Villach, Austria – Kirchtag, 1975

Villach, Austria is located in the state of Kärnten (Carinthia) in the South, and is situated on the Drau river. It is an important traffic hub for the entire region of southern Austria and the Alpe-Adria area. It is also beautiful – I lived there from February to August of 1975, and while I was there I was privileged to experience Villacher Kirchtag, one of Austria’s largest cultural festivals.

Kirchtag (literally “church day,” but encompassing more of a summer harvest festival than anything else) was begun on 1 August, 1936. It begins on the first Saturday in August and runs for a week. The annual Trachtenfestzug (regional costume parade) that takes place on the first day can attract 40,000 to 50,000 spectators.

Below, for your viewing pleasure, the photos I took of the event in 1975.

Austria - Villacher Kirchtag

To the Amusement Park

 Villach - Kirchtag - Amusement area


Villach - Kirchtag - Fireworks


Villach - Kirchtag - Parade


Villach - Kirchtag - Priest

Local clergy

Villach - Kirchtag - Trachten parade


Villach - Kirchtag 1

Hauptplatz festivities

Villacher Kirchtag - Fireworks.jpg

More Fireworks

Villacher Kirchtag 1

Ferris Wheel

Villacher Kirchtag 2

Amusement park

Villacher Kirchtag 3


Villacher Kirchtag 4


Villacher Kirchtag 5

Making a point

Villacher Kirchtag 6


Villacher Kirchtag 7

Dancing girls

Villacher Kirchtag 8

Spook Alley

Villacher Kirchtag 9


Villacher Kirchtag 10


Villacher Kirchtag 11


Villacher Kirchtag 12


Villacher Kirchtag 13


Villacher Kirchtag 14

Crowds gather to watch the parade

Villacher Kirchtag 15


Villacher Kirchtag 16


Villacher Kirchtag 17

Looking towards the train station

Villacher Kirchtag 18

Folk Dancing

Villacher Kirchtag 19


Villacher Kirchtag 20


Villacher Kirchtag 21


Villacher Kirchtag 22


Villacher Kirchtag 23

Hauptplatz again

Villacher Kirchtag 24

Looking the other way

Villacher Kirchtag 25


Villacher Kirchtag 26


Villacher Kirchtag 27

Local costume

Villacher Kirchtag 28

Oh my God it’s a bear get in the car!

Villacher Kirchtag 29


Villacher Kirchtag 30

Local color of a different kind.

Villacher Kirchtag 31

Music everywhere



My Kirchtag-ID, similar to today’s concert or event wristbands.

Our little meeting house was on the  second floor of one of the buildings along Hauptplatz, giving us a front-row seat for all the festivities. I love Villach, and I have enjoyed every chance to get back.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

European Road Trip – 1971

In December of 1971, I was living in Naples, Italy, where I had also spent a year previously, and a friend of mine who was at the time serving on the USS Cascade (AD-16) had a little Fiat 850 Spider. It was decided that we should take a road trip, and so we did. (How George managed so much shore leave was a mystery to me, but I wasn’t asking questions.) We drove up Italy through Cesena to Venice, past Udine to Vienna, across Austria to Lofer, down through the Romansch-speaking part of Switzerland, across the Lake Como area, and back. It was a wonderful trip.

I recently came across my slides from the journey, which I thought I had lost for years, and decided it was worth a post, if only so my friend, with whom I’m still in touch, could see them. The photography is hardly award-winning, but there are some pretty shots here and there.

Near Cesena, Italy

Near Cesena, Italy

Foggy Venice 2

Venice was cold and foggy.

Foggy Venice

Twin bridges

Venice - Gondola

Parked Gondola

Venice 2

Canal with bridges

I would later return to Venice many times as a consequence of my employment, in much better weather and more pleasant seasons. It is one of my favorite places on earth.

Clearing the Fog 2

As we proceeded north, we broke out of the fog as we approached the Alps in the vicinity of Udine. The views were glorious.

Clearing the Fog

Italian Alps

Dolomites, Italy

Clearing the Fog

December 1971 - When this Rooster Sings

Found on the wall in an osteria (guest house) on the road – the sign says, “We’ll give credit when this rooster crows.”

Church near Udine

A church near Udine

Near Udine, Italy

Near Udine

Udine, Italy


Austria - Wolfsburg

Wolsfberg, Austria

Wolfsberg, Austria

Wolfsberg, Austria

It turns out our route took us past Villach and through Klagenfurt and Graz, cities where I would spend much time in 1975 although I had no idea that would be the case. Wolfsberg lies on the road between Klagenfurt and Graz.

I would also spend about 6 months in Vienna in 1976, but even as early as 1971 I had this fixation on Beethoven, whose piano sonatas I was laboriously learning to play, and Vienna was like making a pilgrimage to Mecca. The weather was gray and wintry for the most part, but for 20-year-old me, it was still a gas being there.

