The Austrian city of Graz is well known for its historic military past, and fittingly the city’s name comes from the Slovenian word “Gradec,” which means “small castle.” This old town is in fact on the site of the Roman fort that was built in the 1st century to defend the northern frontier. After the fall of the Empire, the Slovenian peoples settled this area, building a small castle near the site of the Roman fort.

The city, and the nearby fortress, came under the rule of the Habsburg dynasty in the 13th century during the reign of King Rudolph I, and has been part of Austria ever since. Today Graz is the second largest city in Austria after Vienna.

Graz became the home away from home for the Habsburgs, who often lived in the Schloßberg castle in the center of the old city. The city’s university, Karl-Franzens University or the University of Graz was founded in 1585, and while it was closed in 1782, it was reinstituted in 1827, and it has attracted such notable students and professors as Nikola Tesla and Otto Loewi.

The city survived numerous invasions and sieges, including those of the Turks in the 17 th century, but fell to Napoleon’s forces in 1809, which caused massive destruction to the famous castle. The city was rebuilt in the 19 th century, and most of the old town survived Allied bombing at the end of World War II, when it was part of Nazi Germany. In May of 1945 the city surrendered to Soviet Forces, but in the years following the war has prospered as a cultural and educational center in Austria. And today it is one of the country’s most beautiful cities.