Views of Steiermark from the train and a shot of me inhaling my beloved pretzel (my 3rd favorite Austrian foodstuff behind Melange and Apfeltascherl)
The Smart car we rented from EasyMotion. Cruising around the region in this zippy number made for some very fond memories.
On Saturday, we drove our Smart car through the districts of Hochsteiermark (High Styria) and Südweststeiermark (South-West Styria). During the drive we stopped over in Stübing and visited the Österreiches Freilichtmuseum, one of the largest open-air museums in all of Europe. The Stübing Valley is home to around 100 historic buildings from all over Austria dating back six centuries. Walking through the valley is like walking across rural Austria of the past -- from Burgenland in the east to the Bregenz Forest in the west. David and I are suckers for this sort of thing, so needless to say, we found the rural architectural styles and cultures of Austria's farming past to be a unique and impressive experience. It was also special for me to see dozens of hundred-years-old buildings that look like they would fit right next door to the old cabins and farm houses that still remain in our homeland of East Tennessee, or in the rural areas of where my dad's from, the Wild, Wonderful West Virgina. Pretty cool stuff.
At the end of the day, we made our way back to Graz by taking the small roads rather than the Autobahn. David and I often find that these roads lead us to discovering authentic Austrian towns with charming architecture, visible culture, and friendly people. (Isn't this similar everywhere, though?) On this particular route, we passed by the delightful town of Jugendorf-Straßengel, which dates back to 860AD. We noticed a beautiful church perched high on an adjacent mountain and so we navigated the little Smart car up the hill until we found beautiful Die Kirche Maria Straßengel.
As you may imagine, Saturday was a good day. So were Sunday and Monday. That post comes next.