Pyramidenkogel: the world’s tallest wooden observation tower.4 min read
In Carinthia, Austria, there is a mountain called Pyramidenkogel, reaching 851 metre above sea level. That’s not very tall compared to the real Alps, only about a quarter the size, but add the world’s tallest wooden tower to the top, and now you’ve got yourself a breathtaking view: from the Hohe Tauern in the north, to the picturesque lake valleys, to the neighbouring countries of Italy and Slovenia in the south.
In German the mountain is called Pyramidenkogel, but in nearby Slovenia, a short 20 kilometers to the south, its name is Jedvova. On top of the mountain is a wooden spire that tops out at 100 metre (about 32 stories), with a viewing platform at the crown, a tower restaurant, and a spiral slide.
The current tower isn’t the original: in 1950 the first one was built, a rickety version that went up along with a commemorative cross honoring the fallen soldiers of both World Wars, and the anonymous and mysterious “Opfer des Berges”—Victims of the Mountain. The cross was consecrated on 20 August of the same year, and an annual “Trausteinmesse,” a special Mass, is celebrated at the end of summer.
In 1968 a sturdier 54-metre-tall replacement went up, which was about half as tall as the current one. It was a well-known “futuristic” tourist attraction, according to the Rough Guide to Austria, and it served well for the next 40 years. In 2008, the last summer season before construction of a new building, the tower welcomed its five-millionth visitor.
However, when a contest was launched on the same year for another new design, it came down in a dramatic implosion. Two years earlier, plans were made to tear down the existing tower and replace it with a new building, a multi-purpose activity centre, which was approved and for which the Carinthian government set aside €10 million. Construction was to have begun by late 2008, and the old tower was imploded in October, but financial and political difficulties prevented any new construction.
It took a few years to sort out the funding for the new one, but finally, in 2013, it was finished.
The new tower was described as a “Himmelsleiter aus gestapelten Ellipsen,” a ladder into heaven made of stacked ellipses, and is to function as a “Leuchtturm der Holzbranche,” a lighthouse for the timber industry. No name has been decided on, but it was proposed “Isis Noreia,” for the goddesses Isis and Noreia (the latter a Germanic deity, the Roman equivalent of Isis).
The new tower is built of wood and steel, and at a height of 100 metres it is the tallest wooden observation tower in the world. In addition, architects Markus Klaura and Dietmar Kaden of Klagenfurt and structural engineer Markus Lackner of Villach have designed a structure which features a visitors platform at 83 metres, a cafe at 70 metres, and a slide.
Pyramidenkogel is near the resort village of Maria Wörth, along the southern banks of the Wörthersee (Lake Wörth), in an area that is a boundary between speakers of German and Slovenian. There are two ways to ascend the tower: lift and stairs.
Reaching into the sky has been hugely popular through all three towers, but if you come to the summit now, you can use the longest slide in Europe to back down to Earth — yes, slide — which, with a total length of 120 meters, wraps around the tower’s central core. Sliders can reach a top speed of 25 kilometres per hour.
Author’s notes: The tower is open 7 days a week, year round (check the website for seasonal hours). Admission is €14 for adults, It’s an extra €4 to ride the slide. (update to November 2019). Go there in a beautiful day (possibly without fog), and your photos will be fabulous.