Schloss St. Martin is on the outskirts of Graz. We are on the side of a mountain, and though we are not at all far from the city, it is easy for us to feel very much removed from civilization. Yesterday was our first opportunity to explore the city below us, so we all threw on our walking shoes and headed down the hill to catch the bus after lunch.There’s a steep little trail that leads down through the woods from the Schloss. You’re surrounded by trees and slipping down along this damp dirt path–then suddenly you shoot out of the trees and into suburbia. Just about everyone here lives in apartment buildings, since single family homes (even very modest ones) are very expensive. The apartment buildings are often colorful and cozy though, and I imagine they’re quite nice inside.
We caught the bus and rode into the city. The central transportation hub is called Jakominiplatz; this is where all the buses and street cars converge right near the old city center. Wolfgang led us on an enthusiastic little tour of downtown and many things that we simply MUST see before we leave. He and Tracy warned us of a rash of purse-snatchings, gave us some basic directions and set us loose on the city.
Doug, Joann and I set off wandering the city with few specific goals (a yarn store, a short shopping list and a beer garden). Our first stop was one of our most touristy: this floating cafe in the middle of the river where we stopped and had a mid-afternoon beer. We saw some great stuff, found some interesting stores (including an Austrian version of a Big Lots where we checked off some of our shopping lists).
We saw our first ever Smart Car Sport Coupe…which was actually a pretty cute car. We were impressed, though yellow would not have been my first choice.
We snacked a bit through the afternoon. Doug got a currywurst from a street vendor (which he said was amazing), and we all got ice cream cones. We went to the biggest bookstore in town, a four story thing that reminded me very much of a Borders. Though we never did find a phrasebook that suited our needs, Doug and I did buy some little €.98 kids books. They’re great for beginning language students and make fun presents. I bought one on dinosaurs, one about a chicken who saves Christmas somehow and one sticker book about farm animals. We stopped in a really lovely little chocolate shop for a truffle and met a super sweet little old lady who spoke nearly no English. Between our bad German and her bad English we were still able to have a nice little conversation. She gave us each a free little chocolate confection, and we assured her we’d be back. I’ll take pictures next time.
After a nice dinner at a fairly traditional restaurant the sun was starting to reappear after a day of clouds and a few sprinkles of rain. Since the weather was turning, we decided to climb the Schlossberg. This is perhaps the most recognizable landmark in all of Graz–a little bulbous mountain sticking straight up out of the middle of the city. Here’s a picture (not mine):
Now I said we climbed it–that’s not strictly accurate. Doug and Joann saw the dozens and dozens of steps to the top as a challenge, and jogged up. I decided that I didn’t want to arrive half an hour later than them and near death, so I took the lift through the middle of the hill, which actually turned out to be sorta cool anyway. I thought it’d be a total tourist trap, some thing you’d go up, see once, and kind of be done with.
On the contrary, at the top is a pretty extensive bunch of gardens and paths, a couple of restaurants, and of course the bell tower and clock. And while there were a fair number of tourists wandering around, there were also gobs of Grazer youth on blankets sitting drinking wine with friends and just hanging out. There was also a rock concert going on in a covered pavilion in the middle of the mountain, gave the whole thing a feeling of community and fun. And of course, the views were spectacular.