The rain and snow forecast for Prague this weekend meant our holiday day trip plans changed again. As the master family travel planner I’ve always got a Plan B or two at the ready, so off to Graz we went. Clayton Theodore didn’t seem to mind that we left him snoozing on the sofa.
We enjoyed the sun in our eyes for an entire 30 minutes of the drive!
Friday was the Austria National Day (like our Independence Day) and very gray so Graz was quiet, save for small groups of tourists. A former castle city, Graz held the usual fascinations of a large cathedral (and mausoleum for Emperor Maximilian I, below)…
…the only remaining castle gate, dating to 1490, two years before Europeans even thought to wander across the pond to the New World;
and a really impressive double spiral staircase in one of the castle wings.
Graz’ Hauptplatz (main square) is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Given that the designation is as common as McDonald’s here in Europe, we know not to expect Taj Mahal-scale grandeur. The rows of Austrian flags on display were pretty, though.
The Hauptplatz has many buildings with beautiful facades, one of which houses a Swarovski store. The Swarovski factory near Innsbruck is most definitely on my list of day trips.
Our destination of choice for lunch was a tiny Russian restaurant in the keller of a building just off the Hauptplatz. Jana and Galina, the proprietors, brought us borscht and plates of mushroom and beef pirozchki, and hearty Russian beer, just the fortification we needed for the rest of the afternoon.
Graz is also home to Schloss Eggenberg. Austria has many, many palaces and castles; some are ruins just worthy of a drive-by photo snap, some are enormous fortresses, some are refurbished and so are very tourist-frequented. We are so spoiled here with castles at every turn that we have become somewhat selective over where we stop.
Schloss Eggenberg sits against the (foggy) backdrop of the Styrian “PreAlps.” “Pre-Alps” sounds a little like name-dropping to attract tourists if you ask me. I guess, then, we live in the Wiener Pre- “Pre-Alps?”
Balthasar Eggenberg was a Financier to the Imperial Court. In addition to the lovely staterooms and grand gardens, the estate also had the requisite trappings of art, a chapel, a grotto, a fascinating coin collection, and so forth. Being patrons of the sciences and the praxis of philosophy, as the Eggenbergs were, their estate was also “uniquely situated with time.” There were exactly 365 windows in the palace; a planetary room; exactly 24 rooms on the second story, and so forth. The palace was occupied by Allies and so of course bombed, but has been since wonderfully restored, befitting its title of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Eggenbergs were somewhat eccentric in their day and enjoyed the presence of peacocks and peahens in their gardens, who still today roam freely. We most appreciated their eccentricity.