As soon as we arrive in Kleinwalsertal the feeling is there. An immediate feeling of peace and well-being. Around us are the steep green hills and the sound of cowbells in the distance. The mist creeps mysteriously down from the snowy peaks and into the valley. It is quiet and beautiful and feels like I can finally breathe after spending too much time in a dark room. What a liberating feeling!
We check in at the beautiful Naturhotel Chesa Valisa – also with focus on nature, authenticity and well-being. The food is from local and organic producers, and the hotel is built of wood, stone and clay – but in a modern kind of way. They have yoga classes, spa treatments and an outdoor heated pool. I could easily spend a whole week here charging my mental batteries in the mountains or in the pool, while looking out on the beautiful alpine landscape.
Kleinwalsertal is a narrow valley surrounded by tall mountains. In fact, you have to leave Austria and drive through Germany to reach the valley. There are no roads above or under the mountains. At the bottom of the valley in the small town of Baad, the road ends and you must return the same way you came – into Germany and back to Austria.
Besides the fact that the valley is absolutely stunning and the perfect place for hiking, it is also selected as a GenussRegion in Austria. This means that there are particularly good local food products and specialties to be found here. The following day we will combine these two things with a culinary hike in the valley!
Wild herbs and the cutest cows in Kleinwalsertal
Next morning our culinary hike begins. Our destination is the cabin Mittlere Spitelalpe, where we will be tasting the local cheese produced here. We meet with our guide Herbert Edlinger, who is a former award-winning chef. He drives us to the end of the road at the bottom of the valley, and we continue on foot along the trail and up the mountain. Along the way, Herbert shows us the many edible plants and tells us how they can benefit health. He finds wild oregano with the prettiest purple flowers. I keep it in my hands for a while – it has such a nice scent – like pizza! When Herbert is not guiding culinary tours for the tourists, he produces his own food out of the many different ingredients from the valley.
At first the trail is pretty steep but after a while it gets more flat. For every step we take, we get an even better view of the majestic snowy peaks high above us. Many of the peaks are over 2000 meters high. After an hour we have almost reached the Mittlere Spitalalpe cabin, when we suddenly hear the sound of cowbells on the trail behind us. A herd of the cutest cows appear around the corner. In summer the Austrian cows graze in the mountains and they all wear bells around their necks. The ever-ringing sound in the mountains is a part of the Austrian charm! At first they gaze surprised at us with their big brown eyes (we are obviously blocking their way) – then they become very loving and start licking Sofia’s hands! During this trip I quickly learn that Sofia attracts all animals like a magnet!
Mittlere Spitalalpe and food produced in closeness with nature
After an hour, we reach the Spitelalpe cabin, with an altitude of 1,560 meters. The family, who owns the cabin, lives here in the mountain all summer with their cows, chickens and goats. The milk from the sweet cows right outside their door, turns into the finest cheese and dairy products. In the small cafe you can come by in summertime and taste all the goodies. Besides the cheese, we have Austrian wine and a selection of sausages – one of which is made of the wild deer living in the mountains of the area. There is something very satisfying about eating food that is produced with such closeness to nature. In Kleinwalsertal a great effort is made to preserve the local food production. The hotels and restaurants in the valley all serve the local food for their guests, which makes the valley such a great example of sustainability.
After enjoying our delicious snacks, we now take a different trail down the mountain (find a map of the trail here). Over the lush green hills and the roaring river Breitach, which runs through the entire Kleinwalsertal. Once we get back to the car, we have truly been enriched with a stunning nature experience!
If you want to go on a guided culinary hike in Kleinwalsertal, you can book your trip on Kleinwalsertals website. The nearest international airport is Zürich in Switzerland and the drive takes approximately 3 hours. You can of course also hike to the Spitalalpe Cabin on your own or to one of the other Genuss-cabins in the valley.
*The trip was sponsored by Vorarlberg Tourismus as part of the campaign #inVorarlberg arranged by NordicTB. With me on this trip was Sofia from Fantasiresor.se, Otto Lilja and Janicke from the blog letsgetlost.no.