For our second month in Austria, we spent our time in Graz. The city of 300,000 people is actually Austria’s second largest, despite being only 15% the size of Vienna. Until the mid 1800s it was spelled Gratz, which is how it’s still pronounced even though the spelling has changed. The name means “little castle”. The castle no longer exists, but the great viewpoint on the hill above town still does. There is a large student population, mostly from the University of Graz which has over 30,000 enrollees. It’s a diverse town that mixes old school charm with a young vibe.
If I had to use one word to describe Vienna, it would be fancy. With few exceptions, the art museums, buildings, churches, and shopping districts are all dressed up. It’s not enough to just have great art, it must be displayed in a palace. Most apartment and commercial buildings have gorgeous detailed facades. There are horse-drawn carriages clip clopping around giving tourists an expensive glimpse of old Vienna. And the downtown pedestrian area is filled with upscale shopping and antique stores.
On the north side of Vienna along the edge of the Danube canal sits the Spittelau Incinerator. But don’t mistake this thermal waste treatment plant for your ordinary smoke-belching eye sore. Vienna contracted with unconventional artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser to turn it into a work of functional art. His anti-straight line design philosophy is prevalent on every surface of the incinerator. It’s the coolest one in existence*.
Zagreb is a lively place for a city of fewer than a million people. Not just a stopover for those trying to get to the beach, Croatia’s capital offers numerous attractions. The downtown pedestrian zones were busy with shoppers, strolling tourists, and cafe goers of all sorts. We enjoyed the large daily farmers market, detailed architecture, multiple parks, and sweeping views from the hills above the city.
After a month in Belgrade, I can confidently say that Serbia’s capital is a great stop. I expected it would be a busy, dirty city full of ugly buildings. Instead, what we found was a very livable place filled with friendly people and dotted with beautiful parks. While exploring, we walked down numerous shaded streets lined with cute cafes. There were spring flowers planted everywhere. We even got our “pet fix” from the neighborhood cats, many of whom were happy to be on the receiving end of our love.
Novi Sad is a friendly city strategically placed on the mighty Danube. It has a long history, with records showing that people have inhabited this spot for 7000 years. Today, the city is Serbia’s second largest, with a population tallying a little under 300,000 people. It’s quite pleasant to explore, with dedicated car-free pedestrian zones and many separated bike lanes. It’s also one of the current European Capitals of Culture, so naturally Katie and I had to see what that was all about.
We just finished a great 3 month stay in Budapest. The city is quite charming and has many of the things we look for in a place to live. There is lots of green space, plenty of museums, interesting architecture, and street art galore. Even the day-to-day living costs were much lower than we expected. Budapest is an easy city to fall in love with.
Art in Budapest is not just limited to museums. Throughout the city, there’s interesting street art to be found. This makes Budapest very fun to wander around. We never know what we’ll find beyond the bend or on the next block. Between the great architecture, street art, and sweeping river views, we’ve enjoyed exploring over the last couple of months.
Budapest is a gorgeous city filled with lots of impressive architecture. We often find ourselves walking around in a state of awe, mouths half agape. There are cool old buildings just about everywhere we turn. And most of them have been well-cared for, so they still look how I imagine they must have when they were built.
Victor Vasarely is a Hungarian artist whose work is focused on visual perception and spatial layout. Some call him the Grandfather of the Op Art movement (short for optical art). He’s quite famous here in Hungary, with a museum dedicated to his art in Budapest and another in Pécs. Katie and I recently visited the Vasarely Museum in Budapest and found it fascinating. I love art that challenges my perceptions, and Vasarely knows how to do just that.