My boyfriend’s grandparents live in Kärnten (Carinthia), one of Austria’s nine provinces, so it was the perfect opportunity for me/us to pay a visit to the capital of the region and have ‘locals’ with us who could tell us stories about basically everything. Kärnten is the southernmost province of Austria, and most famous for its mountains and lakes. The city has a population of around 99,100 and is the 6th largest city in Austria (= not very big). It was my first time in Klagenfurt. Technically not the first time though as I have been to the train station a couple of times now, but train stations don’t really count, do they?!
In order to get from my parent’s home to Klagenfurt, you need to take a train (or three to be precise). The most beautiful way to travel is to take the train that goes through the alps. Admittedly, a train takes forever and it stops at almost every station, but you also get to see the beautiful mountains and nature.
After arriving in Klagenfurt we drove straight to the city centre. Our first stop was at the Benedictine Market, a place where you can buy local food twice a week. On Monday there’s no market, but as there are two small market halls where you can go shopping as well, we had a look at it and opted for delicious fresh-made juices at a fruit & veggie stand.
Neuer Platz with Lindwurm fountain
The Neuer Platz is the place where you can find the city’s famous landmark – the Lindwurm – and the Maria Theresia Monument. I’ve always wanted to see the Lindwurm and I must say I was not disappointed at all.
The Lindworm statue was erected in 1593, the fountain was added to it in 1624, the statue of Hercules in 1636. A legend says that there used to live a lindworm – a wingless dragon – in the swamps of Carinthia in the early 13th century. In order to be able to use the land for villages etc, a duke offered whomever killed the worm a high prize. A bunch of menials put a bull with a barbed hook near the worm, who devoured the bull along with the hook. The worm was unable to flee, the menials could then kill the Lindworm and win the duke’s prize.
As there is some truth behind every saga, there actually existed a duke who erected a village (which is now Klagenfurt) in the 13th century, which used to be a moor landscape full of ‘dangerous’ creatures such as boars and wolves. They also found a huge skull who was believed to belong to a lindworm. In the 19th century however it was pointed out that the skull was of a woolly rhinoceros :D
Pedestrian zone Kramergasse
Our next ‘station’ was Austrian’s first pedestrian zone (since 1961) and oldest street of Klagenfurt. A special shop on this street was the bookstore Heyn, home of two black cats that stroll around in the bookstore and look at you with big yellow eyes. So cute!
The Wörthersee Mandl – a small fountain with a gnome – is located on the Kramergasse. It was created in 1962 by the artist and sculptor Heinz Goll.
The gnome and the fountain represent the saga of how the Wörthersee came into existence: There used to be a big, rich city where the Wörthersee is now. The wealth didn’t agree with the residents and they became careless and wanton. On one festive occasion there appeared a gnome who called for reflection, but the residents didn’t want to listen. The gnome returned with a small barrel, from which an endless stream of water started to flow, drowning the city with all its inhabitants. That’s how the Wörthersee came into existence.
The Alter Platz is surrounded by houses and city Palais, which were built in the 16th and 17th century, making it one of the oldest sections of downtown Klagenfurt. On the west side of the place is the oldest chronicled building of the city – the house ‘Zur Goldenen Gans’, built in 1489. The facade is not very spectacular, but a golden goose thrones above the entranceway.
In the centre of the square is the Column of Trinity, also known as Plague Column, which was erected as a plague column somewhere else in the city in 1689, after the victory over the Turks a half-moon and a cross were added and relocated to the Alter Platz.
The Kärntner Landhaus was built between 1574 and 1594, with a Renaissance facade, is home of the Heraldic Hall with 665 crests of Carinthian nobility, governors and administrators. It is also home of the Carinthian ‘Landtag’ (the seat of the State Assembly).
Another beautiful aspect of the provincial capital Klagenfurt is that there are many lovely patios that are open to the public. You can walk through them, sometimes you find a cute little café in there, sometimes there are just trees, benches and birds to be found there.
Last but definitely not least – the Wörthersee (Lake Wörth). 17 kilometres long and 1.5 km wide, and apparently the warmest of the large Alpine lakes. The lake is situated within the Klagenfurt Basin, flanked by the Gurktal Alps and the Karawanks. Along the shoreline of the lake, there is everything that one desires – from many gourmet restaurants to traditional wine taverns. Due to this and the Mediterranean climate and the clean warm waters, thousands of tourists come here every year to enjoy the beautiful lake.
The day in Klagenfurt was well spent – we saw many beautiful spots and enjoyed a delicious meal at a restaurant next to the Wörthersee. We also visited the Minimundus miniature land, but I will talk about it and other things that I did while staying in Carinthia in (a) future blog post(s). So stay tuned! ;)