Friday, November 11, 2011

Klagenfurt, Austria

October 28, 2011
We woke up at 5 am – actually I’d been awake since 4:15 after falling asleep after midnight – to finish our last packing and cleaning (and e-mailing for Darrell) before leaving our sweet apartment at 23 Centralweg in the Lorraine District of Bern.  We left a little later than planned and ended up running to catch the train.  Not a great start to our trip – and hopefully the last time we have to do that for our trip!

It was hard to leave Bern as it is such a nice city to be in.  Especially with the changing colors of the leaves, and the changing mood of the River Aare…  I don’t think a day ever went by where I didn’t take a walk or a run along the river.

Our first stop with our one-month Eurail Pass is to Klagenfurt, Austria – where I met Sabina Kropfitsch 34 plus years ago!  I was 19 – she was 18 – and we met at her Grandmother’s farm where I went with another "Carl" named Marty.  His family had hosted Janko, Sabina's uncle, as an AFS student and he wanted to pay the family a visit.  Hence, Klagenfurt!

Darrell checking out how the train seats turn into a bed!
Sabina met us on the platform at the train station and took us to our hotel.  Then we had a lovely dinner at Sabina’s house.  She and her daughter Lea made us vegetarian lasagna, a beautiful salad, and an amazing raspberry fluff dessert.  Sabina invited Janko and his wife Christa as well as her mother Janja (who lives downstairs in the same building) and we had a wonderful time visiting and having memories of so long ago!

October 29, 2011
On Saturday, Sabina picked us up at 10 am and we went to the farmer’s market right by our hotel.  Then she took us to a medieval fort, Burg Hochosterwitz, built high on a hill.  The path that wound up the mountain to the fort at the top had numerous gates with towers and then a gate with a drawbridge near the top – so it would have been tough for anyone to get there unseen.

View of Burg Hochosterwitz from a distance.

It turned out Sabina had a connection with the tour guide at the fort so he gave us a private tour in English!  We saw lots of medieval armory – including the oldest cannon in Austria.  We weren’t supposed to take pictures inside – but I really wanted one of this amazing armor they had for a knight that was 3.25 meters tall.  The armor looked like it would have fit Hagrid!  It was so impressive.  He would meet anyone coming up to the fort and tell them he was the smallest one!
Sabina and I at the first gate on the path to the fort.

Dragon on the way up to the fort.
It was cloudy out and Sabina thought we might be able to get above the fog if we drove up to Magdalensburg where there was a wonderful restaurant, Gipfelhaus Magdalensberg, and normally an impressive view.  All we saw was mist – but it did lend to the mysterious and romantic atmosphere of the restaurant.  We had a delicious traditional meal of pasta stuffed with different cheeses and meats.

On Sunday, October 30th, Sabina picked us up for a hike up Dobratsch.  This turned out to be the same alpine hike I had taken 34 years ago!  But I didn’t know that at the time – though I did wonder as it looked somewhat familiar from my photos.  There were some geology trail signs with nice descriptions and samples of the rocks there.

Sabina on the trail up Dobratsch
We hiked up the “hunter’s trail” first – a more narrow path that wound along the southern side of the mountain.  We climbed out of the fog this time as we were at 2,167 meters (7110 ft) when we reached the top!  We had lunch at the hut – bratwurst, bread, and beer - perfect hiking food!

Sabina, Darrell and I at the top!
Our next stop was to St. Jakob v Rozu in Tesinja where her grandmother had lived.  I used the Slovenian spellings for this area because Sabina's family are Carinthian Slovenes.  Carinthia is this southern part of Austria.  She grew up bilingually German/Slovenian and it was so interesting to hear her speak the more musical tones of Slovenian with her family.  It seems the Slovene's have suffered some discrimination in Austria, like so many other groups in so many places...

Her grandmother's old house has been remodeled and it is where Janko and Christa now live in the summer.  Then her mother and her aunt also build houses near there on some of the property, so it is a nice family setting.  I remembered some views of the farm.

Sabina, Darrell, and Sabina's family farm.
The houses are also close to the cemetery where the grandmother and grandfather are buried.  Sabina’s dad passed away recently and is also buried there, with a beautifully simple gravestone.  All Soul’s Day is on Tuesday, so many people were decorating the graves at the cemetery.  I had never seen anything like it.  Many people seemed to have scrubbed the white rocks (like large gravel) at the sites, cleaned up (even re-engraved) the grave stones, and planted fresh flowers.  No plastic flowers here.  They also had red lanterns that were placed at all the graves and burned through the night.  We saw some later on the train from Vienna glowing along the tracks!

View of church from the farm.
Janja invited us for coffee and cakes.  She had made an amazing chocolate torte and a delicious apple streudel.  I'm learning where the cooking talent in the family comes from!  Yum.  I definitely ate too much!

Sabina's beautiful mother and her delicious apple streudel.
Sabina's aunt Ivi also came over and she remembered our jaunt up Dobratsch from so long ago!  She helped me remember more about my past visit.  Now we both need to look for our pictures from so long ago!

Sabina, Ivi, Mindy, and Janja
It was so wonderful being with this warm and loving family.  Thank you, Sabina, Lea, Janja, Ivi, Janko and Christa for sharing so much with Darrell and I!

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