Towns / Cities Visited: 138
Countries Visited: 22
Steps Taken Today: 14,299
Steps Taken Across the World: 3,578,878
We were set to bid Graz a fond farewell this morning, and thus we packed our bags and trundled off to the train station. When we arrived, after a little bleary eyed morning confusion, we realised that, despite our assumption to the contrary, we were destined to bundle ourselves onto a bus. Somehow we’d been led to believe we would be travelling by train; furthermore, at no point whilst buying tickets had the lady at the station corrected us. Still, the bus station was right outside the train station, so no harm done.
Stowing our luggage underneath, and climbing to the upper level of the double decker bus, we were soon settled and away; the picturesque countryside of Southern Austria passing us by, as we chatted and attempted to rouse ourselves to an acceptable level of functionally awake. The craggy silhouette of the Karawanks on the Southern border began to loom closer, and we were soon stepping off into the small town of Klagenfurt.
Although too early to check into our Airbnb, our hosts were gracious enough to allow us to stow our bags in the apartment so that we might head off on the day’s adventure unburdened. With the formalities organised, we scurried back to the station, this time to catch a five minute local train out to one of the biggest tourist attractions in this neck of the woods, and one we had been looking forward to since we accidentally stumbled upon its existence a few months back: Minimundus. This rather obscure theme park is not like most, in fact, don’t expect any number of rides here; it is, instead, home to a collection of over 150 models of famous and recognisable building, ships, trains, and destinations from across the world. Given the name it is rather obvious that the models are miniatures, which are presented in highly accurate 1:25 scale, aside from a select few which vary in scaling for logistical reasons.
Jumping off the train, we managed to find the Minimundus with little trouble, mainly because a park full of miniature buildings is fairly obvious, especially in regional Austria. Popping into the main building, we decided to forgo heading straight in, and instead opted to visit the cafe as a starting point. This decision made both because we were hungry, but also because there was a swarm of school children on their way into the park on an excursion and we thought it best for our own enjoyment to let them disperse a little first. A fairly decent chicken cordon bleu and pork schnitzel from this largely cafeteria looking pitstop, and we were soon happily satiated enough to brave a sea of school kids and families with small children.
Finally, it was time to explore, and with map in hand, we began our journey around the well laid out trail between the models. There was something magical about walking into this place. Maybe it was that by this point I had seen far more places than a year ago and the idea of making it a competition between the three of us as to who had seen the most felt like something I actually had a chance in despite being the youngest; but in retrospect, I think the main factor was that it simultaneously makes you feel like both a giant and a child.
The more you look at the fine details of these models, the greater your respect for those who built them grows. These are not some collection of cheap plastic replicas, they are carefully reconstructed miniatures, some made of stone and marble just like the famous places they depict. If the castle you’re looking at sits on a craggy hill, they have likely built a craggy hill upon which it may sit; if it’s a temple in the centre of a lake, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s sitting in a tiny lake. The spaces in between are dotted with countless flowers, cacti, and even bonsai trees to help make each site seem at home in its surroundings.
The attention to detail is otherworldly, from the hundreds of stone stupas dotting the Indonesian Buddhist temple of Borobudur, to the accurate unevenness of the stones in the aging Great Wall of China, and even the delicate string work of the replica famous ships floating in the tiny lakes. One of the miniature boats, the replica of the Queen Mary, a steam ship which used to ply the North Atlantic route, is one of the only pieces here that doesn’t follow the 1:25 scale, but rather needed to be made at 1:100 scale otherwise she would have measured a whopping 12.4 metres long.
Even if you haven’t travelled far and wide, there are plenty of sites that are recognisable to even the biggest homebody. Sites like: the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Tower Bridge, and even the entire Vatican complex sit dotted around the place. Buildings on different continents, thousands of kilometres away from each other in the real world, sit mere metres apart here. Some sit closer than others to their full sized home, for example the clock tower we’d seen just yesterday in Graz, has its own tiny version just a short bus ride away; whereas the Sydney Opera House from our own home country is perched here on the other side of the planet. For those sites you’ve never laid eyes on, there is also plenty of information available about each and every model; as if our wanderlust needed anymore feeding.
It’s not all just static buildings though, replica trains run around tracks throughout the park, including little puffing steam trains; every quarter hour the Tower Bridge model rises and falls just as its big bascule brother does in London, and a replica of one of the space shuttles launched from Cape Canaveral by NASA does its count down and launch sequence every hour.
Eventually making it around the full circuit, we got ready to bid farewell to this most entertaining park, but not without first agreeing that it didn’t really matter which of us had seen the most sites, and that we should all get ice cream as a reward, of course. Sweet treats in hand, we wandered out of Minimundus. With the sun sinking low in the cloud dotted blue sky, we meandered over to a more natural sight: Lake Worthersee. Taking a short wander along it’s waterside path, we settled onto a park bench and allowed ourselves a long moment of quiet in our peaceful surroundings, watching the sunlight bounce off the slowly lapping water and the ducks paddling playfully by the banks.
Rousing ourselves from our state of middle distance contemplation, we made the short journey back to our Airbnb, picking up some groceries along the way to rustle up a meal. Tomorrow would see us say goodbye to Austria once again and journey south into our twenty-third country for the trip, and as such we tucked ourselves into bed soon enough. As I replayed our day once more in my mind, my wanderlust skipping merrily beside me, pointing at all the places I was yet to see and demanding, much like a petulant toddler, that it wanted to go to all of them…now. Far off places called to me, the lost city of Petra whispered through wisps of sand for my footprint; the Taj Mahal called for the presence of me and my love to admire the love holding each of its stones together; Segrada Familia reached out, convincing me that somehow the presence of my family within its walls might somehow help complete its construction after all of these centuries. The world sat with open book, waiting patiently for me to read the stories held within, and to, in turn, add my own to its pages. I drifted to sleep a penless writer awaiting the dawn, the eastern horizon poised to sing the herald of a new day and with it, a new adventure.