Katschberg Card: thoroughly tested!

22. July 2017

The renowned keynote speaker and unorthodox thinker Axel Haitzer once said: "Service means seeing the whole business with the eyes of the customer!" In my position as Marketing Manager at Falkensteiner Resort Katschberg, I took this to heart, and tested four attractions for you, all of which are included in the new regional Katschberg Card.

As of this year's summer season, all guests will be issued with a free Katschberg Card during their stay. It includes a large number of discounted or even free activities on and around our Katschberg Mountain. From mountain railways to swimming pools, petting zoo & pony pasture - there is something to fulfil the heart's desire of every holidaymaker, large or small. The rationale behind this is to make things as nice and in particular as pleasant and uncomplicated for our guests as possible. However, the many available options may make choosing what to do when, how and where not quite so straightforward. I, at any rate, had a hard time making my choices – but only because I couldn't just abandon the office completely. That's why I spent 2 days putting the chairlift up to Aineck Mountain, the Tschu Tschu Train through Pöllatal Valley, the Pony Pasture Express, and the Donkey Park Maltatal Valley through rigorous testing.

Day 1: From mountain to valley

At an early 10:00 am, I bade my colleagues from the reservation department farewell in the neighbouring office. I may have detected a glimmer of envy in their eyes, but I could easily live with that. The 3-seater chairlift up to Aineck Mountain is located directly above our Falkensteiner Club Funimation Katschberg – it takes you straight to the summit comfortably and safely, climbing from an altitude of 1,640 to 2,220 metres in a matter of minutes.

Once you arrive at the top, everything instantly seems easier. I am already fortunate to work above the clouds every day, but this view and the feeling are beyond words. Since I still had a second item on my agenda, I opted for the short panorama hike right there on the mountain plateau. The short 1-kilometre circular walk is appropriate for anyone and provided a stunning view of the Tauern mountain range on the one side and the Nockberg Mountains on the other. You can actually see how one mountain range melds into the other. The Katschberg-Aineck mountain area is an interface and connecting link in so many ways – whether between mountain ranges, federal provinces or people – and I could truly feel this at that very moment.

After a casual, approximately 45-minute amble, I found myself back at the starting point, but eagerly embraced the chance to stop over at Adlerhorst for a delicious pot of soup and just to enjoy the panoramic view. If only every lunch break were like this. But now I had to get back down, and by this, I mean all the way down. To be precise, I needed to get to Vorderes Pöllatal Valley (down the mountain by car on the Carinthian side – approximately 15 minutes) – where the Tschu Tschu Train was already awaiting me.

The scenic train, built to carry 50 passengers, took off for Kochlöffelhütte (wooden spoon hut) – and my inner child almost jumped for joy. It's amazing how delighted you can be at age 28... but then again, perhaps it was because of the nature reserve itself. The high mountain valley is resplendent in lush green with colourful accents and ranks among the most beautiful and pristine valleys of the Alps.

Of course, the landscape is different than 1,200 metres higher up, but it is also beautiful – just in a different way. The distance I travel in the Tschu Tschu Train can easily be covered on foot as well. All in all, the Bacherlebnisweg Pöllatal (brook experience trail Pöllatal Valley) is 6 kilometres long and as the name suggests, it offers a memorable experience, since this is where gold and arsenic were mined many years ago.

Upon reaching Kochlöffelhütte, I strolled along the valley for another short distance, but then found myself drawn almost magically to the private trout pond. Hungry guests can catch their own meal here – but luckily, I was full and preferred to look on, feeling, as I often do, amazed at the calming effect of water. But the rustic hut has even more to offer – my inner child rejoiced again as I arrived at the petting zoo. I lingered for a little while longer over my Häferlkaffee (large cup of filter coffee with milk) and enjoyed the peace and quiet until my return train entered the "train station".

My summary after Day 1: Upon additional inquiry, I learned that the total cost for the round trip with the Aineck Lift and Tschu Tschu Train would be EUR 28.00 per adult. With the Katschberg Card, both are included at no charge. That is a great argument in itself, but in addition, you get an extra share of pure nature experience to boot. At any rate, for me as a "local", it was a real experience. Nevertheless, I would recommend: make sure you wear appropriate footwear and don't forget to bring a windbreaker jacket for Aineck Mountain. Because, as it turns out, I slightly underestimated the wind there.

