Winter holidays in Carinthia

View at the mountains in ski resort Petzen, Austria

We both love spending time in mountains. When it’s warmer – hiking and climbing mountain pathways, and in winter – mostly skiing. Sadly, going skiing in Polish mountains is very similar to summer vacation at Baltic sea – there’s no warranty that the weather will be good. So if it’s possible, we try to go skiing where snow is not a problem. We have a special sentiment for Carinthia, Austria. So far we had most of our skiing adventures there.

Skis

GPS set: “Directions: Klagenfurt”. A calm city, next to lake Wörthersee, where very kind people live – our friends: Elza and Marcin. This biggest city of Carinthia is a perfect base for many ski resorts. 45 minutes by a car to Gerlitzen, 50 minutes to Hochrindl, or 1 hour to Petzen. It’s only 3 of many great resorts, where everyone can find pistes according to their skills. You want quiet and peaceful atmosphere – go to Hochrindl. You like breathtaking views – Goldeck will be perfect. You don’t mind lots of people – go to Katschberg. For people looking for white fun, in whole Carinthia there’s over 30 ski resorts with almost 1000 km of pistes. You can go skiing on a glacier, or smaller hills, which are perfect for learning. In the season there’s lot of snow here on the slopes – we had bad weather only once.

Patrycja waiting on the skis just before the run in Goldeck, Austria
Ski resort Goldeck

In the middle of February 2014, during two days the weather was terrible in the whole Carinthia. Because of very intense snowing and bad visibility, almost all ski resorts were closed. In order not to waste our vacation time sitting in front of TV, we chose to go to Venice.

Venice

The road through Austria wasn’t too comfortable. Because of the intense snowing and broken trees, total of 60 km from Klagenfurt to the Italian border took us 1,5 hour of driving. Fortunately, after crossing the border, snow immediately turned out into rain, and several kilometers later sun came out from behind the clouds. Venice welcomed us with cloudless sky and temperature of +16°C.

After leaving the car on fairly empty multi-level car park Tronchetto, we went for sightseeing the city. The center of Venice is placed upon almost 120 islands connected to each other with close to 400 bridges. Because it’s almost totally inaccessible for cars, the only ways for moving around the city are walking, boats, water trams and water taxis. We had comfy shoes and didn’t want to wait for a water tram, so we took off to see Venice on foot.

A view at buildings, narrow alley and a canal in Venice
An alley view in Venice

Colorful, antique buildings, standing close to each other, along numerous canals. Lots of boats moving slowly through bigger and smaller canals. Many of them moored next to stairs leading from water directly to house doors. In Venice you’ll not find many new buildings. Numerous villas, merchant houses, churches and bridges are preserved well enough and valuable, so they are not being replaced. Narrow alleys, crossing or connecting each other, sometimes just ending with a crate – a dead end with canal behind it. It all creates unique atmosphere of Venice. Slowly walking this maze of passages – from bridge to bridge, and square to square – we really got lost several times 😉

We took a stroll from Papadopoli Gardens, seen Scuola Grande San Giovanni Evangelista, went through Campo San Polo, and finally got to most known bridge of Venice – Rialto Bridge on Canale Grande. It’s the longest canal in whole Venice, and in XV century it was called “the most beautiful street of the world”. On both its sides there are most famous palaces in the whole city. Architecture of the buildings standing along Canal Grande originates from different periods of history, so it creates unique, Venetian style, that one can fully admire standing on Rialto Bridge.

A view at gondola going through Canale Grande in Venice, antique villas in the background
Canale Grande in Venice

From the bridge we went towards St. Marc’s Square. On this Venice’s biggest square there are one of the most interesting monuments of the city. It’s also the administrative heart of the town. The square is surrounded with old and new Procuration buildings, that are connecting to Napoleonic Wing. Next to the square you can admire one of the most known examples of Byzantine architecture – St. Mark’s Basilica. At the beginning it was a chapel of Venice rulers and a part of Doge’s Palace. In 828 a church was built in that place, and after a fire in 976, it was redesigned and rebuilt to its current looks. The new building was created on Greek-cross plan, with 5 domes – Byzantine stylized. Facade was rebuilt and restored numerous times – even when we were visiting, there was a scaffolding set on the front face of the Basilica. On the left side of Basilica there’s a famous clock tower – Torre dell’Orologio – with St. Marc’s Clock.

