The second biggest Austrian city
Click the photo below to see the map of our Slovenia tour 2010.
Graz (Slovenian Gradec, with around 260.000 inhabitants) is the second biggest Austrian town and the last destination of our Slovenia tour 2010. I thought it would be great, if my girlfriend, who saw towns like Piran, Trieste, Bled and Maribor, also sees another medieval gem in this part of Europe. Graz is not only the hometown of the actor and soon to be former governator Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger, it's also one of the European cities with the best preserved medieval centers, which is even protected by the UNESCO. From the 12th to the early 20th century Graz used to be the capital city of Styria, a duchy within the Austrian monarchy (German Steiermark, Slovenian Štajerska), which included big parts of today's northeastern Slovenia, including my hometown Maribor. For a long time Graz was the economic and cultural center of this part of the world. It also had one of the first universities in the area and many famous Slovenians in the past (and even today) got their education in Graz, that's why the city is also important for the history of Slovenians (more info about Graz here).
FUN FACT: The name "Graz" originates from Old Slovenian "Gradec" (pronounced Grah·dets), which means "Small castle". Interestingly, "Maribor" (my hometown) originates from Old German "Marchburg", which means "Castle in the border region". We should've swapped the names or something. Well, this just proves that in the past Slovenians and Germans used to live on the both sides of the border.
Now you know, why I had to bring my girlfriend there. I'm sorry, this post is photo intensive, but I really like Graz's old town and want to show you all the beautiful spots. See my 4o photos of Graz, Austria's second biggest city:
But we got hungry and wanted to try a hot dog. The lady was very slow, but really friendly. It felt like my grandmother made the dog for me. And it tasted really good.
That's how the tram looks like in Graz.
And then we went to have a nice dessert. It was getting hot and we saw a big queue of people in front of an ice cream shop called Charly Temmel. The common sense says, if there are many people around a certain shop, it has to be good. So we gave it a try.
The ice cream was really yummy! I highly recommend.
The name Castle hill indicates a castle, which doesn't stand here for over 2 centuries. When Napoleon's army came to Graz in the early 19th century, they destroyed the old castle, but the citizens offered money in exchange to keep the Clock tower and Glockenturm (Bell tower) intact. The French invaders agreed and today the two towers are famous landmarks of the city.
The whole area was lovely, however we couldn't stay here too long, the sky was getting gray and I suggested that we leave the top and go back down and home. I feared a storm.
Graz is definitely worth a visit. Even if your main destination is Slovenia, go for a day trip to Austria and visit this city. It's clean and very beautiful. Compared to Maribor, it attracts a lot of foreign immigrants, be it from ex Yugoslavia, Turkey, Africa or Asia. It will give you the feeling of being in a big cosmopolitan city, but with a small town atmosphere. However, compared to Vienna, Graz is a small town, so don't expect too much. Compared to Maribor, Graz is a big city.