Gmünd in Carinthia
Caution, before you read any further: There are two towns called Gmünd in Austria, one in the Southern province of Carinthia, the other one on the outskirts of Lower Austria. The information that follows will be strictly exclusive to the Carinthian one.
Gmünd was founded by an Archbishop of Salzburg in the 11th century in an attempt to build up a fortified market town that would protect the important trade routes along the mountain valleys of Western Carinthia. Its almost immaculate medieval core made the town one of the province′s premier sightseeing destinations.
Explore the town centre by simply strolling around. You will note that the density of souvenir shops follows a gradient towards the area of the Hauptplatz or Main Square, where the prettiest of the pretty houses are. There is also a parish church with the usual Baroque interiors and an associated Karner (Charnel House) that was decorated with frescos in the 15th century. A bit outside of the town centre is the old castle of Gmünd, with a restaurant and an open-air stage that features concerts in the summer.
If this doesn′t satisfy your urge to see sights, try the delightfully original "Eva Faschaunerin" exhibition in the town′s former prison. It is dedicated to the story of Eva Faschaunerin (surprise), who was the last person to be sentenced to death as a murderer in this district. (Officially at least, I wouldn′t be surprised if it turned out that death sentenced during the Nazi period were not considered with this claim).
Porsche Car Museum & a bizarre Church
Anyway, evil Eva hat poisoned her husband and was executed in Gmünd in 1773. The museum is a fascinating account of both this episode and 18th century rural life in Carinthia. The museum also contains some of the tools that were used for torturing the suspect. This was under the rule of Empress Maria Theresia, who finally abolished torture in Austria.
An alternative museum would be the "Ferdinand Porsche Automuseum", which is based on a private collection of old Porsche cars and memorabilia that document the early days of this traditional car brand as well as the life of Ferdinand Porsche (of whom most people think he was German). After WWII, Porsche and his team (who previously worked in Stuttgart for Volkswagen) transferred to the village of Karnerau just outside of Gmünd. There they stayed and worked until 1950, whilst Porsche himself was arrested and imprisoned for two years by the French occupation troops for working on the construction of military vehicles.
Finally, Gmünd can offer a really bizarre sight: The "Geteilte Kirche" ("split church") is just what the name indicates, a church that comes in two pieces. The church was originally built next to a road and became a popular site of worship in the 18th century. When an extension of the building was due, there was no space available on the side of the road where the original church was. Therefore, the "extension" was built on the other side of the road - during the service, the priest was in one part, the congregation in the other. Carinthians are weird, never mindů