How to Explore the Medieval Treasures of Carinthia, Austria

How to Explore the Medieval Treasures of Carinthia, Austria

Carinthia is famous for its alpine mountains and lakes, like the Wörthersee. In addition, it’s also home to medieval treasures in places like Friesach that so many travellers miss out on!

The first few times I was in Carinthia, I explored the mountains and visited Hohe Tauern National Park. It’s my favourite national park in Austria, and partly lies in Carinthia. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time, I remained oblivious to what else travellers can find in this incredible state. That includes the Transromanica Route, which I hadn’t heard of before.

The Transromanica Route is one of 32 approved cultural routes by the Council of Europe. It runs through 8 countries, features 5 Unesco World Heritage Sites, and over 400 sacred sites dating back to medieval times!

It was my first time traveling along such a route, and it’s a unique way to explore an area. That’s  why I’ve created a

weekend guide to explore the highlights of the Transromanica Route in Carinthia.

Start your Transromanica journey in the market town of Milstatt.

The first highlight of the town is the gorgeous Milstatt Lake. It’s the second largest in Carinthia. Second, you’ll see the attention grabbing red domes on the ancient Benedictine Millstatt Abbey. It  dates back to 1070 and is a great example of the Romanesque architecture that you’ll find on the Transromanica Route. Art lovers will revel in the frescos found inside the cloister church, some of which date back to the 1400s. The frescos demonstrate the detailed Romanesque artisan craftsmanship found in medieval times. Milstatt was also one of the most important intellectual and cultural centres in Carinthia during the middle ages.  Perhaps, you’ll even feel smarter, just being there :). The abbey is so serene and peaceful.

 

View overlooking Milstatt am See (town of Milstatt and the Lake) in Carinthia, Austria

Milstatt am See (town of Milstatt and the Lake) in Carinthia

 

One of the highlights of Milstatt is the Benedictine Abbey.

Milstatt Benedictine Abbey is an excellent example of Romanesque architecture.

 

Milstatt Abbey is the perfect place for contemplation.

Me contemplating life’s great mysteries in Milstatt Abbey.

Bike one of the 5 Transromanica Cycling Routes in Carinthia

I’m a HUGE fan of combining active holidays with sightseeing. Fortunately travellers have a choice of cycling  one of five Tranromanica routes in Carinthia! I cycled part of one path along the spectacular Wörthersee and loved it.You can find detailed information about the cycling routes here.

The "Caribbean of Austria" aka, the Wörther See can reach temperatures of up to 26 degrees C.

The Wörthersee, is known as the “Caribbean of Austria” because of its  warm temperatures.

 

The Wörthersee is a popular cycling destination in Carinthia.

You’ll find 5 Transromanica cycling routes in Carinthia, including one along the Wörthersee.

While you’re in the Wörthersee area, I also recommend a visit to the Pyradmidenkogel. It’s the highest wooden observation tower in the world at 100 metres! While it’s not an official site on the Transromanica Route, it does offer a 360 degree view of Carinthia and beyond. You can either walk up, or take the elevator. For a heart-pounding adventure, I highly recommend taking the slide down. At 120 m, it’s the longest slide in Europe! It only takes ~ 20 seconds to get down, but you’ll reach speeds of up to 25 km/hour! I LOVED the slide – even though it was faster than I had anticipated.

 At 100 m, the Pyradmidenkogel is the highest wooden observation tower in the world offers spectacular views over the Wörthersee, Carinthia and beyond.

The Pyradmidenkogel is the highest wooden observation tower in the world.

 

Stunning views over the Wörthersee and Carinthia from the Pyramidenkogel.

360-degree views over the Wörthersee and Carinthia from the Pyramidenkogel.

 

Me enjoying views of the Wörthersee from the Pyramidenkogel in Austria.

Me enjoying the expansive view of the Wörthersee from the top of the Pyramidenkogel.

 

Explore the Church Peninsula of Maria Wörth

The village of Maria Wörth is famous for its pilgrimage church. It dates back to 894 and  became a collegiate monastery around 1146. Centuries later, it still attracts tourists and pilgrims. There’s also a smaller church, referred to as the Winter Church where you can see frescos dating back to the 12th century. 

The peninsula also has a beach area where you can go for a dip in the lake. Or stay on land and take in a spectacular sunset over the Wörthersee. I highly recommend spending a night in Maria Wörth as it’s so quiet and peaceful here.

Pilrims and tourists visit the Pilgrim church in the village of Maria Wörth, on a peninsula on the Wörthersee.

Pilgrim church in the village of Maria Wörth.

 

Gorgeous sunset views of the Wörthersee from the Maria Wörth peninsula.

Gorgeous sunset views of the Wörthersee from the Maria Wörth peninsula.

