Bert Walsh checks out the many attractions of the Austrian Tirol town of St Johann and recommends travellers try out the local delicacies
I’d started with the healthy option a spinach dumpling cooked in nut butter and generously smothered in a Parmesan sauce before moving on and sampling a spicy salami dumpling.
Friendly locals then suggested I must try a semmel dumpling drowned in a wine, ham, mushroom and cream sauce.
As the calorie-laden extravaganza continued it was time to attack the sweet variety, first up being an apple raisin dumpling liberally laced with rum.
With more than 30 varieties on offer I decided to try just one more all in the course of research finally succumbing (and narrowly avoiding cardiac arrest) to a wicked chocolate and marzipan creation, a true masterpiece of the dumpling makers art.
Every September for more than 30 years the Austrian town of St Johann-in-Tirol has hosted the Dumpling Festival.
It is certainly a recipe for success I have never seen the town so busy in numerous visits.
The weekend festival is one giant al fresco restaurant boasting the world’s longest dumpling table which stretches 300m down the main street.
With copious amounts of beer flowing and five bands belting it out the atmosphere is hardly restrained, your table is not only for eating upon but also for dancing on but all good natured fun.
Unlike many beer and wine festivals this is not a holiday you have to put together yourself. Crystal Holidays offer seven nights at the excellent Hotel Park, opt for their Discovery Package (around £50 extra pp) and they throw in excursions to Salzburg, Krimml Waterfalls, The Hidden Lakes and a Tirolean evening.
The Hotel Park, a perennial favourite of mine, is renowned for fine food and superb service.
In the summer guests enjoy unlimited free wine, beer or soft drinks with dinner which when weather permitting is taken outside in the leafy garden.
Genial host Seppi Grander provides free daily packed lunches and once a week a kitchen is set up on the mountain where guests can choose to take their breakfast.
St Johann lies in a sunny valley between the Kitzbuhler Horn Mountain and the magnificent craggy bastion of the Wilder Kaiser range.
The centre is a delight with gaily frescoed buildings their balconies alive with flowers adding considerable charm to the main thoroughfare.
A fine baroque church dominates the town square where colourful bars and cafes make you want to linger before hitting a splendid variety of shops to suit all tastes.
A mere five minutes stroll from the Hotel Park, the mountain gondola will whisk you up to the Harschbichl top station which provides panoramic views of the region.
Normally we take the gondola up and walk down the mountain stopping off at the small mountain lake for a picnic lunch.
The air is like champagne as you descend from the summit on this three hours walk embracing fabulous vistas of the Wilder Kaiser.
Encounters are rare a few black squirrels or long horned goats whilst the solitude is only broken by the tinkling of cow bells.
With more than 200k of footpaths and hiking trails walkers are well catered for, not all are strenuous, if you enjoy flat walking the riverside walks are justly popular.
The 10k walk to Ellmau follows in the footsteps of St Jacob and is a cracker very diverse along the foothills of the mountains passing through hamlets of five houses and a barking dog.
Halfway along there is a welcoming hostelry the Romerhof where you can enjoy a well earned beer on the sunny terrace.
On reaching Ellmau we tend to cheat have a mooch about then take the Post bus back to St Johann.
In recent years the Tirol has started to attract a younger clientele as more adrenaline led pursuits are one offer.
St Johann’s Hornpark on the mountain is an exhilarating experience, here you zip-line through the forest Indiana Jones-style testing your mettle on rope bridges before zipping across the lake, good stuff!!
Paragliding, canyoning and rafting are available from the resort or if you fancy pedal power then Seppi provides his guests with regular or electricFor a leisurely day the resort has a well appointed swimming-pool complex and tennis courts all close at hand.
St Johann is well placed for excursions or independent sightseeing.
Local buses service a host of delightful villages or by train lakeside Zell-am-Zee and Innsbruck are around an hour away. The sun shone benignly on us on the popular excursion to the beautiful Bavarian town of Berchesgaden (on previous visits we have been drenched) the highlight being a visit up to the Eagles Nest (Kelstein Haus).
This precipitous eerie is synonymous with Adolf Hitler however he only visited on five occasions and it was the Americans who christened it the Eagle’s Nest.
You need a head for heights but the views towards the Waltzman Mountains defy description.
Back in St Johann with new found friends we enjoyed a final evening on the terrace of the Huber Brewery Bar and reflected on the week.
All in all St Johann has something for everyone, it enjoys a wonderful setting, the locals make you feel at home without being pretentious, prices are low and the dumplings are not compulsory.
Head to St Johann’s Dumpling Festival this September 20 with Crystal Holidays offering seven nights HB at Hotel Park from £489pp.
Including return flights from Manchester and resort transfers.
Go to crystalsummer.co.uk or call 0871 230 8180.