The clement weather on Saturday was perfect for our first jaunt abroad this spring. Maribor is an hour away from Graz, just over the border in Slovenia. With its large pedestrian zone in the center as well as footpaths along the banks of the Drava River, it is a wonderful place to stroll and stretch your legs. The town became an important strategic point in the Middle Ages when a fortress was built to protect the river valley from marauding Hungarians. Close to the Alps and a site of viticulture since Roman times, its economy was based on trade in timber and wine. The over four hundred year old Stara Vrta, or Old Vine, grows along a south facing wall right by the river. Its grapes are still used to make wine highly coveted by the rich and famous. What interested me more was the sundial on a nearby building.
Maribor was one of the first places I visited after moving to Graz, and my main association with the city is of an avian nature: a large swan population makes its home on the Drava. Since my second grade teacher read us E.B.White’s The Trumpet of the Swan, I have had a thing for swans, but it wasn’t until I came to Europe that I remember seeing any in the wild. There are lots of cities in Europe where you can sight swans – Zurich comes to mind – but Graz is not one of them. Maybe they fascinate me because of the incredibly fluid way they move their necks. I wish I had as much strength and little tension in my neck as the average swan. There is such a grace and quiet pride in the way they arch their wings.
My favorite square is the sunny Slomskov Trg around the cathedral. It’s sleepy, crossed by two old men chatting, a gaggle of teenage boys jostling each other and competing to be the loudest in town, a woman yacking away on a cell phone. TC and I sat on a low stone wall and watched the busybody pigeons strut about. All of a sudden, as if on cue, every single pigeon flew off together in a rush of flapping wings. Well rested, we followed their suit at a more leisurely tempo, standing up and continuing our stroll.
Happy birdwatching and stretching your legs!