Sunday, July 1, 2007

AT - Graz

So the next day I was off to Graz, which was a big improvement over Wien. I walked past my gasthof twice before finally finding it hidden along a short pedestrian mall. The front desk girl of the Gasthof-Pension zur Steirer-Stub’n was much friendlier than the staff at the place in Wien, though the room was boring and modern. Oh well, I didn’t spend much time there anyway. I accidentally called my Graz-native front desk attendant German, intending to ask if she was Germanic since she looked Italian. Fortunately she was kind enough to remind me she was Austrian and not take offense.

Wearing flip-flops to let my blisters heal, I head to the city. It is very pretty and can be easily traversed in a day. The Alstadt of Graz feels more historical than that of Wien, though this may be assisted by the larger pedestrianised area. The Stadtpark is pretty, with more flowers than the parks of Wien; but even during the day it was roamed by potheads. One kid on a bike, in particular, seemed completely convinced that I was a dealer – he constantly followed me about the park and every 10 minutes or so would come up and ask again, in German, if I was sure I didn’t have any hash. He clearly wasn’t the brightest lad.

The Schlossburg Caves were particularly snazzy. You can reach them either at the bottom, facing west toward the river, or at the top along to the path down the other side of the hill. I went in the exit access at the bottom, which saved me the fare of going in – though I hadn’t intentionally done this, as at this point I did not yet recognize the words for “entrance”, “exit”, and “do not enter”. The stairwell directly linking the exit with the top access is kind of eerie: it is dimly lit, really long, has a cool breeze throughout its length, and right in the middle – at the tunnel leading toward the elevators – was a set of automatic sliding glass doors which kept opening and closing, even without anyone else nearby. The elevators themselves were really need to look at, with the open shaft and beautiful lighting. This was the first of numerous moments throughout my entire trip where I felt like I was in some world of Myst… or maybe a Bond movie.

In a moment of genius, I decided to try some bouldering along an artificial rock climbing wall along the riverbank, beneath a bridge. I slipped off my flip-flops and hoped on, making it a pretty good distance at a brisk pace before I slipped and realized just how much pain I was experiencing due to the blisters on my feet and the heavily foot-intensive activity which I was currently doing. …And equally amusing is that I did this exact same thing again whilst in Luzern, again tearing apart my thick calluses developed for walking; not climbing.

I was surprised in that the city become dead quiet by 11pm. The city itself is quite dark… well, for a city of this size it sure is. I was fortunate to have a huge blood-red moon rise whilst I was up taking night photos on the big hill in the middle of the city. The photos I took looked spectacular on my camera’s little LCD screen, though looking at them now I wish they were a bit better. By this point, I was still a novice with my new camera, a 10 MP Canon Powershot A640.

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