Politics, Palaces and Pumping Iron (sort of)

It’s been a busy past week for us here in Graz! Since we last left you, our courses have come into full swing and we have been settling in nicely to a daily routine. In addition to our everyday activities, we’ve enjoyed three main highlights.

City Hall

Last week Wednesday we met Councilman Klaus Frölich in one of the main chambers of the City Hall. The Mayor was unable to meet with us, but Councilman Frölich provided us with a brief but interesting peek into the more formal side of life in Graz. Arne and Volker spoke on our behalf, thanking Councilman Frölich and the rest of the city for receiving us with such open arms.
We also had the privilege of standing out on on the balcony directly over the main square – we all (including the guys!) practiced our ‘Queen’s wave’. The main square was overrun on Wednesday with men in Lederhosen and women in Dirndls celebrating Austria’s timber industry; Councilman Frölich explained that Graz was honored to host this part of the celebration, as timber is one of Austria’s largest and most profitable natural resources.
We ended our visit to City Hall with a reception complete with a selection of juices and a delicious spread of open-faced sandwiches. All in all, we couldn’t have felt more welcomed (and well-fed!)

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Schloss Eggenberg

After a full day of school on Friday we made our way just outside the city to the grounds of the Eggenberg Palace. The grounds themselves were breathtaking, and a welcome change from the busy Graz city center. At the end of the walkway we even saw a peacock! By the end of the afternoon we had lost count how many peacocks there were on the grounds.

The palace is technically a 17th-century building, but parts of the palace began construction as far back as 1460. It belonged to the Eggenberg family, who served as one of the primary financiers to the Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick III and whose descendents later enjoyed high status as diplomats and advisors to the Emperor, until the family line died out in 1717.
We took a tour of the upper floor of the palace, where guests were received and entertained. Every room displayed a different kind of intricate decor–some rooms were decorated as an homage to high-profile visitors to the castle or exotic travel destinations, while others offered depictions of different virtues, or biblical scenes. The palace’s architectural design was planned around the Gregorian calendar, with 365 external facing windows for the number of days in a year, 24 state rooms in the 2nd story for the number of hours in a day, 31 total rooms on each floor for the maximum number of days in a month, and…I think you get the picture. This was done not only as a way of demonstrating that the Eggenberg family excelled intellectually, accepting new scientific findings of the day, but also because mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (the guy who discovered that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way around) was a personal friend of the Eggenberg family.

After our tour we had a bit of free time to explore the grounds and some of the exhibits in the lower part of the palace. Most students decided in favor of the “Wundertiere” (‘wonder animals’) exhibit, which looked at legends and depictions of magical animals and monsters throughout history. All in all, we had a fascinating visit.

DSC00059Taking the tram to Eggenberg
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‘Kunsthaus as a Gym’

This week we decided to mix a little bit of culture into our weekly sport activity! Graz’ Modern Art Museum recently opened an exhibit that invites visitors to view the building of the art museum as a place to work out, too. Bonus: Anyone dressed in sports clothing gets into the exhibit for free.

It felt a little weird at first, but it ended up being really fun. The different stations of the exhibit included a short jogging ring, an area to use everyday objects such as sofas and books as weights, a Greco-Roman wrestling ring, and using the museum’s escalator as a treadmill. Sadly, it didn’t all work out as planned. It appeared the museum staff was either unaware of or just unenthusiastic about the whole thing (despite the exhibit guide’s instruction to engage the staff as sparring partners), and the layout was rather confusing. We didn’t have a ton of time, either, but I think everyone would agree that we did get our heart rates up! All in all, it wasn’t the best thing we’ve done so far here in Graz, but everyone was a good sport about it all anyway. 🙂

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