Steiermark (Styria)Styria (Steiermark), the largest of the Austrian provinces after Lower Austria, is bounded on the north by Upper and Lower Austria, on the east by Burgenland and - for a short distance - by Yugoslavia (Slovenia), on the south by Yugoslavia (Slovenia) and on the west by Carinthia and Salzburg provinces.
Extending from the northern Alpine ranges in the Salzkammergut southeastward by way of the main chain of the Alps to the hilly Alpine foreland, Styria displays a great variety of landscape forms - mountains and glaciers, deeply slashed gorges and valleys, great expanses of forest and ranges of gently rounded hills.Topography and EconomyThis diversity in topography corresponds to a difference in altitude of no less than 2,800m/9,000ft between the Dachstein massif and the lowest point of the province in Bad Radkersburg. Between the mountains and glaciers of the high Alps and the vine-clad lowland regions Styria offers a great spectrum of beautiful scenery - the peaks of the Calcareous Alps and the Tauern with their mountain lakes, the upland meadows of the Seetal Alps, the Koralpe and Gleinalpe, the attractive wooded heights of the Fischbach Alps, the sunny and fertile hills of eastern and western Styria. This variety of landscape also produces a corresponding diversity of climate.In this important area of passage between the Danube and the Adriatic there were from a very early period traffic routes through the valleys and over the passes, with trading settlements at strategic points.The principal river is the Mur, which rises in the Lungau (Salzburg) and flows through the province in a great arc. At first following an easterly course, it turns sharply southward at Bruck an der Mur, where it is joined by the Mürz, flowing down from the Semmering pass. It maintains this north-south direction until just short of the Yugoslav frontier, at Spielfeld, where it turns eastward again and forms the Austro-Yugoslav frontier for a considerable distance. On the banks of the Mur stand the provincial capital, Graz, and the industrial towns of Knittelfeld and Judenburg.The northern part of Styria is watered by the Enns, which rises in the Radstadt Tauern and emerges into the northern Alpine foreland after forcing its way through the wild and romantic Gesäuse gorge beyond Admont.The eastern part of the province is drained by the Raab and its tributaries. The upper reaches of the valleys are mostly narrow and sometimes gorge-like, while below they open out into fertile meadowland.A major element in the economy of Styria is contributed by ore mining and processing, primarily at Eisenerz with its famous Erzberg ("Ore Mountain", with terraced open cast working), Kapfenberg, Leoben/Donawitz, Bruck an der Mur and Graz. Forestry and upland pastoral farming in the north and fruit production in the south serve mainly to supply local needs. Another source of revenue is the Altaussee salt mines.The substantial tourist and holiday trade now also makes a considerable contribution to the Styrian economy.HistoryThe oldest evidence of human habitation in Styria is to be found in the numerous caves in the middle Mur valley around Peggau. In one such cave many Paleaolithic implements were found in 1947. Finds in the Gleisdorf area point to settlement here about 100,000 years ago. During the Neolithic period men ranged over most of central Styria, and in fertile areas settled down to a more sedentary life as farmers.During the Bronze and Iron Ages the Norici, a people apparently of Illyrian origin, settled in Styria. The local deposits of copper were already being worked, although little attention was paid to the iron ore of the region. Rich finds of high artistic quality date from this period, such as the Celtic votive wagon from Strettweg near Judenburg, pieces of armor, helmets and cult objects found in western Styria.In 113 BC there was a great battle at Noreia, near Neumarkt in upper Styria, in which a Roman army was defeated by two Germanic tribes, the Cimbri and the Teutons. It was another hundred years before the Romans gained possession by peaceful means of almost the whole of present day Styria (15 BC), and thereafter the region remained Roman until the fall of the Empire in AD 476. During this period many towns and other settlements were established, and the province was traversed by roads which are still in use today.The Great Migrations wrought havoc in the open countryside of Styria. Slavonic tribes, who were subject to the overlordship of the Avars, pressed into the plundered territories; then about 750 they appealed for aid against Avar oppression to the Bajuwari (Bavarians), who brought in Christianity from the Salzburg region. In 788 Styria passed into the control of Charlemagne, and thereafter Frankish, Bavarian and Saxon nobles and peasants were established in the region and large grants of ownerless land were made to the Church and to noble families. Styria owed its prosperity during this period to the development of the land for agriculture. From 895 onwards the province was continually under threat of attack by the Hungarians.It was only after the Battle of Augsburg in 955 that the region was regained for Christendom and the great "Marches" or frontier lordships were established, strong enough to protect Europe against invasion from the east. A number of such Marches were set up in Styria under the rule of the Trungau family, with their seat at Steyr in Upper Austria and at Enns. The last member of the family was granted the title of duke by the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa in 1180, and thereafter Styria remained a duchy until 1918, being held successively by the Babenbergs (from 1192), King Ottokar of Bohemia and finally (from 1276) by the Habsburgs. Within a period of a hundred years or so the principal towns and markets of Styria were established and many of them surrounded by defensive walls.The 11th and 12th C. saw the foundation of the most important Styrian monasteries, including Göss (1020), Admont (1072), St Lambrecht (1096-1103), Rein (1128), Seckau (1140), Vorau (1163), Stainz (1230) and many more.The 14th and 15th C. were marked by struggles for predominance between the great families of the province, which wrought much devastation. Hungarian and Turkish raids, plague and famine, together with plagues of locusts, laid waste great tracts of territory (cf. the "Landplagenbild" on the wall of Graz Cathedral). The Gothic period, which elsewhere was an age of cultural