A Travellerspoint blog

October 2019

UNESCO World Heritage Site: City of Graz - Historic Centre

Graz


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After a smooth and uneventful journey from Maribor I got to Graz Hauptbahnhof (the main train station) at about 11:30 and easily found my way to my hostel round the corner. The hostel is huge - my dorm is on the 4th floor - and feels more like a hotel; it feels a bit sterile, but serves my needs. They did annoy me a bit at check-in though by charging me 3.5 euros extra for bed linen - making this an extra cost, and a mandatory one at that (for people who haven't brought a sleeping bag), seems rather cheeky!

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Anyway, I had all afternoon to explore, so explore I did! The historic centre of Graz is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it's easy to see why! I found it absolutely enchanting.

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After wandering the streets for a while (and buying a fridge magnet) I headed to the Schlossberg, a bastion on a limestone crag which overlooks the rest of the city. For the sake of exercise, and the general experience, I chose to take the path instead of the lift or the funicular. The views from the top were well worth it!

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The buildings on the Schlossberg were closed for the winter, but it was still lovely to walk round. Aside from the bastion itself, built in the 1540s, there are terraces, a small 19th century pagoda, and two clock towers.

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One of these clock towers is a symbol of the city, and the townspeople are incredibly proud of it. In fact, when Napoleon invaded in 1809, they successfully bribed him not to destroy it.

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Before returning to ground level I had a delicious apple strudel at a cafe perched dramatically on the side if the crag and bastion. I had it with a 'kleiner mokka' coffee, which itself came with a small wrapped chocolate sweet and (like all the hot drinks I've had so far this trip) a glass of cold water. I was just thinking to myself earlier that I needed to have apple strudel at least once before I left Austria, so this was a great place to have it!

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Once I'd walked back down the path again I wandered the streets again for a bit before returning to the hostel via Billa, where I stocked up on sandwiches, grapes and drinks for tomorrow, and the Hauptbahnhof, where I bought my ticket in advance. I'd probably be fine to leave getting it until tomorrow, but better safe than sorry when it's important I get to Deutschlandsberg - my next teaching destination - sooner rather than later tomorrow!

Posted by 3Traveller 03:07 Archived in Austria Tagged trains austria hostel clock_tower graz explorations fortifications unesco_world_heritage_site austrian_cuisine Comments (1)

A taste of Slovenia

Maribor


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The end of a full day in Maribor, Slovenia. I arrived here yesterday after almost a whole day of travel; one Flixbus from Bregenz to Munich, then another one for six-and-a-half hours from there to here.

The following is a series of moments, impressions and experiences from the last two days.

The beauty of the frozen Bavarian landscape muffled in snow; long stretches where every branch and every leaf of every last tree and bush looked as if it had been dipped in snow or heavy frost. Snow as far as my eye could see...

The Old Vine of Maribor; the oldest vine in the world to still bear fruit, it has been producing grapes for 400 years, and even now these grapes produce about 25 litres of red wine per year. The Old Vine grows next to the River Drava, where apparently timber rafting was a big industry in bygone years.

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The streets of Maribor. The colourful buildings with crumbling plaster reminded me a bit of Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

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I can see some Slavic similarity between Slovenian and Bulgarian, though they're not that close. I've recognised a few isolated words; the words for great (as in big), water, honey, milk, ice cream, pancakes, street, bridge, town, Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday all only have a letter or two different, or in a couple of cases are identical.

Standing in the peaceful silence of the beautiful incense-scented cathedral, the only person there apart from a nun who I didn't know was there for quite a while because she was mostly hidden in an almost-screened-off side chapel.

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Maribor Regional Museum, contained within the old city castle. Highlights of the permanent collection included a set of painted fascia boards of beehives, medieval weapons, a mammoth tusk and huge wicker clogs worn by firefighters.

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There was also a great temporary exhibition on the flowering of classical concerts and other cultural offerings in Maribor in the 18th - 19th centuries (apparently Maribor was second only to Vienna, in a cultural sense, at this time). Highlights of this exhibition were the collection of historical musical instruments and the room where Liszt played one of his first international concerts.

