Two kosher hotels were opened this summer in Carinthia (South Austria), and both are fully booked. This is indicating that Carinthia is apparently becoming the new desired destination for Israelis.
Carinthia is located east of the Tyrol region, which has already been discovered and visited by many Israelis. I have traveled to Carinthia recently, and I think this area should be called "Tyrol Plus". The landscape is similar to the beautiful forested Tyrolean mountains with its many green tones, which widen the heart. And the "Plus" of Carinthia is its many lakes. About 1,200 lakes are in the Carinthia region and 22 are considered tourist destinations. And another small plus – Jewish sites can also be found in Carinthia.
Many tourist attractions are offered there, and in my opinion the most attractive attraction there is not man-made, but made by the Creator. The landscapes are just amazing. Everything is green. Lawns and cultivated fields in the valleys, and high mountains covered with forests, and I went to the forest for-rest. There is plenty of running water in large streams everywhere. The air is clear, pleasant and cool, without the need for an air conditioner. It is a pleasure to stop in all kinds of places, sit on one of the benches or lawns, breathe deeply the cool air, and swallow the surrounding landscape in our eyes. Pastoral peace. A paradise for vacationers. For example, these lines I write from the balcony of my hotel rooms, facing this view:
The capital of the district is the city of Klagenfurt. It has old Baroque buildings alongside modern buildings. It is worth visiting the old town building Alter Platz in the main square, built in the 13th century. It is also worth visiting the government house, whose first floor is an art museum. The town hall is in the new Neuer Platz square, built in the 16th century. In front there is a large statue of a dragon and a statue of Maria Theresa. On the sidewalk on nearby Kramer Street there are mosaics with symbols of twin cities of Klagenfurt. We can also see the symbol of the Nazareth Illit municipality. The favorite recreation place for our children is Minimundus Park. It is a large site with miniatures of world-famous buildings.
The main Synagogue of Klagenfurt was burnt on Kristallnacht in 1938, and a residential building was built on its ruins. On the sidewalk in front of the house (on Platzgasse 3) stands a memorial monument to the synagogue and the Jewish community. Several places in the city have stolpersteine, on which are engraved the names of Jews who lived in that house in front of them, and from there were taken to the extermination camps.
The most interesting Jewish site in Klagenfurt is the Jewish cemetery. There are gravestones from 1880. It is worth paying attention to the gravestones of Jewish soldiers in the Austrian army, lived in Klagenfurt, killed in World War I. When the Nazis came to power in Austria, some of the Jewish officers tore off the military medals off their uniforms and returned them to the government in a demonstrative act. There is a tour guide named Martha Mann who gives guided tours of the Jewish cemetery.
Klagenfurt lies on the banks of the Worthersee Lake, which is the largest of the many lakes in Carinthia. It is recommended to sail by boat from the pier near the city. The water of the lake is very clear. On the banks of the lake there are beautiful villas. Some of these houses were owned by rich Jews from Vienna. During the Nazis' period they were forced to sell them very cheaply. The most famous Jewish house on the banks of the lake belonged to composer Gustav Mahler. Here he wrote the Fifth Symphony, and other musical works.
On the Grossglockner mountain ridge south of Wörther Lake there is a Pyramidenkogel observation tower, about 70 meters high. An elevator takes us to the upper balconies, which offer breathtaking panoramic views of the various lakes and the Austrian Alps.
Another important site is the labor camp on Route 91 between Klagenfurt and the border with Slovenia. About half an hour's drive from Klagenfurt. It was a forced labor camp where the Nazis imprisoned and worked hard on many Jews, as well as non-Jewish communists. This camp was a branch of the infamous Mauthausen camp.
Carinthia is a tourist area, and like any tourist area there are many attractions for tourists. We cannot list all of them in one article, so we will present some of the most prominent and recommended among the attractions in areas where many of the religious Jewish travelers are vacationing.
