Moving on down through Central Europe
29.05.2017 - 29.05.2017 26 °C
Day 5 Monday, May 29 2017
Graz to Zagreb / 185 km
- it is our youngest daughter's birthday - 29 years old - Happy Birthday Hannah!
- The Schlossberg Hotel is very comfortable and well located for exploring the Altstadt of Graz. It is also not particularly cheap (nor is Austria generally). The breakfast, if not included in your room rate, costs 18 euros. We are determined to do it justice. It is a very expansive buffet with real freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs cooked to your taste & timing and a full range of meats, cheese & patisseries.
- The hotel has a large roof garden from where the city views are far flung. The art theme continues from the walls into the gardens. There is ample seating to enjoy a morning coffee or a sundowner if you have time.
- Is Graz worth its UNESCO World Heritage status? We have seen towns & cities both more picturesque and more quaint. Graz is however a fine example of Central European urban grandeur influenced by the patronage of the various rulers of the mighty Hapsburg Empire between the Middle Ages through the Renaissance period up until the 18 th century. Remnants of fortification up on the Schlossberg at the back of our hotel actually date from the 11th century. The old inner city is full of narrow streets, Italian-style palazzi, impressive public buildings like the Rathaus as well as smaller shady courtyards where you are spoil for choice by bars, restaurants and lots of ice cream shops.
- This morning we indulge in an hour or so of city sightseeing before heading to Zagreb in Croatia.
Mindful of the need for exercise we opt to climb the 260 steps that lead up to the famous Graz Clock Tower ( built in 1588 and spared from French destruction in 1809 ) from where there are great views of the Altstadt skyline. This clock chimes 101 strikes at 7, 12 and 19.00 hours - SG now realises what woke her at 7 this morning. The clock tower is more or less directly above the Schlossberg Hotel.
- The steps were built by Russian prisoners of war between 1914-8 and are colloquially referred to as Russenstiege or Kriegstiege ( Russian / War Steps ) . If you don't fancy the exercise you can ascend the hill either by a funicular or glass lift. The choice is yours. We descend by funicular - since losing his hearing in one ear, AG has also lost some of his balance when on narrow sheer paths.
- There is a concession fare on the funicular for over 60's so we think we qualify - but it transpires it applies only if you are Austrian and have the necessary proof of age. Our passports count for nothing. SG is annoyed - she reckons that in the UK our concession rates at museums , art galleries etc apply with proof of age, not citizenship. We are so generous to foreign tourists.
- What a shame that the glorious steep tiled roofs and globe shaped church spires of previous centuries are 'marred' by modern architecture. Maybe this is why the city needs its UNESCO status. To stop more carbuncles being built in and around the Altstadt.
- We also ensure that we see the old painted house ( Gemaltes Haus ) just up the road from our hotel on Herren Gasse, near to the impressive Landhaus also located on Herrengasse. - the facade is completely covered with frescoes created by Johann Mayer in 1742.
- Austria is back to work. They enjoyed a 4 day Ascension holiday which spanned Thursday Friday and the weekend. That's probably the reason that traffic was so heavy yesterday on certain stretches of the motorway.
- As we leave Graz heading through Slovenia and on to Croatia, signage makes us aware that we must also buy a vignette for our 1 hour use of the Slovenian motorway system. The cheapest option is valid for 7 days and costs 15 euros. A bargain for a week but less so for an hour!
- Mind you the stretch of road we drive is beautiful, smooth, inky black tarmac of the kind we rarely see in the UK. Work is ongoing to widen the carriageway. At least our vignette money is being wisely spent.
- It's not a question of Rip Off Europe that irritates us, it's the fact that UK authorities seem reluctant to establish or enforce any form of efficient money collecting system, even when it is legally due. No it is SG is Rip Off Britain that annoys - for ripping off the British tax payer. The Europeans have the right attitude - collect money from all legitimate sources and put in the necessary infrastructure to do so.
- There is passport control at the Slovenia / Croatian border. We must show our passports twice. We check whether we need a vignette here too. Yippee, Croatia has free driving or rather it chooses to operate a toll system on certain roads. We later pay 9 euros for about 50 km of usage.
- We arrive in Zagreb early afternoon. Our hotel the Jaegerhorn lies on the edge of the old town also known as Upper Gornji Grad. There is no parking in this part of town but we have been allocated a space in a vacant building lot some 5 minutes walk away. There are security gates so we are ok with the truck being temporarily out of sight.
- Zagreb has that Capital city feel to it. It also has an extensive network of trams. Walking around you have to be careful of not only the trams but also the tramlines. You can easily trip.
- We have been here once before towards the end of Rally Med 2012. But at that time it was a cold wet November's evening and we had no time for sightseeing. We remember very little. What a contrast to today.
- We spend a short afternoon doing a whizz stop tour of some of major sights in the old town. The cathedral, a section of the old city wall, St Mark's Square and environs, the Stone Gate and finally Marshal Tito Square which has the reputation of being one of the prettiest Squares in Zagreb. Up by St Mark's Square you will find two museums which get a lot of feedback on Trip Advisor. We decide the Museum of Broken Relationships is not for us but we do pay to visit the Museum of Croatian Naive Art. This charming genre of art at last gained professional recognition in France in the 19 th century and then spread worldwide. SG has seen similar exhibitions in USA, China & Japan and is interested to see the Croatian version. AG is dragged along.
- The Stone Gate was the Eastern gate of the medieval city of Zagreb. Legend informs that in 1731 a terrible fire destroyed everything around the gate except a 17th century painting of the Virgin & Child. People who believe in its magical powers of survival come here to pray in the wooden pews beside the archway and dedicate candles and flowers. This afternoon the gateway is also busy with tourists for whom the visit has a religious significance.
- Oh and we also detour to see a bronze tribute to Nikola Tesla (1856 - 1943) who was a very famous electrical engineer and Croatian born. Fortunately he lived a long & productive life, the fruits of which benefit us to this day. There is a technical museum named in Tesla's honour in Zagreb - but SG fears it might be too high brow!
- AG covets the ownership of a Tesla - the American all electric car which is both incredibly fast and beautiful ( in a car sort of way ). Elon Reeve Musk, the owner and creator of the Tesla brand has chosen to dedicate his iconic & revolutionary car brand to a Croatian born genius.
- We book a table for supper at Carpaccio, an Italian restaurant near our hotel ( but not a pizzeria). It offers pavement dining in a pedestrianised zone. We are becoming quickly accustomed to outside dining and hope that it may long continue. SG cannot resist sampling a glass of Croatian white wine, AG goes dry. Carpaccio is to be recommended but you should reserve ahead if you do not wish to dine indoors.