Vierbergelauf, the pilgrimage of Carinthia

Each year, after the Catholic Easter, there is a special event happening in Austria. Because I was new in Austria, I decided to do it. This is the Vierbergelauf experience, the pilgrimage of Carinthia.

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Vierbergelauf (in german) means four-mountains-walk (Magdalensberg, Ulrichsberg, Veitsberg and Lorenziberg), because that is the most simple and accurate description of the entire event. The path on the four mountains describes a circle, meaning that you end up where you first started. On top of each mountain there is an old and small church, and during this pilgrimage, the people are surrounding each of the churches 3 times, when they reach them and pray.

The first written documentation of this pilgrimage is from the year 1500, which it says that bare foot woman would make this walk for prayer, on the day of Christ crucifixion. After many religious and historical controversies, churches closed or turned into ruin and then reopened, having this walk as a religious penalty, nowadays people still do it and value this magical day.

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The Four Mountain Walk is not just a matter of religion anymore. Today, there are people that are looking for a challenging hike equally performing this walk, as the pilgrims, who are deeply and spiritually involved.

Nowadays people take a bus which stops near the peak of the first mountain and a return bus just a little below the top of the last and brings them back into the city. I must say the four mountains aren’t really mountains, because they are around 1000 m high, but it’s on the border between accessible and hard.

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The “official” path of the pilgrimage is basically from the top of the mountain to the villages which are down, between them. Because the tradition is very old and people had made this walk for hundreds of years, there are inns which are open during that day (and night, because it starts at midnight), which wait for the pilgrims and offer them tea or coffee and something to eat. Some of them offer this for free, others accept donations, and others have fixed prices.

Because the path leads through villages, there is another tradition: the kids from the village get in front of them, with a small basket, and the pilgrims give them candy and sweets.

  • Official “start” is at 00:00 and it’s calculated to reach Lorenziberg (the last peak) at 16:30. But there is no rush, or given time to finish, some do it just as an extreme hike and start at 23:00 and reach the last peak at 12. It’s all up to you.

What have I learned from this and what is my  advice for a looong hike?

  • Bring your own food. Although in this special case there were a lot of stops with food and tea and even beer (austrians drink a lot of beer), maybe you won’t find something suitable for you, and you have a very different diet from the locals ( they eat a lot of bread with wurst = sausages, or some sort of salami), then its better to pack your own, just in case.
  • Do have at least 1L of water
  • Rain coat!! Always. When you get on the mountain for more than half a day, put in your backpack a rain coat, no discussions. It started raining at 10:40, just about before starting to climb the 3rd mountain. And it did not stop, not 1 second. I was walking/hiking/swimming in mud for the next 6h. I had a rain coat, but still you will get wet if you keep on walking, and you will then get cold, and that can be very uncomfortable. And don’t forget your backpack need a rain protection too. And it wouldn’t hurt to pack your stuff inside your backpack into plastic bags, just in case water is pouring from the sky and it gets inside anyway
  • Equip yourself with some sort of mountain hike shoes. Mountains trails can get difficult, even on the small ones. And if it will start raining, it won’t be any more easier. And the mud… after a while you learn to embrace it. So make those shoes waterproof.
  • Pack extra socks, t-shirt, and even underwear. it’s better to have something dry to change into, after the rain got you all wet.
  • Some extra things you can pack: sunglasses, sunscreen, cap (it works equally for sun and rain), and generally waterproof stuff.

We started our trip at midnight and reached the final peak at 16:30. We stopped on each mountain, and in between, sometimes to catch our breath, sometimes to eat/drink and a lot of times just to wait for eachother. The total walk time without the breaks was around 12h, but it was pretty relaxed. The total distance was of 53 km.

Pilgrimage website: http://www.vierbergelauf.info/

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And this is a short video I made, just to get a taste of the whole thing (but its nothing compared to the real thing, most of the times I was too cold and wet to get my phone out and take videos or pics):

 

If you want to share your thoughts, it would mean the world to me!