From Graz you take a railroad operated bus to the train that carries you into Italy through the Alps; the bus avoids a much longer train ride through the mountains. The scenery alone makes the trip worthwhile. There are viaducts and tunnels galore. Human have inhabited this area for thousands of years, although it is well west of here,in the Oetztal Alps, where researchers unearthed the frozen body of a man who died in the mountains some 5000 years ago. For more information on that, go to http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/oetzi-iceman-mummy-alps-lyme-disease-lactose-intolerance/story?id=15816788
The Semmering Railroad, designed and directed by the Venice born Carlo Ghega, is a UNESCO World Heritage Center (1998) that travels from Gloggnitz to Semmering. I was constructed between 1848 and 1854. At the. time the Semmering was a feat of engineering and the first mountain railway in Europe built on a standard gauge track. From your seat you see superb Austrian mountains, 16 viaducts and 15 tunnels, over 100 curved stone and 11 small iron bridges, as well as many mansions. All this in a journey of just 41 kilometers.
A terrific baroque building: Basilika* Mariatrost, Graz (with sketches)
The lovely Mariatrost Basilica is a baroque style building on top of the Purberg hill, a steep climb from the bus stop including some 225 steps. There’s a lovely view from the top- see my pen and ink sketch below- and what’s inside is a superb example of the baroque.
A Baroque masterpiece and World Heritage Site, Schloss Eggenberg in Graz, Austria is a treasure of the Baroque and, to a lesser extent, the Rococo period of the Baroque epoch, which is the last development in the as well as the most complex and intricate of the period.
Here is a video slide show of our photos during the visit, which is only available as a guided tour, set to Mozarts’ Klarinettenkonzert (K. 622). The tour is in English as well as German.
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.