Tuesday 2 August 2011
August 2, 2001
Elk Grove, California
Greetings from Elk Grove!
After our week in sunny Greece, Manuela and I returned to Graz last Tuesday. We hoped to take a one or two day trip to Croatia's coast on the Adriatic Sea with her friend Doris, but there wasn't enough time. We spent the last week of our month long vacation close to "home," visiting with family and friends and attending a couple local festivals.
Angela and Manuela took me to visit one of Graz's oldest residents Wednesday afternoon. Frau Kurej was born in nearby Slovenia but has lived most of her 99 years in Graz. She outlived her family and contemporary friends but still lives alone (with some assistance from Angela). Manuela said Frau Kurej never married but still enjoys flirting with men and that she was eager to meet Manuela's California husband.
Manuela and I visited Akern, a local food and music festival in Graz with her parents. Sunflowers are a central theme and the festival was surrounded by fields of them. The band played American pop music from the 70's but in German the night we attended and there was lots of beer and food. Unfortunately it began raining soon after we arrived and we cut short our visit.
Schloss St. Martin, Graz
Castles are common place in Austria; there are three or four just in the hills around Graz! Some of them have been restored and can be visited; some lay abandoned and in ruins. Many castles, like Schloss St. Martin above Angela and Willi's home, are used for schools and government institutions. It’s not as big as the 1400 room Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna and doesn't have the beautiful flower gardens of Schloss Mirabel in Salzburg, but Schloss St. Martin has a stereotypical appearance. The square castle surrounds a cobblestone courtyard that is reached through a portico guarded by two huge wooden doors and has round towers at all four corners. A church dedicated to St. Martin stands just outside the castle walls.
Schloss St. Martin now houses a school so I was able to view the exterior when Manuela, Doris, and I hiked up to it on Thursday. After taking pictures, we continued our hike along a trail that ran up to the ridge of hills on the skirting of Graz. After about a mile we came to another shuttered chapel overlooking the city. Unfortunately it began to rain, so the view was obscured by clouds. We dried off in a Gasthaus nearby and had a cup of coffee/hot chocolate. The simple restaurant/cafe was very charming - bare wood floor, dark wood paneling hung with photographs depicting hunting and fishing scenes, and a friendly dog that patiently waited beside our table for a scrap of food.
Graz's annual puppet and street art festival, La Strada, began Friday night. Manuela and I met her friends, Doris and Petra, in the city center and we attended the opening concert: 90 minutes of non-stop electronica music by a French group. We hopped a few bars afterward. Austria is progressive in many ways, but unfortunately smoking is still allowed in public places. By midnight my eyes were burning.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Geburtshaus Museum, Thal
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Geburtshaus Museum officially opened on Saturday with much national attention. Manuela thought it was a bit silly, so I went alone with Angela and Willi. There were a lot of people on hand for the ceremony and Arnold addressed the crowd via satellite. We got our picture taken with the bugermeister (mayor), an acquaintance of Angela and close friend of the Governator. There are a lot of kitschy Hollywood props in museum, located inside his childhood home, but there is also some interesting artifacts like original furnishings and his first weight lifting equipment.
Our long journey home began Sunday afternoon. We said goodbye to family at the Graz train station and we took a two and one-half hour train ride back to Vienna. Our flight was early Monday, so we stayed the night in at an airport hotel. At 9:30 AM we flew two hours to Dusseldorf, Germany, and then seven hours to Toronto. We passed through U.S. immigration and customs at the Canadian airport and then had a five and one half hour layover. A five hour flight from Toronto landed us in San Francisco at 10:45 PM. Scott drove us home, completing our trains, planes, and automobiles journey.
Coming home after a month abroad was strange. The garden was overgrown, the house was stuffy, and the refrigerator was empty. But the familiarity was comforting and our own bed felt great! We had a wonderful long vacation. I had the pleasure of playing tour guide to my family in Austria, Manuela and I had a second honeymoon in Greece, and we began preparations of our eventual move to Graz. We hope to return to Austria next year, but until then...
Where to next?