Day 2: Donkey & Horsepower

The second day away from my desk and computer was dedicated completely to our four-legged friends.

First, I headed to the donkey park located in the beautiful Maltatal Valley and run by the Gollenz Family. From Falkensteiner Hotel Cristallo, it takes approximately 25 minutes to get to the stud farm by car. Right at the entrance, I was greeted by a free-running peacock and the rest of my visit was to remain just as unusual as it had begun. This attraction is also free of charge with the Katschberg Card, a season's ticket would cost EUR 5.00 – completely fair and family-friendly.

Personally, I had always wanted to visit the donkey park, but had never made it there before – I guess I can spare you the mention that the best is often close at hand. At any rate, the little park makes a well-tended, manageably-sized first impression – but sometimes it pays to look a little closer or not to judge too quickly, because at that point I had yet to see the spacious paddock. Armed with currycomb and brush, I set out on my tour. Actually, it's more like becoming part of the herd, because there is no fence or wire to separate visitors from the docile animals.

Amid small and large Irish, American, Hungarian, and Spanish donkeys, alpacas, sheep or goats – now that's a multicultural experience. My path led past the snug "love nest", where the farm also obviously breeds its own animals, to a large meadow. Only here, did I realize that the park isn't that small after all. Occasionally, a four-legged friend would cross my path – none of them seemed at all perturbed by us humans; some certainly enjoyed the many displays of affection, while others enjoyed being left alone, but there was no sign of the often-cited obstinacy. When I came upon the little foals, I approached with caution. One of them actually scrutinised me curiously and even let me pet it. The alpacas and the lamas seemed much less enthusiastic about my advances – so I settled for watching them from well out of their spitting range. I am not exaggerating when I say I could spend hours here – just sitting on the meadow and being a part of the herd. But Katschberg Mountain was beckoning again, so I took a quick snapshot for the family album and, with a heavy heart, bade farewell to my kindred-spirit brothers & sisters.

Back at the Katschberg village square, I found the donkeys' larger relatives already waiting with 2 PS and a tiger duck carriage. At a trot, we then set off for the nature reserve of Gontal Valley.

The route is also an easy hike for the whole family – provided you have no fear of the creatures you may encounter, such as the Gontal Valley imps. The approximately 45-minute carriage ride is fun – feeling a bit joggled, I arrived at Pritzhütte, a hut known far beyond the provincial borders.

Now it was time for some more exercise – but only of the leisurely kind along the short panorama circular walk. Back at the pony pasture, I petted "Snow White" briefly, but refrained from going for a ride – I'm afraid that would have been too much for the poor pony, but I'm sure it's a great experience for children (and free of charge as well with the Katschberg Card).

Of course, my culinary highlight of the day was not to be forgotten – conveniently, Pritzhütte serves up a first-rate Kaiserschmarren. Fortified and rested, my 1.5-hour return trip with Maya and Henry – the two strong Noriker horses – began. Having arrived back at the Cristallo, I didn't feel like disembarking from my carriage at all – but I did still need to put my experiences down on paper for you.

My summary of the second day: Both day-trip destinations are equally well suited and recommended for older and younger children. I need to add that as an animal lover, I am a bit "biased", but sometimes friends happen to have paws (or hooves) and that's why the day was something truly special. The only "fly in the ointment": The carriage ride is not completely free, but it is part of the Katschberg Card bonus partner programme. As a result, the trip there and back costs EUR 20.00 for adults - but it's still a special experience.

I would have loved to test more attractions for you, but then again, I cannot leave my workplace for quite that long. If you are interested in additional reports, just let me know – I'll forward your request to my boss ;) I am positive that the tourist region has created excellent added value for our guests by establishing the Katschberg Card and hope your experience will be just as wonderful as mine. Fortunately, summer has only just begun – we look forward to your Katschberg Card experiences :)

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