17th June, Friday
On the Schlossberg in Graz: I’m having a beer before noon and catching up. When I pulled into Malahide on Wednesday evening the sun was shining and Fiction Factory came on the radio (Feels Like Heaven). In south Kilkenny I’d pulled over on the motorway and put on the hazard lights due to a bout of very heavy rain. Though the sun is shining here too, the wind is loud in the beer garden trees. I reckoned I’d spend half the day up here, given that I did the steps. Even then, the Glockenturm (bell tower) is another decent climb from the Uhrturm (clock tower).
The airport in Bratislava was overcast after the cheap Ryanair flight from Dublin and I had to wait half an hour for a two-hour coach trip to Wien Hauptbahnhof. We passed through Hainburg and the sun was shining in Vienna. After a quick burger I was on a train to Graz for another two and a half hours. It emptied out at Wiener Neustadt. A nearby blonde who was standing until then took my fancy. Neck-length hair, rimless glasses, aged about thirty, she got up and passed to the toilet before journey’s end and it was then I saw she too was well built. This is Austria.
The Hotel Strasser is near the station, which will be handy for getting out of here, twice. Given that I’ve come so far, I will go to Klagenfurt in the morning. At reception a young girl with glasses mentioned schlafen and Dusche after I described my long journey but I left sleeping for later. Even after a shower there was no spring in my step, though, heading into town. I had a drink and something to eat in Flann O’Brien’s; something of a barn of a place with multiple seating areas. Then I tried Molly Malone’s. It was long and dark but it didn’t do much for me either. Thankfully neither place was full of smoke.
I headed back to the hotel before midnight. The room is small and the bed is narrow – it’s a box room – but I’m away from the Gürtel. In Klagenfurt I’m going to visit the Robert Musil museum. Then I’ll get something for lunch. Then I’ll watch the Ireland match. Later I’ll come back to Graz.
6pm Molly Malone’s: once I got down from the Schlossberg I thought I should go into one or two churches but the cathedral was closed. I could hear organ music. I’d mistakenly gone into the Mausoleum beside it, first. A bored blonde on the desk sighed impatiently at my harmless error. This bitch was singularly lacking in Austrian charm.
I did see the stained glass crucifixion containing Hitler and Mussolini in the Stadtpfarrkirche. Then I ended up just walking around rather aimlessly e.g. failing to find a particular independent bookshop off Lendplatz but passing two Laufhäuser while doing so. For a sunny day my neck was cold. Maybe I shouldn’t have left the window open last night.
I’m back in Molly’s with at least an hour. A retired couple sat down here at this table for a drink. Ines said the barman had told them I was Irish and had come from Bratislava. Ernst said his daughter had fallen in love with Icelandic horses in Clonmel. I explained the town was only half an hour away from where I lived. I think I’ll go back to the Dom to see if I can get in this time. Ernst wasn’t impressed by my intention to visit Klagenfurt. Ich gebe keinen Furz für Klagenfurt. That’s what I think he said.
19th June, Sunday
Sunday morning, Graz. I’ll be getting out of here soon. Yesterday morning two women came to the door and when I managed to open it a few inches I took the towels (“Tücher”) and they let me be. It had been four in the morning when I got back and I’d even stopped to take a couple of photos of dawn breaking over the Mur.
There are no quays here, despite any such street names, as both banks of the river are thick with trees, in an unkempt way. There are no lamp posts either. The street lights hang from criss-crossing wires everywhere.
After watching a folk dancing display on Hauptplatz, backed by an oompah band, I was the first into O’Carolan’s at seven. The barman was from Donegal. We talked about the recent Austrian presidential election, in which the cities and the people with degrees hadn’t voted for the fascist but the hammer and the sickle had. He said too many young locals thought Holocaust figures were exaggerated. The Croatian beer he recommended didn’t come in big bottles but I cleaned out the fridge. Many times that night I looked up at the clock but any thoughts of heading back to the hotel were just too boring. Hence I overdid it, majorly.
Yesterday afternoon I heard the first thunderous downpour at three. Later I forced myself downtown, down the long, sloping, unappealing Anner Strasse, in order to get something to eat and catch the second half of the Irish game. A 0-3 drubbing at the hands of the Belgians meant little. I was going back to the hotel, to bed. In the night I watched Austria and Portugal (0-0) in my room, only leaving it to get some food in the Spar in the train station before it closed.
I had a bad night. Between an air-lock pain in my upper chest and two sore arms and shoulders, I was persistently uncomfortable. Right now I’m on platform four. I’ll get out of Graz in three quarters of an hour. I’ve done Graz. I didn’t warm to it as much as the other places I’ve been, in this country. The plan to see Klagenfurt was abandoned after a couple of hours in the pub on Friday evening. Down there I would have gone to the Robert Musil museum. He was born there. His father was from Graz. If I can sleep on the train I may bounce back a little. My legs are sore too. That’s from all the climbing and walking on Friday. When I get home I’ll be in good nick again.
The Schlossberg is a genuine attraction in Graz and I’m glad I checked the city out but there is something in the tone of the passage in the Rough Guide, just before the reference to the UNESCO status of the centre, which itself is almost dutiful, that suggests the writer wasn’t impressed either.
20th June, Monday
I got home after seven, by which time my shoulders were rigid. Some deep heat and a pill did the trick. I started sweating. I got caught in a window draught the first night in Graz. Before bed I bought Musil’s diaries (in English, the only feasible option – the German version consists of 1,500 pages, with a separate large volume of footnotes). Thirteen euro did the trick on German Amazon.
21st June, Tuesday
That was the worst hangover I’ve had in years but the window draught that first night didn’t help either, not least when blowing onto a hard, narrow bed with a single pillow.