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Graz, Austria
Graz, Austria
Graz, Austria
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Graz

Thursday, February 24, 2005
Brendon visits Arnie's home town in Austria … a wonderful mix of history, medieval and renaissance times.

Graz is Austria's second-largest city and capital of the province of Styria. Romans, Slavs and Bavarians were all involved in the shaping of Graz, leaving a wonderful mix of historical artefacts. In medieval and Renaissance times Vienna housed the residences of the Habsburg monarchy and the old town is one of central Europe's best preserved. The streets surrounding the city centre stretch out in all directions and are connected by small alleys.

The little town has had its share of dark times — invasions by locusts, the Black Death, Turks, Hungarians and much bombing and devastation during WWII. In 1784, after the Turkish attack, Graz became one of Europe's first cities to dismantle its city walls.

In 1438 Emperor Frederick III ordered the construction of a Gothic cathedral which served as a city parish and court church.

The city's original university was founded in 1585 by Archduke Karl and again in 1827 by Emperor Franz — hence it is the Karl-Franzens University.

The city is very colourful, with beautiful green parks, red roofs and the blue River Mur, all dominated by the Schlossberg rising above it.

A 30-minute walk through a park and a climb up the 474 metres to Schlossberg's top will reward you with wonderful views. The narrow and steep Sporgasse winds its way up along the foot of the Schlossberg and is an idyllic street. You may prefer to take the funicular, which has been tootling up and down the mountain since 1894. The walk down the WWI-era stone-hewn steps is pleasant.

The fortress of Schlossberg was destroyed by Napoleon in 1809 but it has some precious remnants, such as the clock tower and vaulted chambers, which have been restored and very cleverly transformed into an open-air theatre.

The clock tower is a highlight. The clock has been operating since 1712 and still has its original parts. It is the emblem of Graz.

The Landhaus is a masterpiece of Italian Renaissance architecture by the 16th-century master Domenico dell'Allio. Its exquisite arcaded courtyard is perfect for concerts and open-air performances.

Next door is Landeszeughaus, one of Graz's most prized attractions, with a collection of more than 30,000 examples of historical weaponry and suits of armour, some beautifully engraved, some crude and intimidating.

The nearby parish church, Stadtpfarrkirche, is certainly worth a visit and has some examples of very beautiful leadlight.

Back on ground level, the house at the corner of the Sporgasse and the main square gives a perfect example of baroque stucco. The area has been a busy centre since the 13th century and today along Sackstrasse are many shops selling tempting antiques.

Hofgasse has been a family-run bakery since 1569, with a 100-year-old sculpted façade with inlaid woodwork.

An absolute must is an 11am, 3pm or 6pm visit to Glockenspielplatz. This is when the old clock's windows open and a wooden couple in traditional costume appears and turns to the bells' chimes.

The Burg is most impressive and is the current seat of the Styrian provincial government. It is particularly attractive thanks to its 1499 Gothic double winding staircase and medieval stonework.

To the south of the main square is the town hall or rathaus, the third to stand on the spot. A bronze statue of Archduke Johann presides over the square and market stalls.

The Pfeifer Zum Kirchenwirt, the city's Best Western Hotel, is 300 years old and near the towering Baroque basilica of Mariatrost.

The Pfeifer family has been attending to guests' needs at the hotel for three generations, over 80 years.

In amongst all its history, architecture, survival and beauty, Graz has another claim. It is the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger, something some residents are proud to talk about, though for many it is a cringe factor. Whatever — Arnie was born there and there are places named after him, along with plenty of other reminders!

Location

200km south-west of Vienna, Austria's capital.

Cost

Best Western Kirchenwirt rooms start at around $225 a night.

Austrian Airlines flies daily to Vienna and have put together a special fare for Getaway viewers. Return economy airfares, per person, are $1399 ex Sydney and Melbourne (plus $272 and $257 tax respectively), $1549 ex Brisbane and Adelaide (plus $321 and $301 tax respectively) and $1619 ex Perth (plus $290 tax). For sale until March 28, 2005, for travel between October 4 and November 11, 2005, and January 17 and February 24, 2006.
Please note that the prices listed are valid at the time of filming.

More information

Austrian National Tourist Office
36 Carrington Street, Sydney 2000
Ph: (02) 9299 3621
Fax: (02) 9299 3808
www.austria-tourism.at

Best Western
Ph: 131 779
www.bestwestern.com.au

Travellers should be "in date" for standard Australia and New Zealand immunisation schedules. Depending on time of year of travel and exact destination, other health precautions and preventions may be recommended and are best discussed with your doctor. For further information, visit www.welltogo.com.au

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