 

Learn How to Build a Castle – Medieval Style

The Burgbau (Castle Building in English) site was one of my two favourite Transromanica sites. It’s a historical experiment to build a 12th century Alpine Castle. They’re using only medieval methods and tools with natural materials – wood, stone, sand, etc. That means no motorized or electrical equipment – nothing that wasn’t around in the middle ages.

Admission is only available with a guided tour, where you will observe craftsmen, not actors, at work. It’s absolutely fascinating and painstakingly slow work. The project will take 30 years to complete. It’s  a place you could easily return to each year and see progress of the castle.

Burgbau is a medieval castle being built only using medieval methods and natural building materials.

The foundation for the castle being built only using medieval methods and natural building materials.

 

A Burgbau blacksmith using only medieval tools and techniques to build the castle near the medieval village of Freisach in Carinthia.

Blacksmith using only medieval tools and techniques to build the castle near the medieval village of Friesach.

Admission is only available with a guided tour since you’re touring a construction site. To arrange a tour in English, email: [email protected] in office.

Explore Friesach, the Oldest Town in Carinthia and the Best-Preserved Medieval Town in Austria

In addition to the historical experiment in building a medieval castle, the medieval town of  Friesach was my other favourite stop. Not only does it date back to 880, but it still has an intact moat, an intact city wall. And of course, several historical churches and ruins. It quickly became one of my favourite towns in all of Austria.

Of special interest is the 820 metre-long moat. It’s the only original one that is fully working and filled with water in all of Europe! If that wasn’t enough, you can also take a boat ride – yes a boat in a moat :).

You’ll also want to do the short, but steep hike up to the ruins of Petersberg Castle! There’s a restaurant at top serving traditional Carinthia specialities. The castle’s old tower houses the Friesach City Museum. What I loved most was the panoramic views over Friesach and the mountain views.

The 820-long metre moat in Friesach is one of the most impressive in Europe.

You can take a boat ride along the 820 metre-long moat in Friesach.

 

Dating back to 1217, this is the oldest Dominiman monastery in the German-speaking part of the world. It's located in Freisach, Carinthia, Austria.

St Nichloas, is the oldest Dominiman monastery in the German-speaking part of the world. It dates back to 1217.

 

A view of the medieval town of Friesach as seen from Petersberg (mountain). It's worth the hike up.

The medieval town of Friesach as seen from Petersberg (mountain). It’s worth the hike up.

 

Friesach has an impressive well-preserved medieval city wall as seen from Petersberg (mountain).

The well-preserved medieval city wall of Friesach as seen from Petersberg (mountain).

 

You'll find a church, castle ruins, museum and restaurant on Petersberg.

The church on the grounds of Petersberg overlooks Friesach and the stunning mountain backdrop.

 

The ruins of Petersberg wall and castle sit on a mountain overlooking the medieval town of Friesach.

The ruins of Petersberg wall and castle are on a mountain top overlooking the medieval town of Friesach.

 

Friesach is the best-preserved medieval town in Austria.

Friesach is the best-preserved medieval town in Austria.

 

The historic centre of Friesach can easily be explored by visitors on foot.

The historic centre of Friesach can easily be explored on foot.

Following a cultural route like the Transromanica, is a unique way to travel. It also ensures that you’ll see the most important medieval sites in Carinthia, which many visitors miss. Its cycling routes and hiking to the castle show how easy it is to combine an activity holiday with Romanesque sightseeing.

medieval adventure guide to exploring Millstatt, Wörthersee, Maria Wörth and Friesach in Carinthia, Austria

Note: My trip was made possible as part of the Crossing Routes – Blogging Europe 2016 campaign, a collaboration between the Council of Europe and the European Commission aiming at promoting the Transromanica Route, in collaboration with iambassador. All opinions are my own.

 

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2017-03-13T04:18:23+00:00

4 Comments

  1. Gagan Chauhan October 24, 2016 at 7:54 am - Reply

    Austria, the country that gave us the legend, Arnold Schwarzenegger! Beautiful post, Laurel! Love the way you describe places and things. Shows a lot of passion. Great pictures too. Thanks for sharing.

    • Laurel October 24, 2016 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      @Gagan – Ha, so true! Thanks for the kind words. Maybe the Austrian tourism board should use Arnold’s famous “I’ll be back” line for their slogan 🙂

      • Gagan Chauhan November 2, 2016 at 6:44 pm - Reply

        @Laurel – I sincerely hope the Austrian Tourism uses Arnold’s famous “I’ll be back” line. Just in case they don’t, would you like to start a petition for the same on Change.org? I am certain that there will be 1000s, if not million, people signing that petition.

  2. website design company in ranchi November 1, 2016 at 6:53 am - Reply

    Amazing post! and great images.thanks for the sharing.

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