Graz, in my opinion, is the best European city in which to host a classical music festival. I played in the AIMS orchestra for both the 2012 and 2013 summers and can’t imagine spending the summer any other way. Graz has everything you need: grocery stores with great variety, delicious smelling bakeries, quaint coffee shops, the best gelato you’ll ever eat, a huge park with a popular bar/club in the middle, a public swimming pool complete with friendly ducks, an awesome bus and light rail system, movie theaters (showing movies in English too), and, my favorite, affordable yet unique and stylish shoe and clothing stores.
There are plenty of events happening during the summer months too. La Strada Street Theatre Festival runs during the first week of August and always has fun performances, not to mention streets roped off for free salsa dancing at night. Every other summer Graz hosts the European Choir Games, which means you’re sure to meet other musicians from all over Europe as you dine with them at the much-loved Mensa (cafeteria). The museums in Joanneumsviertel right across from the Studentenheim where we stay, play movies and operas outside on a big screen almost every night in July. Or, you could create your own “event” by becoming part of the street scene. Bring your stand, favorite duet partner, and smile to play for the locals (and tourists) who LOVE to hear classical music played well. Who knows, they may even drop a few Euros into your case!
Not to worry, if you’re starting to feel a little bored in this adorable yet versatile town, you’re only a few hours’ train ride away from Vienna, Venice, Verona, Munich, or Salzburg. Or, take a few days to be more adventurous and visit Croatia (the newest member of the EU and has some of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park), Berlin, Prague, or Budapest.
If this is your first, fifth, or twentieth trip to Europe, I think you’ll find the city of Graz so charming that you’ll have to come back again. The people of Graz are very welcoming and love practicing English, so don’t worry if you don’t know much German! These are just a few of the memories I made during my two trips to Graz. I hope you get a chance to visit and make some memories of your own!
-Victoria Hauk (AIMS Festival Orchestra, flute, 2012 & 2013)