Austria 6 - Graz /Arnie/the watchtower/the Styrian armoury/I come from a land down under/conversations from a small washroom

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May 20th 2019
Published: May 20th 2019
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Good day - that's how the conversation in the small washroom began. We have not seen many Brits during our travels so it was strange hearing English spoken so naturally. The accent though was from someone from a land down under. I turned round to see a man and his wife carrying a huge bag of washing. My Australian friends told me that they had flown in to Holland three weeks ago, picked up their hired van and had meandered thi had called into Amsterdam and Koblenz , followed the river , entered Austria and had spent yesterday in Saltzburg. They needed a washing machine as the hire van only had one set of bedding. This needed to last another three weeks. I had washed my clothes, taken them out of the washer and struggling to get the dryer to work. I had popped my 2 euros in and nothing happened. I explained that perhaps my new friends should hang on five minutes before loading their precious bedding in until I sorted out if the one and only dryer worked. I left them whilst I went in search of the nice man on reception who promised to come over and try to sort the problem out. While we waited we talked about how good the site was. Flat with tidy pitches. Water and dump available . The best showers we have been on all trip. Then there are the gifts. A card of sewing cottons for me. A dishcloth wrapped in ribbon for my new friends. The guy in charge turned up with his keys but failed to sort the problem out. He rang for the owner who turned up minutes later and banged the cash box so hard it nearly fell off the wall. It worked though . 4 euros registered even though I had only put in 2. I started the machine off and made a date with Oz friends to meet up in an hour . By which time my washing should be dry and theirs ready for the dryer.

I tidied the van, brushed the carpets and played 4's and 3's a card game my gran had taught me. An hour passed by quickly and I set off in the rain for the washroom. As I tested the dryness of my washing my friend turned up. Sadly mine was not dry yet . I offered to go for a shower and test it when I finished. If mine was dry I would throw her bedding in. But first her washing had stopped and she couldn't work out why. It turned out the 1 euro she had put in was not enough . All it needed was another euro and a reprogramme to rinse and empty. The arrangement sorted. By the time I showered and dried washing was dry and my good deed done for the day.

What else can I say about the campsite . It is a premium stellplatz. Cost 22 euros a night with electricity. A free swim in the outdoor swimming pool from the 18th of May. An Aldi supermarket just down the road and buses running into Graz every 10 minutes in the week and every 20 on a Sunday. 5 euros 30 buys us an all day ticket. Reception gave us this information freely plus a map of the city, a leisure guide and stamped a card saying we had spent two nights here. If we stay for 10 in the next twelve months we get one night free.

On the Sunday we headed down to the bus stop 300 metres from the campsite. The bus turned up on time. Not a minute early nor a minute late. We bought our ticket and stamped in the machine. We were later to find out when the ticket inspector got on that as it was a 24 hour ticket we had not needed to stamp it. It was cold and miserable again. We still have not escaped the weather. The first stop was at a café where we ate cake and drank coffee whilst pouring over the map. So what of Graz then? It hadn't been on our plans this trip. So what did we make of the city. It is the capital of Styria and has a large university presence. It is the 2nd largest city in Austria but it didn't feel large and unmanageable. It is situated on the Mur river. It was busy for a Sunday but we could still amble quietly through its streets. The firemen were out. They had brought their fire engine in, they had erected a climbing wall and a marching band was playing in the street. We also came across an accordionist who yodelled this way through his tunes. Our trip to Graz was not to see the birthplace of Arnold Schwarzenegger but to visit the Styrian Armoury. Think Leeds Armoury but bigger. It did not open until 10 so we passed the time walking up and down the major streets of Graz and even some back alleys. The houses were impressive and the bells rang out from the many churches we passed. It was hard to find the Armoury. It was hidden inside an impressive building which doubled up as a Tourist Information Centre. We really had to look hard to find it. Once we did we were amazed how we had managed to miss it.

