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Gurk's exquisite cathedral is one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in Austria. Built between 1140 and 1200, its plain exterior is dominated by two huge onion domes that cap square-sided twin towers. The interior has Gothic reticulated vaulting on the ceiling, and most of the fittings are Baroque or Rococo. The early Baroque high altar is laden with 72 statues and 82 angels' heads so it can be a bit tricky keeping your eye on the guy preaching from the pulpit. Gurk is in central Carinthia, north of Klagenfurt.
The Nazis picked the small town of Mauthausen in upper Austria as the location for a concentration camp because of its reputation as a quarrying centre. Prisoners toiled in the granite quarry and all too often perished on the so-called Stairway of Death leading from the quarry to the camp. Some 200,000 prisoners died or were executed in the camp from 1938 to 1945. A museum tells the story of this and other German concentration camps in Austria using German text, charts, artefacts and many harrowing photos. Visitors can see the inmates' living quarters and the infamous gas chambers.
Rust is known chiefly for its unlikely combination of storks and wine. Its name is derived from the German word for elm tree and has, we assure you, nothing to do with the additives in its plonk. It's a prosperous town which has been producing wine for centuries and making a damn good living from it if its attractive burghers' houses are anything to go by. Storks descend on Rust from the end of March, rear their young, then fly off in late August to go paddling. Many homes in the town centre have a metal platform on the roof to entice storks to build a nest there. Stork nests are recognisable by the dangling bird legs hanging over the sides.
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