Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers and their friends will be painting an Austrian lake pink this summer in a unique four-day summer holiday event.
Pink Lake, which is supported by Gay Star News this year, is a long weekend of costume balls and boat parties on the stunning Lake Woerthersee, nestled between Slovakia and Italy.
We asked Jeff Wahl, one of the organizers, to tell us all about it.
What is Pink Lake?
Pink Lake is a four day event (this year from 23 to 26 August) for the international LGBT community and their friends.
It’s held in a picturesque town in Austria, located directly on a turquoise lake at the foot of the Alps. The very mixed crowd of guests (gay, lesbian, trans, hetero, married, single, old, young) enjoy great parties, sports, swimming, relaxation, music and great food... and of course, each other’s company!
This is the fifth year of the event and each year it gets larger and larger. Last year, over 4,500 hotel rooms where booked as a result of Pink Lake, with 800 to 1,200 people attending each nightly event.
There are a wide range of hotels available at every price range, from the world-famous five-star Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden in the heart of the town, to many other partner hotels and guest houses located on the Pink Lake website here.
And the large German tour operator, DERTOUR, offers several hotels for the event, including a gay-only hotel.
How do you get there and how much does it cost?
A combination ticket for all three main parties is very reasonably priced at only €40 ($49), and may be purchased on the website here.
And the event is pretty easy to get from most areas of Europe. Klagenfurt Airport offers direct flights to and from London, Cologne/Bonn, and Vienna. The trip from the airport to Velden is only a few minutes via taxi or rental car.
Alternatively Velden’s train station may be reached via both long- and short-distance trains. You can also drive there in about three hours from Vienna, Munich, Venice or Zagreb.
Tell us more about Velden... we are told it’s a pretty town. What is it like and how gay-friendly are the locals?
Velden is indeed a gorgeous little town, located directly on the turquoise Lake Wörthersee, at the foot of the Alps. Velden is actually quite famous, not only as a beautiful vacation destination; but also several German films and a TV show was filmed there for many years.
It’s very chic and cosmopolitan: it is a vacation destination for the rich and the famous from all over the world. In fact, the Velden’s castle, now the five star Falkensteiner Schlosshotel Velden, is world famous and a leading hotel of the world. As a result, the city is relaxed when it comes to the LGBT community. In fact, our agency COMMUNIGAYTE, proactively ‘interviewed’ locals in the region prior to the first event to ensure the LGBT community would indeed be welcome. And they indeed are!
Do you get any VIP guests?
We have had VIP guests in the past. Mostly Austrian celebrities, like athletes (Christian Mayer – professional skier), entertainers (Udo Wenders – singer, Alfons Haider – moderator), models (Hannes Markowitz) and the wonderful Thomas Klein (the very out and proud boss of Almdudler, one of the event’s key sponsors.).
When did it start and why was it started?
The tourism boards of Wörthersee and the state of Carinthia contacted us a little over six years ago. They had already been doing some great, out-of-the box marketing with some big events, like the Harley Davidson, Fete Blance and Beach Volleyball events, each of which attracts over 100,000 guests.
And they wanted to showcase their beautiful region to the LGBT community. COMMUNIGAYTE toured the area and was amazed just how gorgeous it is. I kept expecting that Julie Andrews was going to pop out at any minute and starting belting out ‘The Hills are Alive!’
At sunset, while sitting on a balcony with a nice bottle of wine and an even nicer view of the entire lake, the idea for Pink Lake was born. We actually planned it by getting Post-It notes on the glass balcony wall, laying out where all the key events would take place all over the lake. And we are proud to say that idea has now become reality!
What do people spend their time doing during the day?
Many people hang out directly on the lake at the Pago Beach Club at the beautiful Villa Bulfon, catching rays... cruising... listening to the live DJs... and just relaxing, enjoying all the eye candy.
