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FALL 2005

Salzburg | Kufstein_Kitzbuehel
Rattenberg_Hall | Innsbruck
Zell Am See_Kaprun | Spittal
Klagenfurt | Graz | Vienna


Klagenfurt is the capital of Carinthia, the southernmost Province of Austria. We arrived in the heart of the city in the late afternoon and were immediately impressed by the beautiful Renaissance buildings, squares and courtyards which, due to its proximity to Italy, were mainly created by Italian architects. The city center is 800 years old and it is no wonder it has received the prestigious "Europa-Nostra" award three times for its exemplary renovation achievements. Nestled in a cozy eastern bay of spectacular Lake Woerthersee it is understandably called the "Renaissance jewel at Lake Woerthersee".

The Hotel Sandwirth is located perfectly, just a few steps from both the Neuer Platz and Alter Platz, the new and old city centers. The hotel was completely renovated and restored a few years ago. The original structure and historic traditions were preserved but updated with elegant contemporary design and amenities.

Near the reception area is a popular café-bar, which features an appetizing display of truffles and pastries. There is a library plus a complete wellness center with sauna, steam, massage bed, solarium, treadmill and bike and, contradicting that, there is also a cigar lounge.

Our very large bedroom and bathroom were beautifully designed for total comfort with all the amenities we could desire.

The cheerful breakfast room has lots of windows and bright contemporary art pieces on the walls and, most important, a quality buffet. I really pigged out on the delicious smoked salmon and those awesome breads and rolls.

A walk to the old town brought us to the recommended Bierhaus Zum Augustin, Pfarrhofgasse 2, telephone 0463 578 82, a very popular old beer hall. We sat at a table (love shared tables) with a delightful young woman who spoke English and was happy to give us tips about her city.

Linda ordered wiener schnitzel with creamed spinach and I chose tafelspitz with the usual trimmings plus dark beer for both of us. The beer was flowing, the smoke was thick, the food was very good and our new friend was a treasure. This is what traveling is all about - absorbing the local culture and calories.

You take a fascinating lively city and a huge gorgeous lake and you have a marriage made in heaven. We started our tour of the city at Neuer Platz, a picture perfect 16th and 17th century Renaissance masterpiece, in the center of which is a huge sculpture of the Lindwurm, Klagenfurt's legendary mascot. The square is home to cultural events, such as concerts, and markets, especially at Christmas. On the east side of the square is an impressive sculpture of the much admired Empress Maria Theresia who reformed laws and made education mandatory. There is some debate as to whether her motivations were for the good of the population or for the economic benefit to the state.
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The pedestrian zone, since 1961, is Austria's oldest and starts just north of Neuer Platz on Kramergasse which becomes Wienergasse (Klagenfurt’s oldest street) north of Alter Platz. Coats of arms of Klagenfurt’s partner cities are painted on the street nearby.

At the start of the zone is a little fat man made of bronze called "Woerthersee Mandl". It seems Mandl tried to get non-believers to go to church and they kept chasing him away. After the third time he came back with a keg from which water poured until the town was flooded and the Woerthersee was created. It is said that if you close your eyes and make a wish while rubbing his finger, your wish will come true. His finger is shiny gold color from all his wishful visitors. If we start flying first class, you’ll know why!

It was a warm day in late October and the tables in Alter Platz were filled with folks enjoying late morning coffee and pastry. The Old Town hall, which was built around 1600, has a spectacular two-tone beige inner courtyard with two levels of arched balconies. Notable are the coat of arms of the Rosenberg family, a painting depicting Justitia, the goddess of justice, and the coats of arms of the city and the province. Across the way is a sculpture of a boys head jutting out above a window. It is called the Bakery Boy. It seems he lost his boss’ money but could not prove it. He was found guilty of stealing and was hung. The money was later found which proved his innocence. This is a monument against the death penalty. The Trinity Column with a half- moon and gold cross was built in 1680 in Heiligengeistplatz as a monument to God for protecting the town from the plague. It was moved to Alter Platz in 1965.

The Landhaus was built between 1574 and 1594 replacing the first castle. The Coat of Arms Hall with 665 coats of arms of Provincial Estates, Governors, Administrators and members of the cathedral chapter, arranged chronologically, is the centerpiece of the building. Wonderful paintings depicting important historical events, a lovely frescoed ceiling and a great fireplace create a powerful impression.

Next to the fireplace is the door leading into the thirty-six member Parliamentary Chamber. The design is very modern with large wall paintings. The upper portion shows life leading up to the 1918 referendum and below there is a modern depiction of Carinthia.