development and flowering, was for Styria a time of bitter struggle against the invaders from the east.By the beginning of the 16th C. Styria had reached its present boundaries, except that Lower Styria remained detached. The Turkish danger and the development of firearms made it necessary to modernize the region's defenses, and this brought an influx of Italian architects, who not only constructed new and powerful fortifications around the towns but were also responsible for building the magnificent noble mansions and the burghers' houses with their fine arcades which still add a picturesque touch to many towns today. During this period, too, was built the Landhaus in Graz, one of the finest Renaissance buildings outside Italy.At the Reformation Lutheranism made considerable headway in Styria, both among the nobility and the mass of the townspeople; but this was followed towards the end of the 16th C. by the Counter- Reformation, in which a leading part was played by the Jesuits, who had established themselves in Graz in 1573. Finally, in 1600, all those townspeople who had refused to recant their Protestant faith were banished, and in 1629 the Protestant nobility suffered the same fate.The Thirty Years' War and the continuing Hungarian and Turkish raids impoverished Styria, and although the Turkish danger receded at least temporarily after a Christian victory at St Gotthart- Mogersdorf in 1664 real relief came only after further victories over the Turks at Vienna (1683) and Ofen (1686).The 18th C. saw a considerable revival of the economy. Factories were established, roads were built and trade began to recover. This resurgence was brought to an end, however, by the Napoleonic Wars, when Styria was occupied by the French three times (1797, 1805 and 1809). During the 19th C. Styria enjoyed a period of economic development as a result of the establishment of new industries and the construction of railroads.The two world wars brought further trials. During the Second World War Graz and the industrial towns of Knittelfeld and Zeltweg were bombed, parts of the province were devastated by the fighting and many places in eastern Styria were partly destroyed. After the war the damage was made good, and since then Styria has shared the destinies of the rest of Austria.ArtThe earliest finds showing evidence of artistic skill date from the Celtic period. They include weapons, various vessels and ornaments. The most famous item is the votive wagon from Strettweg, near Judenburg, but this is probably an Etruscan product imported into Styria. The Roman period is represented by a great quantity of sculpture, inscribed stones, implements and ornaments (mostly in the Provincial Museum in Graz), and Roman stones can be seen in many churches, castles and other buildings.In Graz, Sekau and Rein a number of images of the Virgin dating from the Byzantine period have been preserved. The most splendid example of the Romanesque style is the church (a pillared basilica) at Seckau Abbey, but there are other important Romanesque buildings elsewhere in the province, particularly at Pürgg (St John's Church, with notable frescos). Typical of this period are the charnel-houses (Karner), often with chapels for worship. The libraries at Admont and Vorau possess important Romanesque manuscripts.The Gothic style began to develop in Styria only in the second half of the 13th C. One of the earliest Gothic buildings is the parish church of Murau with its stone-roofed steeple, but most Styrian churches date from the Late Gothic period. Two of the finest are Graz Cathedral and the pilgrimage church of Maria Strassengel near Graz. The Kornmesserhaus ("Corn Measuring House") in Bruck an der Mur is a magnificent example of secular Gothic architecture. Styria also boasts some fine examples of Gothic painting, sculpture and applied art.The Renaissance is represented in Styria by many magnificent buildings, most notably the Landhaus in Graz and other buildings in that city with beautiful arcaded courtyards. Other fine Renaissance buildings worthy of mention include the imposing castles of Eggenberg, Hollenegg, Tannhausen and Frondsberg.The principal examples of Baroque art are several fine churches in eastern Styria. There is also a great deal of excellent sculpture and painting of this period (Stammel, Hackhofer, Ritter von Mölk, Flurer, Kremser Schmidt, and the graphic artist Veit Kauperz).The 19th and 20th C. can claim only a few major works of architecture, such as the Rathaus and Opera House in Graz. In Bärnbach-Oberdorf west of Graz there is a fine parish church remodeled by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser; the exterior walls boast colorful mosaics, the onion- tower is gilded and the windows contain modern stained-glass. An ambulatory around the church has gates decorated with the signs of the religions of the world.The Styrian capital, Graz, has developed - particularly since the Second World War - into a major cultural city, the influence of which extends beyond the boundaries of the province.Tourist attractionsThe treasures created by nature and the hand of man in Styria are guarded by a ring of mountain ramparts, traversed by many passes. To the south, towards Carinthia, tower the Turracher Höhe (one of the steepest of the Alpine passes), the Flattnitzer Höhe, the Obdacher Sattel, the Packsattel and the little-known Radlpass from Eibiswald in southern Styria to the Drava (Drau) valley in Slovenia; to the west, towards Salzburg and Upper Austria, the Mandlingpass in the upper Enns valley, the steep road from Obertraun through the Koppental to Bad Aussee, the Pötschenhöhe, the Pyhrnpass (with the nearby Hengstpass and Laussapass), and the roads which climb up from Altenmarkt, Grossreifling and Mendling/Palfau in the beautiful valley of the Enns, where the river forces its way through between the Ennstal Alps and the Hochschwabing group; and to the north, towards Upper and Lower Austria, the Zellerain and Mitterbach roads, the Lahnsattel, the Preiner Gscheid saddle below the Raxalpe and Schneealpe, the Semmering and the Wechsel passes. Only towards the east is there relatively open country in the Styrian uplands, and it was here that the Styrians of earlier centuries built so many stout castles, the most imposing of which is the Riegersburg, preserved almost intact. Not to be missed is a visit to Graz, the Styrian capital in the southeastern corner of the province, with its prominent clock tower and splendid old town.
