Friday, October 2, 2009

A weekend in Graz

Now to tell you all about Graz...

Stephanie and I headed out of the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof (main train station) Friday afternoon, and got to watch the gorgeous scenery roll by as we made our way to Styria. Lots of beautiful mountains, castles, cows, alpine farms and the Salzach all on the way. Our second train at the switch point was delayed, so we got to Graz a bit later than we'd planned on, but that was no problem. On the second train, we were in a compartment with this student, Johanna, who was really nice and we got to chat with her on the way there, which was cool.

The hostel we checked into was really nice, even though we were in a big dormitory with a bunch of other guests. The staff pointed us in the right direction to catch the bus into town, and we immediately hopped on in search of dinner. Since we were starving, and most of the restaurants were closed by then, we had to settle on David's Pizzeria, which provided us with satisfying but greasy Italian food. Then we headed back to the hostel for a good night's sleep until the next morning when...

This awful man checked in and fell asleep and SNORED like there was no tomorrow. It was truly, an epic snore. You could hear it down the hall, from the second floor, etc. In other words, it was impossible to sleep after he arrived, so we made the best of it and got up a little early to head into the city that day.

After an excellent breakfast (included by this lovely hostel), we walked around town, and scoped out where we wanted to go that day. We walked down the "art mile", where most of the galleries and museums and antique stores are located, and then down by the river. There you can see the "Mussel"; a modern architectural building that is rather shaped like a mussel. It sits in the middle of the Mur river, and hosts a cafe, ampitheater, and apparently a jungle-gym for kids. Then we walked by the Kunsthaus, which is another really cool piece of modern architecture. This building is called "the friendly alien", and it is smack dab in the middle of the old city, and provides a cool contrast to the more traditional buildings. It is also an excellent museum, but we postponed our trip there till Sunday, so that we could see another exhibition opening then. Most of these modern places were built when Graz was named the "cultural capital" in 2003.

Walking back through town, we went the the Neue Galerie, where they had some great modern pieces of art and installations. One of them had a very human-ecological feel, and was a series of photographs of a woman interacting with the architecture of her middle-eastern city. Those exhibits were pretty fascinating, and then we walked into the really nifty antique shop just down the street. This place was loaded with all kinds of crazy stuff, like memorabilia from past wars, drinking horns, sabers, etc.. It was a cool crazy shop!

For the afternoon, we split up, and I decided to walk through the city park, and eat a BAGEL that I chanced upon in a bakery. It was of course, delicious, and I got to watch the ducks and a lady and her daughter feed the massive carp in the pond. The park was really neat, and there were so many people there. Europeans really know how to relax-people were lounging around on blankets in the sun, reading the newspaper, collecting chestnuts...there was even a cricket game going on! I sat and watched that for a while, and it reminded me of COA very much. After dodging a few balls, I decided to keep looking around though, and so I went to see the city Dom. That was a beautiful building, and oddly enough I was the only one in there! So I got to really look around.

Stephanie and I met up around 4, to head up to the Schloss. We took one of the lifts up the mountain, which was really fun, and at the top we had an amazing view of the city. You could see everything for miles around, and so we relaxed there for a little while, getting serenaded by some nice panhandling hippies, and taking in the scenery. We think that we may have seen a UFO, too, but who knows! I'm just saying, there was a weird black, inexplicable speck in the sky, and it very well might have been a UFO. On top of the Schloss, you can see the Glockenspiel (the clock tower), a unique underground theater, and the old watchtower.

Then we found a nice restaurant up there for supper. Our waitress was a little peculiar, but we got to sit with a very friendly and good-humored Austrian couple. My food was really good (linguine with goat cheese and cubes of cantaloupe, don't knock it till you've tried it) but Stephanie ended up with some very weird, traditional grape soup. We also had the traditional Austrian appetizer of semmeln (little rolls) with topfen (sweet cheese-so yummy). But, the view was breathtaking, and it was fun to watch the sunset from our table over the city.

We headed back to the hostel, and there met this interesting guy named Phillip, traveling to Salzburg from Indiana. He could have been a COA kid for several reasons: firstly, his name was Phillip, and this of course meant that he had curly hair, glasses, and played a stringed instrument. So, the COA-like Phillip played the fiddle for Stephanie and I outside the hostel. Then, they went out, and I went to bed, and was pleased that the man with the acute case of sleep apnea was not staying for a second night.

Sunday morning we checked out, and went to the Kunsthaus before leaving town. They had several wonderful exhibits there, featuring Andy Warhol's paintings and movies, contrasted with similar work by other modern artists. That was great, and then they had a video exhibition about democracy and political action, which was pretty intense but very good. It was an excellent museum! I wish I could work there! :)

The train ride back went smoothly and with more amazing views fleeting past our window. Back in Salzburg, we returned to our host families to do some homework and catch up before the week began. It was a great weekend! I'm so glad Stephanie invited me to come with her, because we had a blast. Graz was completely different from Salzburg, and a great place to go, should you get the chance.

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