If I had to describe today’s South Styrian road in one word, it would be “closed.” If you plan to reduce your alcohol consumption, there is no better time to visit this area than the second week of November.
Strangely, it was not always that way. According to the old posts on this site, exactly seven years ago I had no trouble finding a place to drink. No so this year. All the “big name” Heurige along the road – Tscheppe, Repolusk, Kästenburg and others – had their doors shut, and the numerous temporary wooden huts that normally serve Sturm and wine, while still there, served nothing at all. Maybe it was because of Monday (the customary rest day for Austrian restaurants), but I suspect that the wine season had an early ending this year.
Hack-Gebell was a welcome exception, but its terrace looked very empty today, with only two tables apart from mine occupied. Somehow this Buschenschank had avoided my visits in the past, possibly because it is slightly off the main route and its entrance is hard to spot unless one knows exactly where one is going. It offers at least two types of Brettljause and plenty of sandwiches (it is weird to translate Belegtes Brot as sandwich, but I cannot think of anything else… still, “sandwich” sounds almost disrespectful). I went for the most obvious one and did not regret the choice. It was a typical good Brettljause of South Styria: quite varied, very authentic and featuring strong horseradish.
The ingredients that deserve a mention most were the Schweinsbraten (sorry, the Brustl – we are in Styria!) – almost fatless and with a fresh taste – and a yellowish, very salty spread that I think is called Bratlfettn. I liked the Verhackertes and the Speck too, but found the ham and especially the Liptauer quite bland. A single slice of bread served with the Jause was grossly insufficient; I tried to finish all the three spreads and a soft liver sausage with it, and even though I succeeded, that task required unhealthy rationing.
These minor complaints aside, Hack-Gebell is a nice little place that must be comparatively quiet even during peak touristic season. Today I was grateful to it for its simply being open.