For those traveling from Vienna, Graz can be reached in 2-1/2 hours by train.
Piber Stud Farm
A Daytrip from Graz
Fans of Vienna’s acclaimed Spanish Riding School may want to make the Stud Farm at Piber their first choice for an easy daytrip out of Graz. This is the home of the fabulous Lipizzaner stallions, where they are bred and where they are raised before journeying to Vienna for training and exhibition. Visitors to the farm are treated to an introductory video, a museum, and finally a tour of the stables. With luck, you might see a stud presentation. In any case, if you like horses, you will love this place.
While there, two other villages in the immediate vicinity offer their own attractions. Köflach has a modest museum of local life, while Bärnbach has an amazing church completely redone by the contemporary Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser as well as a renowned glass-blowing factory that can be toured.
Although this trip can be made by public transportation, doing so involves either a few miles of walking, or the use of local cabs and infrequent buses. You will be much better off driving there.
By Car, take the A-2 to the Mooskirchen exit, the local roads for about 10 miles to Köflach. From there it’s about two miles north along Piberstrasse to the stud farm. For Bärnbach, head east about two miles, passing the church and then the glass-making center.
By Train or Bus, take the private GKB railway/bus service from Graz (main station) to Köflach, then walk two miles north to Piber. Walk again to Bärnbach, then to its train station. Either train or bus runs more-or-less hourly on Mondays through Saturdays, and less often on Sundays and holidays. Schedules at W: GKB.at. The same tickets are valid for both the GKB trains and buses.
The Stud Farm at Piber is open daily, and visitors should arrive between 9 and 2:30 in April-Oct.; 11-1:30 in Nov.-March. The Glass Center is open from March through December, Monday through Saturdays. Some useful websites to check are: piber.com, Lipizzanerheimat.at, and stoelzle.at.
FOOD AND DRINK:
Caballero (in Piber Castle, at the stud farm) Luxurious dining on Spanish and Austrian cuisine. T: (3144) 3323-170. €€€
Gasthof Bardel (Fesselweg 1, by the stud farm at Piber) Simple Austrian country cooking, convenient location. T: (03144) 34-22. €
Ratskeller Bärnbach (Schulstrasse 1, near the church in Bärnbach) Austrian food, served indoors or out. T: (03142) 620-20. €
Alten Lind (Haupstrasse 1 in Bärnbach) A good-value choice for local dishes. X: Mon. T: (03142) 615-00. €
Numbers in parentheses correspond to numbers on the map.
Whether you come by car, train, or bus, your visit begins in the village of Köflach (1). While there, you might want to visit the small Museum der Stadt Köflach with its exhibits of local life including the interior of an old-time farmhouse. Bahnhofplatz, T: (03144) 251-970. Opening times vary. Donation.
Now drive or hike about two miles northeast on Piberstrasse to the number one attraction:
*FEDERAL STUD IN PIBER (Bundesgestüt Piber) (2), T: (03144) 33-23, W: piber.com. Open April through Oct., daily 9-5:30; Nov.-March, 9-11 and 1:30-4. €€€.
Dating from the early 18th century, the stud farm originally raised horses for the Austrian military. The famed Lipizzaner breed came from elsewhere, Lipizza in what is now Slovenia. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was disbanded following World War I and Slovenia made a part of the newly-created Yugoslavia, the horses were brought here as both the climate and terrain were similar to that of Lipizza. Put under German control during World War II, they were shipped west and kept there until 1952 to prevent their falling into Russian hands.
Some 40 foals are born each year, but only a few of these stallions are chosen for training at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Later, they return to Piber for breeding. Some of the others are sold as the stud farm actually produces too many horses, so if you’re in the market, here’s the place to look! An unusual feature of the gentle Lipizzaners is that they are born dark and do not acquire their distinctive white coats until they are about four to ten years old.
A small country road leads in about two miles to the village of Bärnbach. You will soon come to the fantastic St. Barbara Kirche (3), an unbelievable sight right on the main road. Until 1987 this was just another country church, but then the town commissioned the controversial Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) to redo the whole structure in his inimitable manner. Its exterior is a series of curving shapes with brilliant colors and abstract religious symbolisms, while the interior continues the theme without losing its identity as a place of worship. A leaflet available inside explains the meaning behind all the strange sights. Piberstrasse, T: (03142) 625-81. Open daily. Donation.
Bärnbach has long been noted as a center of glass-making, a tradition that continues today. Be sure to visit the Stölzle Glas Center (4), where you can watch glass-blowers at work, tour the factory, and see the museum. Hochtregisterstasse 1, T: (03142) 629-50, W: stoelzle.at. Open March through December, Mon.-Fri. 9-5, Sat. 9-1; also on Sun. and holidays from May-Oct., 9-1. €€.
From here you can drive back to Graz, take the GKB bus from the town center, or walk a mile and a half out Dr. Niederdorfer Strasse past the train tracks, then take a left to the GKB train station.
Text and map copyright © 2008 by Earl Steinbicker. Photos copyright © Tourismusverband Lipizzanerheimat.