About twelve years ago, a dermatologist from Upper Austria created an 85 km long pilgrimage through a landscape of forests and boulders covered by thick mosses, murmuring creeks, meadows reaching up to the horizon with abundant blooming wildflowers , castles, churches and traditional “Vierkanthoefe” (farmhouses with square courtyards). This pilgrimage meanders like a lily (symbol for light) through the countryside. By constantly hiking up and down hills and low mountains, at the end of the pilgrimage, one has made elevation changes totaling 9000 feet.

Sigrid and I with our bag backs

On our way to the starting point of our pilgrimage, we stopped in a village called St. Thomas am Blasenstein. This charming little place is known for a mummy resting in a casket for over 300 years. The mummy is called ” der Gselchte Pfarrer” (smoked priest) and can be publicly seen by just paying two Euros. He died pretty young and his belly was stuffed with small pieces of wood, cloth and other things. His body was probably mummified by sealing it from air. Nobody knows why they wanted to preserve the body. Now, he smiles at every visitor, reminding the viewer of the shortness and preciousness of life.

Entrance to the crypt

Franz Xaver, one of 13 children, was born on June 4, 1709. He became a priest and died when he was 37 years old. The reason for his death is unknown. It might have been tuberculosis.

The first day we only walked about 15 km. I filled my water bottle at the Johannesbrunnen, a well with delicious, fresh water.

Sigrid walking toward the chapel. A sign beside the chapel says ” Humor should be a companion in your life. It vitalizes your spirit and enjoys people”. It was the first of twelve wisdom sayings located on different places along our path. Humor and joy were truly our third companion.

Very typical for the countryside in Austria are those little shrines called Marterl. Most of the time they house a statue of Mary or Jesus.

The area inside the wooden fence has a vegetable garden. Each farmhouse grows its own vegetables.

A shrine with Jesus pointing to his burning heart – a very common symbol

A powerful thunderstorm was approaching when we stood in front of the church dedicated to St. James. It was the right place to take refuge from the rain. When we entered, one man was sitting in the front of the church, praying. He turned around and ask us if we want a ride to our accommodation. With Sigrid not liking to hike in a thunderstorm, it seemed to be a blessing. ” Just wait for 20 minutes” he said, “then I will have finished my “Andacht” (prayer). After 15 minutes, sunlight was suddenly breaking through the windows and the sky was clear again. We did not need his offer, but thanked this kind man. It was the beginning of us meeting many nice and warmhearted people.

Many churches on our pilgrimage were decorated with birch trees. It is a tradition in this part of Austria to celebrate the Eucharist on a special day called “Fronleichnam”. This day is still an official holiday in Austria. Fronleichnam was special for me as a child because I could wear a white dress, have a wreath in my hair and carry a basket of roses during the procession of the monstrance.

Walking through the forest

We arrived at a rock formation called “Herrgottssitz” (throne of God). Since ancient times, this rock was considered as a sacred place. Offerings and rituals were performed on the top. A steal rope was helpful for climbing up.

Typical landscape

I was in awe of the many rock formations with thick moss in many shades of green. This is a truly mystical landscape.

Large meadows and stone walls overgrown by succulents alternated with forests and rock formations covered by thick moss. It was fascinating to see both vegetations so close together.

Sigrid and I stayed the first night in a farmhouse similar to the one above. We were the only guests. The lady of the house provided dinner for us because there was no restaurant nearby. The building is typical for this area – white facade imbedded with large rocks.

Game ragout with noodles, potato croquettes, mixed vegetables and green lettuce – a real treat!

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Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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    • Dear Erica, in reading your book “from mountains to medicine” your life is full of these adventures. Your footsteps are already imprinted in the earth:) I hope we will be able to do a hike together in Santa Fe. Thanks for reading my poste! Big hug, Traude

  1. You’re “typical landscape” foto is gorgeous. I will talk to Rudy about this. He should be fully rested from Camino trip he took.

    • Yes, Rudy will like this hike. A friend of mine did it in two days – each day over 40 km. it depends if you wants to also look in castles, churches and other things along the way. There are a lots of variation possible. I talked to a farmer in this area and he leaves at 3 am in the morning and comes back at 11 pm the same day – a lot of variations possible.

  2. I am so grateful that you share your adventures with those of us who otherwise would never have the experience of beauty and insights.


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