Travelling through Austria: Eisenstadt.

One of my long term travel goals was to visit all federal capitals of Austria. True, Austria is rather small and it looks like a goal within easy reach. However, most of the cities are kind of hard to reach and/or are so small that it does not seem to be worth the trip. Nevertheless, I wanted to have a go at it. I still need to revisit St. Pölten and Innsbruck as it has been way too long since my last visits there, but technically I have already been there. So the only one left was Eisenstadt, the capital of Burgenland. A few weeks ago I could squeeze in an afternoon for going there and do a little bit of exploring.  Continue reading

Travelling through Austria: Bregenz.

On our way to Liechtenstein and Switzerland we also wanted to explore the westernmost province of Austria – Vorarlberg – and its capital Bregenz. With around 29,000 inhabitants the city is only the third biggest town of the province (after Feldkirch and Dornbirn). Bregenz is located on the eastern shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) between Switzerland and Germany.

Even though the city is kind of hard to reach and it takes me over 6 hours on a train to get there, I really wanted to go there this year. It’s already been the third time for me but I’ve taken a great liking to the small town so of course my bf and I had to make a stop there and do a little exploring :)

Bregenz Festival
The city is famous for its annual performing arts festival – the Bregenzer Festspiele (Bregenz Festival), which is held every July and August. A very special venue of the festival is the ‘Seebühne’ – a floating stage with an open air amphitheatre on the shores of the lake. Every other year they change the stage decoration and as this year’s opera performance is Turandot (a play set in China) the decoration consists of the  Chinese Wall and the Terracotta Army. I never knew that you could just walk inside the venue during the day or else I would have gone there all the times before… It was really cool to see everything ‘up close’ without having to pay for it :D

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Bodensee
The Lake Constance is the third-largest freshwater lake of Europe. It is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The river Rhine flows into the lake from the south and has its outflow in the west. In Bregenz there are many seats right next to the lake where you can enjoy the beautiful view. Naturally, there are many birds – especially swans – hoping to be fed by the people. It’s also possible to rent a paddleboat and enjoy the cool breeze on the lake itself.

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Bregenz City
We couldn’t just sit next to the lake the whole afternoon so we went on a little tour through the city. We started our tour by climbing the hill to reach the Martinsturm, which is located in the Upper town – the oldest part with remains from the 13th and & 16th centuries. The Martinsturm is the landmark of Bregenz. This tower is apparently the biggest Baroque bulb-shaped steeple in Central Europe, built in 1601. Right around the corner of the tower is also the old town hall from 1662 with a beautiful colourful facade. A little further down the road is the Gothic parish church of St. Gall, whose foundations date from before 1380. The Landhaus – already in the Lower town –  was also nice to look at, which was built in the 1970ies.

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Relaxing
We had our early dinner break at a very nice restaurant somewhere in the city – Nashia Kulinarisches. It’s a vegetarian and vegan restaurant that offers a variety of african, asian and indian food. Very delicious and at a reasonable price. I’d definitely recommend the place.

After our almost 8 km march through the city we felt like we deserved a little break on the shores of the lake, where we just sat and relaxed for the rest of the evening before heading to the next city.

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Even though it’s been three times now I’m definitely going there again. Maybe I’ll even be able to get hold of a festival ticket and see it in real action – even though I’m not the biggest opera fan to be honest… :D

 

Lakes in Austria: Weißensee and Wörthersee

While staying in Carinthia, I not only saw the beautiful city Klagenfurt or beautiful valleys of the region, but I also got to enjoy a few lakes that are so typical for Carinthia. I was able to put my feet into the Wörthersee, take a boat ride on the Weißensee and swim in the Klopeinersee. Here are a few last impressions from my trip to Carinthia. I’m mostly gonna let the photos speak for themselves – so enjoy ;)

Weißensee

On our way to Lienz, we took a detour in order to have a look at Carinthian’s highest situated bathing lake that lies within the Gailtal Alps mountain range – the Weißensee. The name Weißensee (in English: white lake) derives from the banks of chalk along the shoreline which gives the water its white colour.

What I really like about the Weißensee is the fact that it is so protected and that the focus lies on low-impact tourism. Apparently, about two-thirds of the lake’s surface are part of a protected area, there is hardly any ship transport on the lake, and it is not possible to drive around the lake as there is only a path for mountain bikers and hikers.

