Oststeirisches Hügelland, Austria:
Eastern Styria′s Hill Region
The Oststeirisches Hügelland or "Eastern Styrian Hill Region" is a landscape dominated by smooth hills in the south-east of Styria (Steiermark). The Oststeirisches Hügelland extends over a total surface of approximately 50 by 80 kilometres in a roughly rectangular shape. Note that the term "Oststeirisches Hügelland" is a vernacular one and corresponds only roughly with political or administrative borders. The Hügelland comprises of the political districts of Graz-Umgebung, Leibnitz, Weiz, Hartberg, Fürstenfeld, Feldbach and Bad Radkersburg.
Within Austria, the Oststeirisches Hügelland is known for good food, friendly people and a mild climate - ideal ingredients for building up a tourism industry. This is exactly what was strongly attempted in the 1990ies, when several communities in the eastern part of the Hügelland build spas to use their hot springs - giving rise to the Steirisches Thermenland, a cluster of spa towns promoting the modern interpretation of "taking the cure". A total of six thermal spas can be found in Loipersdorf, Bad Blumau, Bad Waltersdorf, Sebersdorf, Bad Gleichenberg and Bad Radkersburg. The rest of the Hügelland is rather tame in terms of tourism and you will rather find family-run B&Bs than large hotels.
Tourism in One of Austria's Most Rural Regions
The enthusiasm of building a tourism infrastructure did not come out of a sudden burst of entrepreneurial spirit, but rather out of necessity: The Hügelland is historically underdeveloped and predominantly agricultural; due to the Iron Curtain, it was cut off all major trading routes and lacked the industries that other parts of Styria had to sustain itself beyond a very basic economy. Famous agricultural products from the region include various sorts of wine, pumpkins (used for the production of pumpkin seed oil), and the legendary Styrian apple - almost subject to national-Styrian pride (if only Styria was a nation…).
Since agriculture does not lead to a great deal of prosperity and the thermal spas of Styria face strong competition in Hungary and elsewhere in Europe, the province of Styria constantly tries to promote the region′s development as a tourism destination: Spa, hiking, cycling, dining and gentle winter-sports (no proper skiing, though) work towards a re-branding of the Hügelland as a holiday destination mostly for families and elderly people. This is supported by various theme roads, most importantly the Schlösserstraße. For sightseeing, note the county towns mentioned above (all of them are nice and described in detail on this website), as well as Ehrenhausen, Pöllau with the nearby nature reserve, the monastery of Vorau, Kornberg and Riegersburg.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, there is now more of a cultural exchange especially between Styria and Slovenia. Little-known fact: A part of the historic Styria, the so-called Untersteiermark, is part of present-day Slovenia. The German population of the Untersteiermark fell victim to the ethnic cleansings following WWII, but in recent years, traffic, trade and cultural exchange drove the regions back together. This is particularly noticeable in border-towns such as Bad Radkersburg. It remains to be seen whether this development will lead to a boost in the economy of the Oststeirisches Hügelland - for the time being, you can still enjoy the region for its rural charms.
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