Carinthia (Kärnten), Austria's most southerly province, lies in a basin entirely surrounded by mountains and watered throughout almost its whole length by the Drau, of which most of the other streams are tributaries.
Its mild climate, which at times seems almost southerly, is due to its situation south of the main chain of the Alps, which keeps off the cold air masses from the north. In addition, areas of high pressure over Italy also usually extend into Carinthia, so that the number of days of sunshine is much above the Austrian average. In consequence the Carinthian lakes frequently have a water temperature between 24 deg and 27 deg C/75 deg and 81 deg F. The largest of these lakes - numbering more than a hundred in all - are the Wörther See, Ossiacher See, Millstätter See, Weissensee and Faaker See.Geography and peopleThe province is sheltered on the north by the Hohe Tauern range, rising well above 3,000m/10,000ft, with its highest peak the Grossglockner (3,797m/12,458ft), at the foot of which stretches the Pasterze glacier, the largest in the Eastern Alps. To the east the mountains fall away: the Gurktal Alps barely reach the 2,500m/8,200ft mark, and the adjoining Nockberge are gently rounded heights. The eastern boundary of Carinthia is formed by the Saualpe and Koralpe ranges, between which the Lavant valley runs from north to south. Both ranges are popular with walkers and skiers.To the south are the Karawanken, with the Austro-Yugoslav frontier running along the crests, and farther west are the Carnic Alps. The western boundary of the province is formed by the Lienz Dolomites; and beyond the "Tiroler Pforte" (Tyrolean Gate), where the Drau has carved a passage, the ring of mountains is closed by the Schober group.The interior of the province also has its mountains, including the Villach Alps, the Gerlitzen north of the Ossiacher See, the Magdalensberg and the Ulrichsberg near Maria Saal. Between these ranges lie the valleys and basins which are the main areas of human settlement and the lakes which attract a great many visitors. Many of the upland areas have become popular winter sports regions.Carinthia has a wide variety of plants. More than half its territory is covered with forest, and it preserves not a few relics of the flora of the Ice Ages, such as Linnaea borealis and Wulfenia (a member of the scrophulariaceae family), found in the Nassfeld.The province also has a distinctive population structure, with a considerable Slovene minority, especially in the southern areas, dating back to the Slav immigration in the sixth C. A.D. A number of place names also have a Slovene ring about them. Also in Carinthia the "Windisch" dialect, a mixture of German and Slovene, can be heard.HistoryLying remote within its ring of mountains, Carinthia was settled by man much later than the territories beyond this mountain barrier. The first traces of human occupation date only from Neolithic times, but the archaeological evidence becomes more abundant in the Bronze Age, when the area was inhabited by an Illyrian people, the Veneti, and the Iron Age which followed it.About 400 B.C. the Celts began to move in, bringing with them a highly developed culture and systematically establishing new settlements - notable among them being Teurnia (at Spittal an der Drau), Virunum (on the edge of the Zollfeld plain) and Juenna (in the Jaun valley).Shortly before the beginning of the Christian era the Romans began to occupy the territory, protecting the important trade routes from Italy to northern Europe by the establishment of forts and garrisons and founding civilian settlements.In 476, with the fall of the Western Empire, the Roman occupation came to an end. The period of the great migrations brought in Slav peoples, driven westward by the advancing Avars. In 750 the Slovene leader Boruth sought help against the Avars from Tassilo III of Bavaria, leading to an alliance between the two countries which lasted until 976, when the Emperor Otto II separated them and made Carinthia a duchy on its own, together with the counties of Istria and Verona.In the eighth and ninth C. Franks, Bajuwari (Bavarians) and Saxons moved into Carinthia, forming an upper class which dominated the Slovenes and founding churches and religious houses (St Georgen, St Paul, Millstatt, etc.). In subsequent centuries the country was ruled by a number of ducal families, including the Eppensteiners (until 1122) and the Sponheimers (until 1269). Later it was controlled by King Ottokar of Bohemia (1269-76) and King Rudolf I (1276-86); in the year 1335 it passed to the Habsburgs. Towards the end of the 15th C. Hungarians and Turks pressed into Carinthia, and evidence of these troubled times is still provided by the numerous fortified churches. Soon afterwards Carinthia was combined with neighboring territories to form the province of Inner Austria.Until the beginning of the modern period the chief town of Carinthia was St Veit an der Glan. Then in 1518 the Emperor Maximilian I presented to the Estates of Carinthia, at their request, the market town of Klagenfurt, which became the capital of the province.The Reformation found fertile territory among the people and nobility of Carinthia, but the Counter- Reformation of the 17th C. restored the status quo without great difficulty or disturbance.The Thirty Years' War did not directly affect Carinthia, but had indirect effects on its economy. After the Peace of Westphalia economic life was slow to recover, until Maria Theresa and the Emperor Joseph II set out to promote the development of industry, most notably mining, metalworking and the Ferlach arms manufactory.Carinthia was exposed to further troubles during the occupation by Napoleon, which was preceded by a number of battles between French and Austrian forces. Until 1849 much of the province was incorporated in the "Illyrian kingdom", with its capital at Ljubljana (Laibach); thereafter it again became directly