subject of body, health and nutrition. “We are bringing nature and simple yoga techniques together,” explains Höll, who believes we all want to reconnect with nature and not lead such crazy lives. “I want to have space to reduce all the noise, and my yoga mat is a docking station for me to do that.”
Michael recommends the m3 Restaurant for tasty local cuisine. The establishment serves a warming dish called frittaten suppe, which is a beef and vegetable soup with thinly-sliced pancake. They also make the classic Austrian wiener schnitzel. “Both dishes were delicious,” Michael says.
Almabtrieb is an annual alpine cattle drive festival, where cattle are herded down to the valley after grazing throughout the summer on the high alpine pastures and paraded through the village streets on the return to their stables. The animals are decorated with flowers, bells and ribbons, with their farmers dressed in local lederhosen and dirndl, hats featuring flowers and feathers. Traditionally, decorating the cows is thought to symbolise a trouble and accident-free summer for the animals. There are competitions and plenty of festive activities during Almabtrieb, perfect for visiting travellers.
Where To Stay
Michael stayed at the Hotel Schwarzer Adler, which is in the centre of town only minutes to the cable car and ski slopes. It was built around 1550 by the Knights of St. John, and has always been a stopover for travellers and merchants. All rooms are renovated, Michael’s with stripped-back pine wood-panelled walls and ornate ceilings, and decorated with modern alpine accessories, wooden boxes, woolly cushions and blankets, all in muted tones of brown and taupe. There is also a sky pool, sauna and wellness relaxation areas. The frescoes on the façade of the hotel depict an eventful past and, like most houses and hotels in the village, the Schwarzer Adler is decorated with window boxes filled with flowers – from a distance they look much like a line-up of pretty-frosted cakes.