Others tour the many beautiful local towns, like Velden, Pörtschach and Klagenfurt. Others go hiking, biking, boating, rafting and swimming. And others relax at the many charming and very hip restaurants and cafes. There is something for everyone.
So does this holiday particularly suit fit, active people?
This event most definitely suits the fit and active person. But it also suits equally as well the wild party crowd. Or the wine and food connoisseur. Whatever you are personally into.
Where do the guests come from?
Most of the guests are from Austria and Germany. But about 25% of the guests also come from Italy (Venice is only three hours away), Slovenia (Ljubljana is only one hour away), Czech Republic, UK, Switzerland, Netherlands, Poland, Hungary, France, Croatia, Norway, Belgium and USA.
Last year, we even had a few guests attending from Mexico and Thailand! Many of the international guests come to the event, and then extend their trips before and/or after Pink Lake, visiting Vienna, Salzburg, Venice, Ljubljana, Munich, etc.
There are several big parties. Could you tell us more about these?
The first night of the festival is the Almdudler Trachtenparty at the beautiful Villa Bulfon located directly at the lake, where both entertainers and guests alike dress in traditional Austrian clothing, from Lederhosen to Dirndls.
The Trojka Pink Boat Cruise Party is one the highlights of the Pink Lake Festival. Beginning at sunset, guests have a fantastic time crusing around the stunning lake, sipping cocktails, meeting new friends and dancing under the stars – all accompanied by their own private DJ on their respective boat. Please note: There are limited tickets for this event available, so be sure to buy your tickets as soon as you can!
And Star DJ Eduardo de la Torre from Berlin and DJ Tim Anderson from Vienna are going to rock the Up! to Planet Ibiza Casino Club Night where 1,000 party guests from Austria, Germany and from all across Europe dance until dawn.
Is there a particular dress code and does it matter if you don't have the right outfit?
No! Everyone wears what they feel like whether it is tight bathing suits, jeans, leather or lace. No-one bats an eye and all is accepted. The first evening is the Almdudler Trachtenparty, so many of the guests enjoy dressing up in traditional lederhosen (traditional Austrian ‘leather pants’) and dirndl (traditional Austrian dresses), but it is not mandatory. And many people will likely opt to dress up in ‘Ibiza white’ for the club night but it is not a mandatory either. Pink Lake is intentionally a ‘come as you are’ event.
It seems like there is a lot on, is there time to relax too?
Most definitely. The key events are in the evening, all of which are fun and relaxing in and of themselves. And during the day-time, each guest can be as active or passive as s/he likes!
What else is there to see and do in the surrounding area?
There are many things to see and do in the surrounding area. The cities of Velden, Klagenfurt, Villach and Pörtschach are all quite lovely and worth a visit. Of course, there are many attractions around the lake as well. In fact, one my favorite things to do is to tour around the 1 km lake either on one of the ferries, hopping off to see the many points of interest; or renting a bicycle and biking around the lake.
What do you love about this event?
We still have a great time attending the event, even now as we head into the fifth year. And not because the whole thing was our idea. Rather, we simply have a blast attending each year! Particularly meeting and laughing with so many new, interesting and fun people, all from so many different places and walks of life.
Importantly, we also feel like we made a real difference in the community. We have had many younger LGBT people tell us how important this event was for them personally; and that for many, it actually gave them the courage to come out and be proud of who they are and love themselves! That is a great feeling. In fact, last year, there was actually an unplanned (at least from our perspective) wedding proposal on stage during the first big party. So we feel like we have done our part to make sure things indeed ‘get better’ for the LGBT community.
Also, this event is remarkable and rather unique, in that all sorts of people not only attend, but actually mix and talk and laugh with each other. Young. Old. Gay. Lesbian. Trans. Hetero. Married. Single. Different nationalities from Austrian to UK to Italian to Slovenian. You don’t have the attitude and posing often seen at large city gay events. Rather, everybody indeed checks their attitude at the door, relaxes and has a great time!
How can people find out more?