Graz, AustriaNovember 28, 2016 in Austria
After finding one more closed Slovenian stopover, we crossed the border into Austria. There were booths and officials at the border but no passport checks in place.
The water was turned off at the two Austrian stopovers we tried but we did manage to empty the toilet at one. The need for water becoming more pressing, we decided to head to the €21 a night stopover in Graz that prided itself on being open all year round. On the way we passed a number of houses with Christmas decorations, including leafless garden trees sporting large shining baubles. Small Christmas trees strung with fairy lights stood outside individual shops in towns beneath lights put up by the local authority.
It was with almost ecstatic relief that we pulled into the large Graz site, turned the fresh water tap and saw that it worked! There were 160 pitches and we couldn't resist parking at number 122, the number of our old home in Netherton. We booked in for 2 nights, giving us plenty of time to make use of the good quality showers, washing machines and tumble dryer :)
The manager had given us Graz brochures, including one for advent and a bus map. He has circled the stop we were near as well as the central depot so we decided to give it a go and headed to the bus stop, hoping this public transport excursion would go better than the one in Dubrovnik. The buses came every 7 minutes so we didn't need to wait long. Upon boarding we saw there was an information screen with audio announcements that tracked our progress - brilliant!
Getting off (at the correct stop!) we made a beeline for the Christmas markets. There were about a dozen in total and instead of the huge 'super market' like in Birmingham, they were intimate collections of around a dozen stalls secreted away in small squares. Each specialised in something different, such as handmade items, colours from around the world or the children's Wonderland. The air was infused with Glühwein spices mixed with a little smoke from chestnuts roasting on open fires. We treated ourselves and warmed our hands around steaming mugs of Glühwein.
As the sun set and the lights were turned on, they'd focussed on the classic fairy lights instead of different coloured LEDs and there were lots of real trees and pine foliage. The effect was to create a warm and classical atmosphere. The main street had hundreds of lit up trees suspended upside down in a grid that criss crossed above the road. The markets had been quiet when we arrived but the atmosphere livened up as the evening progressed. After searching on Will's Maps.Me app, we managed to find the square that contained a nativity scene ice sculpture. Though it hadn't had any signs directing people to it, it was an amazing piece of art.
We finished the evening off with another mug of Glüwein, fish and chips for Will (just not the same as the ones back home) and a Baumkuchen for Vicky (a dough string spiralled around a cone then toasted and dipped in cinnamon sugar).
We bussed it back to the site feeling warm, happy and very Chrismassy!Read more