3. Making Austrian friends

On Sunday, Brisbane Birralee Voices (BBV) and Birralee Blokes woke to a beautiful Graz day and gathered out the front of the Styrian Armoury in the city centre.

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In small groups, we entered to learn about the military violence of this historic city, and the bloody past of the weapons stored there. This included guns, pistols, canons, swords, machetes and suits of armour. We were able to see a rare set of armour for a horse, try on a helmet replica, and hold a large replica sword!

BBV then separated from Blokes. After a quick bite to eat in the city centre – Schlossbergrutsche, the tallest underground slide in the world, was the next destination, which saw many of BBV choristers going for a ride, including Mrs C!

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Other choristers chose to ride the furnicular to the top, to see the incredible views of the city, whilst some of the staff enjoyed some hot chocolate at the bottom.

BBV then headed off for their first rehearsal with the Bischöfliches Gymnasium choir, followed by a fabulous folk dancing and yodelling workshop. The school’s acapella group also put on a lovely performance for our choristers, including their rendition of “I want you back” by the Jackson 5.

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They finished the day with an Austrian spin on an Aussie favourite- the sausage sizzle.

The still jet-lagged choristers then went home to their billets, and definitely enjoying some rest after a big day!

Meanwhile, with the Blokes… The boys went off with the conductor of the Singakademie, Maria, on a scavenger hunt around Graz!

They visited the town hall square, the ‘Blue Alien’ museum of modern art, a Double Spiral Staircase, an ancient cathedral and other exciting venues!

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Alex Graves cracked the hunt code, which was ‘A E I O U’ – the initials of an Emperor which were printed on all the buildings around us the entire time! His prize? A chocolate bar from the infamous Zotter’s factory. After this, we travelled to Eggenburg Castle, not far from the Graz main centre. This lovely estate was covered in abundant flower gardens, inhabited by peacocks and peahens, and dated back to the 17th century.

We were given a guided tour around the rooms of the Princess and Prince, bearing witness to original glass chandeliers, original hand-painted ceilings, lavish furniture and rooms full of enormous history. Many Blokes thoroughly enjoyed learning about the rich history of this building – and others also loved interacting with the local peacocks!

That afternoon, the Blokes joined with the Singakademie to dine on some gorgeous salad, tasty smoked meats, sausages and delicious deserts.

We were incredibly grateful to our host families who had come together to prepare this brilliant feast for us. We then joined the choristers for some traditional Austrian dancing outside, accompanied by an accordion, and to learn some short but tuneful yodelling music!

Whilst this was all fun, we had to eventually return to ‘proper’ rehearsals and sing through some combined pieces for tomorrow’s concert with the Singakademie choir. All in all, an incredibly fulfilling and enriching day – tomorrow we see some more of Graz’s delights before our first European concert.

We invite you to keep following our journey of this epic Europe tour!

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