Vienna - Beethoven Monument (2)

The Beethoven Monument, Vienna. You can tell by the trees that this was not taken in December; in fact, it was taken 5 years later when I returned to Vienna as a missionary. But it’s almost a clone of the picture that I took in 1971, albeit much clearer, so I allowed myself the substitution.

 Vienna - Beethoven Monument

Der Allermeister in all his scowly grandeur

Vienna - December 1971 - Beethovenhaus

Beethoven House

Vienna - Beethovenhaus

Beethovenhaus closeup – the plaque reads, “In this house lived Ludwig van Beethoven during the winter of 1819/20. The Missa Solemnis was written here.”

 Vienna - December 1971

Vienna street with overpass

Vienna - Donau at low ebb

Donaukanal at low ebb

Vienna - Maria Theresa Monument

Vienna – Monument to Maria Theresa

Vienna - Parliament Building

Vienna – Parliament


Vienna – Karlskirche

Vienna - Restaurant

We stopped for cocoa in this warm and cozy restaurant

Vienna - Skaters

Vienna – Skaters. I can hear Waldteufel’s “Skater’s Waltz” playing in the back of my mind…

Vienna - Stadtsmuseum

Vienna – National Museum

Vienna - Strauss Monument 2

Vienna – Monument to Richard Strauss

Vienna - Strauss Monument

Vienna – Strauss monument closeup

Vienna - Unknown 2

Vienna – National Musem

Vienna - Unknown



Vienna – People’s Theatre

After Vienna, we headed west, and spent the night in Lofer, Austria – one of the most picturesque places I have ever seen. It still rivals many others, and often appears on Austrian travel adverts.

Lofer - Hotel

The hotel where we spent the night – 100 Schillings, breakfast included. That came to about $4.00, the Austrian Schilling being about 24 to the dollar at the time. 5 years later it was down to 15.

Lofer - Winter Landscape

The Lofer church by day.

Lofer, Austria - December, 1971

Church in Lofer at sunset.

Lofer, Austria - Haus Anna

Lofer – Haus Anna

Lofer, Austria 2

Lofer, Austria

Lofer, Austria at Sunrise

Another view of the iconic Church

The following pictures were taken in Austria at various points, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to label them at the time. As a result, the precise locations are unknown.

Austria - Alps

Austria - Castle

Austria - Church Tower

Austria - Church

Austria - Morning Mist

Austria - Mountain Castle

Austria - Mountain Village

Austria - Road

Austria House

Austria Somewhere

Austria, December 1971

We continued west through Austria toward Switzerland, and passed through the Romansch-speaking areas in the southeast where we encountered some lovely snow sculptures:

Romansch Area - Horse Snow Sculpture

Horse rampant

Romansch Area - Polar Bear

Polar bear with cubs

These don’t rival the ones you find up in Sapporo, Japan, but they were impressive enough for me at the time.

Lake Como, Italy

Home and garden near Lake Como

It was a trip not to be forgotten. George, I hope you enjoyed these memories as much as I did.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Postwar rations

A typical week’s food ration for a postwar Austrian housewife c. 1945-47


Nit allzuviel. No wonder that Austrian cooking went heavy on the oil later, when it became available again; there’s nothing quite like a Wiener Schnitzel fried in lard.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Innsbruck, ca. 1920



Herzog-Freidrichstraße and the Goldenes Dachl in Innsbruck. Stadtturm visible on the right. I’m dating the photo based on the look of the autos; I could be off by a few years.

Innsbruck - Goldenes Dachl at Christmas


Goldenes Dachl, Christmas 1976

Innsbruck - Altstadt - Clock Tower at Christmas

Illuminated Stadtturm (city tower) at Christmastime in 1976.

The Old Wolf has spoken.


Tiroler Volkskunstmuseum (Tyrolean Folk Art Museum)

Three images from this museum which I was privileged to visit whilst living in Austria, two rather strange and one lovely and evocative.

Vogel Selbsterkenntnis (The Bird of Self-Knowledge)

The text below this strange creature reads:

Zieeh sich ein yeydts selbst bey Der Nasn —
Waß Dich nit Prendt Thue auch nicht Plasn.

Or, in standard German,

Ziehe jedermann sich selbst an der Nase
Was Dich nicht brennt, tue auch nicht blasen

Translated into English:

Let everyone take themselves by their own nose
Don’t blow on what does not burn you.

This is an admonition to mind your own business, know yourself, and don’t involve yourself in things that do not concern you.

The Holy Trinity

An attempt by a Tyrolean artist to comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity as set forth in the Athanasian Creed. Tyrol is probably the most Catholic of all the regions of Austria, itself a predominantly Catholic nation.

An old Tyrolian parlor.

