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GRAZ

Graz is the capital of Styria (Steiermark) and the second largest city of Austria. It has produced a number of talents in many fields, ranging from the inventor Nikola Tesla to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Graz maintains a balance between its illustrious past and modern present and features spectacular architecture from all periods, while the warm and sunny climate influenced by the closeness to the Mediterranean makes it a very nice city to visit.

The historic old town has been designated as a World Heritage site. The Schlossberg is a castle perched upon a hill in the middle of the city around which Graz sprang up. Clock Tower on the top of the Schlossberg is the symbol of Graz. Walk or climb up the Schlossberg and have a meal in the open-air at the top whilst admiring the views. The easiest way is to walk up the Sporgasse from the Hauptplatz to the "Karmeliterplatz" where you walk under an archway on the left where a road meanders up the gentler eastern side of the Schlossberg. From the west and north you have a choice of zig-zag paths or to climb the steps from "Schlossbergplatz". There is also a lift going up at Schlossbergplatz. You also might see some of the tame red squirrels (Eichkätzchen) at the top.

Eggenberg Castle is an early Baroque architecture with lavish state rooms. The castle tour is highly recommended though, as it contains dramatic wall and ceiling paintings, elaborate ceramic stoves, and inlaid wood floors. Don't miss the double spiral staircase in the Burg, a castle complex built between 1438 and 1453 by Emperor Frederick III which is today inhabited by the government of Styria.

The mannerist-Baroque Mausoleum of Emperor Ferdinand II., with impressive interior decor by famous Styrian artist Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. Its elliptical dome is the oldest of its kind outside Italy. Next to the Mausoleum is the Cathedral of Graz with an exceptional exterior fresco, the so-called Gottesplagenbild (picture of plagues), which is the oldest remained painting depicting Graz.

There are some more remarkable churches in Graz. The oldest one is the Romanesque Leechkirche with its tympanon Madonna. The highest building of Graz is the Herz-Jesu-Kirche, designed down into the last detail by architect Georg Hauberrisser in Gothic Revival style. Except the altar area, which had to be re-modeled after the liturgical renewals of the Second Vatican Council, everything still retains the original conception. On the other side of Mur river there are some beautiful Baroque churches like Mariahilf or Welsche Kirche. In St. Andrä, Baroque and modern elements combine, whereas St. Lukas, situated at one of the largest traffic routes of Graz, is a great example of contemporary sacred art.

Kunsthaus is Graz's newest exhibition place. It's worth a visit, even if you only look at its design from the outside. It's right across the river from Hauptplatz at the Suedtirolerplatz. Armory Zeughaus contains an amazing collection of arms and armor, from large two-handed swords and maces to the more modern pistols. Originally the local armory was built to readily equip the people in the event of an attack, and so the weapons you'll see here were made for use, not show.

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