Love at First Sight

Stories from the Farm, 03.08.2017, Stefan Heinisch

Kathrin Röck comes from the Black Forest, and ended up in the Gasteinertal valley purely by chance. When she applied for a job in a hotel, she had no idea where the valley, valued by Emperors and Kings for its health benefits, was even located. The people there won her over on her first visit.  That’s why she came back. Today, a few years and four kids later, she’s not only a proud farmer, but also a passionate hostess.

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Calf licking the hand of a toddler in the pasture, Grußberggut Bad Hofgastein | © Farmholidays in SalzburgerLand / Daniel Gollner

Kathrin’s story is one of returning The connection to the valley and its people was made during the first contact, as part of a seasonal job. It could be the explanation for her rapid return, after working in “Bella Italia” in the meantime. You can get hooked on that place, too. It’s no wonder that the tourism graduate (she studied in Lübeck) had the wide world of travel and international hotel management in her sights, rather than the simple farm life in Bad Hofgastein in Salzburg. But things often go differently than planned. After she met Matthias, her integration into farm life began gradually. When her parents-in-law were no longer able to pitch in, she got involved and began taking on more and more responsibility. Kathrin loves the tourism aspect, and is able to let her creativity and knowledge come to good use in designing the holiday experience on the farm. ‘Our holiday homes must be created in a way that I would feel comfortable in them myself if I were the guest’, she says, underlining the emphasis placed on atmosphere and quality at Grußberggut.

‘Everything that nature has to offer is marketed.’

Seven milk cows provide a basic living. During winter, their milk is sent to dairies, although in summer, the Röcks sell their own butter and cheese straight from the farm. They also offer their home-made schnapps, jams and ointments at the village farmer’s market. The ointments are hand-made under the watchful eye of mother-in-law Maria. There are a few pigs for domestic use. Of course, the delicious bacon finds its way to the breakfast buffet to feed families of hungry guests. Occasionally, the guests will ask if the meat came from the cute little pigs on the farm or their relatives. The proximity to the animals forms a connection, but also raises questions. The producers and consumers notice this. However, the knowledge of the fate of the pigs doesn’t have a negative impact on the enjoyment of the meat. ‘This knowledge may even make the guests more conscious and appreciative of the fact that the animals (in this case, the house pigs), had a very good life’, Mrs Röck explains, convincingly.

‘Our guests value the normalcy at the farm.’

People who visited as children and are now coming back in search of a restorative holiday tell us how reluctant they were to visit the mountains with their parents. The lake was a lot colder back then. Or so they think. Childhood memories can have a lasting effect, even decades later. As such, some of the people who visited as children have become regular guests today. And of course, they bring their kids as well. It’s only fair. The Grußberggut is located a little above Bad Hofgastein, with a panoramic view of the valley and the Schlossalm opposite. It also has its own Rastötzenalm, about 1,700 metres above sea level, which is accessible via a gravel path and where mountain biking is permitted. It’s also a great place for the kids to play.

‘Gastein has so much to offer.’

Kathrin praises the Gamskarkogel, one of the tallest grassy mountains in the Eastern Alps, which ascends to a height of around 2,500 metres behind the farm. Here, you can also find the more tranquil, untouched side of the Gasteinertal valley. With its peaks and luscious mountainside pastures that are not dissected by cable cars or ski lifts. Speaking of... The winter is certainly a key period at the Grußberggut, because when it gets cold and snowy, the skiers come to Heissingfelding 13, who miss out on the agricultural aspects, according to the farmer. They’re just onlookers, not participants. Different seasons, different countries of origin, different holiday expectations. Visitors of all ages will surely not be bored in summer, either. The Alpine thermal baths are the latest accomplishment in the infrastructure of the modern spa destination, which bears its perpetual permissions to use the thermal waters from the source at Bad Gastein, as awarded by Emperor Franz I., with pride.

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