Monday, July 09, 2007

Graz Update: July 8

The biggest thing this week was a 38 mile (round trip) bike ride south of town, along the R2 Murradweg, a 365km bike path following the local river wherever it goes in Austria. We've gone south before, back in April; we went about twice as far this time. The path meanders more or less alongside the Mur river, crossing it at least twice. Not far south of the airport, things turn to farmland in a hurry, so we were zooming along a nicely paved path between farmers' fields.
Most of what we saw growing was corn, or Kurbis, the local pumpkin/squash thing that so many seeds and oils are made from. In fact, we passed probably 8 or 10 facilities for pressing the oil. One of them smelled really good!

If you squint at the right side of this picture (uhm, if it were full size, anyway), you'll see little flecks of red in the corn (which is about 9' tall right now). That red is some kind of pea-family thing that is vining up most of the cornstalks, a striking red contrast to the dark green corn. Nearly fell of the bike, looking at that.

The little towns along the path are all varying sorts of farming communities, although there is no doubt lots of the people who live there commute into Graz for school & work. There were many places along our ride where an elaborately landscaped, very suburban-looking (by our American standards) house & yard were side by side with a crop field. Two of the little towns we went through smelled so strongly of poultry that we couldn't stand to stop and admire some amazing woodwork, stonework, fountains, churches, and other nifty sights. Virtually all buildings are overflowing with flowers. Flowerboxes and flowerbeds everywhere, and it's very likely there are cut flowers inside, as well.

Here's a little stop-and-rest spot in a town called Kalsfeld, where all these factors come together--except the smell of chicken poo, which is why we stopped there.

At the turn-around point for our ride, we found a large, very modern-looking power plant, and this building, which is probably also power-related? We weren't totally sure. Those pipes you see in the foreground also track the Radweg most of the way south--as far as we went, anyway, and they may or may not be related to the power plant. Probably not. Someday, we're going to get it together and figure out where all the train stations are, so we can just ride one-way until we're too tired to continue. Maybe we'll make it to Slovenia that day! (We went about half way to Slovenia today, but then we still had to pedal back home for 2 hours...)

A little closer to home, we found a large graffiti mural in the Stadtpark. Pretty cool.

The Stadtpark also has two great sources of sludge. This one is the water garden, which is shallow, and filled with water plants, tadpoles, little fish and some fat, happy ducks, and a LOT of algae. It was tough to find a good angle on it, because it's about an eighth of a mile long, and goes around 3 corners. Maybe 18" deep? The algae has really bloomed since it got hot here, it wasn't quite that foul before.
Another sludge hole in the Stadtpark is an inexplicable statue group. It consists of one large cement block with water trickling out, eight satellite blocks the same shape but smaller, and less wet (they're bench-esque) all oriented toward the central block, and the bronze lotus-position person. It is probably a monument to the kind of public art that makes wet sludge? The bees are very fond of it; they get thirsty, too.

And, finally, closest to home, something from the fridge. Because, really, would you know it was really one of these update things, if it didn't involve a picture of food? In this case, it's Teufel's STiCKSi ("Devil's Sticks">). One of us is really fond of a good spicy dill pickle. But Austrians don't believe in spicy food. Yeah, the package SAYS they're hot. But what they actually are, is sweet pickles with a few drops of chili paste in the jar. Maybe the problem is that they just don't have dill pickles here? We've yet to find a pickle that's not sweet, even the ones that say right on the package that they're not sweet. Ahh, well. On the bright side, if we WERE fans of sweet pickles, we'd be in heaven--- there are probably 2 dozen different varieties of that on the shelf at the big stores.

That's all for now.

Hope to hear from you soon!

-Holly & Greg

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