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Entries about fortifications

In the middle of Austrian wine country

Deutschlandsberg


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When I arrived in Deutschlandsberg last Sunday after a smooth 55-minute train journey from Graz, I was picked up from the station by the guesthouse owner and taken on a brief driven surprise tour of the town, including the little castle which lies on a hill overlooking the town. Deutschlandsberg lies in wine country, as I could see from the fields of vines on each side. There was an amazing view from the castle; apparently you can get married there - a stunning setting, to be sure. I'd heard that it contains an interesting museum; this turned out to be true, but apparently it's closed for the winter. The restaurant there - a very good one, apparently - is also closed until April.

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The town itself is small but very pleasant to walk round, with colourful buildings, market stalls, a peaceful atmosphere and some Konditorei for coffee, hot chocolate, beers and cake.

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This evening we climbed one of the hills surrounding the town.

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The course I was teaching this week went well. It was general English, which I have lots of experience in, but for the first time ever I had to prepare one of the groups for a show. It felt quite strange to be acting more like a drama teacher than as an English one. The show was good considering how little time they had to create a script and rehearse (it was a 4-day course rather than the normal 5), though there were definitely areas that could have been more polished. The story that the class and I came up with was a modern retelling of Cinderella with some role reversal and the appearance of one or two characters from other fairy tales.

It was an informal show, only performed to another class rather than to the whole school and/ or to parents; I was quite grateful for that because it was my first Show and because of the said lack of enough rehearsal time! Next week there isn't a Show because it's an exam prep booster course, but in my final week of this contract there is one, so I've already had a couple of ideas for how to streamline the deciding-on-the-type-of-show and the scriptwriting stages.

Posted by 3Traveller 10:06 Archived in Austria Tagged landscapes market austria english_teaching fortifications deutschlandsberg Comments (1)

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)

UNESCO World Heritage Site: Castle Hill explorations

Budapest


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Yesterday I relaxed all day, following the cricket - the first day of the 4th Ashes Test. I couldn't stop grinning at Stuard Broad's heroics! After another excellent performance by England today, we almost certain to win this match and therefore the series.

Today I went back to Castle Hill (via the metro for the first time; it was easy to use), but I didn't visit as many places as I'd intended to because I woke up later than expected. I didn't get much sleep last night because I couldn't get to sleep to begin with, and had only managed to doze off when the other two girls in my dorm got back at about 3 am, which woke me up. They were a bit inconsiderate actually, talking to each other for ages and loudly moving their stuff around. It was past 4 o'clock by the time they eventually got into bed and stopped talking and I didn't fall back asleep for a long time afterwards. Then at 8 o'clock they got up, waking me up in the process, packed their stuff and left. I dozed off again and didn't wake up properly until about 10!

Anyway, the first place I went to on the hill was the church of St Matthias. This has a very distinctively coloured and patterned roof, and is also very colourful inside. It was originally build at the end of the 14th century, restored in the 19th and renovated in the 20th after damage from WWII. It contains the tomb of the 12th century king Béla III - the only royal tomb to survive the Ottoman period in Hungary, apparently.

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After that I walked around the Fisherman's Bastion next door. This is a terrace shaped a bit like a battlement, with seven small towers representing the seven Magyar tribes that entered the Carpathian Basin in the late 9th century. Photogenically made from white stone, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century. Although my camera batteries were nearly dead by now, I managed to get out a few of the bastion itself and the wonderful panoramic views of the Budapest, the Danube and the hills beyond. I also caught a small changing of the guard ceremony.

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I was incredibly hot and sweaty by now, so the first thing I did after visiting the post office was go underground! I visited the Labyrinth, which is an extensive series of tunnels within Castle Hill. These tunnels have been used for various purposes for hundreds of years - wine storage, prison, torture chambers and as a major production centre for stonecutting and carving. Apparently Vlad Tepes, who became known as Vlad the Impaler (and whose birthplace I visited in Sighisoara), was imprisoned here for a period of 10 - 14 years. When released he set out on the monstrous acts of cruelty he is known for today.

