Hotel Grand Wiesler : Graz : Austria

Hotel Grand Wiesler : Graz : Austria

Sometimes, you see somewhere online and you just have to go. No matter what. This happened recently when I discovered the website for the Hotel Grand Wiesler, in Graz, in the Styria region of southern Austria. When we lived in Manchester, the thought of seeing a hotel online, in another country, and planning a spontaneous trip, would have been fairly unthinkable, given that we’d have had to have found flights, hired a car and generally have taken a lot more time to do the trip. But now, we can just get in the car and drive – and that’s what we did recently.

In just over three hours, from leaving our house in northern Istria, we were checking into Hotel Grand Wiesler, on the banks of the River Mur, in Graz. The website gave us an idea of what the hotel would be like – it’s a stylish website and ticked all of our We Are Life Design boxes. Recently refurbished, the building was originally five separate guesthouses which were bought by Carl Wiesler in 1870 and turned into one hotel. It’s still a very grand building, with an imposing entrance, but not at all stuffy. In fact, it’s very contemporary and extremely quirky in places. There are apparently 102 rooms, but it seems very small and boutique-like and we definitely didn’t feel as if we were sharing the space with lots and lots of other guests. High ceilings and large open spaces give the impression of plenty of space and so even when we had drinks in the bar, and ate in the restaurant on the Saturday evening, we felt that we had space to breathe and soak up the surroundings. This is the hotel entrance, with  “Jigsaw Falling Into Place” by Austrian artist, Clemens Hollerer.

The Speisessal Restaurant, which is open to the public, and clearly a popular place to dine, is a real visual feast, with bold artworks and installations. When we checked out on Sunday, the Soul Brunch was in full swing, with a DJ on the decks playing some very laid back afternoon tunes. Food, by the way, is exceptionally good – and definitely not overpriced.

Our room, on the first floor, overlooked the street behind the hotel – and what a pretty street it was too. Gorgeous shops including a florist and furniture & interiors and very interesting looking bars and restaurants, with much outdoor seating (rooms have double glazed windows so sound is not an issue) lined the street, and above, residential apartments. The pistachio coloured buildings are very old and very grand, and so for a nosey person like me, it was a thrill to be able to almost peek into them, when dusk started to fall and lamps were lit…

Our room was in the Independent Comfort category and it’s safe to say, it was large. With two huge windows, the room was flooded with light – blackout blinds ensure that no early morning rays waken you too early, though. The bed was super comfortable, and again, probably given the size of the room, very big, with gorgeous white bedding. Furniture is pretty simple – mostly white washed wood, again giving the room a very airy and spacious feel. It had everything you’d need for a short stay – fridge, safe, hanging area for clothes, a low cupboard with drawers, plenty of good lighting options (lamps and dimmers) and sockets and excellent wi-fi. The toilet was in a separate (very) small room, with a hand-painted Mexican Talavera sink sitting on a concrete plinth just outside. A very large walk in shower – and very, very powerful – was partitioned off by glass bricks and perspex door. This could be off-putting if you wanted to shower in privacy, but the size of the shower meant you could be behind the glass bricks and therefore obscured.

Although possibly not to everyone’s taste, one of the features I really liked, was the deliberately exposed plaster in places on the walls. This does seem to be a feature in all of the rooms, and works really well, against the minimalist furnishing and largely white plasterwork.

There are seven different categories of rooms in the hotel, ranging from Tiny Independent to Grand Suite. (Montage images : Booking.Com)

Secure parking is available in a public car park, at Griesgasse 10, which is conveniently located right behind the hotel – the guest rate is €15 per day, and tickets are issued at reception and paid for on check-out. Another bonus is that the hotel also includes a sauna, outdoor area, workout equipment and an Arabian tea room. The wellness areas is open daily from 7am-9pm and the sauna is open from 5pm-9pm, but you can use the wellness area outside of these hours, by prior arrangement with reception. Bathrobes and towels are available.

