The next stop in our series marking Interrail’s 50th birthday is a cutting-edge food and design destination that has emerged from the shadow of its medieval fortress
Graz truly is a tale of two cities. The old town lies on the east bank of the River Mur under the lee of the tree-covered Schlossberg. The hill was a medieval fortress until an irate Napoleon demanded its walls be destroyed by the inhabitants; around its base, a harmonious blend of historic architecture ranging from Franciscan simplicity to Habsburgian splendour now houses a well-heeled commercial centre. Until a generation ago, the east bank’s inhabitants rarely felt the need to venture west, and those who lived on the less fancy side of the river were equally self contained, with their own market, the Lendplatz, and their own green space, the Volksgarten; the old city had its opera, but they had a vaudeville theatre, the Orpheum.
Then 20 years ago, a “friendly alien” landed on its west bank – the Kunsthaus, the modern art museum designed by architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier – and the area around it was transformed. Today the bridges across the Mur stream with foot traffic, the most eyecatching of them the floating island built in 2003 and a testament to Graz’s identity as a design city. Evidence of the city’s reforged creativity can also be found in its shop windows, particularly in the neighbourhood around the Lendplatz where a can-do, community-minded spirit spawns innovative businesses and social enterprises. At tag werk, accessories are designed and crafted by the previously unemployed; at Bo Suppe the owner sells hot soup direct from the window of his home kitchen.