For a city of a mere 300,000, Graz has a large number of museums. Boys will no doubt be attracted to the Armory, which holds an extensive collection of medieval armory worn by the knights. We skipped that one and instead have gone to the Graz Museum, Kunsthouse and the Museum in Palais. There are a dozen to visit on our annual 30 euro pass. (click ‘continue reading’ below)
After an overnight in Dusseldorf, we flew in a prop jet into the small airpport in Graz, Austria. It’s a tiny airport, and but a 10 minute walk to train station. Before long we were exiting the system and taking the wrong exit, so we added a kilometer to our walk. We missed a turn and added a bit more, but then we got to the door.
Graz is 200 km southwest of Vienna, just about an hour by train. It is the second largest city in Austria and home to six universities with 44,000 students. The University of Gray is the city’s oldest. It was founded in 1585 under Archduke Karl II. There are over 30,000 students in it alone. The entire city is a World Heritage Site (1999). Slovenia is its nearest neighbor (to the south); Hungary is not far to the east. Graz is home to just 310,000 residents.
Graz was settled as far back as 5000 BC, likely for two reasons. First is the Mur River, which flows swiftly this time of year. This facilitated transportation and commerce. Second, there is a large and steep hill just off the river, not 5 minutes from our place, which made for an excellent natural fortification, which has never been breached.
Hitler visited in 1938 and was welcomed and the Jewish community subsequently destroyed. In 2000, on the anniversary of the the Kristalnacht pogroms the city presented the Jewish community with a new synagogue to replace they one destroyed. Some 15% of the city was destroyed by Allied bombing, but the Old Town was largely spared. Graz surrendered to Soviet troops at the end of WWII.
The city has dozens of museums. We bought a pass that allows entrance to 12 of them for 30 euros. So far we have just visited the Modern Art museum, largely given over to an incomprehensible installation. However there were some genuine works or art as well.
We’ve had a few snacks and light meals thus far. Soup. It’s June and the people are eating hot soup! With temperature in the low 20’s c (under 72f) the days are cool and the nights a bit on the chilly side, quite the contrast with Valencia, from where we just came, and where summer temperatures can hit 40C.
Here are views of Graz from the top of Schlossberg Castle.
Cáceres has an old walled town in its center. Walk around and you are in the middle ages, given the buildings, the stone streets and total absence of cars. There is a blend of Roman, Moorish, Gothic and Italian Renaissance architecture, not to mention the stork nests. There are thirty towers from the Islamic period still standing.
Humans have inhabited the area since prehistoric times. Evidence of this can be found in the caves of Maltravieso, with cave paintings dating to 25,000 BCE. The city was founded by the Romans in 25 BC and is a Unesco World Heritage Site, quite justifiably so.
Cáceres is in the part of Spain called Extremadura. I always thought that the name Extremadura referred to the extremely hard (dura) quality of the soil and life there but more accurately extremadura is from Latin words meaning literally “outermost hard”, the outermost secure border of an occupied territory. During La Reconquista it was the westernmost holding of the Christians.
Cuenca is situated northwest of Valencia and southeast of Madrid, just an hour from either on the AVE, the fast train. It is known for the houses perched on the cliffs and for the Júcar and the Huécar, two rivers (well, streams is a better word) which encase it. The town was first settled by the Moors, who sought to take advantage of its natural fortress qualities. Nonetheless they lost it in 1177 to the Christians.
The area offers an interesting cuisine, which I will comment upon below the photos.
There are a number of interesting dishes, mostly tapas.
Ajo arriero, cod, potato and garlic, can be spread on bread
Morteruelo, pâté made from hare, partridge, hen and pork or some combination
Pisto manchego, tomato, pepper, courgette/zucchini fried in olive oil. Very thick.
Mushrooms, harvested in the forests near Cuenca. Níscalo is common, but other species, such as boletus (long and large with a cap).
Mojete: traditional salad made of tomato.
Alajú an Arab cake made of honey, almonds, nuts and grated orange rind.
Resoli is an after dinner alcoholic beverage made from grape must, cinnamon, anise.
We had lunch at Restaurante el Secreto. The Guide Routarde sign for multiple years including 2016 attracted our attention. The Guide has served us well through the years and it did not disappoint us. This restaurant has many game offerings. Peg had the venison, which was superb- even I thought so. The wine was very good, local and reasonably priced, as was the entire meal including my ceviche trout.
The decor is worth a look! Ceramics floor to ceiling.