Muerzsteg - Not just a Presidential Hideaway

17.04.2019
To the outsider Muerzsteg is just a sleepy little town you might drive through on your way to South Styria. But there is a kind of magic in this piece of land between the Rax, Veitsch and Niederalpl, just a half hour drive from Halltal. The history of it is rich, going back to court hunting parties in the fall or the first Styrian ski pioneers 120 years ago. The very first ski competition of Middle Europe took place here. Ever since 1947 the Muerzsteg Jagdschloss (hunting lodge) has been the summer residence of Austrian presidents. Back in the monarchy days Franz Joseph I received the last Tzar of Russia here, Nicholas II. Now the lodge is a rather modest residence, and the locals love to entertain with stories about the place. One particular story speaks for the down to earth mentality here. It is said that former president Thomas Klestil was flown there unexpectedly by helicopter. There he sat, on the landing in the sports field, because the gate was locked and the keeper was nowhere to be found on a weekend.

Passing through the town and heading back towards Mariazell you will reach the mountain pass Niederalpl. It is a small ski resort in winter and the starting point of numerous panorama hikes in the summer. Our hike was rather short, in just half an hour we reached the altitude of 1,400 m at the Sohlenalm. Another 3 hours from there would have been the Hohe Veitsch at almost 2,000 m. The hike is steep for about 20 minutes until you get out of the fir tree woods. In just about half an hour you are rewarded with the beauty of mountain meadows and huts reminding you of favorite childhood cartoons like Heidi. Late in fall it is very eerie up there, there are no birds chirping, just the wind howling through branches. The mountain rises right in front of you, majestic and frightening when mists surround its peak. On a clear fall day you can take in the picture perfect panorama of the mountains surrounding you.

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