After Salzburg it was time to swing back through Graz, spend a little more time with my great aunt and uncle, then head back to Vienna for my flight home.
My great aunt gave me a brilliant Austrian jacket. I have no idea why she had it lying around, but it even fit my freakishly long arms. It made me think I really should have bought the "waterproof and foldable" Austrian hat I'd been eyeing in the gift shop in Salzburg.
Shots o' Graz
The big feature of the return to Graz was the Styrian Armoury. After seeing a decent collection of arms and armour at Schloss Anbras in Innsbruck, I'd lost my earlier enthusiasm for the Armoury. Fortunately, we took a look anyway.
The key difference here was quantity. The collection at Schloss Anbras was just that: a collection, meant for display. Meanwhile, Graz was part of the vanguard in ongoing conflicts with the Ottoman Empire, and the Styrian Armoury was a weapons cache designed to outfit 5,000 men. It has remained largely unchanged since the 17th century, and with 32,000 pieces, it declares itself to be the largest historical armoury in the world.
The first floor had the usual museum displays, including a rather dramatic set of figures illustrating precisely why you would not want to go up against a team of pikemen. It was most interesting to note how the 16th-century knights rode with wheel-lock pistols in addition to swords, with pistol holsters on one or both sides of their saddles.
The second to fourth floors were brimming with weapons and armour. There were racks and racks of breastplates, helmets and powder flasks hanging from the ceiling, massive guns clinging to the walls, pistols lined up like bestsellers on bookcases, and a collection of at least 60 two-handed swords, all ready to be grabbed at a moment's notice. Counting up and multiplying, I estimated 5,000 spears, 2,000 suits of armour, 2,000 long guns and 1,000 pistols. The clerk at the ticket booth noted that it wouldn't quite be accurate to say you could equip 5,000 men, however—there are lots of some items, but a marked scarcity of others. Among other things, there were very few gauntlets to be found anywhere.
The plentitude of armour changed my image of medieval warfare, where I had presumed that only the very rich had had access to proper equipment, and that our image of knights was based only on the rare cream of the crop while everyone else ran around with farming tools. But looking at the armoury, it seemed that there was more than enough proper gear to go around. I wondered how 5,000 men equipped with this stuff could possibly lose any battle. And yet they did lose, almost as often as they won, and they were terrified of the Ottomans.
I was so impressed that I bought the Armoury's 100-page, full-colour English-language book. The cost? €4. It seems they had about 1,000 of the things lying around and were trying to get rid of them, leftovers from a tour to Australia in 1998-1999. The book is probably the best description of medieval armour I've ever seen. €4 well spent.
Back through Vienna
In the few hours before my flight, I managed to get up to the top of Stephansdom and swing around a few churches and other buildings I'd missed.