Power of nature in the forest and the stomach

From plants to water - Johann Pichler can talk endlessly about the special power of the Ysper gorge, something which Lukas Krenn relies on in his inn distillery.

When Johann Pichler explains the beauty of nature in the Ysper gorge, he also knows exactly how it affects the body. Lukas Krenn is particularly familiar with experiencing Yspertal through taste. His Inn Distillery packs the power of the local plants and fruits mainly into fine spirits.

We recharge our batteries in forests. When we walk through them, we breathe in terpenes, the substances that plants release into the forest air and which then also strengthen the human immune system. Lukas Krenn immediately thinks of these chemical reactions which are triggered by greenery in the nature around the Ysper gorge. "And we have heaps of greenery around us here!", says the young innkeeper of the Wirtshausbrennerei Krenn in Yspertal. He believes you should take your time and open your eyes when trekking through the gorge. There is a lot to discover. This approach is shared by Johann Pichler, who is a "true Yspertal local" and, as a nature and landscape educator, he goes hiking in the most beautiful spots. While Pichler shows and tells others how to use the power of nature here, the culinary products of the Wirtshausbrennerei benefit from the power of Yspertal. And so do the guests afterwards, when they taste them - starting with the house's own fine brandies.

Water, wood and fire

The power of the elements in the Ysperklamm gorge was already detected in the 16th century. At that time, the Öd pond was created at the upper end for the purpose of log driving. When felled timber then flowed over the gorge towards Vienna, "it was a torrent and it reached the Danube in no time at all", recalls Johann Pichler. The 76-year-old has acquired all kinds of knowledge through extensive observation and, of course, knows not only many legends but also the history of the gorge as a timber transport route, which lasted until 1929. In the meantime, the paths in the dense Weinsberg forest belong to the hikers. And the wild-flowing waters of the Ysper belong to the fish that frolic in it - the brown trout and the char. They have to share though, as the water in the tap here is also fed from the source of the Ysper. "That’s a success factor of our fine brandies, whose basic element is water", says Lukas Krenn. "It’s very special here, ferrous and soft".

More than 800 international awards have already been won by the Wirtshausbrennerei Krenn, which also draws on the energy of the forest. They fire one of the kilns with wood from their own forest on the Kaltenberg, near the gorge. And perhaps the most important contribution to the success of the powerful brandies is made by the herbs and fruits of the area that are added to it. The one from their own wild cherries is very special, says Krenn.

Wild plant power ahead

On the path into the gorge, the round plum species shines here and there from fruit trees, some of which belong to the inn distillery. "We make brandy from the wild cherries, as well as jam and desserts, for example", says Krenn. Some apple and pear varieties also grow in the area, such as the Kaiserholz pear, which originates in the Yspertal, at the Habsburg Castle in Rorregg. "It’s also important for us, because this only exists here at the Ysperklamm gorge and we want to actively preserve and refine it". The family also makes use of the plants growning on the doorstep for the food in the distillery's inn, picking elder and lilac blossoms, fermenting kimchi from regional cabbage turnip, and making gin from its own horseradish. "When I'm out and about, I collect meadow bitter cress", explains Krenn, "and my mother likes to go to a tributary of the Ysper, pick herbs from the roadside and chop them into a mixture that goes into almost every meal".

Johann Pichler tells us off the cuff what the wild plants can do. He knows the area inside out and attends nature appreciation meetings. "I'm a fan of yarrow with its white or pink flowers, which grows by the wayside here", he says. He drinks a tea made from it every day. "It inhibits rheumatic pain and all sorts of other ailments". If he is on a guided tour, he picks a rough, pointed leaf from the comfrey - recognisable by its bluish, bell-shaped flowers - and asks someone to place it on a painful spot. "When we return from the hike, the pain is gone".

Energy site of the druids

Pichler has experienced the healing effect himself and also notices that this phenomenon goes beyond plants. "I came to a place in the gorge where I suddenly walked as if changed and felt a warm sensation in my feet". He now knows the places here where there are energetic lines of power with extraordinary geomantic vibrations. "The druids also made use of this", he says. The enigmatic granite stone formations that characterise the Yspertal can be found along the lines. Along these former cult sites, Pichler helped create the "Druid Trail", a circular hiking trail in two variants, in and near the gorge, and up to the inn distillery. Lukas Krenn's father was also involved in the trail. The son joined the family business a good year ago, and before that he spent a long time in Vienna. He now definitely appreciates how unique the area near the Ysper is. "A special place of strength and retreat with intact forests, clean air and great views".