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Friday, March 28, 2014

GRAZ (A): Marisa Mell's hometown by Jochem Kulmer (text) and André Schneider (pictures)

This eerie beautiful and fascinating picture of Marisa Mell was left behind  in the Grand Café Kaiserfeld in Graz by an unknown man on February 24th 2014 during André Schneider's reading of "Die Feuerblume".  It is now probably part of the movie wall collection of the Grand Café, one of Marisa Mell's favorite restaurants.

Graz, the capital of the region Styria with 265.000 residents, is after Vienna the second largest city in Austria. The city is situated about 150 km south west of Vienna. It is famous for being a nice, cosy little town with six universities, a rich cultural scene, her Mediterranean-flair, delicious food, lots of traditions, history and some remarkable sightseeing-places like the Castle Eggenberg and the historic city center, which are part of UNESCOS World Cultural Heritage list next to the clock-tower and some famous events like art-festivals “Styriarte”, ”Steirischer Herbst”, the folk festival “Aufsteirern” and the “Grazer Advent”.  Besides tourism and culture, Graz is also well known for its high density of shopping opportunties and the so called “Autocluster”, more than  180 business companies having specialized in automotive components and research.

Amphitheatre on the river Mur

Since Austria is a very small country most of  the attention of the world is almost always drawn directly to Vienna, the capital. Graz is often regarded too small as a city to gain recognition but in recent years it tried to break out by becoming in 2003 the Cultural Capital City of Europe hence becoming a turning-point in the history of the city's public perception. Graz made the best of this unique opportunity, took the chances it was offered and the money to show the world its beauty, cultural highlights, creative output and open-mindedness in creating buildings like the “Friendly Alien” a.k.a. "Kunsthaus”, a place for contemporary and avant-garde art and the “Murinsel”, an amphitheatre and café as an island on the river Mur.

Austrian version of the The Statue of Liberty.

Like every other town in Austria, Graz has an inglorious and dark past during her "National Socialism"-regime when thousands of people were arrested, killed, displaced and deported. As a result the city was heavily destroyed during the War between 1943 and 1945, when allied forces dropped 29.000 bombs on Graz completely destroying districts near the central railway station. Untill this day intact active bombs can be found in these areas, forcing to evacuate the streets and areas, so these bombs could be detonated.  After the War was over, British and Soviet troops stayed in Austria until 1955 slowly rebuilding the City resulting in its significant upturn in the Seventies and Eighties.

City Hall

Trends come and go, if they are short-lived, there is always a good chance that you will miss it here in Graz, even nowadays during the Internet Age! On one hand this seems to be a disadvantage, on the other hand it is quite a good thing if you like to take everything a little more relaxed. The nature of the hospitable Styrians seems to be a little more relaxed and calm then other countrymen, even if we all like to “sudern” which means to rail and rave at something in a tongue-in-cheek-way. But after all, there seems to exist no problems or differences, which can’t be solved while drinking one or more "Schnaps" or eating a good and substantial meal in a “Buschenschank”, which you can  compare to a tavern near Vienna for peasant food and drinks called “Heurigen”. 

Entrance to the famous theatre school Schaudernak where Marisa Mell did her first steps on the theatre stage becoming in the end a world movie star

Aside the good quality of life and the manageability of the town, Graz is of minor international importance and as a resident you have to accept the limited possibilities of a small town. This is like it has ever been since decades and even if you are fond of your hometown like I am, it is a fact you can’t deny. Honestly, I don´t know much about living in Graz during the swinging Sixties or Seventies, but people always moved to Vienna or tried their luck in foreign countries, since Graz has a lower wage level and limited job-offers in else in Austria.  If you want to take the world by storm as an actor, sportsmen or an artist becoming more than a local celebrity, you have to go to the capital Vienna, neighbor Germany or even overseas.  Marisa Mell choose also this way in the early Sixties, when she moved to Vienna, to visit the “Max-Reinhardt-Seminar” and shot her first German produced films. Had she stayed in Graz Marisa Mell would never had made her way like she did since there were no big theatres, was no film-industry, were no influential people and simply put no appropriate roles for her to play.

Street view of theatre school Gaudernak in Graz

Other famous ex-inhabitants from Graz which made an international career are deceased Formula 1-pilot Jochen Rindt, who spent his childhood at his grandparents in Graz and Arnold Schwarzenegger, former governor of California, bodybuilder and actor which grew up in a little village a few kilometres outside of Graz. Schwarzenegger became an honoured citizen of the city and a soccer-stadium was named after him, which in the end had to be renamed at Schwarzenegger's demand, after a local political controversy about death penalty in California and the compatibility with an Austrian "Ring of Honour". Other Honorary Citizens of Graz are German-based actor Karlheinz Böhm (famous for the movie “Peeping Tom”) who used to live here, acclaimed music conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Federal President of Austria Heinz Fischer and some scientists, you may never have heard about.

One of the oldest bakeries in Graz

Living in this cosy little town nowadays is like living in a city full of contrasts which seem to fit more or less harmonic together as the city is parted by the river Mur, the city offers almost two kinds of every aspect to his inhabitants. There are a lot of young people in the streets and almost 45.000 students and almost as much bikes populating the streets. On the other hand, there are also a lot of older people in Graz, which enjoy the geographical position with the moderate summers and windless winters and the cheap costs of living. Open minds and free spirits live here side by side with very old-fashioned people and modern architecture is in symbioses with historical ones, century old tradition and classical music meets contemporary art, electronic lifestyle and design.

Typical back yard in Graz

The most enjoyable thing about living in Graz is the fact, that the city never lost its countrified character and the striking distance to nature, where you can leave the city noise and the world problems easily behind you by taking a walk along the riverside or a bike- or car-ride into the countryside. Graz is also an ideal holiday-destination for short trips and even if you like to stay longer, you will find a lot of pleasant things to do to kill your time.  But do not forget that even here there are also more or less serious problems like in every other Austrian town like an empty city treasury, bad air quality, increasing rents, crime-, unemployment- and immigration-rates and a very conservative mayor but Graz is after all a cosy, mostly quiet and safe place to live for people, who enjoy a lifestyle aside from hustle and bustle.
Thanks to Jochem Kulmer from Graz (Austria) and André Schneider from Berlin (Germany) for making this entry a reality!
The Marisa Mell Blog would like to come in contact with the mysterious man who gave this beautifully framed picture of Marisa Mell to the Grand Café Kaiserfeld. Please contact us at: Hope to hear from you soon! Thanks.