It is therefore well worth one’s time to explore the architecture of the province known as the "green heart of Austria". A particularly attractive point of departure for our tour is the so-called Ausseerland, in the Styrian part of the Salzkammergut region. This area’s venerable villas with their characteristic verandas have lost none of their charm since the glory days of the Austrian empire, and the "Via Artis" provides a good opportunity to examine these architectural gems and find out more about the artists who lived and worked there in the past. This theme walk begins at the Kurhaus with its adjoining Literaturmuseum Altaussee and takes visitors past fascinating buildings such as the former Königsgarten Villa, where the Austrian writer Friedrich Torberg wrote many of his works.
Any discussion of a region’s architecture must, of course, include religious buildings as well, particularly when they are as imposing as the Benedictine Admont Abbey. This, Styria’s largest monastery, also contains the world’s largest monastery library. The world famous Basilica in Mariazell is a striking Gothic and Baroque structure that, as Austria’s most popular place of pilgrimage, attracts droves of visitors every year.
In Graz the marvels are never-ending
For architecture fans, the marvels in Graz are never-ending. The combination of the past and future, of the traditional and the modern, is enormously successful here. Many visitors are taken aback when they catch their first glimpse of a huge, blue, shimmering object among the medieval buildings of the historic city centre. Affectionately known to the locals as the "Friendly Alien", the Kunsthaus Graz is only one of many examples of bold architecture in this city. The "Mur Island", designed by the New York artist Vito Acconci, is a half-opened shell in the middle of the Mur River, while the "MUMUTH" – the House for Music and Music Drama – is wrapped in a monochrome metal web. And in the Botanical Garden Volker Giencke’s modern hothouses form a bizarre contrast to the elegant villas of the surrounding residential neighbourhood.
Graz boasts the largest medieval city centre in Europe, and the area’s fanciful house fronts and narrow, winding streets turns a stroll through the city into an exploration of all periods of building history. Particularly eye-catching is Eggenberg Castle, a true gem of Baroque architecture. Visitors interested in art would do well to extend their stay in Graz by a few days to experience all the fascinating museums and galleries the new Joanneum Quarter has to offer.
Styrian vintners create unforgettable wine experiences
While there are naturally a great many more things to see in Graz, fascinating sights outside the provincial capital await the visitor as well – on the Styrian Schlösserstrasse, for example, which links no fewer that seventeen castles and palaces. From here it is only a short drive to the Styrian wine country, in the southern part of the province, where young Styrian vintners create exciting wine experiences. This is another place where the traditional and the modern go hand in hand: alongside the small, rustic vintner’s cottages typical of the region, such as the idyllically situated Winzerhaus Kogelberg in Kaindorf, one increasingly finds bold new structures in which the traditional art of winemaking is presented in a contemporary atmosphere. A prime example of this is the wine cellar of the Sabathi family in Leutschach.
Architectural delights in Styria’s thermal region
For guests wishing to combine the pleasures of wine-tasting with the amenities of a visit to one of the region’s spas, the Loisium Wein & Spa Resort in Ehrenhausen is the perfect destination. The distinctive wooden façade with its clear lines is indicative of the successful fusion of architecture and nature. These traits are also impressively displayed at the Rogner Bad Blumau, but with completely different architectural elements: designed with a great deal of playfulness and imagination, the various buildings, each unique in its own way but all characterized by round shapes and colourful façades, combine to create a living synthesis of the arts, surrounded by farmland and pastures. This is also the ideal place to recall the many impressions from the architectural voyage of discovery – and to begin mentally planning the next tour.