The Turracher Höhe (1,763m/5,784ft) lies at the western tip of Styria on the pass over the Gurktal Alps into Carinthia. A favorite skiing resort, it is also popular in summer as a base for walks in the wooded surrounding area. On the southern side of the pass there are still stretches of road with gradients up to 26% (almost 1 in 4).In the broad valley around the summit of the pass nestle the Schwarzsee and the Turracher See, surrounded by wooded slopes with good snow in winter which are now being developed as a skiing area, with numerous lifts. A chairlift runs up the Kornock (2,000m/6,560ft), and there are good climbs in the Nock area. To the south of the pass lies the Grünsee.
Turrach and Ebene Reichnau
The Turracher Höhe pass road descends (gradients up to 8%; 1 in 12) through Turrach (1,269m/4,164ft; pop. 500), where men dug for iron in the Middle Ages, to the upper Mur valley.
To the south of Turrach (steep gradients of up to 26%; 1 in 4), in the uppermost reaches of the Gurk valley, lies the resort of Ebene Reichenau (1,062m/3,484ft; pop. 2,200), with much good walking and skiing country (several lifts). From here there are climbs (each taking several hours) to the Falkertsee (1,765m/5,791ft), the Kruckenspitze (1,886m/6,188ft), the Hochrindhütte (1,580m/5,184ft), etc.
Gorges and Waterfalls
Styria is also rich in beautiful gorges and waterfalls. The largest and best known of the gorges is the Gesäuse between Admont and Hieflau, a mighty passage through the mountains which is now followed by the road and railroad. Near Mixnitz is the Bärenschutzklamm, with paths and gangways leading up to the Hochlantsch past a series of beautiful waterfalls. Also well worth seeing are the Kesselfall and its gorge, near Semriach.
Near Weiz the River Raab flows between steep rock walls and wooded slopes, with numerous rapids and waterfalls, and in the Weizbachklamm the road is crushed up against the foaming mountain stream as it forces its way through between towering cliffs. At the foot of the Totes Gebirge runs the Wörschachklamm. Other impressive gorges are to be seen near Hieflau and Johnsbach.
Raab River and Area
The Raab River flows out of the southeastern corner of the province into Hungary and the much larger Raba River. It is fed by various rivers flowing from the Fischbacher Alps.There are many small towns, of historical and scenic interest, situated on the small rivers surrounding the Raab.
Grafenegg Palace, Hatzendorf
Feldbach is situated on the Raab river, 38km southeast of Graz. The town's main attractions are a sewing and tailoring museum, and a palace.
The castle was built to fend off attackers as early as the 13th century. It was rebuilt during the 16th and 17th centuries and still features a Renaissance court. Although it is usually open to the public as a museum, it is also often used to house special exhibitions, especially around occasions such as Christmas and Easter. A different annual exhibition runs from March to October.
Sewing (Tailoring Museum)
The sewing and tailoring museum in Feldbach has information on the art of the seamstress and the tailor.
Tobacco Museum, Furstenfeld
The town of Fürstenfeld is close to the Burgenland border. It contains one of the many tobacco museums in Austria.
Blacksmithing Museum, Mureck
The town of Mureck, on the border of Yugoslavia, has a blacksmithing museum.
Clock Museum, Arnfels, Austria
If the visitor has the time it is worth visiting the small town of Arnfels, near the Yugoslavian border. On hand in the town is a clock museum, which is considered second to none.
Hunting Museum, Gusswerk, Austria
The town of Gusswerk, southeast of Neuhaus, has a hunting museum with information on the age-old sport of killing animals. It also showcases weaponry and hunting tools.
Bärnbach - Glass Making Museum
Brick Making Museum, Irdning, Austria
The town of Irdning near Stainach has a brick making museum. The collection features over 1,000 historic brick, plaster, vault and roof tiles.
Kapfenstein Geology Collection
The Kapfenstein Geology Collection is of interest to people who like rocks and geology.
Mountain Mining Museum, Kindberg, Austria
The town of Kindberg is about 10km northeast of Kapfenberg. It contains a mountain mining museum.
Gleinstätten - Brick Making Museum
This museum has wonderful information on the history of the brick and brickmaking.