Monday we had to roll out of bed and down to the ferry once more. Auf wiedersehen, Hallstatt!
I like to think they were sad to see us go, but the boat rental people were probably relieved.
Oh, well. Traveling means becoming fond of places very quickly and then having to say goodbye. Onward to Graz!
We had less than 24 hours in Graz–it was mostly a convenient stopping point between Hallstatt and Ljubljana–which disappointed our enthusiastic taxi driver from the train station to the hotel, but he nevertheless kindly advised us on how to get to the Stadtpfarrkirche, or the city parish church. We’d read something about it in a travel guide and were very curious to see it for ourselves.
When we arrived, we did indeed find ourselves gazing upon it:
What’s that? What do you mean, you don’t see anything unusual? Here, let me help:
See that? That, evidently, is Hitler and Mussolini watching the scourging of Jesus, all in stained glass. That they’re so small certainly seems to explain how the image has remained, when Austria has otherwise worked quite hard to distance itself from fascism and the Nazi party. It’s all still rather curious, but the rest of the church is beautiful and quiet, and I’m glad we paid a visit.
Next, we took the cabbie’s advice and found our way to the Schlossberg, which he’d highly recommended.
See, the Schlossberg is basically a bigass hill, and you can see a great deal of Graz from up top. There’s also a castle and stuff, but whatever, you can see the Friendly Alien from here!
The Schlossberg also features lots of prettyful flora, including white wisteria! I know in the back of my mind that wisteria’s an invasive plant, but gosh darn it, it was everywhere in Austria and Slovenia and I loved it.
Less-invasive, presumably, were the little blue flowers (possibly forget-me-nots?) and ferns, which made quite a pretty pattern along one walkway.
But me, I just can’t stay away from that wisteria. Curse you, devil tree, for you’ve sunk your native-plant-choking roots into my heart.
We quite liked the Schlossberg itself; what we liked less was misplacing the location of the elevator and being forced to walk down all those stairs you can see a couple pictures up.
We managed to wobble our rubber-legged way to dinner, barely, and I had just enough brainpower left to admire how bike-friendly Graz is. Maybe next time I’ll rent one! (And bike up some stairs?)
Our time in Graz was short, and I’d like to go back, but the next day we had to get a move on once more, this time to Ljubljana.
It was a lengthy train ride, but it gave us the chance to make some friends and see the sights!
Ex: friends. Opposite our seats were a mother-daughter pair also traveling back to Ljubljana, their hometown. We whiled away the train ride talking about our travel plans, educational differences in the US/Europe (our 16-year-old pal on the left will be graduating from gymnasium soon and wants to go to college in the United States), and the recent winter ice storm that damaged half the forests in Slovenia and knocked some folks’ power out for a week or more. They were both completely delightful people, and even gave us their phone number before we disembarked so that we could call them if we ran into any trouble. Thanks for making us feel welcome, train friends!
TOO BAD THEY WERE REALLY DRAGONS AND THEN THEY ATE US AHHHHHHH
Out of Mia’s imagination and back into reality, we got all checked into our latest hotel and took a blessedly short walk down to the river so that we could admire Ljubljana’s various bridges, including the Dragon Bridge. (Slovenians might secretly all be dragons, though. We don’t know for sure. I’m just saying.)
We also checked out the love locks on the Cobbler’s Bridge, and had a late lunch. Mom and I always tend to share food–because why eat one thing when you can eat two?–and we were introduced to the regional specialty that is pumpkin seed oil: like olive oil, but pumpkiny! Seriously, it was super delicious on our caprese salad, and we both vowed to bring a bottle or two home.
I have to say, I really, really loved Ljubljana. It’s Slovenia’s capital and largest city, but it’s not quite as huge and intimidating as other national capitals I’ve visited (*cough*Vienna*cough*). It wasn’t only the size, though; there was something I can’t quite name that just made me feel very comfortable and natural there. Maybe it was all the ice cream?
Whatever the reason, I whistled a jaunty tune as we walked down to Prešeren Square and tried to ignore the stormclouds rolling in behind the Franciscan Church.
Alas–my mom and I exited a clothing store to find a downpour upon us. Fortunately, though, neither of us are made of sugar, so we didn’t melt as we laughed and ran to catch a cab back to our hotel and dry off.
Weird European Graffiti tally:
3. “RIOT GIRL, YOU ARE THE QUEEN OF MY WORLD!” Same, Graz graffiti artist. Same.
4. Our reward for descending the Schlossberg’s infinite staircase.
5. One of several neon horses around the Ljubljana city center. Pokey, is that you?