The second largest city in the province of Carinthia is Villach. In front of the municipal museum of Loibelpass there is a public park with a Holocaust monument. On which are engraved the names of about 400 of the city's victims of the Holocaust, including the names of 162 Jews.
In the small town of Flattach there is a kosher hotel Molltal Sport which can be an exit point for some attractions. Across the main road is a CAM complex with a rope park for children's games. From there we can also go rafting.
Nearby there is the Ragga-schlucht Canyon with hiking trail alongside a flowing stream and above it. Suitable for the whole family, except for those with walking difficulties.
In Carinthia you can find active ski resorts even at the summer. We went to Molltalen Glestcher, which rises to 3,122 meters. It is recommended to spend at least half a day visiting and skiing. The best method is to come in the evening to stay at the Badmeister hotel, and in the morning walk about 300 meters to the cable car that takes us to the top of the mountain. The service at this hotel is extraordinarily indulgent.
The second kosher hotel is Alpenlandhof in the picturesque town of Bad Kleinkirchheim. This town has thermal water springs that erupt from the earth in different temperatures, ranging from 31 degrees to 46 degrees. Over the hot springs, the thermal spa Romerbad has built pools of various sizes that enclose the mineral water. Close to the town there are also interesting and beautiful hiking trails at various levels of difficulty.
There are other three sites that will interest Jews, even though they do not appear on the tourist map of Carinthia. There are three villages where all the inhabitants were Jews only. Two of them are called Judendorf which means "the village of the Jews", and one is called Judenanger (Jewish anger). Today there is no trace of Judaism, except for the signs with the arrows that show the way to the villages.
One of the ridges of the Austrian Alps is Mount Goldeck. In winter times it is one of Austria's best ski resorts, and in summer it is used mainly for hiking and stunning views. Take a cable car from the town of Spittal an der Drau, and at the top station leave the cable car, for a walk on the mountain paths to the top. An exceptional trip. Below us we see a magnificent landscape of green fields and other mountain ranges.
Down the mountain are small houses with cows grazing peacefully and lazily in the meadow. The sight reminded me the children's book "The Heidi of the Mountains", with stories about Heidi's grandfather living in an isolated wooden hut in the Alps, and raising a few goats and cows. When we reach the top of the Goldeck, we see valleys and mountains in all directions. The sight is breathtaking.
When descending from the mountain back to town, it is worth walking on the banks of the Millstaetter See. There are beautiful houses with gardens reaching the water. It is worth renting a rowboat or pedal boat at RoyalX hotel and sailing the lake.
These are just "samples" of the attractions I have experienced in Carinthia. there are many more. Every Tourist Information Station in Carinthia provides explanations and maps and prospectuses of near tourist sites. There is a Carinthia Card that provides free admission or discounts to hundreds of tourist attractions. The value of all the discounts of the ticket is about 700 euros. Highly recommended for independent travelers and families.
Despite all the advantages and great tourism potential of Carinthia, it is considered a "terra incognita" for the Israeli public. Last year, there were approximately 8,000 persons overnight sleeping of Israelis in Carinthia, compared with 180,000 Israelis' overnight stays in Salzburg and the Tyrol region. Mrs. Alena Van Dijk, who is in charge of Israeli tourism there, says that this summer there is a 50% increase in the number of Israelis who have visited Carinthia. She also notes that 35% of Israeli tourists are Orthodox.
It is possible to reach Carinthia via Vienna or via Ljubljana. The distance from Ljubljana is about one hour drive, and the distance from Vienna is four hours. There is also a domestic flight from Vienna to Klagenfurt.
However, there is no kosher restaurant in this huge district except in the kosher hotels, and no direct flights from Israel to Klagenfurt. Alena promises that next year there will also be charter flights. The duration of the direct flights will be shorter than the flights to Salzburg and Innsbruck, and therefore the tickets price will be cheaper.
Photos: Tourismusregion Klagenfurt, Martha Mann, Liron Almog, ©franzgerdl, ©gert_perauer, and Jacob Maor