Sunday 10 July 2011
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Greetings from Graz!
Austria is divided into nine bundeslander, which are similar to American states in government but counties in size. According to many sources, Austrians identify themselves more by their regions, or bundesland, than by their country. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he is Styrian first and Austrian second.
We spent the last three days touring Graz and the Styrian region. Manuela gave us a tour of Graz's city center on Thursday, beginning with an overview from atop Schlossberg. This fortress sits atop a hill near the city center and was once besieged by Napoleon and his forces. The view of Graz's red tile roofed old quarter is beautiful.
Down in the city center, we visited the Hauptplatz (main plaza); Rathaus (Graz government center); Landhaus (Styrian government center); and viewed the ornately painted Bemaltes Haus, all along Graz's Herrengasse (main street).
After an ice cream break, we visited the Hof Backerei, a 600 year old bakery, and the Dom, a 15th century Gothic cathedral. We watched the Glockenspiel clock as it struck 3:00 PM, then crossed the Mur River that bisects Graz to see the Kunsthaus, an art museum that resembles a giant blue sea slug.
Schwarzenegger’s Geburtshaus, Thal
Willi drove us to the neighboring town of Thal, where Manuela and Schwarzenegger grew up. We visited a kitschy Kirche (church); Volksschule Thal (Manuela and the Govenator's elementary school); and posed for pictures in front of Schwarzenegger's Geburtshaus (childhood home). We also drove by the agriculture school where Willi works. In the evening, my mother treated us all to dinner at Volksgoart'n, a typical Styrian restaurant.
Kaiser Joseph Platz, Graz
Manuela took us to the market at Kaiser Joseph Platz Friday morning where local farmers sell their produce six days a week. We bought a few items and watched the locals, mostly women, do their daily shopping. Maureen noticed how little packaging the market used; even live plants are sold without plastic containers.
Maureen has become an avid hiker, so she was anxious to hike while in Austria. On Friday we walked a couple miles to the summit of Schockl. It is 1463 meters high, but we climbed only the last 700 meters; Willi and my mother rode the gondola jp. At the top we ate lunch and rode Hexenexpress, a self controlled toboggan rail ride.
In the afternoon we drove out to Weinstrasse, the Styrian wine country, and tasted wine at Tinnauer Buschenschank, a small winery owned by a relative of Angela. We also sampled a typical platter of cold meats and cheeses. We spent several relaxing hours with a beautiful view of rolling vineyard hills and Slovenia in the distance.
We were treated to a family celebration on Saturday. Manuela's family gathered to celebrate her grandmother's birthday at a restaurant near her home village of Manning. Family came from as far away as Germany, England, and California to celebrate Oma Pechtigam's 80th birthday. Even the Manning burgermeister (mayor) was on hand for a toast.
After the party, Scott, Maureen, Birgit's husband Michi, Manuela, and I went to a Graz Sturm soccer game. The friendly match was played at a small regional stadium because an American Football European Championship Tournament game between Japan and Australia was previously scheduled at the Graz's city arena. It was a very small stadium and we had to standup throughout the 3-3 draw. After the match, Michi took us to their home in the country outside Graz and we joined my mother, Angela, and Willi for an evening visit with Birgit's family.
My mother, Maureen, Scott, and I are off to Salzburg this morning via train. Manuela will stay behind and visit with friends while the four of us visit the historic town best known as the birthplace of Mozart and filming of The Sound of Music. We'll be there for two nights and then meet up with Manuela, Angela, and Willi in Linz.