subordinate to the Austrian crown.After the First World War Yugoslav troops occupied part of Lower Carinthia but were driven out; then in October 1920 a plebiscite produced a decisive vote in favor of remaining part of Austria. During the Nazi period the eastern Tirol and, from 1942, large parts of Krajina (Krain) in Yugoslavia were attached to Carinthia, but after 1945 the old provincial boundaries were restored. Since then Carinthia has shared the destinies of the re-established Republic of Austria.ArtThe earliest works of art produced in Carinthia were the lead figures of horsemen, dating from the Bronze Age and the Hallstatt period (Iron Age), which are named "Frögger Reiter" after the place where they were found (Frögg, in the Rosental).The Roman period is represented by numerous works of art found in Carinthia, including one of the finest pieces of sculpture discovered north of the Alps, the bronze statue of a youth from Virunum (Magdalensberg). Many pieces of relief carving have been found, often re-used in the masonry of later buildings. A number of Romano-Celtic temples have also been excavated, for example at Wabelsdorf, Hohenstein and in the Lavant valley. As the Roman period neared its end Celtic features again increasingly came to the fore.The development of a distinctive local style can be detected even in the Early Christian period (e.g., in the mosaic pavement of the basilica at Teurnia). The Carolingian period is represented by parts of the church at Karnburg, a number of pieces of ornamental stonework and the 10th C. twin-seated Ducal Throne of Roman stone in the Zollfeld.There was a rich flowering of Romanesque architecture in Carinthia, a famous example being the cathedral at Gurk (crypt c. 1170, the church a little later). From this period, too, date the monastic churches of Millstatt and St Paul and numbers of small village churches. The art of wall painting also flourished in Carinthia.Gothic architecture likewise achieved a distinctive Carinthian form, avoiding the over-elaborate decoration sometimes found elsewhere. A characteristic feature is the charnel-house to be seen all over the province, richly decorated with frescos, as were the interiors of the churches. Also covered with imagery were the windows of the churches (Magdalene Window from Weitensfeld, now in Klagenfurt; windows at Viktring) and the characteristically Carinthian "Lenten veils" with which the altars are covered during Lent (the largest being in Gurk cathedral). In addition to the churches increasing numbers of secular buildings were now erected, including the castles of Hochfeistritz, Diex, Grades and Frauenstein (St Veit).The trend towards secular architecture was still more marked at the Renaissance, which came into Carinthia from the north. The finest building of this period is Schloss Porcia at Spittal an der Drau; other examples of Renaissance work are the Landhaus in Klagenfurt, Burg Hochosterwitz and, in the field of sculpture, the Dragon Fountain in Klagenfurt.During the Baroque period building activity in Carinthia declined, the only notable Baroque building being the cathedral at Klagenfurt. Sculpture is represented only by a few altars and figures of saints. Josef Fromiller (1693-1760) produced a number of altarpieces.In Carinthia, as elsewhere, as a result of the French Revolution and subsequent industrialization, the emphasis was on building houses and factories, and during the 20th C. there was a noticeable swing towards secular paintings.In the 1920s Herbert Boeckl (1894-1966) became one of the most important painters of the Austrian modern school, with portraits and landscapes in the Expressionist style, religious frescos and tapestries.The large valleys of Carinthia meet in the Klagenfurt Basin, making this area the geographical as well as the administrative and economic hub of the province.
The Maltatal (Malta valley), which runs northwestwards from Gmünd, is one of the most beautiful valleys in Austria, with a number of waterfalls
on the Malta and its tributary streams. The village of Malta has a 14th-15th C. church and a museum displaying rural furniture and local crafts. The public road ends at Falleralm, some 14km/9mi from Gmünd; from there the 18km/11mi Malta- Hochalm-Strasse (tolls payable) and footpaths continue up the valley by way of the Gmünder Hütte (1,185m/3,888ft) to the new artificial lakes in the Ankogel group (see especially the Kölnbrein reservoir, one of the biggest dams in Austria). The Malta Valley Nature Reserve contains a rich selection of mountain animal life.The Malta valley is worth seeing not only for its scenery but also for a great technological achievement, the large hydroelectric station fed by several artificial lakes. Over 30 waterfalls and numerous gorges accompany the river, especially in its upper reaches near the Blauer Tumpf, where the 50m/165ft Hochalmbach and the 20m/66ft Malta plunge down the hillsides.
Northeast of Spittal is the Nock district, which provides excellent walking, climbing and winter sports. This region running along the Nockalm Road has been declared a national park. The rivers, the gently rounded peaks of the Nockberge, its geological features, the spruce, larch and fir trees and the idyllic Alpine pastures produce a beautiful picture.The National park office is located in Klagenfurt although the park is some distance northwest of the capital city.
The most southerly part of the province is the Lesach valley, running parallel to the Italian frontier, which is continued by the Gail valley and which joins the Drau valley at Villach. Maria Luggau, near the boundary of Tirol, has a beautiful pilgrimage church. At Kötschach-Mauthen a road goes off to the Plöcken pass to the south, and before Hermagor a road leads into the Nassfeld, a favorite skiing area. Shortly before Villach the Gail flows below the south side of the Villacher Alpe and joins the Drau at Maria Gail (church with Late Gothic winged altar).