It was every boys dream. We paid our entry fees and deposited my bag in a locker. We were given a map of the site and told to go upstairs. Security was high. There are four floors to this museum and as we climbed the first lift of stairs we walked into what seemed like complete darkness. Just glints of silver shining here and there as the light caught what was up there. Guns in racks along the wall. I counted 265 in each rack . Rack upon rack. There must have been thousands of
If you look carefully the hands are the wrong way round If you look carefully the hands are the wrong way round If you look carefully the hands are the wrong way round

Little hand on the minutes and big hand on the hour
guns along the walls. If there was a problem with seeing them it was the way they were mounted. On racks that only showed the handles. I wish they would have displayed some of them sideways on so that we could see the mechanisms. There were powder kegs hanging from the ceiling. Rifles produced on this site which was built between 1642 and 1647. In the building it was reputed that there were 32,000 different items of warfare. Objects which needed careful conservation hence the poor lighting. Rust was one of the main problems. The first floor housed firearms mainly from the 16th to the 18th century. Cannons, mortars , muskets, harquebuses and pulleys that transported equipment were displayed on the second floor. Sales for measuring and muzzles for guns. Helmuts and suits of armour. Yet more pistols. All armour on the second floor were different depending on the needs of the corps. Heavy cavalry , light cavalry, foot soldiers. All different . Guns for high officers. Women produced some of the armour at the time especially if their menfolk were not around to do the job. The 3rd floor was given over to horse armour and tested pieces. The final floor devoted to two handed swords, edged weapons, staffs and clubs. It just went on and on. It must be the best preserved collection in the whole of Europe.

Our next stop was to see or rather listen to the Carillion. We were too early so went to the nearby café for yet another coffee. On the dot of 11 am and at 3pm and 6pm if you find yourself as we did on the Glockenspielplatz you will be treated to a fine spectacle. A carillion which was originally owned by the wealthy businessman Maurer who became fond of carillions on his travels through Germany. He installed it in his house in Graz but eventually gave it to the city on the condition it continued to be used. It was lovely to listen to it before the tourists turned up.

Our last stop was the long walk up to the watchtower. All those steps. As we climbed higher we caught glimpses of the city below. There must have been hundreds of steps to get to the top. There is a lift for wimps we thought and even a small train. Our bus ticket covered the fare for the train and today it even seemed everything was free. But because it was free it was crowded . Hence our walk slowly to the top. Stopping along the way to admire the view and the children beneath us playing on the climbing wall.

At the top is the watchtower. It was worth the climb.

The fortified medieval tower got its present shape around 1560. And its characteristic wooden gallery as a fire station. Three bells are ringing from the Clock Tower. Three coats of arms decorate the walls. A tower was first mentioned on this site as far back as the 13th century. When the fortress was built in the middle of the 16th century the tower got its distinctive shape. It is painted white with huge clock faces on each side . The hands on the huge clockfaces often confuse people. Is the clock out of order? No. Originally there were only long hands for the hours which could be seen from the distance as was the fashion . The minutes were added later . The hands now appear the wrong size with the hour hand longer than than the minutes hand. The building was also used as a fire detection tower informing the fire brigade of any fire in the city. The fire bells still ring . At three corners of the tower stand coats of arms. There was a café up top and benches to sit on. Sadly though it began to rain and that meant finding some shelter. It was a long walk down but we got down quicker than we climbed up.

It was time now to find the bus back home. It was actually much easier than we thought it would be. The bus network and trams are fantastic and rival anything you expect in Switzerland. On time and so many of them.

Perhaps now we have finally come to terms with the weather. It is getting no better nor is there any sign of better weather. It seems like rain , rain and more rain.

"Neither seek nor avoid." "Take what comes" More words of wisdom Today we have given up hoping for better conditions . We took what come and enjoyed every minute of it.

Tomorrow a trip back to the past - I wonder what Vienna will be like after 20 years.

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