Sommer Spaziergang

We are at the height of summer now in Graz.  It’s hot in the days (high 70’s to mid-80’s), and often humid.   Colorful flowers adorn all the plazas and hang over the balconies of the buildings.  Thunderstorms appear frequently in the late afternoon or evening, sometimes accompanied by hail!  Still, most days are glorious with bright blue sky and sunshine.



We spent one day with ‘interesting skies’ (that is, looking like it might rain at any moment) walking around and seeing some of the sights of Graz we hadn’t really looked closely at yet.


Come along!


At the end of one of the downtown Graz passageways is the Landhaus.  It’s termed the ‘Renaissance Jewel’, one of the prime examples of secular high renaissance in central Europe. Created by/for the Protestant nobility, the Landhaus has a central courtyard with well.  The well is of cast bronze and dates from 1590.  The little statue is modern, although he kind of looks like Krampus‎.


The landhaus in Graz



love those Renaissance arches and decorations (downspout)

Walking away from the Landhaus, one soon comes to the River Mur.  Several bridges cross the river and most are bicycle-friendly.  We borrowed bikes in Graz but didn’t use them much, as it was difficult to get up and down our hill with the skinny tires and just as daunting to navigate the streetcar tracks!


In the middle of the Mur sits a curious feature – the Murinsel.    It’s on a floating island (but anchored), and is a restaurant accessible from either side.  It also features a performance area and playground for kids.


Crossing the Mur; the Murinsel


Here it is at night.


photo by: Taxiarchos228 from


On the other side of the Mur is the Mariahilfekirche, a parish celebrating their 400th year of existence as a parish church, which places its origin at 1611!   The baroque church is also the home to the Franciscan Kloster – with a beautiful and playful courtyard and inside, the crypts of the Eggenberg family.  We often see brown-robed Franciscan brothers walking around the city.  The original Franciscans actually arrived in Graz around the 13th century.


crypts of the Eggenbergs, Mariahilfekirche outside, statue of St. Francis


Mariahilfekirche courtyard, plaza with schlossberg in the background, interior of church

Not far from Mariahilfe is Graz’ modern art museum, the Kunsthaus.  It was dedicated  in 2003, as part of the activities when Graz was the European Capital of Culture.   The Murinsel also dates from that time.  Unfortunately, we will miss the opening of the Ai Weiwei exhibition in September 2011 !


The Kunsthaus, and Jakominiplatz at the height of summer



Graz is a really walkable city.  We’ve trekked all over the downtown area and through the university areas, plus our around where we live.  We’re still finding out about other parts of town.  Our friends, Gernot and Christina, walked us to dinner the other night – for about an hour and a half!   We met them at Jakominiplatz (downtown), went through the city park, with its fabulous fountain, and sweet smelling trees, past the university stadium (where a sports fest was going on—it lasted until 4:30 am the next morning).  We ended up, actually, more on our side of town, at a semi-rural gasthaus known for great beer and Styrian backhandl.  Then we walked home.  I hope all this walking will counteract the food and the beer!  We don’t have much time left to enjoy it!


In Grazerstadtpark: fountain, trees, and monument to Kepler's planetengesetze (planetary laws); also a large tree on our trek to the restaurant (upper right)


March(ing) into April

Spring is in full swing here in Graz.  The woodland flowers are blooming all around us; in the major plazas, tulips and crocus and other bulb-driven plants are appearing as if overnight (actually, they are –planted by gardening crews each spring, not springing forth from their winter sleep!); daffodils adorn private yards and maybe best of all, forsythia is turning on the lights in a significant show of flaming yellow!  I love forsythia – it was my Mom’s favorite spring flower and we had a wild and crazy plant out in our front yard when I was growing up in Virginia.

