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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.

* * * * *

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
Journey to the Bottom of the Globe: Exploring the White Continent of Antarctica

nguins on  shore as writer's cruise ship passes by, Antarctica
As a travel journalist I am constantly asked what are some of my favorite travel experiences. The list is endless. But there is one destination that seems to raise the most eyebrows. That destination is a cruise to Antarctica. Sadly, that cruise line I was on is no more, but today there is a plethora of cruise lines that offer similar packages. Here's a look back at my Antarctica cruise.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: Food, Fun and Falconry at Ashford Castle (Dispatch #18)

sunset at Galway Bay

The Palladian Traveler soars above the crowd with a gal named Lima, cruises across a lake dotted with hundreds of islands, and feasts like a king in a regal dining room.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Would You Believe She Can Carry 800 (Yes, 800!) People!

Emirates Airbus A-380
As she came around the corner we could not believe how big she was. Massive, and yet incredibly beautiful – almost elegant in fact. Her lines were so symmetrical she seemed to blend into a classic example of astonishing good looks. The other fact that amazed all of us was how quiet she was. We felt sure that with the obvious overwhelming power she evidenced, she'd be extra loud. It's a cliché, but she was as quiet as a church mouse – or "as quiet as dreaming trees."

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Ringo Boitano's travel blog/review
Highway 49 Revisited: Exploring California's Gold Country

aurora borealis lights up the night sky near Fairbanks
In the 1840s, the population of California was only 14,000, but by 1850 more than 100,000 settlers and adventurers had arrived from all over the world – and they came for one reason: gold. James Marshall had discovered the first gold nugget at Sutter’s Mill in El Dorado County, creating the largest gold rush in history.

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Eric Anderson's travel blog/review
Lake Charles’ Family-Size Low-Key Mardi Gras

dressed-up for the Mardi Gras
The Southwest Louisiana Mardi Gras in Lake Charles, the second largest in Louisiana, does not need parents there to avert their children’s eyes. This is family entertainment and children are very much part of it. The main office of the Lake Charles CVB has costumes from last year’s Mardi Gras but it also has figures to fascinate little ones from country boys fishing for their dinner to alligators who have already fed and are rubbing their stomachs.

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Fyllis Hockman's travel blog/review
Cedar Hill: Frederick Douglass' Home is as Imposing as the Man who Lived There

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
Having recently received a misguided shout-out from the president during Black History Month – Frederick Douglass has done an amazing job... – it seems a good time to revisit the cultural icon's legitimate place in history. And a visit to his home in Washington, DC – surely a place the current president might want to consider visiting himself – would be a good place to start.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Hanging Out in Huntington Beach, California

Greg at Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is legendary around the world as one of the best surfing spots. Its waves and beaches are so great, it is also officially known as "Surf City." But as I learned on a recent getaway, the town is more than just tasty swells and beautiful white sand; it also boasts gourmet restaurants, luxury, ocean-front hotels, great shopping, and tons of California coastal charm.

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Bev Cohn's travel blog
Richard Gere and Joseph Cedar Discuss "The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer"

a scene from the documentary 'My Hero Brother'

Richard Gere is one of America's acting treasures. He has an uncanny knack for selecting scripts with the most interesting characters. Included in some of his vast body of films are "American Gigolo, "An Officer and a Gentleman," "The Cotton Club," "Internal Affairs," "Pretty Woman," "Primal Fear," "Unfaithful," and "Chicago." Joseph Cedar, writer and director of the critically acclaimed "The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer," was born in New York City but when he was five, his family moved to Israel where he was raised.

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