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Posts about Locally-produced food

Maroni and Peacocks: Welcome to Graz!

Posted by: Updated: November 22, 2011 - 12:25 PM

If you’re in the market for a cute, non-touristy and easy to navigate town in the heart of Austria, find the next train and take it immediately to Graz (the capital of the region of Styria). And if you’re looking for the definition of the phrase ‘autumnal bliss’- take that train to Graz in early November. Think I’m kidding? Think again, and take a look at the pictures below!

The town of Graz itself is most recognized throughout Europe for its incredibly cool town square (Old Town), which is extremely pedestrian- friendly as it doesn’t even allow cars! The entire city centre is accessible by foot or by the streetcars, so it’s an extreme pleasure to walk through a European city without wondering which way to look before you cross the street or sprinting to avoid being hit by the tiny cars whizzing through intersections! Graz also has a river down the middle (the river Mur), and there’s just nothing I love more than cities with charming rivers and hills framing the landscape. There’s also plenty to see in Graz, definitely enough to fill up a weekend trip just in the city itself.

 

The Mur River, running through Graz.

The Mur River, running through Graz.

 

 

Standing in front of the Glockenspielplatz

Standing in front of the Glockenspielplatz

 

 Our first stop in the city was to the gorgeous Baroque palace, Schloss Eggenberg (Eggenberg Palace in English). Since it was a Sunday, we unfortunately were unable to explore the supposedly beautiful inner rooms such as the Planetary room, but we were still able to explore the open park and grounds of the palace as well as the courtyard. I can’t tell a lie, some of my favorite parts of the gardens were the numerous peacocks wandering around (both the pure white and Indian blue varieties)! The palace was beyond cool- one of my favorite parts was how it was constructed according to the Gregorian calendar: the palace has 365 exterior windows for each day of the year and 31 rooms on each floor for days of the month, in addition to other details. It was also very relaxing to wander among the autumn leaves and large statues littered among the trees, surrounded by the Austrian countryside.

 

The view of the palace from the beginning of the..."driveway"?

The view of the palace from the beginning of the..."driveway"?

The view of the palace from the beginning of the..."driveway"?

The view of the palace from the beginning of the..."driveway"?

 

 

Excited...slash scared of the peacocks...

Excited...slash scared of the peacocks...

 

 

Statue in the middle of the park...autumnal beauty at it's finest.

Statue in the middle of the park...autumnal beauty at it's finest.

 

 

Another view of the palace and forests in the back.

Another view of the palace and forests in the back.

 

While we were there, we stopped for a traditional Austrian autumn snack: Maroni, which are essentially roasted chestnuts. They are sold on the streets of Vienna and Graz through the fall season, and are a must-have if you happen to pass by one of the stands.

 

Maroni! (Chestnuts)

Maroni! (Chestnuts)

 

 

 

To eat, simply peel off the roasted outer shell and eat the creamy white nut inside!

To eat, simply peel off the roasted outer shell and eat the creamy white nut inside!

 

Graz is full of interesting sights, some of which have been constructed by the city to increase tourism and the cultural influence of the city. The art museum, with a “unique” architectural structure is one major standout, as well as ‘The Island’, a circular bar in the middle of the River Mur. After a walk around the city exploring the various platzes (squares), we found some amazing street food in the town square (bratwurst with senf, which is mustard and AMAZING). We headed into one the largest and newest department stores I’ve ever been in called the K&O- if you’re ever there, make sure to take the escalator all of the floors to the top. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views of Graz’s red roofs, which are prominent all over the city and very, very cool.

 

The Island: a bar built in the very middle of the Mur River.

The Island: a bar built in the very middle of the Mur River.

 

 

Delicious frankfurters from the street cart.

Delicious frankfurters from the street cart.

 

 

The Rathaus- Town Hall of Graz

The Rathaus- Town Hall of Graz

 

 

The red rooftops Graz is known for.

The red rooftops Graz is known for.

 

 

You can just see the clock tower (Uhrmturm) in the background!

You can just see the clock tower (Uhrmturm) in the background!

 

And since we were apparently very into climbing great heights on this trip, there was no better way to end our time in Graz than with climb to the top of the Schloßberg, a hill overlooking the city at the site of a demolished fortress. Schloßberg literally means ‘castle mountain’, and that’s exactly what it is! The hill contains an Uhrmturm, which is a clock tower that is a recognizable symbol of the city, and some amazing views! If I lived here, I could picture climbing up with a cup of coffee and a fantastic book- and just sitting for hours reading and thinking.

 

View from the base of the mountain

View from the base of the mountain

 

 

View from the top! After a long climb, of course...

View from the top! After a long climb, of course...

 

 

I could camp out here with a book for a loooong time...

I could camp out here with a book for a loooong time...

 

 

In front of the clock tower

In front of the clock tower

 

 

 

All in all, the last stop of our trip was amazing. The people could not have been friendlier, the scenery could not have been more gorgeous, and there’s just no getting around the fact that Austrian food is FANTASTIC. I’ve already made my Austrian friend, Nadia, commit to shipping me some of the Styrian pumpkin seed oil that they use as salad dressing- it’s a little slice of heaven. Austria is definitely an underrated tourist destination, in my opinion, and was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been: inside and out.

Next week, my Tuesday post might fall a few days later due to the fact that I will be in PARIS until Thursday! I mean, there's worse problems to have. Keep checking back for a post on our visit to the adorable Irish Dingle Peninsula (especially if you like sheep...) 
 

