Having recently blogged about the importance of settings in creative writing on LASRblog, I would like to share one of my personally favourite romantic places.
As a lover of mountains and open spaces, Austria with its cable cars and rack and pinion railways, its musical associations with the Sound of Music and Mozart, is a firm favourite. However, a lesser-known gem is its southernmost province, Carinthia, offering a more tranquil setting with the added benefit of plenty of sunshine.
This is a province of over a thousand lakes, of which the largest is Lake Worthersee at 17 km long. The water here is reputedly so clean that you can drink it and, at summer temperatures of 25 C, as warm as a tepid bath. To simply find a shady spot and sit gazing over the expanse of water glistening like a blue-green diamond is so mentally restoring. Every now and then, a splash will confirm a body plunging into the water for a cooling swim, an occasional water-skier might flash past, or a rowing boat drift languidly by, and above it all the horn of the lake steamer intermittently cuts though the air like a trumpet fanfare. A feeling of serenity lifts you to a different plane as you absorb the atmosphere and sense all your cares tangibly ebb away.
The lake became a favoured summer retreat for Austria’s aristocracy in the 19th century and it still attracts the rich and famous with some exclusive hotels and romantic lake villas. However, my preference is to stay in a landhaus in a slightly elevated position which affords beautiful views over the landscape on balmy summer evenings. Eating out on a flower-bedecked terrace, gazing across the lake towards the floodlit Gothic church at Maria Worth nestling on its peninsula, is a magical sight renowned for inspiring many composers by virtue of its sheer beauty. Small wonder that couples from all over the world travel here to get married. The distant backdrop of mountains form a spectral outline and, to the north, the resorts of Velden and Portschach glitter like jewels, although their promise of night life holds little temptation when there are such riches here.
The continental climate translates into a Mediterranean atmosphere - very friendly, welcoming people and excellent cuisine, essentially rich and flavoursome, yet also mild. A typical meal in the landhaus might be mushroom soup with cream and herbs followed by melt-in-the-mouth roast veal with a side buffet and then perhaps a bilberry dessert. Pleasantly replete, guests sip after-dinner coffees on the terrace and the gentle hum of their voices melts into the soft background sounds of a folk music CD . A few children might play on the grass then, as night falls, disappear indoors to play a board game. Some couples might drift away, perhaps to bed, or maybe to take a boat to a night club or the casino. Others, like us, remain to sit beneath the stars and drink in the intoxicating alpine air. There is an almost ethereal quality which is perfect for the melding of souls.
All around the province are mountains offering a dramatic contrast, notably Grossglockner, Austria’s highest mountain, and the old city of Klagenfurt offers many cultural attractions, with its beautifully restored Renaissance buildings and their charming arcaded courtyards that provide an esoteric setting in which to enjoy the mandatory kaffee und kuchen
It is a truly magical region which, mercifully, has escaped the clutches of mass tourism. Hopefully, it will remain one of Austria’s hidden gems for many years to come.
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