Travel Magazine

Money Laundering, Leopards And Lions Amid The Mountains

By Linda
Lion's head painting

photo : Shrimali Vijay

There’s a fairly modern castle in Carinthia called Schloß Rosegg. It was built in 1772, so doesn’t have the really ancient history or fortifications usually associated with Austrian castles, like Schloß Riegersburg or Schloß Eggenburg. But it isn’t without its intrigues and interesting anecdotes.

Castle Rosegg

Lust and lasciviousness underpin the history of Castle Rosegg. It was built by Prince Orsini-Rosenburg for his mistress, Madam Lucrezia, who was of Italian origins (this bears an uncanny resemblence to the story of Mirabel Palace!) The castle still contains furnishings from the late 18th century of Italian design. But the Italian connection may also be one of intrigue.

The castle was sold in 1829 or thereabouts, to Peter Rosegg Knights. He only kept it a couple of years, during which time he founded a zoo in the grounds. Peter’s other activities whilst at the castle are understood to have been less than perfect. From all accounts (of which I’ve found few) he was involved in the money laundering business.

Now at around this time, the Italian Mafia began to make an appearance on the world stage. There had been Sicilian heavyweights for many years before, but the Mafia as we now know it didn’t emerge until the mid-19th century. And it just so happens that the site of Castle Rosegg is not so far from the Austrian border with Italy. Not to mention that when the Austrians wanted to build a road up the Dorbatsch mountain (the Villacher Alpenstrasse) in the late 19th century, the Italians protested claiming they were at risk of being fired upon by Carinthian people!

Could this have been some sort of turf war between Peter Rosegg Knights and the Italian Mafia? It may be no more than coincidence, but it does make you wonder…

Leichtenstein Family

The castle was bought in 1831 for one of the sons of the Prince of Liechtenstein (whose family coincidentally own a number of other castles in Austria, including the mighty Riegersburg). The Liechtenstein family have owned the castle sever since, but have not always been in residence. They lived in it continuously until the 1970s, then there was a period through the 1980s until 1995 when it effectively stood empty (as in no family members were resident).

Somewhere along the line, Schloß Rosegg also became a tourist attraction. It is home to Austria’s first waxworks museum, featuring life-size tableaux of periods in the castle’s history. Besides tours of the castle, a range of other events take place in the grounds throughout the year (including music festivals; craft fairs; and other cultural events).

Rosegg Tierpark

During Peter’s period of residency at the castle he introduced a zoo, parts of which have been incorporated into the more modern animal park that opened to the public circa 1977. It’s an all-weather attraction and the largest zoo in Kärnten (Carinthia). It houses over 400 animals from some 35 species.

A-mazing mazes and Petting Farm

In the early years of Rosegg castle (circa 1776) an English style garden was developed on an island in the river Drava. Unfortunately this was irreparably damaged by floods in about 1885. Since 2001 the British influence has again been evident on the estate. Austria’s largest hedge maze – similar to the one at Hampton Court, England – has been grown on a design by British contractors. Alongside the hedge maze is another a-mazing maze – the maize maze – a seasonal variation which when harvested, becomes fodder for the animals in the wildlife park. For more information about mazes, simply click here.

For the entertainment and education of children the Wildlife Park also has a petting zoo, where they can feed the animals with specially prepared foods. And not forgetting the obligatory children’s play area. No Austrian attraction would be complete without something to keep the kids happy and healthy!


Chalet Lowonahill is an all-season, rustic style holiday home in Styria. It’s an ideal place for you to discover the delights of the 9 provinces of Austria. For more information, simply click here.


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