The Globe Trotter: 14 September
A mystery mini-break to Austria worth exploring
The great advantage of low-cost flights is you can whizz off somewhere for the weekend without breaking the bank. Of course we all want to go to Venice, Nice and Madrid, but what about those places we know nothing about?
The good news is that no matter how little it costs an airline to fly in and out of a destination, it’s still running a business and wants every seat sold. For that to happen, the destination must be worth visiting.
So what about Klagenfurt am Wörthersee? I’ll admit I had never heard of the place when I boarded the plane at Stansted. Klagenfurt, capital city of Austria’s southernmost province, Carinthia, lies next to Lake Wörthersee, and a boat trip, visiting some of the other pretty towns at the water’s edge (Velden in particular), makes a lovely day out. You can bathe at one of the public lidos – composer Gustav Mahler had a house here and recommended swimming in the lake.
In winter, the lake freezes enough for ice skating, or there’s skiing in the mountains nearby. Other popular attractions in the area include 23 castles and 56 churches and chapels. On the edge of Klagenfurt itself, Reptilienzoo Happ is home to those feuding giant Galapagos tortoises featured in The Lady recently, as well as beautiful snakes and lizards.
Combine a few hours here with a visit to neighbouring Minimundus, a miniature world with 150-plus famous monuments from many countries – Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Sydney Opera House and, understandably, a number of Austrian landmarks you may not recognise, but all made with great detail and skill. From the UK there’s the Tower of London and the Lady Isabella Water Wheel in Laxey on the Isle of Man. The attraction is fun for children and adults alike.
The prettiest bit of Klagenfurt, though, is the 800-year-old city centre, which has been called a Renaissance gem. Wander around and you’ll find beautiful palaces, squares and courtyards fashioned by Italian master builders. Particularly worth visiting is the Landhaus, the impressive cathedral and the Kaiser Franz Joseph Jubilaums Municipal Theatre – catch a production there if you can. Check what’s on at the Carinthian Museum of Modern Art (MMKK), and the Ernst Fuchs Chapel in St Egyd Church is also worth a look – climb the steeple for an amazing view.
In Neuer Platz, an attractive square edged with shops and restaurants, you’ll find the tourist office, which also rents bicycles, an easy way to get around. In the middle of the square is the famous 1593 Lindwurm Fountain, showing a legendary virgin-eating dragon from which the town reputedly gets its name, Furt der Klage, or ‘ford of laments’.
Alter Platz and its side streets is the place to shop, with tempting jewellery, fashions and homeware. Central Klagenfurt is very walkable and has several good hotels, such as the four-star Arcotel Moser Verdino where I stayed, and a wide choice of restaurants.
Austrian food is hearty and tasty, with German, Italian and Slovenian influences. Try the filling bacon dumplings at Hofbräu zum Lindwurm or delicious pasta at the Osteria Dal Conte, finished off with a glass of Lustock, the local schnapps. Cheers!
Stay at the Arcotel Moser Verdino – www.arcotelhotels.com – while Ryanair flies three times a week from London Stansted to Klagenfurt from £28 one way: www.ryanair.com or, for more information on the area: www.austria.info/uk
more short breaks
Christmas cracker The Swan at Lavenham, Suffolk, is offering a luxury three-night package, 24 to 27 December, including fivecourse Christmas lunch, champagne and canapés, carols, mulled wine and mince pies, Midnight Mass and all sorts. From £1,370 for two: 01787-247477, www.theswanatlavenham.co.uk
Doggie heaven Reader Mrs Mary Rylands’s cocker spaniels, Simon and Gabriel, love the Bailiffscourt, near Arundel. ‘Set in extensive grounds with a path that leads to dogfriendly Climping beach, the hotel is lovely for humans too, with friendly and efficient staff,’ she says. Mid- Week Escapes from £120 per person, including dinner and breakfast (£13.50 for dogs): 01903-723511, www.hshotels.co.uk
Italian job Head for Milan Fashion Week, 18 to 24 September – British Airways is offering a two-night break at the fourstar Antares Hotel Rubens, including return flights from Heathrow, room and breakfast. Departs on 20 September. From £290 per person: 0844-493 0758.
Daily tip from the lady archive
“PEOPLE cannot help being influenced by their surroundings and their environment; therefore how all important it is that both of these should be healthy and cheery, for health and happiness both go hand-in-hand.”The Lady. The Blessing of Old Health, 18th November 1920