I am watching the forsythia in our front yard here in Graz – it’s a little ‘behind’ because it’s higher up, I guess, and I will post a photo when it’s ‘ready’. Meanwhile, this is what Jakominiplatz in central Graz looks like now:

flowers in Jakominiplatz

Last week was a quiet week – no major concerts or events, except for Bill’s talk in the Seminar Series his department at KFU/TU sponsors.   It was one of the first really warm spring abends (the late afternoon time) and students were enjoying the out of doors, a sight you would see on any university campus!

students relaxing on warm Spring day - KFU Graz


The talk went great, held in an old lecture hall in one of the buildings at KFU.  With each footfall on the worn marble steps I wondered about the history of the hall and of the students and faculty who walked here so long ago.   The university itself dates back to 1585, founded by Archduke Karl II of Inner Austria.  After some permutations, (including a stint as a lycee and a  medical school) it was reopened in 1827 by Emperor Franz I.  The main (old) buildings that exist on campus today were inaugurated in 1895.  Bill’s office is NOT in one of the old buildings.

Institute of Earth Sciences Building at KFU - old water well in foreground

The University hit a low point in 1938, when 17 percent of the teachers, the Nobel Prize winners Otto Loewi, Viktor Hess and Erwin Schrödinger among them, as well as almost two thirds of the students were ousted and expelled for “racist”, religious or political reasons.  Nearly 27,000 students are enrolled today.

The talk went well, attended by about 60 people – students, faculty, the deans of the two programs that are jointly sponsoring this Fulbright appointment.  The hall itself was old also:  long wooden benches arranged in rows, with a place to write in front.  Everything wooden! If not, how else would (no pun intended) we be able to knock on the ‘desk’ tops when the lecture was over?  (No applause in Austrian classrooms; if the students liked the lecture or class, they knock on the table or desk tops as a sign of their respect!)

Lecture Hall where Bill gave his talk - March 29 2011

I certainly knew I was in a science classroom, though!


Bill has some great colleagues here.  One of them is originally from California and is married to an Austrian woman.

Bill with colleague from his department

After the talk, there were lovely refreshments!  Out came a huge variety of Brötchen (a slice of bread topped with cheese, egg, different cuts of meat including sliced blood sausage, salami, fish, vegetables), local wines from east of Graz (white from just east and red from Burgenland, which borders Hungary), several kinds of beer, and juices to be mixed with water (your choice of stille or mit gas).  It was a great opportunity to meet some of the faculty, and some of the spouses as well.

after the talk - the refreshments


Graz is a lovely place to walk and we spent an evening  last week,  just walking around downtown, after bopping into Moser Buchhandlung to purchase, believe it or not, a Spanish-English dictionary.  There were choices in nearly every major language of the world, and only ONE Sp-En dictionary.  We got the last one!  As we walked we noticed that now all the restaurants and cafes have their platztischen (plaza tables) out, and the strolling musicians are there to accompany diners.

We passed the maroni stand,   (John, this one is for you!)

maroni (chestnuts) - about the size of a shooter marble or just a little larger

and the Dom, where the sun was glinting off the angel’s ‘crown’,

Graz Dom - angels in sunlight

and in one of the many courtyards, found the center for the Styrian government (Graz being the seat of Steinmark or Styria).


inner courtyard - Styria government offices

Outside, in a tree, another sure sing of spring!



The weather was so warm on Saturday that we made for our favorite local restaurant Hausrl im Wald, aiming for dinner on the patio.

on the patio at Hausrl im Wald

the 'chestnut' tree


This is a chestnut tree, but we think its a HORSE chestnut and not a true chestnut from which the maroni come.  Its buds signal flowers appearing soon and the arrangement of the branches looks very much like the horse chestnut in our neighbor’s yard at home.

ready to burst forth!

this is the bark


We inhaled enjoyed our dinner,  mostly because we had not eaten since 7:00 AM due to an unexpected trip out of town!

More on that to come!

Thanks for reading!

a “bad” day

I had my first  „bad“ day today.

Today was the Fastnacht Carnival which ran from in front of the Opera toward Jakomimi Platz in Graz.  We were told about the Canival (or parade) by the wonderful and helpful secretary/administrative assistant, Annie, at TU.  It’s a briefer, yet no less exuberant, version of the Mardi Gras in New Orelans.  Here, there are lots of floats, groups and individuals dressed in elaborate costumes, a king and queen of the Carnival, bands, dancers, acrobats, machines that continuously spray the crowd with confetti, and maybe best of all….. donuts!   Graz is a donut capitol, judging from the numbers we see next to the rye bread in the stores.  I am glad to see that people here take the admonition of the gras in Mardi Gras seriously.  The donuts–a.k.a. Berliners– are handed out like candy is thrown on Missoula parade routes, and of course, there is beer.

