Passports checked, train engine changed, welcome to Slovenia! Stepping off the train from Zagreb, unfortunately I didn’t have much time to take in the sights as I’d originally hoped. About 10 minutes later, I was back on a train. Then, after two more changes, I was finally in Graz, in Austria. So in total, I probably spent about two hours in total in Slovenia – not quite enough to tick it off the list unfortunately.
After the somewhat now traditional ritual of checking in, washing clothes and showering, it was time to do some exploring. Wandering down into the city centre, I made a discovery. Now, when I arrive in a city, it is done without any real research into what is happening in the city when I am there. So, when I arrived in Graz city centre and saw that Red Bull were setting up an area for the nearby F1 race that weekend, it was a surprise! I didn’t even know the Austrian F1 was that weekend. They’d transformed an area of the nearby tram line into a starting grid, along with setting up big screens to show the qualifying and the race itself. Leaving them to set up, I went in search of somewhere to eat.
When walking, I was fairly content to leave it quite a while before settling down for food. However, the Austrian weather had other plans. Dark grey clouds started looming over the city, accompanied by ominous rumbling from afar – thunder and lightning.
With the clock ticking before I got a soaking, I started dashing frantically around, trying to find somewhere quiet which served some traditional food. In a moment which would make Indiana Jones jealous, I managed to dash into somewhere on what felt like the exact moment lightning began to strike the city. I was dry and it turned out they served Weinerschnitzel – result! After a hearty dinner and when the rain had died down, I returned to my bed for some well earned sleep.
The next day was my only full day in Graz, so after grabbing a guidebook from the hostel, I set out to see the city in a bit more detail than the night before. Plus, there was no threat of lightning this time, so I could really take my time. The highlight of the day was climbing the mountain – they called it a mountain, I’d call it a large hill – in the city centre to see the castle. I arrived at the top when midday struck, to be greeted by the sound of church bells clamouring and echoing from across the city, joined by their leader at the castle watchtower. The views from the top were pretty rewarding as well! What I was not impressed with was that when I arrived at the peak, a sign informed me I could have taken a lift up from the bottom! However, I suppose the effort put in made it all the more rewarding when I was up there.
The rest of the day was spent watching some of the F1 qualifying in the city centre (simply because I could), relaxing in the main park and enjoying a few more free gigs. One of which was right by the main river, which gathered a big crowd. Yet, what really caught my eye was the fact that as the music was playing, some guys were surfboarding in the river! I’ll be honest, surfboarding was one of the last things I expected to see in the middle of Austria.
This morning was a rushed affair, as I packed my bag, checked out of the hostel and made my way to the train station to get my train to Munich. Next stop, Deutschland!
James Jackman will be sharing stories from his Interrail trip every few days throughout June and July – follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch his updates as soon as they’re posted!