My friend Michael comes from Vienna. The Viennese are sometimes ill-reputed in the rest of Austria. The residents of the capital city are supposedly snotty and a bit too self-aggrandizing. Michael, however, embodies another undisputed quality of the Viennese—they know how to indulge in the good things. During our journey through Croatia he raved about a place in southern Austria that would not only be great for motorcycling, but where the culinary arts have also been driven to perfection. He was talking about Southern Styria.
What he didn‘t tell me about was the Soboth. In geographic terms, Soboth is a village up in the mountains of the Koralpe. But to get up there, you get onto “The Soboth,” which is what the locals call this thrilling piece of mountain road. We should have been tipped off about the road’s popularity by the swarm of race bikes in the cafes of Lavamünd, the last town in the valley before the climb. At the town’s exit, the main road leads straight into Slovenia, and to the left is the inconspicuous turn to the Soboth, which I almost miss. It would have been a shame.
The Soboth reveals itself to be a masterpiece of road construction. It curves in perfect radiuses up the side of the mountain, offering from time to time great views toward the west. Farther up, we dip into the forests of the Koralpe more than 6,000 feet above sea level. Eventually, the road descends to the other side. The following 25 miles, with just a few houses and almost no interruptions, are a rare treat in central Europe.
Suddenly, our surroundings change completely. The mountains give way to rolling hills, which are covered in vineyards. We have entered the wine country of southern Styria. Based on a recommendation, we stay at the Sattlerhof, a hotel in the middle of the vineyards owned by the Sattler family.
Andreas, the junior chef and a biker himself, recommends the South Styrian Wine Road to us. According to our map, it leads along the top of the ridge that marks the border between Austria and Slovenia. Logically, we should get some beautiful views into both countries from the road. There is also another interesting feature—the Wine Road officially belongs to the Austrian road network, but at one place white markings in the middle of the road show that its other side is in Slovenian territory.
This dream road is also something of a historic attraction. Since the sudden opening of the Eastern Bloc in Europe in the early 90s, things around here have changed a lot. The border posts disappeared and people could enjoy the freedom of travel. Several memorials and artworks give witness to this drastic transformation. One restaurant sits right on the border, with the border line cutting through the middle of one of its picnic tables.