Unlike a lot of daughter-in-laws, I have a very good relationship with my husband’s family and I always look forward to visiting them and being visited by them. They live somewhere near Vienna and that is a good two-and-a-half-hours drive from Graz. Some weekends, we would agree to meet somewhere between our place and theirs for lunch and one favorite meeting place is the lovely town of Mariazell. We would have done the same last weekend but I had to bring my car to a repair shop in their town where I bought it (there were complications with the insurance so I can’t have it repaired in Graz).
Other than the nervousness I felt for driving a defective car, the fact that it was my first time to drive on the expressway made me feel more uncomfortable. I was behind the wheel holding a walkie-talkie so I could communicate with my husband who’s in his car driving a few hundred meters in front of me. I had to focus on the road and listen to tips, warnings, and instructions from my husband. It was an experience but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have if I were just a passenger who busies herself looking out of the car window for glorious sceneries while letting others worry about the driving.
The route to my parents-in-law’s place is a route I’ve travelled a countless times but nonetheless, I always enjoyed each time. It’s probably the changes in the scenes brought about by the change of seasons but I suspect it has more to do with this country. Austria is really wonderful and it reminds me of Tolkien’s fantasy place, Hobbiton. When I came here the first time, I felt like I am in a big golf course. Everything looks so green and so neat and soooo…landscaped. Sometimes, I still get that feeling.
We arrived at my in-laws’ on Saturday afternoon. The weather was not good but we still braved to go to Göttweig Abbey for a cup of coffee. We’ve been there several times as it is just a mere 45 minutes drive from their place. Göttweig is an interesting place with so much history but the thing that keeps me coming back there is the view. The old abbey is situated on the top of a hill overlooking a part of the magnificent Wachau wine region and some of the lovely little towns surrounding the hill.
On Sunday, we thought of doing a small trip to celebrate Mother’s day. We debated where to go. The Wachau region in Lower Austria and Neusiedlereee in Burgenland were the two final choices but we headed for Burgenland because it’s been years since the last time we all went there together. On the way to Neusiedlersee, we stop bei Weiden am See to have a delicious Steckerlfisch for lunch. Steckerlfisch is basically a grilled fish on a stick. It could be any fish. Gasthaus Steckerlfisch is a restaurant along the main road and they have a variety of fish for customers to choose from. They have different sweet water fish and mackerel. I went for the mackerel because the Pacific Islander in me was dying for a taste of salt water fish.
Cleaned, sprinkled with salt and herbs, and grilled. That’s it. Steckerlfisch are wrapped in a foil and served with some lemon wedges. I like the very basic way of preparing Steckerlfisch and I like the very natural taste too. The Austrian way to eat Steckerlfisch is to eat it with garlic bread but I ate my mine with rice and it was sooooo… good for my soul.
After the delicious lunch, we headed to Podersdorf for an ice cream and an hour of ferry cruise around the lake. There’s supposed to be a wind surfing competition happening there but unfortunately for the event, there was zero wind. The atmosphere was calm and cool and the water was still too cold for swimming but it was just right for sightseeing. Neusiedlersee has 315 km.sq. and is shared by Austria and Hungary (240km.sq of which belongs to Austria). This lake is known for its shallowness and I mean that literally. Based on latest findings, the deepest part of the lake is only 1.47 meter (that’s according to a voice over we were hearing all throughout the cruise). It is also said that this lake has dried up at several points of history. Right now, Neusiedlersee is a main attraction for local tourists and its grassy surrounding serves as a pit stop to several migratory birds.
Following the ferry ride, we agreed to share a bottle of wine. We were in the famous Seewinkle wine region; access to world class wines should be easy. We headed to the little town of Illmitz were we hang out in a small Heurigen and enjoyed a few sips of local wine. The wine was excellent but in account of having to drive back home, we didn’t drink more than what is allowed.
My in-laws drove back to their town while my husband and I took the country roads back to Graz. The navigation device led us to some roads belonging to Hungarian territories and that made the whole trip even more interesting. It always fascinates me that there’s a complete different culture, people, and language just a few meters beyond the border. I so heart Europe!