And, if your criteria for staying somewhere, is knowing that a few famous names have also stayed there, then Hotel Grand Wiesler is definitely the one for you – Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Rolling Stones, David Guetta, Marianne Faithfull, Billy Idol, Joe Cocker, Deep Purple and the Dalai Lama to name but a few.

Going Green…

Going Green…

We’ve decided that the not-so-bottle-green bedroom wall, is staying. Despite it not being the colour I had in my mind’s eye, we’ve grown to really love it. And a bargain of a find in TK Maxx when we went to Graz, in Austria, sealed the fate of the colour – a beautiful green angle poise style lamp, which works really well against the new wall shade…

Gorgeous green angle poise lamp from TK Maxx, Graz, Austria

Gorgeous green angle poise lamp from TK Maxx, Graz, Austria

So, green has been on my mind recently. One of the next parts of the house that we’re intending to tackle, is the upstairs bathroom. Like the one downstairs, it’s small, but we’ve got a bit more floorspace to play with and it does have a natural space for the bath (where the sink and toilet currently sit opposite to each other). Because plumbing is already almost in the right places, we can hopefully fit a rainshower head over the new bath. I’d already found this image, and loved the copper/brass showerhead, but hadn’t really taken much notice of the green tiles…

The bathroom is going to be a real mix and match, in terms of style. The downstairs bathroom is now quite sleek and co-ordinated and so we feel that we can be a bit more adventurous with the other room. Once, what we thought was a negative – the size and shape of the bathroom – is now actually a positive, as it means we have to be a little more creative. Our thinking is that the bath will be quite a standard bath, but we’ll have a frame built around it as the footprint it will go into, is a bit of a cheese wedge shape, so the colour of this doesn’t matter so much. The sink and toilet will move to the wall under the window, and so these will be immediately visible, as they’ll be what you see as you enter the room. We do have a gorgeous enamel sink, rescued from a science lab in a school I used to teach in – one of those really deep, white, rectangular shaped sinks – and we have thought that this would be the new bathroom sink, mounted on a new plinth, with wall mounted taps over the sink. I have found out that you can actually paint these sinks, so that’s a possibility, if we can have it done professionally. But, whatever, I’ve been poring over Pinterest, and as ever, my interest has been aroused…

So, what do you think? Should we go green?

Maribor : Slovenia

Maribor : Slovenia

Maribor is Slovenia’s second largest city, but that doesn’t mean it’s big, by any stretch of the imagination. Up until now, we’ve overlooked it, in favour of the capital, Ljubljana, whose appeal is immediate. It’s beautiful, full of well restored and well maintained historical buildings, with a winding river, fringed with weeping willows and a fairytale castle on top of the hill, looking down on the red roof tops of the old town. But, we decided to stop over in Maribor last weekend (Sunday evening) on our way back from Graz, in Austria. Although in two different countries, the two cities are only about half an hour from each other, so we arrived in good time in Maribor, hoping to get out and about and explore the city. Unfortunately, Sunday was grey and cold, unlike the previous day in Graz, which had been very spring-like – warm and sunny. The weather obviously didn’t help, but the outskirts of the city were a bit on the grim side. Very down trodden, and with definite reminders of the austerity of the not too distant past. We did wonder if we’d made the right decision, and whether we should just head home – but we’d made a booking and decided to give Maribor a go…

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

4 Flats, Slomškov trg 11, Maribor, Slovenia

We booked an apartment online, and were delighted to find it was located in the above building (our apartment was the one on the bottom right, with the two big windows). 4 Flats is just what it says – four converted apartments, off a communal entranceway. However, before getting into the apartments, you have to go through the arched doorway, just to the left of the tree. The door is ancient – and could be described as delapidated, BUT it became immediately clear, once through the doorway, that this was a building with real history, and hence the doors…

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor  Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Internal courtyard : 4 Flats, Maribor

Look at those walls! If these were in England, they’d probably be being preserved by English Heritage, but these are the communal entrance way, behind the great big delapidated wooden doors. There’s a cobbled accessway, and once the exterior doors are opened wide, residents drive their cars through here, to park in the internal courtyard. Amazing that a building like this, is just, well – there…

Our apartment was actually fab – quite minimalist, but all the right colours for me! Plus, lots of the original features had been retained, including the huge windows – which had an inner frame of double glazing, so absolutely no noise when they were closed.