It was already late afternoon by the time I left the Labyrinth, so I took the funicular down and then walked back to the hostel via Spar. I'm going to go out for lunch tomorrow instead of having a sandwich like I've done most days in Budapest so far - I'm going to make sure to have goulash!

It looks like I will have to go case-buying in the morning, unfortunately. The gaping split in my case is so major it cannot be fixed. I wrapped it in black tape for now, but I don't think I can trust that to remain in place over the flight. I might as well get a new case here, where it's likely to be cheaper than if I try to get the old case back and then buy a new one in the UK.

Posted by 3Traveller 04:41 Archived in Hungary Tagged budapest hostel hungary funicular fortifications changing_of_the_guard unesco_world_heritage_site Comments (0)

Hailstorm in the heat of August...!

Budapest


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The morning started the sight of a boat in the shape of a sightseeing bus going down the Danube...

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...it continued with the poignant sight of the 'Shoes on the Danube' sculpture. This consists of lots of metal shoes right on the edge of the river; this is in memory of the Hungarian Jews who were shot and thrown into the river by the fascist Arrow Cross Militia in 1944.

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After I crossed the bridge I waited quite a long time for the funicular up the side of Castle Hill. Once I got to the top, I took some photos of the wonderful view and then went in search of the Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum.

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The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum is on the site of Budapest's first apothecary, dating from 1681. I found it easily and had a look round - it was small but interesting, with books of medicinal plants dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, an 18th century book about the preparation of medicines, ceramic jars used as water, spice and medicinal plant holders, a preserved human head, a preserved bat and 18th century pharmacy equipment such as scales, a microscope, distilling equipment and strangely shaped glass tubes.

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Then I went on to the Hungarian National Gallery, but before I went inside I noticed an archery stand outside, so I had a go on that; I got a bullseye, which won me five extra arrows. When I finished, the chap in charge asked me if I had a bow at home! For a second I was confused because with his thick accent, I though he was asking if I had a ball at home. I was really hot and sweaty by now so I had a very tasty and refreshing iced coffee from a stand nearby.

There were some lovely views from in front of the gallery.

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The gallery was very big and contained nearly all Hungarian artists' work; 20th century and 19th century paintings, medieval Gothic painted wooden altars, 20th century graphic art including posters, some very old stone carvings/ inscriptions on loan from the National Museum, nude stone sculptures from the 20th century and more. Photos weren't allowed, so I only managed to get one or two.

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When I left the gallery I found that it was a little bit cooler and raindrops were just starting to fall. It was still warm and humid though - just a little less hot than before. I power walked to some shelter beneath a tree and arrived just as the rain got harder. More people joined me and then the wind suddenly picked up and the rain became torrential. The wind started blowing the toilet assistant's outdoor ticket desk across the courtyard so I and one or two others stopped it for her; we then made a run for the toilet to take cover, as the tree no longer provided any shelter.

After twenty minutes or so the rain died down a bit, so I made my way up the stairs and into the funicular building. I travelled down the hill in it, with three other people. Just as we got to the bottom the rain became torrential again... and then ice started hitting the windows! The biggest hailstones I've ever seen. One of the last things I expected to see in August... we remained in the funicular carriage for about twenty minutes before making a run for the entrance/ exit building. There I remained for another decent period of time until the hail and rain died down. Eventually I left and crossed the bridge - the sun had now come out.

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After getting some money out I stopped at Aldi to buy something to cook for dinner. I chose some gnocchi and a jar of bolognese sauce - quick and easy; I was knackered and my legs were hurting, so I didn't want to stand up for any longer than strictly necessary.

Posted by 3Traveller 14:56 Archived in Hungary Tagged art budapest museum hungary funicular fortifications river_danube extreme_weather Comments (0)

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