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Saturday, 31 August 2019

Austria: A Land of Scenic Beauty and Historic, Medieval Towns - Page 6

Written by Roger Marks
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In Graz, we stayed at the Hotel Wiesler, a boutique hotel built in 1909 with most of the rooms redesigned between 2011 and 2015. We booked a Junior Suite and our room had spectacular views of the old town, the river flowing through it, and the fortress on a hill above it. Celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Rolling Stones and Marianne Faithful, and Arab oil sheiks and Austria’s President have stayed at this hotel.


Among the sites in the old town were the Clock Tower dating back to the 13th century, the Schlossberg (remnants of a fortress perched on a hill with great views), the Palais Herberstein (a 17th century former city residence of the ruling princes now housing the Cultural History Collection) and the Main Square dating back to 1164 with its City Hall, Gothic & Renaissance houses, a church and stores. We passed by the Palais Khenburg, the birthplace in 1863 of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914, leading to the outbreak of WWI.


We then drove to the Eggenberg Palace, built in 1625. There are 500 17th century ceiling paintings in the Palace. The Palace is surrounded by a large park full of flowers and peacocks. Back in the old town we walked many of the streets and squares filled with old buildings and churches until we found our way to another clock tower. A small life-size wooden couple dressed in traditional costumes pirouette three times a day to different melodies. The musical box was erected in 1905 by the owner of the house.

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Just thirty minutes from Graz are the rolling hills of the wine region. From Graz we drove to the nearby village of Rust, a very picturesque small town in the heart of the wine country and less than ten miles from the border with Hungary. The village dates back to the 1400s. We visited the town square with pastel color buildings, several churches but most notably were the stork nests and hatchlings on the roofs of many of the buildings.


From Rust, we drove to Vienna, an hour and a half drive away. When we returned our rental car to the Hertz office in Vienna, we were charged 50 Euros for one-eighth of a tank as we forgot to fill the car one last time We subsequently learned that some of the Hertz offices overseas are company-owned while others, like Austria's, are licensees. A licensee appears to have more flexibility in setting their own guidelines and procedures that are often to the detriment of the customer. After complaining to the Hertz US office, ultimately the amount was reduced to 20 Euros.


May was a perfect time to visit Austria as the summer tourists within Europe and other parts of the globe had not yet descended on the country. The weather was generally sunny and unusually warm. It rained periodically but only for an hour or so in mid-afternoon. I would rank Austria as perhaps the cleanest country I have ever seen as we never saw any garbage or trash on the streets of the larger cities or on the country roads. Our days were very full given the diversity of sites and the unique regions of the country including a few larger cities with old towns such as Vienna, Salzburg and Graz, quaint medieval villages, scenic countryside and vineyards along the Danube, the lake region in the central part of the country and the Alps in the western region. Austria seems to encapsulate in one small country the best of what many of the European countries collectively have to offer. After our trip, I now can highly recommend considering Austria as a trip of its own, easily spending two to three weeks visiting the distinct regions and countless sites throughout the country.

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©Roger Marks

Roger Marks is a photojournalist with an insatiable appetite to explore remote corners of the world. He has published travel articles in numerous magazines and newspapers. He has visited remote tribes throughout Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. He also enjoys remote landscapes including the towering sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula, the magnificent landscape and wildlife of Greenland and Antarctica and the rainforests of Surinam and the Congo. He and his wife also enjoy marine life having done diving or snorkeling excursions across the globe. He never tires of Europe always discovering off-the-beaten-path sites.

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Last modified on Wednesday, 02 October 2019

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