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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.

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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
Three Musical Pilgrimages: Mozart, Grieg and Hendrix

Troldhaugen Villa in Bergen, Norway
Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791) could read and compose music, plus play the violin and piano, when he was five years old. Born into a musical family in Salzburg, Austria (then the Holy Roman Empire), he had a unique ability for imitating music, which first became evident when he recited a musical piece by simply observing his father conducting a lesson to his older sister. This led to a childhood on the road, where the young prodigy performed before many of the royal courts of Europe.

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Tom Weber's travel blog/review
Treasures of Ireland: The Irish Goodbye (Dispatch #20)

Irish sunset

The Palladian Traveler brings to a close his 20-part series on the Emerald Isle from an upscale restaurant in downtown Dublin where he files his final dispatch and then quietly slips away.

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John Clayton's travel blog/review
Two "MUST SEE" Truly Spectacular Places in Europe. Here's Why.

Culzean Castle, Scotland
The Han Grotto and Culzean Castle. As the name of my Traveling Boy feature is "Travel With a Difference," it's important to me to always bring you offbeat and unusual tourist places around the world you may not know about. These two fit that category to a T, and they're absolutely worth a visit. One's in Scotland and one's in Belgium. Culzean (pronounced CULLANE) Castle is located near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland.

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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
Puerto Vallarta: Magic and Mayhem on the Malecon

Cedar Hill, Washington DC
So I heard that you could spend from dawn to dusk on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and never get bored and I thought, "Okay, I'm up for that challenge." Well, maybe not the dawn part – I'm not a morning person – so I had no problem leaving those early hours to the joggers and those seeking an early start to catch their red snapper for dinner.

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Greg Aragon's travel blog/review
Relaxing at The Inn at Laguna Beach

Greg at Huntington Beach

There is nothing like sleeping in an ocean-front room and awakening to the sounds of waves crashing against the sand. It is one of the finer things in life. And it is exactly what I experienced recently on a memorable getaway to The Inn at Laguna Beach. The adventure began when a friend I pulled off the 5 Freeway in Orange County and took SR 133 south nine miles through winding lush hills and wilderness areas to the ocean.

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Bev Cohn's travel blog
Tim Robbins On His Road To Stardom

Tim Robbins

Award-winning Tim Robbins began his career on episodic television. Robbins' film work, however, is what catapulted him into becoming a major movie star including "Bull Durham" and "Mystic River" for which he won multiple awards. Equally at home behind the camera, he directed the riveting "Dead Man Walking." He is Founder and Artistic Director of The Actors' Gang, which he formed thirty-five years ago and has directed multiple provocative productions.

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