I love the wood. Warm, old, polished, wood. My dream house would have rooms like this.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Heiligenblut and Großglockner, Austria, 1975

In a previous post I put up some Austrian travel posters; one of them focused on Heiligenblut,  a town in northwest Kärnten in Austria, nestled at  the foot of Großglockner, the highest mountain in that country.

On May 29, 1975, I had a chance to visit the town, and I can say without reservation that the place is truly stunning.

St. Vincent Church, Heiligenblut. The Großglocknerspitze (the summit) was hiding behind the clouds, and as the day progressed the clouds increased, so I felt fortunate to get this shot.

This is probably one of the most picturesque (or, as I think it should be pronounced, “picture-squee” places in the world.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Austria: Travel Posters

In simpler times, travel was fun, exciting, and romantic. Compared with today, when any part of the world is accessible to those with a little money, a high tolerance for discomfort, and a willingness to be violated by the petty thugs of the TSA, potential travelers of a day gone by would amuse themselves with stereopticons at parties and dream of the leisurely exploration of exotic locations.


Vienna, Karlskirche. Cross your eyes until the images come together for a stereo view.

Even travel posters were works of art, designed to evoke images of romance, comfort, and sights never-before-seen.  The following posters promoting travel to Austria were created mostly in the years leading up to World War II, before the Anschluß. They depicted Austria as a cheap and picturesque travel destination, which it was. After the depredations of the war, Austria rebuilt itself from the ashes and remained a popular destination – cheaper than other high-profile areas like Paris, Rome, or Geneva because of its relative obscurity. Even as late as 1971, when I traveled through the country with a friend, it was insanely cheap:

This Gasthof in Lofer cost us $4.00 for the night – breakfast included.

And this was the view…

Modern travel posters employ high-resolution photography, but somehow they don’t quite capture the imaginative aspect of travel that existed before the days of mass media and digital everything.

Edit: Snow bunnies. Has anyone thought about what it would be like to do a faceplant with a pipe in your mouth? That wouldn’t be terribly gemütlich, if you ask me.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Memories of Vienna

In a recent post, I referenced The Cooking of Vienna’s Empire by Time/Life. This picture always made me smile.

The caption reads, “Even in Vienna, the simplest food often tastes best. Witness this cabbie downing his sausage and beer with quiet satisfaction while waiting for a fare in front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral.”

If I know the Viennese, this guy was anything but quietly satisfied, and was probably griping to himself about the tourists, the government, the church tax, the weather, the beer, life, the universe, and everything. No, seriously – I love the Austrian people with all my heart, but the caption on the photo just doesn’t do reality justice.

But my goodness, that Würstel mit Senf (sausage with mustard) looks good. Hope he has a pile of Kren (fresh shredded horseradish) under his slice of bread… I can’t count how many times I’ve stopped at a sausage stand on the streets and snagged just what he’s having, or perhaps a Leberkäsesemmel – the Austrian version of a bologna sandwich, only 10 times better.

So many memories… I’ve shared a couple of them before, here and here, but there are so many it’s hard to choose from among them. I lived in Austria from February 1975 to December of 1976, and I’d go back in a heartbeat. So here are some of the more significant ones for me, in no particular chronological order.


Hallowe’en in Austria is a holy day, not one of ghosts and goblins. The evening before November 1, All Hallows Day, people make a pilgrimage to the cemetery and light candles for the souls of the dead. This was taken in Vienna’s Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery) on October 31, 1976.

And the following morning:

I love Beethoven’s music more than any other, and I was honored to be able to honor his memory at so many different sites.

The Beethoven Monument in Vienna

Vienna, of course, is the home of many famous musicians:

The Strauss Memorial in Vienna’s City Park

Hot chestnuts for sale beneath the old Stadtbahn (City Elevated Train) tracks. A wonderful thing, these… I remember them at Christmas time on the streets of New York in the 50’s. 12 chestnuts for about 60¢ – the exchange rate was about 15 Austrian Schillings to the dollar at the time.

One of the old Stadtbahn trains.

Tichy Ice Cream parlor on Reumannplatz 13 in the 11th Bezirk

Still there, still famous. Here you get gelato, not American style ice cream, in a whole symphony of flavors.

I laughed hard the first time I saw a police beetle. I didn’t laugh at all the first time one of them pulled in front of me flashing a sign, “Bitte Folgen” (please follow) and I collected a speeding ticket.

Stefansdom – St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Sachertorte is the quintessential Austrian pastry. A sponge cake covered with apricot jam and chocolate, this cake is designed to be taken with schlagobers (whipped cream) and plenty of water. There are more Austrian pastries than you can shake a stick at, and you may like some of them more than this one – but it remains my favorite to this day.

I could go on. In fact, I will go on in another post. But now I want some Sachertorte, and I don’t have any. So I shall sit in the middle of the floor and cry.

The Old Wolf has spoken.