Another rest day already?
I guess T was serious about taking another rest day in Wildalpen, because in Graz he insisted on it. He woke up with a stuffed head and that achy feeling from being sick (not bike riding), so we took an easy city break in Graz.
Graz is the second-largest city in Austria, but a world away from the imperialness of the largest city-Vienna. The center is quite small in comparison, with a subdued rather than royal charm. It is also an art city, with the Kunsthaus Graz, which houses a modern art collection in a building that resembles a giant glass submarine, and a well-known art school. It has an ecclectic feel and an ecclectic population to match; this was the first place we had been in Austria with diversity, with a range of people colors deviating from the norm of typical “Austrian” white.
It was a welcome sight, but puzzling at the same time. The city had a very limited vibrance, just around the core center, and everything else felt, for lack of a better word, neglected. Not typical Austrian. Of course, construction on major streets and works on improving the trams around the train station didn’t help that sense, but such improvement projects also felt well past due. Economic prosperity did not seem equivalent that in Vienna, and one could not help but think that the placement of new immigrants and refugees with a darker shade of skin in this city at the edge of Austria was purposeful.
Still in love with European history, we opted for touring the old castle site, Schlossberg, which was mostly destroyed during Napoleanic conquests. But history exudes on the sight, and at the top of the hill in the Old Town, the views are wonderful, and worth the steep trek up. Of course, you can always opt for the funicular, as well.
A city made for vegetarians
We also ate well in our 24+ hours in Graz– especially as vegetarians. As we were awaiting our laundry in the dryer, we ran across the street grab dinner at a traditional schnitzel place (3 Goldenen Kugeln) and discovered they offered a soya version of the famous schnitzel! We found a vegetarian food stand in center square for lunch, but by far our favorite was the vegetarian restaurant Ginko that we discovered the second night. Fantastic food, fresh ingredients, well-prepared and a pleasant staff. Their menu is limited, but it changes daily ensuring quality, variety and freshness. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a vegetarian, we highly recommend it!!
Feeling so at home with the vegetarian-friendliness, and not so sure of what lay ahead, we also took the opportunity to grab a small bag of lentils and some soy strips for our protein on the road at the international food shop.
Planning for the next country: Slovenia
Speaking of what lay ahead, it was also good for us to take a day and plan a bit more of our route. It was easy cycling through Czech and Austria because of the well developed cycling network– it would be a different story for Slovenia and Croatia. So we also took a bit of time to research and fine tune our plan. Our initial plan was to ride from Prague to Dubrovnik, it what we estimated was around 1,800 km with a time frame of about 26 days. That, and only that was the plan. We did not tie ourselves to being a certain place at a certain day. We may have had rough estimates at the beginning of how long it might take us to Cesky Krumlov, we certainly didn’t set it in stone. Our goal was never two or maybe three days out ahead of us. In this mode of travel, there are just too many variable, too many unpredictable things to plan every minute. Besides, there’s no fun in that. Our only goal is to make as much ground when we can and take it easy on ourselves we need to.
T was more hesitant about the way forward. Perhaps he spent too much time reading the warnings from google maps. Slovenia tourism had issued a cycling route map and campground map, so while its efforts were nascent, it was definitely encouraging cycle tourism. We just had to do our part and see what it was all about. Onward to Slovenia!!