Fun facts about the lake: In February 2007 the first underwater ice hockey world championship was held at the lake and parts of Bond movie ‘The Living Daylights’ from ’87 were shot at the frozen lake.

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Wörthersee

With a length of 16.5 km and a width of 1.5 km, the Wörthersee is the largest lake of Carinthia. It stretches from Klagenfurt in the east to Velden in the west, the shores are flanked to the north and south by high mountains. The lake has a very distinctive blue/green colour and can reach 25 °C in the summer, so it’s a very popular destination for tourists.

If you want to have a good view over the lake and its surroundings, you can drive up the 851-metre high mountain Pyramidenkogel and climb the observation platform Pyramidenkogel tower (or just take the elevator if you’re lazy as we were…). The first tower was opened in 1968 – a then-futuristic tourist attraction. Replaced with a new tower that was opened in 2013, the wood and steel platform now functions as a ‘lighthouse for the timber industry’ and is with 100m (including the antenna) the world’s tallest wooden observation tower. Also, Europe’s longest slide (66m) can be found here :D

It just happened to be the World Kiss Day (July 6) when we ‘climbed’ the Pyramidenkogel tower, there were a few signs more or less suggesting to kiss. Very cute ;)

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Klagenfurt – East

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Pörtschach – in the ‘middle’

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Velden – western part of the lake

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Keutschacher lake and mountains (Karawanks?)

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I really enjoyed the Carinthian lakes. Have you ever been able to do so as well? If so, which is your favourite? :)

Travelling through Austria: Lienz.

I have always wanted to pay a visit to Lienz – the ‘capital’ of the region East Tyrol, which is an exclave of the region Tyrol, located in the South(west) of Austria on the border to Italy. The city’s name is so similar to the city where I went to school – Linz. However, only slightly over 12,000 people live there, so it’s very very small in comparison to Vienna’s 1.7 mio and Linz’ 191,000.

As I’ve already been warned before that there’s not much to do or see in Lienz, we only planned on staying there for one afternoon. As my boyfriend’s grandparents offered to accompany us, we took the car and drove a few extra miles to see the beautiful Gailtal, a valley formed by the Gail river that is surrounded by the Lienz Dolomites, Gailtal Alps, Carnic Alps and the Karawanks. On our road trip we saw quite some impressive mountains as well as steep roads and meadows. As it was in the midst of summer which is the time for haying, we saw many busy alpine farmers doing their work.

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As we took our time exploring the countryside and due to the narrow roads and everything, we arrived quite late in the afternoon in Lienz – perfect for getting a cup of coffee at the main square to get a first impression of the city and its people. The main square of Lienz is surrounded by colorful buildings, with a green area, benches and a small fountain. It was quite busy that day, there seemed to be many tourists wandering around – mainly Italians :)

The first noticeable building on the main square is definitely the Liebburg, built in the 17th century and used to be the home of some barons and counts. Since 1988 it is the townhouse of the city.

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Schloss Liebburg

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After our little break at a café at the main square we just strolled around for a bit, without any clear direction. Well, we stayed more or less just in the pedestrian area, but we also explored some side roads. It was really nice walking around and seeing all the beautiful house facades and the cute alleys.

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We also came across the Johannesplatz with a Marian column. A highlight for most of the tourists (and kids!), and of course also for us was the appearance of a rainbow right above the column.

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What struck me most was that you could see the mountains almost everywhere within the city. You just had to look through an alley and there they were!

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Mountains

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It was such a lovely afternoon in such a beautiful small town – surrounded by the beautiful nature ! Even though it is not my type of city where I could imagine myself living in (as it is just too small for my taste), staying there for even such short amount of time was really relaxing and calming. If you ever get the chance of going there – do it! If you’re in the situation where you could spare a couple of hours and you happen to be ‘relatively’ near , go & explore the Lienz! :)

 

Travelling through Austria: Klagenfurt.

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.

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Benedictine Market

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.

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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

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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!

Wörthersee Mandl
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.

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Alter Platz

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.

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Kärntner Landhaus

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).

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Patios

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.

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Wörthersee

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.

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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! ;)