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Gary: Graz, Austria
A Tear Through Graz: Jousting Between Old and New
Story and photos by Gary Singh (except where noted)

Styrian Armoury iin Graz, Austria
The Styrian Armoury in Graz, Austria, © Graz Tourismus

storehouse of 16th- and 17th-century weapons. On four floors. Thirty-two-thousand pieces of equipment surround me, enough to arm 4000 soldiers. Match-lock and wheel-lock muskets, cannons, helmets and inlaid-ivory pistols for the headmen. Cannons on the first floor, tournament dress on the third. The oldest pieces date from 1520.

two sets of armor at the Styrian Armoury in Graz
The Styrian Armoury in Graz, Austria, © Graz Tourismus

Among them, a 10-foot wooden lance hangs above me. What a place: Torso breastplates and jousting paraphernalia sorted out uniformly on wooden racks, almost like produce in a supermarket. The ancient helmets came fitted with sliding visors so a soldier could give a military salute to the general. Most everything is made of Styrian iron.

Bullet dents highlight some of the breastplates, but not from battle. They were test shots fired to make sure the armor worked. The Ottoman invasion was 1480, I'm told. For the next 200 years, money was then invested in defense, in the form of town walls and fortresses to fight off the Ottomans and the Magyars.

I'm on a tear through Graz, in the world's largest historical armoury. Oak flooring and stone walls contain all the stories.

Outside, the Styrian Panther, the insignia of Graz, appears wherever I roam – in courtyards, parliamentary halls, on the façades of cafés and bridges. The color green represents the surrounding forests.

the Styrian Panther, the insignia of Graz, at a door in the city
The Styrian Panther looms large in Graz

Contrary to other parts of Austria, Graz exudes a Mediterranean vibe. The weather comes from the Adriatic. Inner courtyards appear everywhere, reminding me of Italy, only a few hours away by car. Roofing made from red beavertail tile blankets the top of the city, also recalling Italy. From the main square, I see a mix of Baroque, Renaissance, Gothic and Stucco. Much Italian influence, I observe, with a progression of different eras of stucco. From here, one can see exactly how stucco developed over the years. On one building, the gods of Greco-Roman mythology seem to look right at me.

1742 frescoes on a building in Graz by Baroque artist Johann Mayer
In 1742, Baroque artist Johann Mayer painted frescoes inspired by
Greco-Roman mythology.

looking down a street in Graz
Looking down on the city

I am in contrast. A few examples: Green spaces and green ideas comprise fifty percent of the city. A Franciscan monastery features solar panels all over its roof, just to cite one example. New supplements old, rather than replacing old.

Hotel Wiesler, where Arnold Schwarzenegger usually stays, features two murals riffing on the Birth of Venus, two different takes on the Botticelli classic. One exists to the far left of the entrance, while the other adorns the far right wall, both serving as backdrops for different function areas. In the lobby, old disco LPs are for sale, intentionally part of the decor, oddly enough. New supplements old.

As I continue, I think: Eighty zillion cities from Berlin to Bakersfield claim to be "where old meets new," but somehow in Graz it actually works. For the Graz Art Museum, British architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier fabricated a deep blue creature, not unlike an H.P. Lovecraft monster, and stretched it out along the right bank of the River Mur, right smack between low suburban houses. Urban jousts against suburban, but in complete harmony.

the Kunsthaus Graz or Graz Art Museum with its creative design by architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier
The Kunsthaus Graz © Graz Tourismus

I'm on a roll and it's easy to eavesdrop on a warm sunny afternoon. Residents bask in the weather as if they haven't seen the sun in twenty years. Everyone is outdoors. No one seems to be working. The dialect of German here sounds like it's being spoken with an Italian accent, exhibiting the rhythms and cadences of a Romance language.

I discover more as I roam: Fifty thousand students across four universities comprise a significant portion of the populace. The Universalmuseum Joanneum, 200 years old, is an arts/university complex that somehow includes every building in one entire neighborhood: the main library, museums, galleries, convention space and outdoor courtyards--sort of like a miniature version of the Museums Quartier in Vienna. Graz is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a UNESCO City of Design, making it a member of the Creative Cities Network. And 12.5% of the entire workforce can be attributed to the creative industry. So if I eavesdrop in a cafe and write down what everyone says, they probably won't mind.

cafes along a street in Graz at night
The Mediterranean vibe rings true here, © Graz Tourismus

It's easy to navigate the streets here. Sporgasse, originally an eleventh-century trade route, corrals me through the Altstadt. I can still see copper gargoyles on top of the buildings, originally functioning as pre-gutter-era technology for rainwater dispersal. Nowadays the buildings have gutters but the gargoyles remain. Again, a harmonious joust between urban and suburban. Old and new. I relish in the contrast.

