the healing plant from the Nock Mountains.
Between July and September the herby, aromatic aroma of the Speik on the summits and the slopes of the Nock mountains is so intense that every hiker can smell it a mile off. What is it that this inconspicuous plant, which is five to fifteen centimetres tall, has that even Egyptian Queen Cleopatra yearned for it?
If you have ever come across the name Speik then it would probably have been in the guise of Speik soap, which goes by the name ‘ck’. That’s because the only company in the world which manufactures natural Speik cosmetic products, chose this spelling, as it is found in old herbal books. But one thing at a time - Valeriana celtica, commonly known as Norica Baldrian or simply Speik, is a healing plant which is only found in the Nock mountains and in parts of the Lower Tauern on limestone-free soils from an altitude of 1800 metres. It doesn’t look like much, but its aroma, which has not yet been able to be artificially manufactured, is unbeatable.
Those who wanted to buy this healing mountain plant range from the Orient and Africa. Speik was used for baths, perfumes and body oils but also to alleviate many ailments. Egyptian Queen Cleopatra nourished her tender skin, the stuff of legend, with Speik and brides of North African origin were moisturised with Speik oil for their weddings. Trade in this natural product from Carinthia flourished for many centuries, until it became protected in 1936. These days the company Speick, whose headquarters are in Frankfurt, processes Speik roots from Carinthia. They offer more than 100 different natural cosmetics products.
The time finally arrives in the middle of August - the Speik harvest begins. Only selected farmers are entitled to harvest the precious roots of this Baldrian plant. And then on 8th September it’s all over. A short time when you think that six kilograms have to be harvested to get a kilogram of dried Speik root! The roots are carefully prized up using a spade and split afterwards. The division ensures that there is an abundant harvest foe the year to come. This sustainable approach is particularly important because the roots of the Speik plant can only be harvested after 4 years of growth.
Everywhere in the Alps there are specific winter nights, ‘Rauhnächten’, to which particular emphasis is attached. Dried herbs are placed upon the hot coals, prays are said and homes and stables are ‘smoked’ to protect them from harm and illness. In the Nock mountains, along with juniper berries and catkins, a piece of Speik features in the tussocks to be lit, which is to invoke a blessing upon homes and farms. These days dried Speik can even be ordered on the Internet to light up at home. The Speik is so key for the region that the area has its own Speik ambassador!
During hikes in the Nock mountains you will certainly find out about the lovely fragrant plant and its great history. Speik walks take you out on the tracks of this sought-after healing plant. But the best is yet to come – during a lavish footbath in the wooden troughs on one of the eleven Speik lodges, you get to see for yourself just how beneficial the power of this little plant is.
Walking or by taking the chair lift you get to ‘Blutige Alm’, the starting point for this hike for all your senses. Interactive stations as well as play and adventure areas enable you to discover the history and the significance of this healing alpine plant. At the valley station for the cable car a large, golden statue awaits, honouring the ‘Gold of the Nock mountains’.
From the start of July until the end of September, when the Speik is in bloom, you can head out with a qualified ranger to look for this healing plant, enjoy a Speik footbath and at the end eat a fresh caught trout! With the National Park Brunnach cable car head from St. Oswald up to the mountain station, where your hike begins. For dates and prices please see the summer activity programme. Registration is required the day before – the staff at the reception desk in the Hotel Almrausch are happy to do this for you.
A Speik bath is as intensive as it is beneficial. Your holiday in the midst of the Carinthian Nock mountains. Book your room in the 4-sar pleasure hotel, the Hotel Almrausch right now!