Danik and Olga in Graz
Sunday 21st March 2010 - Arriving in Graz, Austria
I felt exhausted but another flight to central Europe beckons and I was happy to get away from my workplace as I have been working like a horse recently. I had my Olga with me and a nine day backpacking trip was what we both needed as she needed a break from studies at university. Today another cheap flight with Ryanair would take us from London Stansted airport to south-eastern Austria, to the second largest city after Vienna, Graz. From there we would cross the border into northern Slovenia to the second largest city there, Maribor and then onto Ljubljana, Venice, Verona, Lake Garda, Bolzano, Bergamo, Brescia, Bologna, Florence, Siena, and Pisa.
I found my name on a hotel in Graz!
An exciting trip ahead but it all started badly when young African woman sat a few rows in front of us with a young child who would just not shut up. I never heard a child cry so much in my life and the parent did nothing. Cabin crew tried to calm down the child and also warned the parent, every passenger on the plane was giving the woman the looks of disgust. Eventually when the plane was going over the English Channel the child eventually shut up and everything calmed down until it was time to do the approach for landing in which the child started up again. I was so happy when the plane touched down on the runway and breezed through Graz airport.
As it was Sunday evening and the previous night I was working at the train station in London at which I am based at, I was ready to drop.
Danik in Graz
I had trouble keeping my eyes opened. Eventually we arrived at the hostel which I pre-booked us and just wanted to go sleep, which wasn't possible straight away. This was because the hostel also has a conference hall and unfortunately my eight bed dorm was the room next door. A party was being held so singing, people drinking lasted into the early hours. It took me some time to get some sleep but eventually it happened and I was in the happy world of my dreams. I just hoped the rest of the trip would go better than the events which had happened today.
Monday 22nd March - Graz, Austria
Jumping out of bed, I felt fit as a fiddle especially after a nice long relaxing shower. I got dressed, shorts and t-shirt, run up the stairs to the breakfast room with Olga when we noticed other guests walking into the building with umbrellas and their clothes absolutely soaked.
Danik in Graz
I looked outside and the heaven's opened, strong winds, rain lashing down, could the start of this trip get any worse? Me and Olga sat at the breakfast table tucking into a nice large and healthy breakfast but with are faces looking like the end of the world was near, I tried to lift spirits up with a few jokes but I don't think Olga was in any sort of mood for a good laugh. In the end we had to grin and bear it and go out into the Austrian city before heading off on a train to Maribor at lunchtime.
Within the first ten minutes of walking towards the city centre, my trainers to which I haven't worn over the winter back home, was filled with water as I discovered a few holes at the bottom. On the plus side I actually remembered to bring an umbrella for Olga, so she was actually a little bit happier.
Danik in Graz with his favourite yoghurt drink!
The rain poured and poured and eventually some of the uneven streets where now turning into offsets of the nearby river which ran through the town. The Schlolberg was our first point of call. Schlolberg means castle mountain and this can be seen from some far distance, as the main building, the clock tower is beautifully designed in its yellow clock, brown tall tower and a huge clock face sits on top and is recognized as the main symbol of the city. Taking the dry route up the mountain via a lift we came out with the west side of clock face starring at us. Walking around the castle mountain in the rain was not the best idea we had but we really tried our best not to let the weather get us down. Gardens covered the area below the clock tower with the flowers and plants yet to bloom.
Danik in Graz
A Chinese Pavilion was another highlight of the hill, not because it was a wooden structure built in the ancient times of the Chinese empire, but to keep us out of the rain for a while and enable us to dry off somewhat, but to no avail.
Refusing to pay for the elevator back down to the city, we decided to take the romantic way down, which was going down around two hundred steps to the bottom. It was written in the guide book as a romantic way to get up and down the mountain, but with the rain lashing down now, romance was not on my mind and I am sure Olga had the same thinking.
Trying to kill time during the morning before we headed off to the train station, we did a walk around Old Town which is one of the best preserved city centers I have seen on my travels around central Europe.
Danik in Graz
History states that Archduke Charles II of Inner Austria had 20,000 Protestant books burned in the square of what is now a mental hospital, but I couldn't find out why this mad man had done this, nor could I find the mental hospital to find out more about this. What had this mad man had against the Protestant's in Austria of old? Oh well, walking around the streets of the Old Town was great, despite the rain. Was I feeling great that the town itself was a splendid grand town or was it because that I was back in Austria? Austria is one of my favorite countries in Europe for its food, the charm of the people, the buildings, and of course, the stunning mountains and lakes. Well, there weren't any mountains around here, but that didn't bother me. The harmonious co-existence of typical buildings from different epochs and in different architectural styles kept my eyes open, head looking up all the time and my finger on the button of my camera.
The Glockenspiel interested me. Walking down Abraham-a-Santa-Clara-Gasse we came to Glockenspiel square. At the top of the main building in the square, two windows open at 11am, 3pm and 6pm every day and out comes a pair of carved wooden figures in traditional costume and dance to the sound of the Glockenspiel tune. This was ok but the tune kept cutting out and there was a pause for around a minute where the figures would just hang there out of the window with no tune. Did the Glockenspiel tune cut out like this originally? The other tourists looked at each other in bewilderment and to be honest, I thought this was pants and walked off.
The Hofbackerei Edegger-Tax is a fantastic bakery to buy Kaiserzwieback biscuits and other pastries, but what caught my eye on this place was actually the splendid wooden facade outside, which is crowned with a gilded double headed eagle.
The wood looked so shiny and didn't look out of place with the other buildings in Sporgasse. After a while, I have to admit defeat, as the rain kept on lashing down. I had enough and by the looks on Olga's face, so has she. We headed off to the train station, try and get dried somehow and then we headed off to our next destination which is a journey of one hour south by train, to the second largest city in Slovenia, Maribor.