So finally this year we had “our” kind of vacation….on a bike through some european country. The choice for this summer was Austria, it was six years since last visit, it was time for a come back.
On our way to Austria we had a nice stop in the mountains for lunch just a few miles before the state border…..
and at last, there we were……
Our first “home” for three night was a cozy place in Ainet, a little village near Lienz.
We had very good breakfasts and dinners…….
and the view wasn’t bad neither….
The first not-up-in-the-mountains visit was the town of Spittal and der Drau (Spittal on the Drava). The town is located on the southern slopes of the Gurktal Alps (Nock Mountains). Despite its name the historic core of Spittal originated on the banks of the small Lieser tributary, which flows into the Drava at the foot of Mt. Goldeck, a peak of the Gailtal Alps south of the town. The settlement was first mentioned in an 1191 deed issued by Archbishop Adalbert of Salzburg, when the local Carinthian counts Hermann I and Otto II of Ortenburg had a hospital (Spittl) with a chapel built where the ancient road leading to the Katschberg Pass and Salzburg crossed the Lieser river. The adjacent settlement received market rights in 1242. Together with the Ortenburg estates, Spittal in 1418 was inherited by Count Hermann II of Celje. The Counts of Celje, raised to immediate Reichsgrafen in 1436, became extinct when Count Ulrich II was killed by the liegemen of László Hunyadi in 1456, after which the Habsburg emperor Frederick III, also Duke of Carinthia, seized his territory.
Federick granted the citizens the right to choose their own judge and the council. However, Spittal and the surrounding lands were devastated by Turkish warriors in 1478 and shortly afterwards occupied by the Hungarian troops of Emperor Frederick’s long-time rival King Matthias Corvinus. Further ravaged by a peasant’s revolt and two fires in 1522 and 1729, the decline continued, until in 1524 Archduke Ferdinand I of Austria entrusted his treasurer Gabriel von Salamanca (1489–1539) with the former Ortenburg county. From 1533 onwards, the Counts of Salamanca-Ortenburg had Schloss Porcia erected on the main square as their residence. The building in the style of an Italian palazzo is considered one of the most important Renaissance castles in Austria. They also rebuilt the Spittl hospital on the other side of the Lieser River and the late Gothic Catholic parish church of Mary’s Annunciation upon Romanesque foundations of the 13th century. In 1662 Spittal passed to the Gorizia Counts of Porcia, owners of Schloss Porcia until 1918.
In 1797 Spittal was sieged by French troops in the courese of the Napoleonic War of the First Coalition, in 1809 it fell with Upper Carinthia to the French Illyrian Provinces according to the Treaty of Schönbrunn. Restored to the Austrian Empire by the 1815 Congress of Vienna, the local economy was decisively promoted, when it gained access to the Austrian Southern Railway network in 1871. During the violent fights against Yugoslav troops before the Carinthian Plebiscite in 1920, Spittal for a short time was the provisional seat of the Carinthian state government, which had fled from Klagenfurt. It formally received town privileges on the occasion of the ten-years-anniversary in 1930.
We had lunch in the public garden surrounding the castle, very fast food as you can see…..before taking a closer look at the beautiful building.
The palace, which was intended as the seat of the Salamanca family, was started by Gabriel von Salamanca-Ortenburg in 1533. It took his sons and grandsons about 60 years to complete it, but the original design was followed owing to a wooden model supplied by the architect and mentioned in Gabriel’s will. The architect is unknown, but he must have been one of the Lombards from the area of Lake Como who were responsible for introducing the Italian Renaissance to northern Europe. There are striking parallels between Schloss Porcia and the contemporary Belvedere (started in 1538) at Prague Castle, by Paolo Stella, although the exterior of Schloss Porcia is a less up-to-date version of an Italian Renaissance palace.
Porcia Palace was designed as a cube with three main storeys and an attic, and with circular towers at the north-west and south-east corners. The exterior façades are rather plain, the most notable features being two sets of triple-arched and balconied windows on the first and second floors. The courtyard, however, is unexpectedly splendid, with three storeys of arcades running around three sides of the court.
These arcades are adorned with sculptural decoration of rich imagination by local craftsmen. Both stone-carving (e.g. in capitals, doorframes, figural medallions and reliefs) and stucco (e.g. arcade vaults and interior ceilings) were employed; the ground-floor arcade spandrels display emperors’ heads in medallions, with ancient gods, heroes and animals appearing above. Doorframes are richly embellished: one on the third floor, for example, is flanked by columns and has jambs decorated with allegorical and other reliefs. In 1662 the princely Porcia family acquired the former Schloss Salamanca, retaining the building until 1918. The magnificent Baroque coat of arms above the main entrance and another on the south wall of the courtyard are evidence of their ownership, from which the palace derived its popular name. In 1951 the Porcia Palace became the property of the municipality, and currently houses a museum of local history.
It was an unexpected pleasure to visit the inside of the castle (and for free!) also because of the much cooler temperature……and after that we were ready to explore more….