Europe Trip Highlights Part 4
I realized today that I need to wrap up my posts about my trip to Europe, because we just booked our flights for our next trip! This is to a part of the world we’ve never been to before, and a new hemisphere! Any guesses where we’re going? But back to our last trip. So far I shared about going to the sea, the mountains, and the lake, but now we’re journeying up to Austria!
We went there for a good reason- the Red Bull Ring is right outside of Slovenia in the town of Spielberg, Austria. For those of you who don’t know, Dan and I are both big Formula One fans (he’s been one for a while and I got into it after watching Drive to Survive).
He found out that there are opportunities for regular people to drive cars on the same track that the race uses, so we had to do it! I got to be a passenger princess and it was such a cool experience- we got over 150 MPH and it was insane how fast it felt, but still way slower than the actual drivers. We also got a tour of the track and got to stand on the podium and see all the VIP areas!
After the fun of the track and exploring the town a bit, we headed to Graz where we were staying for the next few days. Our hotel was right in the center of town and the location was great! We walked around a bit after checking in, and found a huge event happening at the main square. We weren’t sure what was going on- there were police everywhere and people drinking, but all we could hear were people chanting along to someone yelling on stage. It was kind of surreal because they were all speaking German and we had no idea what was happening! We later found out it was a party for a win by the local soccer team.
Graz was such a cool town to visit. There is a river running through the town, with lots of places to explore on both sides. There are lots of funky designs, like an art museum that looks like an alien orb shape, and a man-made island bridge going across the river. There were lots of vegetarian restaurants that we enjoyed and tons of cute coffee shops, including my favorite that had ducks all over as the logo.
One of the highlights for me was going to Hops Craft Beer Pub. It was down one of the many alleyways in the city, and was such a cozy place with candle light and stone walls. The beer selection was amazing, and it was a great way to end a long day of adventure.
The next day, we woke up to a bunch of rain, so we needed an indoor activity. Luckily, I knew just the place, and we headed a bit out of town to the Zotter Schokolade Factory. To me, this felt just like Willy Wonka brought to life. When we walked in, we were immediately greeted by a little robot bringing around samples, and from there we never stopped eating! The tour we took explained how the chocolate is made, and then lets you sample until you can’t eat anymore. We were given little spoons, and walked around the factory to try all kinds of products. There were chocolate fountains, more robots serving chocolate truffles, roller coasters with chocolate bars, a hot chocolate room, and more! It was so neat to see all the different ways they came up with to serve the chocolate, and to try all of the random combinations! There were also lots of amazing vegan chocolates to try, and we had such a great time wandering around the factory.
Once we were sufficiently stuffed (even after having a “chocolate shot” that’s basically alcoholic chocolate and supposed to give you a second wind to eat more), we wandered outside where there was a huge farm, petting zoo, and gardens. By then, the rain had stopped, so we spent lots of time making sure to visit all of the animals and hidden gems of the farm. It was really amazing and definitely worth the visit.
Our final full day in Austria was spent visiting the Styrian wine region. While we were driving around visiting wineries, we crossed back and forth over the border and had the most incredible views of rolling hills, mountains in the distance, and vineyards. We stopped at a few wineries and were able to get some glasses of great wine to try. By far my favorite place was at Bischöflicher Weinkeller Hotel Schloss. This is an old castle that got converted into a hotel, and features an incredible wine cellar. We got some glasses of crisp white wine, and had the entire cellar to ourselves! It felt like we took a step back in time and we really soaked in the experience.
The rest of our time spent in Graz was just wandering around the town, visiting all of the highlights like the castle and courtyards and other interesting buildings and parks. One of the interesting things we got to see was a double spiral staircase, which was kind of disorienting to walk up and down! I loved how Graz was full of random things like this- it kept me guessing and was one of the more unique cities I've been to. I really enjoyed our time there! After this we had one more city to visit, which I'll talk about in my next post, and then I'll be sharing one more post of all the pitstops we made between each leg of the trip! In some cases these were even better than what we found in the cities we stayed in!