Chestnuts, books and more music

If you are wondering why no blog entries for a while, we were grossly preoccupied the last few weeks trying to figure out what to do over the Austrian University System Spring Break, which is coming up mid-April to the end of April. Yes, it is for 2 weeks, only we don’t have all that time available to us because of a previously scheduled Fulbright meeting elsewhere in Austria. After much reading and trying to wend our way through the maze of German and Spanish websites (sorry IE and Google, your browsers definitely do NOT translate everything and Firefox, not at all!) we finally decided on 6 nights in Spain, in the Andalucía area (southern Spain).  We will let you know how this turns out since we realized after we had booked the flight that this was over part of Semana Santa (Holy Week) which is a BIG DEAL in Spain.  Researching the options at the local bookstore was delightful, actually, and we were very glad to see that this giant bookstore in Graz was very crowded! Literacy (and the non-electronic kind, too) rules!


Moser Buchhandlung (literally Bookhandler) - even soft chairs for browsing!


Dogs go everywhere in Austria. Did I mention that before?

I wonder what he wants to read? He's in the wrong section for puppy training!


There was also a great kids’ section (with even a kids’ play area), but don’t tell Amy and David I went there I was never there. Also a cafe where you could also read and enjoy a treat.  I wonder where Barnes and Noble got their ideas?

We popped into a few other stores on Herrengasse, which has the most expensive storefronts in Graz.  Also the coolest at which to window shop.   (those shoes a while back?  On Herrengasse)

I bought a packet of gift cards for way too much money in a Paper Store, which is the oldest one of its kind in Graz. But I was pleased because I did the entire transaction auf Deutsch.  I think the lone clerk there was being too kind.


the oldest paper store in Graz

We also learned there that it is good etiquette not to bring your wet umbrella into a store and drip it all over the counter or floor.  Receptacles by the doors are placed there for that reason, bitte.

My favorite storefront, after the shoes, is this one:

ready for Easter! I don't think they are Fabergé eggs but I do want to check more closely! Not sure I can say 'just looking' in German!


On St. Patrick’s Day we tried to celebrate.  I couldn’t find corned beef in Graz, although all the ingredients for Irish Soda Bread were at hand.   There are actually 3 Irish Bars in Graz, each one claiming to be ‘authentic’.  We found all three, but by the time we arrived, others with the same idea had been there for hours already.  They were packed, smokey and loud.  And the beer was green.


the crowd outside the bar on St. Patrick's Day- even more inside!

another bar, with outside seating on the plaza--a little too cool for us and no food!


Foregoing the idea of celebrating the wearing o’ the green, we walked around looking for somewhere interesting to eat.  Graz has a huge network of small streets, courtyards and plazas.  We passed by the Glockenspiel and found the characters were performing!


Dancers dancing at 6 PM


Of all places, we ended up at a Mexican restaurant, eating shrimp in mole sauce, and fajitas, drinking Czech beer.




Tijuana Restaurant - Menu in German, though


Last Sunday, March 20, we took ourselves to yet another beautiful musical event.  This one was in the Stadtpfarrkirche, one of the first churches I mentioned in previous blogs.  (It’s the one with the stained glass windows that include as Jesus’ tormentors Hitler and Mussolini.)

The event was the Graz Opera Youth Choir/Singing School (Graz Oper Singschul’ ) singing the Stabat Mater accompanied by ‘original’ instruments.  We can’t decide which was the more transporting sound:  the timbre of the baroque violone (which is a double bass) and violin-cellos or the sweet, pure voices of the teenagers and younger children singing.  Have a listen and you decide:

Instrumental introduction to Stabat Mater

Singschul’s first bars of singing the Stabat Mater


Unfortunately, this was not the night to discover I’d left the memory card in the computer!  BIG mistake!


Singschul' for Oper Graz

the children were very attentive to the tuning of the 6 instruments, all individually tuned



Near the church, just off Jakominiplatz, is a stand that sells chestnuts, or in German, Maroni.  You see these stands all over the city.  Chestnuts roasting on almost an open fire, drum,15 to 20 Euro cents a chestnut.  We ran into two fellows who were from Canada, living in Graz for 2 years now.  They figured only a tourista would be taking photos of a Maroni Stand and struck up a conversation!



The Maroni Stand (no angels or visions here)



Want to know what else Austrians do with Maroni?  Here is what:



Kastanienoberg Torte


This little slice of heaven had a chestnut -whipped cream filling over a dense cake of something – maybe ground chestnuts – and was topped by a delicious dark chocolate with just a hint of something alcoholic.  We imbibed at the same restaurant (Hauserl im Wald) that’s become our destination on Sunday strolls.  This was the first dessert we’ve tried there, and at this rate, we are going to have to walk a lot farther!

Maybe even over to Mariatrost, which would be quite the hike!  It was lovely bathed in the late afternoon light.



More on Mariatrost in a future blog!  Stay tuned, and Vielen Dank for reading!