Later, even more inner courtyards await. In older centuries, the cheapest way to fabricate cobblestone streets was to use stones from the River Mur. So they're called Mur Dumplings or "Murnockerl."

inner courtyard in Graz
Graz features over fifty inner courtyards

The cafés are still hopping as I head back to grab the final Vienna-bound train. Students, artists, businessmen, priests and fashion slaves all continue to mill about. At the end of my quick tear through Graz, I stop and order a sausage from a street vendor. The jousting is over.

sausage stand in Graz
Creative sausage stands are aplenty

Related Articles:
Waltzing Through Vienna; Vienna: The City that Endures; My Vienna, My Native Cuisine; Salzburg, Austria; Innsbruck, Austria


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Let Gary know what you think about his traveling adventure.

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Your tea adventures are especially interesting because I've always associated tea with British etiquette or a bevy of women wearing dainty victorian costumes and sipping tea with their little pinky sticking out. To see Tea from a man's perspective brings new light in a man's psyche. I've been among the many silent admirers of your writings for a long time here at Traveling Boy. Thanks for your very interesting perspectives about your travels. Keep it up! --- Rodger, B. of Whittier, CA, USA


Ed Boitano's travel blog/review
Eugene Chaplin Introduces Chaplin's World Museum in Vevey, Switzerland

Charlie Chaplin and the Chaplin Museum
Lake Geneva/ Matterhorn Region and Switzerland Tourism recently blew into Los Angeles with the most esteemed guest, Eugene Chaplin. A man of remarkable lineage, he is the fifth child of Oona O'Neill and Sir Charles Spencer "Charlie" Chaplin, the grandson of playwright Eugene O'Neill, the brother of Geraldine Chaplin and father of actress/model Kiera Chaplin.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
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a dolmen at The Burren

The Palladian Traveler ventures back to the days of fearless Celtic warriors to search for some "stones to take you home" as he files his latest dispatch from the monochromatic moonscape known as The Burren.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Buckingham Palace – It's THE Most Popular Tour in Great Britain (Part 2 of a 2-Part Series)

Buckingham Palace exit
Is it more momentous for a Brit to do the Buckingham Palace tour than say an American or indeed any other nationality? Yes, I know that's an odd question, but if you grow up – as I did – in London back in the 1950s, getting inside Buckingham Palace was the stuff of dreams. Hence my surprise at touring BP in 2005.

Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
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aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
The first thing you notice is the fragrance. The intoxicating perfume of the tiare flower announces to your senses that you are in a magical place, overflowing with tropical vegetation and soothing trade winds. It is the same fragrance that the English seamen on the HMS Bounty also first encountered; but they came, not for flowers, but for breadfruit, intended as a new food staple for their slaves in the West Indies.

Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
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Christmas card
"On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" goes the song. Robert Goulet sang it and Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis, too, and it surely comes to mind when you stand on a bluff in the Luberon of Provence and stare across at the little hill village of Gordes. The view is the best part; the village's interior itself is not dramatic and stands as a warning of what contemporary popularity can do to the simple homes of 12th century working people.

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Venice street musicians
Walking home to our apartment in Venice, we share a wave through the window with the owner of Baba, our local osteria. Leaving for a day of sightseeing, a cup of my favorite pistachio gelato awaits me despite the early hour. At the Bar Dugole, we relax after a day of sightseeing and order the regular: vodka for my husband and Amaretto for me.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Traveling with Beautiful Boots and a Bison Backpack

Bison Redwood Backpack

People often asked about my favorite travel apparel and gear. This happened to me at the airport recently. One question came as I was putting back on my clothes after going through the TSA checkpoint striptease. Before leaving the area, I heard a soft voice say, "hey, I really like your boots. Where did you get them?"

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a scene from the documentary 'My Hero Brother'

I just spent five days attending the Santa Barbara Film Festival and for the most part, the features, animated shorts, and documentaries were quite professional and compelling. That said, "My Hero Brother," a documentary that was particularly outstanding, told the remarkable and inspiring story about a group of Down syndrome young men and women who go on a two-week trek through the Himalayas with their non-Down syndrome siblings.

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