Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Day 6, Graz

We had determined not to spend our WHOLE vacation in Vienna, and had decided to travel to Graz, Austria's second largest city and the capital of the province of Styria. We picked Graz for whimsical reasons, partly because it might be Schnobrich ancestral territory, and partly because it has the Zeughaus, a regional armory left over from the early 19th century in working condition. (You might gather that old weapons are an interest of mine--).

We decided to travel by train, which was a good choice. The Austrian rail system is smooth, quiet, and runs on time. The railroad from Vienna to Graz winds up and through wooded mountains, giving some spectacular views that I tried to photograph from the train windows with mixed success.

On the way from the train station to the Old City, we found and marveled at the ultra-modern Art Museum (Kunsthaus), an organically shaped blue glass creation that looks like an alien sea monster plunked down in an antique square. All honor to the locals that had the guts to build it. Crossing the river Mur, we also saw the Murinsel, a structure that looks like a shell floating on the water. It houses a performance space and the inevitable cafe.

Graz' Old Town is a designated World Heritage site for its many Baroque and older buildings. (Georgie ended this part of our trip somewhat frustrated because we could have left ourselves more time just to look at the buildings and didn't--.) It truly is a beautiful area. The Armory is on the main street of the old city, and reasonably easy to find. It is a surprisingly narrow building, part of an elegant complex including offices, apartments, and spacious courtyards. The building has a historical museum display on the first floor, which goes into interesting detail on the campaigns vs. Turks, Hungarian raiders, rebels, and others that affected the development of the region.

Once above the first floor, you are in the Armory proper, and in a very different space from the formal weapons collections we had seen previously. There is rack upon utilitarian rack of arms, all maintained in rust-free and working condition. The ceilings are low enough so that the exposed beams become storage places as well, holding ranks of helmets on pegs or festooned with powder flasks. The floors start with the oldest weapons first, so the second floor has hundreds of matchlock fusils, plus falconets, mortars, and other light artillery pieces, plus the armor that would have been issued to the local levy for the period. The next level has wheellock arquebuses and pistols, and the upper levels more than a thousand flintlock muskets and other gear, plus swords, shields, spears, pikes and halberds. Each level has its own period standard-issue armor in addition, as well as more elaborate suits of plate belonging to past officers.

After we were done there (and bought a book at the shop), we walked through some of the side streets checking out restaurants that were open on Sunday. (In Graz, retail establishments are pretty well closed Sunday, frustrating, since we found a fascinating store for "trachten", or traditional garb, among others, that we would have liked to look into--). Since they all seemed busy and we felt somewhat pressed for time, we opted instead for eating at a Wurstel stand in the town hall square, and had a very good
bauernwurst (me) and frankfurter (Georgie). We also got some very nice gelato at the next stand over, and bought a bottle of pumpkin-seed oil, a local product, at a fruit stand.

We made time to visit the Schlossberg, the town-dominating hill that once held the city's castle. Being by this time somewhat footsore, we elected not to walk UP the 400+ steps to the Clock tower, but instead took a clever elevator that goes up the center of the hill for a mere 60 cents each. There we admired the views, and gingerly climbed the winding steps DOWN the cliff side before making our way back to the train station.

Night fell during the train trip home, although we did get some fine views of sunset on the mountainsides. Once back to Vienna, we stopped in at the Cafe Vienna for desserts. We were in a chocolate mood, so had hot chocolate (mine with rum in, yum!) to wash down palatschinken with chocolate-hazelnut filling and warm chocolate cake with whipped cream and chocolate sauce before retiring back to the hotel for some reading and bed.
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