I was so looking forward to getting down in the midst of it all, taking photographs and taking in the flavor of the culture, and naturlich, a donut (or two).

Bill headed off for his FIRST CLASS this morning, and I browsed around on the internet for cultural events and also the route for the parade, which I am happy to say I found at the Kleine Zeitung (small paper) which seems to hold all the knowledge of Graz on a very well informed webpage!   Kleine Zeitung is also the primary sponsor of the parade!

By the time I staightened the apartment, took  a shower and got dressed,  ate an early lunch (discovered too late that the jar of Dijon mustard was really HORSERADISH mustard (gag), and got the dishwasher going, it was later than I had planned, but there was still plenty of time to jump on the streetcar and make the parade.  So I thought.

Wrong.  Went to open the door, which is always locked, either way, and found there was no key.  Oops.  It WAS there, last night.    Check the purse where I keep the key when I am out.  Not there.  Empty the purse and check again.  Nada. Which could only mean that Bill took my key, as well as his own, to let himself out, locking the door behind him.  I was trapped.

Texted Bill, after figuring out how to text on the unfamiliar phone.  He called back and said he had both keys, but at this point it was too late to make the parade, should he even attempt to come back to the apartment before his class, which seemed silly.

So what to do when locked in?  (jumping down from the second floor, from the terrace didn’t seem ‚bright‘)   I remembered that somewhere in the online article about the parade there was a mention of alternatives if you couldn’t find your way down in person.  Could it be on TV?   Ja!  The television system we have here at the apartment is nothing short of amazing.  Not only are there myriad Austrian channels, but also BBC, WorldCNBC and all-sport channels.  (We are astonished, too, at the world-wide syndication of programming—Germany’s Top Model, Dancing Stars, shopping channels, and so on, in addition to all the programs you’d find on US TV, including Glee, albeit dubbed in German.)  So I started clicking through the channels and finally found the parade – LIVE!

Took some photos with the camera of what I was seeing on television.  All the  images have little lines going through them! .  Does this remind me of the Ed Sullivan Show days or what? (yes I know I am giving away my age, but those were important times!)

So here for your viewing pleasure is the Carnival in Graz. (photos at  bottom of post)    I had planned to get this up on the internet sooner, but when I went to connect, found I could not.  NO  IDEA WHY.  Did the normal thing and shut the computer down and started it again, to no avail.  Looked at all the settings but they looked fine.  Did I mention I was having a bad day?  We also discovered that we left behind the AAA batteries for our computer wireless mice, and now mine is alerting to an 8% battery power left.

Here’s what I have learned from this day.

  1. What I consider a ‚bad‘ day is nowhere near as ‚bad‘ as some people have it in the world. Nowhere near.
  2. When things don’t go ‚right‘ in the way I consider ‚right‘, it’s time to pause and reflect on what it is within myself that is triggering those particular buttons.
  3. It’s time to step out onto the terrace, look out at the bluest sky imaginable, gaze on the beautiful tree rooted so solidly to the earth,  listen to the bird song and breathe, giving thanks for even being alive.

the big tree outside our apartment

This tree is so big, I can’t even fit it all into one shot.  There is probably a reason for that. 🙂

It’s a good thing Ash Wednesday is tomorrow.

Photos via the ORF channel (hope I don’t break any copyright laws, here!)

general view of the parade, thank you ORF TV


this must be the King and Queen of the Carnival


not sure who these folks are but they look 'official' (see medals around the neck of the man)


The crowd is as colorful as the paraders!

Drill Team, one of many entrants whose outfits were coordinated!

The Donuts!

Part of the Polar Express Float

Lots of "para-military" floats

These women not sure...witches? Whatever, they were covered with silly string!

One of the bands


And of course, Brazilian Dancers!