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Tucking into some Styrian specialities for lunch - a delicious 'game ragout' which came with local Styrian potato noodles on top, plus 'grits pudding' - sounds unappetising but it was lovely; a bit like thick rice pudding but a type of very small grain instead of rice, with blueberry preserve and another type of preserve I've forgotten on top.

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Posted by 3Traveller 07:50 Archived in Slovenia Tagged snow museum buses slovenia bulgarian explorations natural_wonder maribor styrian_cuisine Comments (1)

The Oberstadt

Bregenz


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Update from October 2019: I later found out that the curious object is a mummified shark!

Last day of teaching this week, as it was a short course.

By the time we got back to the guesthouse after school it was 14:30; after only a brief stop we headed out again, into the city centre. I wanted to go to the Oberstadt, the oldest part of town, and H wanted to do some shopping, so after hot chocolates at a bakery we split up and agreed to meet up again at 18:00.

The Oberstadt (as you may have guessed from the name) looks out over the rest of the city from a hill. After following a cobbled path up the hill I reached the old fortified city gate, which had hanging from it the most curious object - it looked like a stuffed or model hybrid animal, like a cross between a dried-up shark and a bird.

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As I stood there two women and a toddler came up with sledges and rode down the path I'd just come up. Their dog ran along beside them but didn't try to catch a lift!

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Out of interest, I've seen surprisingly few people playing in the snow here in Austria. No snowmen or snowball fights. Maybe because they're so used to snow here, they go skiing as a matter of course at weekends, but don't go crazy about snow in more casual ways like people do in the UK.

Anyway, back to the Oberstadt. It was small but picturesque and I was almost the only non-local person there the whole time. I imagine it gets a lot busier in the tourist season!

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I walked down the other side via a smaller cobbled path, then up again and came out by the Church of St Gallus, the church I had come across on Monday. It was closed, so I walked round the outside instead. The snow was deep in places. I came across a small plot of WWII graves on one side; in place of headstones they had thin metal decorated crosses.

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Nearby the church I saw this Christmas-decorated tree in someone's garden;

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On my way back to where we'd agreed to meet up I got a bit lost, but found my way in the end!

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On our way back to the guesthouse we stopped at a big Interspar supermarket to stock up for our journeys tomorrow, before having some pizza at a small Turkish café. The people working there were incredibly friendly.

Posted by 3Traveller 02:53 Archived in Austria Tagged churches art snow austria bregenz explorations fortifications Comments (0)

The German excursion: Lindau im Bodensee

Bregenz and Lindau im Bodensee


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A special day today, both at school and afterwards.

Today was the day when all the local teachers were having their annual grade-deciding conference, and as part of that they had a big buffet in the staff room. My co-teacher and I were both urged to have as much as we wanted from it, both during the mid-morning break and afterwards for lunch. The vast majority of the dishes were homemade. I was urged in particular to have a Bavarian speciality, weisswurst with sweet mustard; it was absolutely delicious - so juicy and tasty. I don't normally like mustard but this was much nicer than English mustard. I also had some amazing pumpkin soup (which tasted very similar to Dad's curried parsnip soup), a slice of pea and broccoli quiche, a small cheese and spinach pie and an onion and roasted vegetable slice. What a feast!

After class finished we took a train around the lake into Germany to the historic and picturesque Lindau im Bodensee, which is set on its own little island connected to the main town of Lindau by the rail line and another bridge. We went on a lovely extended wander round town in the sunshine and crisp winter air, admiring up close the harbourside...

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...the lighthouse and Bavarian Lion sculpture at the harbour entrance...

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...and the view over the rest of the lake. I spotted some mysterious wooden posts sticking out of the water which I thought could be old supporters of a former, wooden jetty;

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On our walk round the historic town I admired a lot of the buildings. One of them had an absolutely massive, woody plant growing up one side; maybe an ancient wisteria or laburnum.

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Some buildings had murals on the front and antiques stalls set up outside.

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Before returning to the train station we stopped at a cafe, where I had a lovely Black Forest coffee. Then we went to a supermarket to get sandwiches for dinner, as we'd already had a main meal at lunchtime.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:00 Archived in Germany Tagged lakes art snow trains austria germany bregenz explorations german_cuisine lindau_im_bodensee Comments (0)

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