Wienerschnitzel and Maturaballs: Styria, Austria

Posted by: Updated: November 17, 2011 - 4:43 AM
And here we pick up where the story last left off: on the gorgeous three-hour train ride from Vienna to Graz [the capital city of the region of Styria]. After arriving in Graz, we were picked up by our friends and headed off to a party with Bavarian pretzels, delicious open-faced sandwiches, and weisswurst (which we later found out was sausage made of pig brains…). So after restoring our empty tummies to full, we went straight back to the hostel and passed out.
 
The next morning, we were picked up bright and early for our first adventure in the Austrian countryside:  the Riegersburg. It was about an hour away from Graz by car- apparently it’s rather difficult to find by public transportation, so we were feeling pretty lucky that we had an Austrian at the wheel! First of all: the Austrian countryside is beautiful. Especially in autumn, the rolling hills and changing leaves seemed never-ending and were just spectacular- my little eyes were glued out the window the entire way!
 
As I mentioned, I’m not positive about how one would hop a bus or train to Riegersburg, but I’m sure it can be done and is absolutely worth the trip. Photos do it better justice than I can explain [so take a peek below], but Riegersburg is an ancient medieval fortress built atop a long-extinct volcano- incredible, right? We parked the car at the bottom and started the long, winding ascent to the top. It’s absolutely a manageable climb that takes you past vineyards situated upon the hill, crenellated stone walls, and breathtaking views of the trees below. Once at the top, we stayed true to our poor little student habits and elected not to pay the 9.5 euros for a tour of the inside of the fortress, but instead ate lunch at the Austrian restaurant after checking out the moats around the fortress. We ate outdoors on the small patio overlooking all the scenery and had a DELICIOUS lunch of fritattensuppe and holundersaft- Austrian food is my hands-down favorite (sorry, Chipotle!) Next time, we will be sure to enter the fortress, if only to see the Witch Museum on the lower level that sounds fascinating! And for children, the raptor exhibition is supposed to be very exciting. All in all, it was a great Austrian find that we probably never would have visited on our own, so we felt extremely lucky.
 
From a distance: Riegersburg from the car window.

From a distance: Riegersburg from the car window.

 
Breathtaking views were the result of a long climb.

Breathtaking views were the result of a long climb.

 
 
My delicious meal of fritattensuppe!

My delicious meal of fritattensuppe!

 
It was a steep path...

It was a steep path...

 
The patio where we ate lunch

The patio where we ate lunch

 
Stunning.

Stunning.

 
Next up: The Zotter Chocolate Factory. And yes, this experience was as ridiculously great as it sounds! The factory was only about a ten minute drive from the Riegersburg, and is known for being one of the best chocolate factories in Austria. They are also known for their sustainability, fair trade, and more importantly- making so many different flavors of chocolate that you just can’t believe your eyes! On the tour, you learn about their ethics of business, how the chocolate is produced, and get to sample—oh, hundreds of different types of chocolate! You can sample different flavors of chocolate fondue, chocolate bars, marshmallows, hot chocolate, and essentially chocolate in any form that you could ever ask for it to be in. My favorite was either the Himbeer (raspberry) or the chili-flavored chocolate, and you can bet I bought more than a few bars home with me.
 
The man himself, Josef Zotter!

The man himself, Josef Zotter!

 
One of the many candy flavors we could taste...

One of the many candy flavors we could taste...

 
 
Look at those pleased, chocolatey faces!

Look at those pleased, chocolatey faces!

 
Now, here’s where the trip gets exciting. Our roommate’s younger sister is graduating from high school this year, and when Austrians graduate: they have a ball. Not a party, not a small gathering, a ball with gowns and tuxedoes and champagne and lots and lots of Austrians! We were lucky enough to be invited to this maturaball, which took place at the Congress building in Graz. Needless to say, it was the classiest event I’ve ever attended!
 
The graduates all wore white gowns or suits, and performed a dance that they had been practicing for MONTHS. There was the opening ceremony (all in German) where the graduates brought out roses to thank their teachers and the headmistress, who later came out to officially announce the opening of the ball. The entire event was filled with prizes, the graduates selling baked goods, families and friends mingling, ballroom dancing, and performances- it was incredible. There was also a casino attached to the Congress that we visited- I felt as if I was in Casino Royale! Jackets were required, ladies and gentlemen were gambling in gowns and tuxedos, and we blended right in. We also won twenty-five euros at roulette- and I’m never one to scoff at extra euros. The party lasted until 2 a.m., when the Congress closed and the graduates went off to a club in Graz until sunrise. It was undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, while being a fairly standard event for the Austrians.
 
The view as we entered the ball. The graduates are all standing on the stairs in line.

The view as we entered the ball. The graduates are all standing on the stairs in line.

 
The room the dancing took place in

The room the dancing took place in

 
Pretending to be Austrian...

Pretending to be Austrian...

 
Ballroom dancing that the graduates performed

Ballroom dancing that the graduates performed

 
 
 
Quite pleased about winning my money at the casino!

Quite pleased about winning my money at the casino!

 
Since I don’t want to skim over Graz and the rest of our time in the city, I’ll end the Austrian tale here for now. Check back for more on Graz, Styrian pumpkin-seed oil, some very delicious wienerschnitzel, and how one should travel with miniature Jagermeister bottles- it’s trickier than you think…
      

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