The area of Europe known as Styria is rich with history and natural beauty; this are of the Austro-Hungarian empire and Holy Roman Empire once contained bits of Slovenia and Germany. Now an Austrian state, Styria and its capital, Graz, are wonderful places to stop by when poking around Europe. Graz is Austria’s second biggest city, which you don’t really get a feel for until you climb (or take the lift through a World War II tunnel) the Schloßberg and look out from the Clock Tower (part of the extensive old fort that deserves a few hours of roaming) over the city. Graz is pretty compact, in terms of sightseeing, and you probably won’t need to use the super-easy to navigate tram system. You’ve got to check out the modern art museum, the Kunsthaus, not only for the fantastic exhibits but also for the view from the top of the strange, blue, bulging building. This museum’s proximity to the lovely Mariahilferstraße area, which had neat restaurants and shops, had its bonuses, and one can always orient oneself by looking for the Clock Tower, which looms over the city. Also check out the Murinsel, which resembles a clam floating over the River Mur, from one of the many bridges across the river; the locks on the bridges are likely the mark of young loves locking their “love” to the bridge and tossing the key into the river as a “forever” type of gesture. Roaming around the various parts of Graz will reveal the UNESCO-labelled Old Town and the Glockenspiel, as well as an Armory Museum and Cathedral of Graz, but I visited at Christmas time and was more entranced by the Christmas markets (Weihnachtsmarkts) than the sites; Graz would definitely be a great place to rediscover your Christmas spirit if you’re feeling Scrooge-y. Graz is a vibrant city with something for everyone and never ceased to charm me.
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