Arrival at the Althammerhof
I roll down my car window and take a deep breath. The magnificent scent of dewy meadows and tangy country air is overpowering. As I step out of the car and go to ascend the steps to the entrance to the Althammerhof, suddenly one of the many sheep nearby starts bleating at me. With a smile, I turn around and cannot believe my eyes. Behind the cuddly sheep on the meadow, I see the beauty of the Semmering and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Semmeringbahn, which robs me of the breath I just regained: ‘I had no idea that such an enchanting, unobstructed view of the Semmering was possible’, I gush to my host, Julius Schneidhofer. He smiles, and invites me on a little stroll around the farm, guiding me through the stables, the spacious tavern area, and the cosy holiday apartments. ‘From up there, just above the building,’ he points, ‘you’ll have an even better view of the surrounding countryside. Come on, I’ll show you.’
In addition to a tavern and the awe-inspiring view of the various sheep breeds on the surrounding sheep meadows and orchards, the Schneidhofers also have their own “Schaf Gut Shop”, which has a truly magnificent product range: www.schafgut.at. From their home-made “SemmerGin” (both a successful wordplay and very tasty!) to typical products made from sheep’s wool, seasonal sheep’s cheese or lamb specialties, right up to a large selection of award-winning fine spirits, liqueurs and fruit juices, they offer an excellent selection of products for refined palates. I’m delighted to see what kinds of plants can grow and thrive here, 850 metres above sea level on the eastern foothills of the Alps: ‘We benefit from a very specific microclimate here,’ host Julius explains with a smile. ‘We’re at the point where the hot climate of the Pannonian steppe to the East meets the cooler, Alpine climate from the West, which is caused by the ascending mountainous landscape. Only a little further away, the fruit trees don’t grow anywhere near as diversely and lavishly as they do here’, he explains with pride. He has his grandparents to thank for this vision, as they specialised in sheep rearing and fruit cultivation at just the right time, creating a unique selling point that is highly beneficial today. ‘Come back again this year’, Julius says to me with a wink as we say goodbye. The drive, only an hour from Vienna, will definitely be worth it!