Author Topic: Lindworms and Sparrows: A Trip to Klagenfurt  (Read 599 times)

Jubal

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Lindworms and Sparrows: A Trip to Klagenfurt
« on: May 04, 2019, 07:26:15 PM »
Lindworms and Sparrows: A View of Klagenfurt




The Klagenfurt Lindworm.
According to legend, in the hills of Carinthia on the shores of a bright river, there lived a great lindworm, a mighty scaled beast whose rage caused the very river itself to swell and flood, sweeping homes away; the beast ravaged crops and took what humans it pleased for its fill. In desperation, the Duke offered a reward for the destruction of the beast, and two young men took up the challenge. By a ford in the river, they constructed a stout tower, and chained a bull at the top, fashioning a chain with fearsome barbs. The great lindworm, driven by its insatiable hunger, consumed the beast, but was caught like a fish on the chain, and as it thrashed around and tired the stronger of the men was able to take a great spiked club and kill it dead. From having been a place of woe, the ford was now the perfect place for a new town – and Klagenfurt was born.

Having wound for hours on a train through first Bavaria and then the high alps, ski slopes, chalets and fortresses of the Tyrol, my train reached the city founded by the lindworm’s conquerors. As I reached it, today’s Klagenfurt felt, for the most part, rather less shrouded in myth. Outside its central district it is very much a town of the twentieth century, with blockish business units and sizeable roads. As the town has expanded, it has fully reached the shores of the Wörthersee, where parks and marinas form something of a second centre for the city (one that I sadly did not manage to reach during my stay). Where the Lindworm no longer roars, the engines of buses do their best to provide a replacement – that, and the screaming of sparrows, whose calls fill every street, leaving scarcely a rooftop without them.

And so for two days, working from a very nice Airbnb some way east of the centre, I hopped past sparrows and sparrows hopped past me as I shuttled to and from meetings; it was my second annual meeting of the KONDE digital editions network, and plans had to be laid for future workshops and research outputs, in my case as part of the group on alternative text encoding – the Text Encoding Initiative or TEI provides an XML schema that is considered the standard for digital editions of texts, but other ideas, in particular the encoding of texts in a graph format (useful for comparing variant texts where they then become easier to connect), also exist and the aim of the working group I have been part of is to identify and produce tools to support such methods.

The workshops happened at the Robert Musil Institute, named for (and housing many of the papers of) the eponymous modernist author and Klagenfurt native, an internationalist anti-authoritarian writer who had the misfortune to find himself an Austrian in the first half of the twentieth century. He died in Swiss exile during the second world war. The Institute is by the railway station and just south of the old town centre, where I was able to take some time to explore.

In 1246 the town moved further away from the river to avoid flooding - an echo, perhaps, of the Lindworm’s anger? Or indeed an echo of the mythical dwarf who according to some tales created the Wörthersee, flooding the homes of a sinful populace by pouring water out of a magical ever-flowing barrel ( a small metal statue of him can be seen near the central square). In any case, having moved away from the river, the resulting new market site is where the centre still stands. It’s a clearly defined square district which was once surrounded by the town’s walls, destroyed by Napoleon in 1809 bar one lonely section of the west wall – the architecture is mostly renaissance to eighteenth century, with a sixteenth century fire having flattened so much of the city that the Emperor sold it to the duchy’s collective nobility rather than pay to rebuild it himself. The city is not built high, and churches dominate its skyline still. It feels neither especially busy nor noticeably laid back as a place, with occasional statues sitting as curiosities more than anything. In the central square, a huge statue of the Lindworm stands, spewing water toward its club-wielding foe: at night, lit purple, both figures feel equally menacing to look at, whilst in the day both are equally used as perch and toilet by the local pigeons and omnipresent sparrows. Perhaps the man and monster are less different than they would like to think?



The redstart I met in the park.
The centre of town has minimal parkland, though what there was gave me a good view of a redstart, a migratory insectivorous bird which had probably not so long ago arrived back from its wintering grounds in central Africa.  Given the lack of greenery there and the heat of the day on the Thursday I walked up to the botanic garden where some nearby hills jut into the town – the buildings are just tall enough in much of the centre of town that it’s easy to forget the landscape in which Klagenfurt sits, nestled in its river valley at the head of the lake with imposing mountains on both sides. Climb just a little, though, and you can be left in no doubt: church towers that seem imposing monuments from up close look strangely delicate when framed against the heavy, rolling scale of the alpine peaks behind.

Where the forests start, at last, the sparrow chirping stops, to be replaced largely by the songs of blackbirds, occasional flickers of movement as nuthatches flitted around tree-trunks, and a range of finches whose seed-cracking beaks are well suited to the mixed but often pine-heavy woodland. Chaffinches were the most common of these, though I got a recognisable if not presentable photograph of a hawfinch, one of the largest of these – among the species of bird which, if captured for any reason, should not be allowed to get too near your fingers. A beak that is built to crack cherry stones will not lead to pleasant results if applied to the human hand!

The second of my days in Klagenfurt clouded over and rained first as trickles and then as torrents; fleeing from it, I headed for Klagenfurt’s cat café, which turned out to be a good move all round. The cats were supremely disinterested in me – cats are now thought to be somewhat social animals, and the constant inflow and outflow of humans who they never get to know probably leads them to be considerably more indifferent to strangers than their house-cat counterparts. It was nice to watch them nonetheless, mostly fast asleep, sometimes curled up atop the fish tank to make best use of its heating element. I felt it was an experience I’d like to go for more if I had a nearby cat café and could get to know the animals there, but it was a pleasant enough time nonetheless.

A two day visit ends fast, in any case, and before I knew it I was hauling my luggage to Klagenfurt station, grabbing a mohnschnecken large enough to feed me for most of the day from the station bakery, and heading off through the rolling high hills, a landscape of impressive castles and wide forests. When that journey ended, it was nice getting back to Vienna for a night at last – even if the streets seemed quiet without so many sparrows!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

Glaurung

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Re: Lindworms and Sparrows: A Trip to Klagenfurt
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2019, 08:33:16 PM »
Thanks again - another interesting travelogue about a place where I've only seen the main station and a short distance of the main street leading from it.

Jubal

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Re: Lindworms and Sparrows: A Trip to Klagenfurt
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2019, 12:46:40 PM »
Thankyou! I found this one quite dificult to write, I guess for some of these I've felt I've been able to put together more of a narrative - but there's only so much one can do in a two day trip mostly full of meetings, I suppose!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...