Austrians love life. They tend to sit back from the crowd and
observe and they may poke fun from time to time but it is all
good-natured and they are an enthusiastic lot. They certainly have
a lot to be enthusiastic about at the moment, and their excitement
Vehicles from all four corners of Europe are driving across the country at the moment. It is a love of football that has brought people to the heart of the Alps for UEFA EURO 2008, and they are not here just to zoom along motorways bordered by imposing mountain landscapes. They are here to take their time and give their enthusiasm free rein. As was the case at the FIFA World Cup 2006™ in Germany, almost every car has a little flag on it, and ironically, the one you see the least often is the Austrian flag. Austrians love life, but they would rather sit back and watch it go by.
The noise level is increasing as well, and Klagenfurt's town centre certainly cannot complain about a lack of atmosphere. Lake Worther, known as a haven of tranquillity in the Karnten area and a local treasure as far as the inhabitants of Klagenfurt are concerned, has suddenly become a hive of activity.
Then again, with Poland, Croatia and Germany playing in
Austria's group, the locals in this town close to the Slovenian
and Italian borders were always going to be in for a raucous time
of it, and and the majority of those singing and dancing at the
public viewing area in this are certainly not the kind of visitors
this quiet, picturesque town of 92,000 inhabitants is used to.
When Alexandra Weiss from the Karnten tourist information office tells FIFA.com that everything here "is just lovely", then you know that she is speaking from the heart. And when petrol pump attendant Pepi Pohl says that "it's real fun at the moment with so many happy folk from all around the continent", it is not hard to believe him either.
"We're having a party where everyone is welcome and everyone's equal, and that's great," smiles Alexandra, who would love to have the UEFA European Championship on the banks of Lake Worther every year. Katharina Rein, a youngster just beginning her studies, is quite simply proud: "It's incredible how everyone feels at home here with us. That's the most important part for me."
And Katharina is right - football fans from around Europe feel right at home in Klagenfurt, and the Austrians have every reason to enjoy that. And how wonderful would it be if their national team could give them a win to celebrate? For both the co-hosts and their supporters, that really would be the icing on the cake.