Spittal an der Drau in Carinthia
The town of Spittal an der Drau is often used by visitors as a gateway to Lake Millstätter See, which lies only four kilometres east of the town. Spittal also has a bigger tourist information centre that serves requests for the entire lake region - however, this should not keep you from having a closer look at the town itself before you head for the swimming, windsurfing and other water-sports.
The term "spital" is used colloquially in Austria for "hospital" and allows to draw conclusions about the foundation of Spittal (with double "t"): It was founded in the 12th century by the local noble family von Ortenburg as a place where poor and sick people could seek help. It was also an important supply spot for travellers on their way across the Alps over the passes.
Today, no visitors come for treatments anymore (there′s no hospital in Spittal anymore), but rather to see one of Austria′s most elaborate Renaissance castles: The centrally located Schloss Porcia Castle was built be the Spanish noble-man Gabriel of Salamanca, who served as a treasurer to the Habsburgs in the 15th century. A very wealthy man, he bought an entire county and got Italian craftsman to erect a presentable castle right in the middle of it. In 1662, the castle was sold to the Porcia family, Austrian-Italian nobility in the high rank of "Fürsten" ("Princes"). They, too, were surely not struggling with a low income as one can still tell from the interiors of Schloss Porcia.
No hospital, but other sights in Spittal
The castle′s central courtyard has cloister-like arcades with pillars on three storeys. It serves as a "stage" for theatre performances and concerts in the summer, whereas some of the inner parts of the castle are used for a museum of folk culture. If you are very lucky, you might encounter the daughter of Gabriel de Salamanca: Legend has it that she killed a peasant girl and since her death, she is said to spook the castle. Several rooms beyond the museum′s permanent exhibition are open to the public and allow some good looks at the life and culture of 16th and 17th century nobility.
The town of Spittal itself has a few interesting buildings, but the castle is clearly the kick-butt-attraction. A short stroll around the town centre and a quick look at the parish church can′t do any harm, though. Beyond that, the second big attraction is Spittal′s scenic surroundings, best explored from the local mountain Goldeck. The 2142-metre-high summit can be attacked by hiking all the way up, or alternatively through the use of a cable-car in combination with a chair lift.
The "Goldeckbahn" cable-car operates for skiers in the winter season and hikers in the summer season with short breaks in between. It departs from a base station south of the town centre. A
central station will give you access to several hiking trails; for conquering the summit, you can also go further up with a chair lift ("Sessellift") continuing from the central station.