Walking from St. Marc’s Square, we passed by another symbol of Venice – Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale). Characteristic arcade loggias of two lower stories (covered with two-colored stone plates) are easily recognizable. When looking closer, one can see a canal on the back of Doge’s Palace – Rio di Palazzo. Looking from Ponte della Paglia bridge on the canal, one can see Bridge of Sights (Ponte dei Sospiri). It is constructed from white sandstone, with cobbled crates in windows, and it connects Doge’s Palace with the old prison. From this very bridge, convicts were looking for the last time at Venice before going to jail, and from their sights over lost freedom the bridge got its name.

A crowd of people waiting to enter Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice
Saint Mark’s Basilica

The last place we stopped for longer was the harbor. We’ve seen there gondolas, swaying gently next to the shore in one straight row. In the distance we’ve seen the islands and lots of boats moving slowly. Next to one of the footbridges by the shore, a man was sitting and sketching the view we’ve seen. Further away, there was a group of young people sitting by the granite column and waiting for their water tram. On top of one column there’s a statue of St. Theodore (previously a patron of Venice) standing over a crocodile, and on the other one – Lion of St. Marc.

A young man sitting on Riva degli Schiavoni in Venice, sketching gondolas, water canal and island
Water front Riva degli Schiavoni

From the harbor we walked back to the parking. Again – we lost the way several times in the maze of alleys, but finally we made it. All that what left to do, was to get back to Klagenfurt.

Dobratsch

Carinthia is not only about great slopes for skiing. Every fan of hiking will find good trails here even in winter. We chose to hike Dobratsch. It’s one of the most effectively looking summits of Limestone Alps, with great views over Eastern Alps and Drau and Gail valleys. Impressive, steep and rocky slopes were finally shaped in an earthquake in 1348.

A view at Eastern Alps from Mt. Dobratsch
A view at Eastern Alps from Mt. Dobratsch

The route to Dobrach that we chose wasn’t very hard. It took us 2 hours from parking to the peak. But during the hike we could admire beautiful views at snowy valleys and surrounding mountains. Sadly, we couldn’t see the 165-meters transmitter tower (Sendeturm Dobratsch). The peak was covered in a fog so dense, we could barely see anything on 100 meters distance. We relaxed for a while, eating delicious strudl (twist) in a restaurant that’s next to the tower, hoping the fog will go away. But after half an hour it got even more dense. So we got back on the trail and went back the same road, only this time we sledged down most of the way.

 

Practical tips:

  • Highways in Austria are paid. The fee is in a form of vignette (a small sticker that you place on your windshield). It can be bought anywhere near to the borders, and prices vary depending on the car size and time span. For cars weighting under 3,5 ton vignette prices in 2015 are: for 10 days – 8,70 €, for 2 months – 25,30 €, for one year – 84,40 €. Despite the vignette, some tunnels and high mountain roads are paid additionally.
  • Highways in Italy are also paid. Prices depend on the road section and car size – you pay the fee on the exit. The fee is collected in cash or using magnetic VIACARD cards. Also following tunnels are paid: Mont Blanc (Italy – France), Frejus (Italy – France), Grand St.Bernard (Italy – Switzerland) and Munt la Schera (Italy – Switzerland).
  • Lots of people think that air in Venice has a “specific aroma”. We disagree – we didn’t find water in Venice smelly. Even deeper in the city, in the smaller canals. Apart from that – water in the lagoon has nice blue color.
  • Center of Venice is almost totally closed to road traffic. For tourists there are 2 multi-level car parksPiazzale Roma – where one day of parking costs 26 € (one-time payment), and Tronchetto, which is bigger and cheaper, with the prices calculated hourly (summary for one day is around 21 €). It’s also possible to use parking on mainland and use public transportation to get to the antique center.
  • Water trams in Venice are cruising every 10-20 minutes during rush hours. Both tourists and citizens use them. In 2014 prices were: 7 € for 1-hour ticket, 18 € for 12-hours and 20 € for 24-hours ticket.
  • In Venice, like in many other cities of Italy, Spain or Portugal, the summer can be really hot. Fortunately, there are numerous drinking fountains all over the city, with free tap water.

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