My last full day in Austria had arrived and started, like all my other days before during this Europe trip, with brilliant sunshine. In the morning we embarked on a walk into my home town of Weiz to do some shopping in one of the garden centres. Many people in Austria are avid gardeners and enjoy growing their own organic food. It was a nice beginning to my last day in my home country.
Weiz is a small town of about 9,000 souls in the region of Eastern Styria in Austria. Embedded in the rolling foothills of the Alps, this region has much to offer, from the hiking opportunities in the Almenland region to the thermal spas near Bad Waltersdorf in the south, the cycling trails of the Pöllau Valley, the picturesque apple orchards surrounding the village of Puch as well as the attractive Joglland and Hartbergerland regions. Dotted throughout with castles and monasteries, Eastern Styria is relatively unknown in terms of international tourism. It’s one of those special regions that only savvy insiders know about.
On my last day in Austria I walked up the hill that overlooks my home town of Weiz which is also the location of the cemetery. A Neo-Gothic chapel standards guard and fresh flowers adorn many of the graves. Among the most famous residents of this cemetery are Aurelia and Gustav Schwarzenegger, parents of the famous bodybuilder, Hollywood star and former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At the top of the hill is the Weizbergkirche, an imposing and beautifully restored Baroque church that was built between 1757 and 1775. The church features frescoes of the five largest festivals of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the high altar, depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, was created by sculptor Veit Königer in 1771. Before this Baroque building, an earlier church had stood in this location since at least 1065 AD. From the 12th to the 17th century, the Weizbergkirche was a very popular pilgrimage church. Today, the church property is the location of a memorial to the Roma and Sinti that became victims of National Socialism.
Next to the town’s impressive Baroque church, the Weizbergkirche, is the churchyard with its historic parish buildings. Just steps away through a gate I reached a meadow with some trees that features several sculptures and signs with inspirational comments. It’s a quiet and beautiful nature area that provides the perfect place for some meditation, reflection and appreciation.
Beside the impressive Baroque church of Weiz is the “Kräutergarten”, an herb garden that has been created and is maintained by local volunteers. The garden features a wide variety of local herbs as well as a large collection of blooming flowers including poppies and irises. Several benches invite the visitor to sit down, gaze at the surrounding mountains and enjoy the tranquility of this lovely spot.
On May 26, 2014 I finished my last walk through my hometown of Weiz after nine days in Austria that included four days in Vienna and a side-trip to Bratislava. Time always flies too quickly when I visit my home country. As much as I love living in Canada for almost 30 years, it is always special to travel back to my native country, enjoy the Alpine landscapes, savour my childhood foods and connect with people that I knew from my childhood.
In the evening of my last day in Weiz I visited some good friends that I hadn’t seen for a year. In typical Austrian tradition, they served up some delicious open sandwiches. I certainly had enjoyed nine days of culinary experiences in Austria, including the expert cooking of my brother, who is an experienced chef. After this stay in my home country it was time to pack my bags and get ready to fly out the next day for the last portion of my European trip: six days in Scotland.