Two of the other apartments were obviously not booked, and the doors were open, so I did have a bit of a nosey – and can confirm that the images on Booking.Com are completely accurate. All very lovely and well renovated.

It’s worth mentioning that there are parking bays all around the little park just outside the flats – and it’s free on a Sunday. (Payment – very inexpensive – begins at 8am Monday morning). Just across the park, with a view from our apartment windows, is the Slovene National Theatre, with performances of drama, opera, and ballet annually attracting the country’s largest theatrical audiences. We saw the audience leaving after the Sunday evening performance and it’s very clear that the Slovenes like to dress up for the theatre. Very grand, indeed!

The owner of the apartments met us and tried very helpfully to suggest where we could eat on a Sunday evening – although he did struggle, by his own admission, as many places, at this time of year, are closed on a Sunday evening. Nothing for it, then, but to get out and exploring Maribor. The historical centre is very small – and very, very, very old. You can really imagine what life must have been life in medieval times, as many of the buildings are literally teetering on the brink of collapse. We did spot one for sale, so if anyone fancies a bijou residence in Maribor, hit us up and we’ll get the details to you.

Narrow cobbled streets, like the one above, lead off one of the main sqaures – Glavni Trg – down to the Drava River, and the area of Lent. It did look as if the bars which line the river would be lovely in the summer, with plenty of evidence of outdoor seating, terraces and umbrellas already being put out, but it was a bit chilly – even with blankets – outside The Piranha Cocktail Bureau. The logo led us to this very stylish bar…

The interior is very striking, including backlit wall of bottles of spirits and liquers, and furnishings with lots of accents of black. I think I was most impressed by the toilets – scrupulously clean, and everything high gloss black. No photos unfortunately, as I still find it too weird to take photos of loos ? We were lucky too, to get a very pink sunset – much welcome after the gloomy afternoon.

Just next to Piranha Cocktail Bureau – and this has been verified by The Guiness Book of Records – is Stara Trta, the world’s oldest vine, growing outside an old medieval house called Hiša Stare Trte, also known as The Old Vine House.

We did eventually find somewhere to eat – Ancora, an Italian restaurant. Suffice it was a pretty surreal experience, but I’ll leave that there.

Monday morning was bright and sunny, so we took the opportunity before heading off, to scoot around the historical centre. One lap of about 30 minutes and you’re done, but there are some sights really worth seeing, especially if you look up, above the street level shop fronts, which are mostly fairly dreary. But look above street level, and this is what you’re greeted with…

Glavni Trg, Maribor’s second largest square

Also in Main Square is The Plague Column. Erected in 1743 to replace an older version, this monument commemorates the end of the plague, which killed over one third of the city’s inhabitants between 1680-81. The large monument, designed by Jožef Štraub, dominates Glavni Trg (the main square) and features a golden Virgin Mary on top of an eight metre column surrounded by six saints. It’s really very, very impressive!

So, what did we actually think of Maribor? To be honest, I’m still a bit undecided. There’s a definite palpable sense of history, and parts of the old historical centre are undoubtedly beautiful. It doesn’t have the sassiness of Ljubljana, or the coastal aspect of Koper. But, there’s something about it. It’s raw and a bit rough around the edges and feels like it’s not quite in 2019. It feels like a city that has a bit of catching up to do. However, when it does, I think that Maribor will be somewhere that should be on your destination wish-list. Until then, if you love history, you will like Maribor. And, if you need a new hat, you’ll definitely like it…