"The Vatican" at Minimundus in Klagenfurt

A highlight of any to visit Klagenfurt is Minimundus, the miniature world on Lake Woerthersee. There are one hundred forty models of famous buildings from forty-five countries around the world, each a masterpiece faithfully crafted on a scale of 1:25. The site is 26,000 square meters and is beautifully laid out to encourage strolling and studying each building in as much detail as desired. We were blown away by the amazing quality and detail of each and every work and proud and excited to find Toronto's CN Tower standing tall. The depiction of the original space shuttle, which "blasts off" at regular intervals was a big favorite with the kids. Minimundus is obviously a labor of love which reflects a commitment to fostering improved international understanding. This mission is driven by the fact that Minimundus belongs to "Save the Children Austria" a privately-run nonprofit, nonsectarian organization which helps children in need both at home and abroad. The net proceeds of Minimundus go directly to this cause. A second location of Minimundus has been opened in Bodensee, Germany.
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How cool is it to go to university on the shores of a huge, magnificent lake, stroll on the campus or gaze out your window at the clear turquoise waters dotted with colorful sailboats. But the Woerthersee is not just for students, it welcomes visitors from around the world to swim in its waters, sun bathe on the beach and on its sun-flooded jetties, have fun with the kids in the pool and on water slides, or participate in numerous sporting activities.

The beach volleyball courts host the Beach Volleyball Grand Slam Tournament and the beach is the kickoff point for the Carinthian Ironman competition. Along the water there’s a beautiful half-marathon track with well groomed paths, clear signs and eleven drinking fountains and if you’re into cycling, there's 120km of safe, well attended paths. The nearby park is a dream spot for outdoor family activities including a roller skating rink and hoops for basketball.

After a day of activity you can return to the 2000 seat Seebuhne, the stage at Woerthersee, and become enraptured by the sounds of an excellent musical production and the changing colors of the rippling lake waters.

Life around the lake is not restricted to summertime fun. Spring and autumn are colorful seasons to get out the bikes, Nordic walking sticks, walking and running shoes while enjoying the foods and flowers of the season, such as the wild game and mushrooms we are devouring day after day.
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In the winter the "Schleppe Alm" sport center is a 5-minute drive away with lift, downhill slope, snowboard jump, cross country track and sleigh hill. Ice skaters can find joy on various ponds and, when frozen, the Woerthersee.

The restaurant Maria Loretto is gloriously located on a small promontory, with patios and terraces offering stunning vistas over the water. We could not have chosen a prettier spot for lunch of pumpkin soup and zander filets. Unfortunately, though, the soup was tasteless and the fish was overcooked. The view is free - so enjoy it, but eat elsewhere.

Outside of town, just east of St. Veit, is the magnificent Burg Hochosterwitz castle. Its approximate 700 square meters sprawls all over the mountain, 160 meters above a valley. A steep road, the Burgweg, winds between fourteen gates that were built in defense of the fortress. It was not open this day and we had to be content with admiring it from below.

High above Klagenfurt is the Naturpark Kreuzbergl offering great views of the city and surrounding hills, a wonderful place for enjoying the great outdoors. Many joggers and walkers were taking advantage of the nice weather, enjoying the forested trails dotted with small lakes and ponds. The nearby botanical garden, at the base of the rocky cliffs, has a substantial collection of plantings from around the world. Entrance to the botanical garden is free.

St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral, originally built in 1578 as a Protestant church, is the oldest pilastered church in Austria and one of the most important churches built by Protestants in the German speaking area. The church was dedicated to the Holy Trinity until it was closed in 1600 because of the Counter-Reformation. It was later given to Jesuits and in 1604 the church was dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, when it became a Roman Catholic church and the building was altered to the Baroque style. In 1787 it became a Cathedral.

Tonight we would return to the Landhaus for dinner in Gasthaus im Landhaushof. As one would expect in the Parliament of the Province the atmosphere was traditional Carinthian and the food exquisite. We nibbled on delicious pumpkin and sesame seed rolls (some nibble, we both had one of each!). I sipped a fruity medium dry chardonnay while Linda delighted in her new favorite johannesbeere, currant juice, diluted with sparkling mineral water.

Linda had roasted filet of pork in pepper cream sauce with roast potato wedges and yellow squash and I, roasted breast of duck with gnocchi, red cabbage with shredded nuts and cranberry sauce. Everything was as good as it could possibly be which encouraged us to have apple and cheese strudels. Both ranked high in the contest. The service was excellent and the prices reasonable.

Tomorrow we were off to Graz, Austria 2nd largest city.
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Salzburg | Kufstein_Kitzbuehel
Rattenberg_Hall | Innsbruck
Zell Am See_Kaprun | Spittal
Klagenfurt | Graz | Vienna

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