Hello from Graz
By Susanne Pacher
I finally found Internet access here in Graz. Not the easiest thing I have to admit. Had to ask 3 people and finally went to the tourist info who competently directed me to an Internet Cafe.
The last few days have been interesting. The first day my sister-in-law and I took a little tour through my home town of Weiz, and in the 8 years that I haven't been here there has been a lot of change. New buildings, renovations, traffic reorganization. It almost felt like being in a different place.
On Saturday my brother, sister-in-law and I started our little weekend tour to Slovenia and Italy. We drove on the highway to Austria's border with Slovenia (only about 45 minutes from my home town). Then we continued on for about another hour and 15 minutes to the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana. We parked the car by the river and took a little walk to the central market. The place was just packed and you can buy anything from fresh bread to meat, sausages, fish, vegetables, fruit, flowers. People were out in full force, even shopping for candles for the annual trip to the cemetery. After all it was the weekend of All Saints Day and people take their cemetery duties very seriously in Central Europe.
We walked through the old town with its cobble-stoned streets and then started the steady climb up to the castle hill. At the top is an old castle with a renovated tower that can be accessed. You get to the top through a really interesting winding staircase and once outside, there is a beautiful 360 degree view of the surrounding area, including the limestone outcrops of the Julian Alps.
After a brief lunch in a local pizzeria we continued our drive towards the Slovenian coast. I couldn't keep my eyes open since I was so tired, so I missed a good part of interesting landscape. The Postojna mountain pass is always interesting and after that we got close to the Adriatic coast. We drove by the Slovenian towns of Koper, Strunjan and Izola and finally ended up in Piran.
Piran (formerly Pirano - in Italian) was a town that has changed hands many times among many people. Most of its core was built by the Venetians and on the hill above town there is a clock tower whose style is very reminiscent of the Campanile in Venice. Beside the harbour is a beautiful square with houses dating back several centuries. We checked into the Hostel-Hotel Garni Val, very similar to a youth hostel, where we could stay for Euro 20/night. My sister-in-law and I stayed in a room with 4 beds (2 of them bunkbeds), and washrooms/showers were in the hallway.
We went on a beautiful stroll through town, again nice cobble-stoned streets, the weather was gorgeous, we had blue sky with about 20 degrees. Of course we climbed the belltower which gave us a beautiful 360 degree view of town and the Adriatic coast to the north, all the way past Trieste. I almost got a heart attack when the bells of the clock tower started ringing right next to my ears. They were unbelievably loud.
We had a nice dinner in the evening in a restaurant called "Delfin". My brother of course had fish, one of the local specialities. I ended up picking up a stomach virus and on Sunday and Monday I was dealing with some very unpleasant symptoms. Sunday morning we checked out and continued our journey towards Italy.
After about 30 minutes of driving and basically no border check at the Slovenian-Italian border we ended up in Trieste, a city of 270,000 people, and a major industrial and port city at the north end of the Adriatic. Trieste used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and the architecture is very reminiscent of many Austrian cities. We visited the main square with the City Hall, checked out the "Canale Grande", an outlet of the sea that stretches into the city.
On the harbourfront there was some sort of exhibition by the Italian Navy, the Military and various police organizations. 3 war ships were parked in the harbour and apparently people were able to go on tour inside the war ships. All sorts of military and police vehicles were parked in the harbour area and sailors, soldiers and policemen and women were available to answer questions, pose for photos etc.
After our short stop in Trieste we continued our Northern Italian tour and stopped in the town of Cividale, a medieval town that was originally built by the Germanic tribe of the Langobards. It also has an old town core with ancient churches, narrow cobble-stoned roads and the most famous sight is the "Tempietto", the little temple that was built many hundreds of years ago by the Langobards.
After lunch (where I couldn't eat any of the Italian delicacies due to my stomach problems) we continued our way home through the Italian Val Canale, past Udine, Tolmezzo towards the Austrian border. It had been raining for several days and it was still pouring and all the mountain streams were very close to overflowing. Waterfalls overflowing with water were shooting down from all the mountains and the major river, the Tagliamento, looked like it was going to flood the area in the very near future.
About 3.5 hours later we finally arrived back home in Weiz, after driving through the pouring rain. Sunday night and yesterday I had to take it easy since my stomach was still bothering me a great deal. Today I finally took off, picked up my rental car at the airport in Graz and I have spent the last 2 or 3 hours rediscovering my university town. I checked out the castle hill (Schlossberg) in the middle of town, walked up to the Uhrturm (clock tower), the symbol of Graz, and looked at all the medieval remains of the old fortress castle on top of the hill. I also walked through the town's centre, across the Hauptplatz (the main square with its market, which also houses City Hall) and finally, after some extended searching, ended up in this Internet cafe.
So the last few days have been quite exciting, Austria, Slovenia, Italy. The beauty of Europe are the small distances between all the various places. A perfect place for a sightseeing aficionado.
About The Author
Susanne Pacher is the publisher of a website called Travel and Transitions (http://www.travelandtransitions.com). Travel and Transitions deals with unconventional travel and is chock full of advice, tips, real life travel experiences, interviews with travellers and travel experts, insights and reflections, cross-cultural issues, contests and many other features. You will also find stories about life and the t-ransitions that we face as we go through our own personal life-long journeys.
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The travel story with photos is published at Travel and Transitions - Travel Stories(http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/hello_magog_2.htm).