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Austria

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)

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)

On the shore of the Bodensee

Bregenz


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I'm now in Bregenz, on the shore of the Bodensee - almost as far west as you can go in Austria, just a couple of miles round the corner from Germany and Switzerland. I'm teaching an exam preparation course this time, and it's a short course - only Monday to Wednesday. I have one co-teacher (a different one to last week).

After class today we went for a walk into the centre of Bregenz via the edge of the Bodensee. It had snowed overnight and during the morning, but the lake itself hadn't frozen.

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Blue skies, peaceful snowy fields, forested hills in the background, ripples on the lake... it was so beautiful!

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Once we reached the city centre we were initially a little disappointed with the buildings and general architecture (it wasn't bad, but wasn't as totally amazing as everyone had told us) but then as we followed the streets higher and higher we grew more and more impressed, until we could completely see why everyone had raved about the place to us. I most definitely recommend visiting!

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We got a great view of the Oberstadt on its hill, overlooking the rest of the city; it was getting dark by now so we decided to leave going up there for another day. Instead we stuck to wandering the cobbled streets in the twilight.

Before we headed back to our guesthouse we had some dinner at a brewery. I had a lovely dish consisting of roast pork slices with potato dumplings, sweet purple cabbage and gravy.

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Posted by 3Traveller 01:50 Archived in Austria Tagged lakes snow austria bregenz brewery explorations austrian_cuisine Comments (0)

From east to west: Mödling to Bregenz

Mödling, Vienna, Munich and Bregenz


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I'm writing this on the Flixbus from Munich to Bregenz, and I'm absolutely knackered!

I'd deliberately chosen a hostel in Munich as close to the main bus station as possible, because of the heaviness of my big case, laptop bag and other bag (plus one of the case wheels has broken), but even that relatively short distance proved a struggle in the snow which had been falling overnight and was still going. Lots of slipping about, lifting to avoid slush puddles, and grit jamming the wheels. My hands, forearms and shoulders were still painful from the day before, and by the time I reached the Flixbus I had such little strength left in my grip, I'm not how much further I would have managed to go!

I rewarded myself with a delicious jam doughnut with pink icing on top for my breakfast. As I'd passed through the big train station on the way, I'd also bought myself two giant chewy pretzels to save for later, both with melted cheese on top and one with rosemary as well. Together with a tub of rice pudding, the boiled eggs I managed to save from breakfast yesterday and some Maoam sweets, I should have enough food to last me for the rest of today, meaning I won't have to search out a restaurant in Bregenz this evening (the majority seem to close on Sundays in Austria).

The snow has been a sight to behold so far on this journey. Right now we're passing by a pine forest, with ground and branches laden with snow in a stereotypically Christmassy manner. Because it's a bit misty as well, fields and bare hills we've passed have appeared to blend together into one sea of whiteness.

Unfortunately, we've also seen the darker side of snow; not far from Munich we passed a car which had half spun round at the side of the road - luckily a man was standing next to it and there didn't seem to be any passengers inside. A police car was next to it. About half an hour ago we passed a more serious crash - a car was lying on one side in the middle of the road and looked half-crushed, and was surrounded by helpers getting emergency blankets out of cars and things like that.

Posted by 3Traveller 11:51 Archived in Austria Tagged snow vienna austria germany buses munich moedling german_cuisine Comments (0)

Mödling


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I've had an interesting week in Mödling, 14km southwest of Vienna. I was teaching Business English - it felt a little surreal, teaching in a secondary school context. I'm used to teaching in private language schools, without the school bell (or rather buzzer) ruling lesson lengths! Six classes a day, five minute breaks between classes, with one ten-minute one; I've never felt so rushed - but the students were lovely, I enjoyed it, and the early start meant an early finish in comparison to that of British schools.

The students' end-of-week presentations all went very well today! They were presenting companies they'd invented, their best-selling product, market research, how they would market them, etc. Of the four from the class I worked with the most, one was exceptionally good, one very good and two good. I felt very proud - a bit like how I imagine parents feel, in fact!

Regarding the town, apparently both Beethoven and Arnold Schönberg lived in Mödling for a while, almost exactly 100 years apart. Schönberg's house is now a house museum, but along with Mödling Museum, it is currently closed for the winter. Oh well. I managed to have a good look round the lovely historic old town. Highlights included the grey heron I spotted in a stream...

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...the old town hall...

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...general street scenes...

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...and the Catholic church of St Othmar, which I found perching on a hill overlooking the town.

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It was gloomy inside, but quite interesting, with some nice stained glass, a candle stand which I made use of, and a Nativity scene surrounded by real fir (or maybe pine) saplings - I thought that maybe they were keeping it up until Candlemas.

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Along one wall there were carved stones which I thought might have been memorial plaques, though I couldn't make out what the pictures carved into them actually were of. Next to the church, on the terrace outside, there was a locked up tower - I found out later that this was a charnel house, so maybe being locked up was for the best!

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I had a good birthday yesterday. Both classes sang 'Happy Birthday' to me in English first thing. I asked them how to say 'Happy Birthday' in German, just to see if I remembered correctly; apparently (in Austria at least) they just say 'Alles gute'.

In the evening we went out to an Asian restaurant, where I had some vegetable gyoza and fried noodles with pak choi. I was too full for pudding, but noticed 'Bambus Schnapps' on the drinks list, so after finding out that it was bamboo, I simply had to try it. It came in a glazed square pot, and to be honest the immediate taste wasn't nice at all. Once that had gone, however, I could really feel a pleasant warmth spread inside me. I've often heard about the warming qualities of certain spirits, but this was the first time I'd actually felt it.

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From the restaurant we moved over the road to a hotel bar. I was thinking of trying another schnapps, if they had an interesting selection, but they didn't have any (a rarity, apparently), so I had a delicious kahlua coffee instead - double espresso, kahlua, coconut syrup and a scoop of walnut ice cream.

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Then we suddenly realised what the time was - 22:10 - and that I was late for my family video chat, so we power-walked/ jogged back in subzero temperatures to the guesthouse.

A very long Flixbus journey tomorrow; I'm staying in Munich for the night before catching another Flixbus to Bregenz on Sunday.

Posted by 3Traveller 01:43 Archived in Austria Tagged birds austria christmas german english_teaching moedling birthday_celebration Comments (0)

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