Hiking the Raab River and Exploring the Provincial Capital of Graz

With its numerous fortified gates, its unique location on an extinct volcanic cone, its extensive defensive walls, wooden drawbridges and moats, the Riegersburg is an authentic medieval fortress that has seen architectural additions from the Renaissance and Baroque eras. An exhibition in the fortress explains the historic era of the 16th and 17th century and sheds light on feudalism as well as two fascinating female characters who inhabited this fortress more than four centuries ago: Baroness von Galler and the “flower witch” Katharina Paldauf.

The Riegersburg – a real medieval fortress

Our East Styrian tour continued through volcano country with a drive to Schloss Kapfenstein, another medieval fortress that has been expanded into a castle and today holds an upscale restaurant and hotel. This castle is also located on the extinct cone of a former volcano. We enjoyed a tasty lunch in the outdoor patio of the castle, against the gorgeous backdrop of the distant Carinthian and Slovenian Mountains.

Austrian country charm

My last evening in Austria was capped off with a visit to our friends Luis and Isabella, and all five of us enjoyed the late evening sun in their beautiful backyard. Luis even took me on a little motor scooter adventure around town. Back at Ewald’s place we spent a few more hours reminiscing until I had to pack my bags for my departure to the airport in Vienna Monday morning.

Sculpture of Austrian poet Peter Rosegger

These nine days have been one of the most wonderful travel experiences in my life. They were greatly enhanced by my connections with family and friends, but in addition, my eyes were truly opened to travel opportunities in my birth region of Austria.

Renaissance arcades in Schloss Thannhausen

Styria, with its medieval cities, imposing churches, monasteries and fortresses offers a great variety of destinations to history and architecture lovers. Music, visual and performing arts are ever present, even in small communities. Outdoor lovers will find a whole smorgasbord of activities, from hiking to mountain biking, skiing, horseback riding, mountaineering, hang-gliding, river rafting and many other varied pastimes.

The Teichalmsee at dusk

The diverse landscapes featuring fertile plains, rolling hills full of orchards and vineyards, high Alpine peaks and meadows, pristine rivers and scenic lakes enchant at every corner. And food, wine and beer lovers will definitely enjoy the diverse culinary offerings. In addition, Styria offers affordable prices and great value to international travelers. I realized my birth region is right up there at the top of any destinations I have visited in the last few years.

The Glockenspielplatz in Graz, featuring the popular carillon

This trip truly opened my eyes to the astounding beauty and variety of the area where I was born, and even though Styria might not be as well known as other regions of Austria, my nine days back home were far too short and I already have a whole list of things to do and see next time I am over in the old country.

The Landhaus – a Renaissance jewel and seat of the Styrian government

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