After returning to Pecs from Istanbul and Athens, we looked at the calendar and realized that we were running out of weekends to make the short trips we had planned (we head back to Evansville in 5 weeks). So we decided to take the train to Vienna for a long weekend that included a day trip to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp. It was, as you might imagine, a weekend loaded with some wildly conflicting energies:
Day 1 – Vienna — “Holy moly, what a beautiful city! What amazing museums! Can you believe this Sachertorte?! So delicious!”
Day 2 – Mauthausen Concentration Camp — “Oh my God…. What a soul-shattering experience… What great depths of depraved cruelty human beings can reach. I just want to cry…”
Day 3 – Vienna again – “Wow, a Michaelangelo exhibit! Look at these beautiful Klimts!”
I took a bunch of photos, but it’s taken me a while to sit down and go through them, partially because we’ve been really busy with stuff that I’ll post about in the next few days, but mostly I wasn’t looking forward to seeing Mauthausen again so soon.
Here are a few photos, in chronological order:
We’ve traveled to and from the main train station in Budapest 8 or 10 times now and I’ve really grown to like it. Though the place is pretty beat up, it’s got that great European train-travel feel to it — lots of natural light in the daytime.
Our "RailJet" train in Keleti Station, Budapest. The RailJet is a sleek, modern train - gets you to Vienna in about 2.5 hours.
Our first stop on Friday morning in Vienna was the Museum of Natural History – an amazing place — they might have the largest, and easiest to view, collection of rocks and gems and such in the world. There are at least 4 giant room just like this one:
An old room full of rocks and minerals. You could easily spend a day looking at this stuff.
The displays feel very old school - like a jewelry case.
And dinosaur bones.
Not as big as the Museum of Natural History in NYC, but still pretty cool.
Next we took a quick walk across the park to the Kunsthistorisches – the big art museum in Vienna – it’s HUGE.
The Kunsthistorisches Museum is a short walk across the park.
Baroque? Yeah, maybe... a little. If you look carefully. It's certainly not overdone, I don't think.
And they allow photography in the museum, which I appreciate. We saw a room full of busts similar to the one below in Athens – I like how they light the pieces to make them look like they’re floating in the air.
More floating heads -- this woman seemed to enjoy this painting by Dirck Dircksz van Santvoort in an exhibit of Dutch artists called "The Golden Age."
This gentleman was getting in some practice.
After flying through the Kunsthistorisches, we hoofed it over to the center of the Ringstrasse to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral which was undergoing a thorough and much-needed cleaning. Here’s a shot of one of the towers – the top has been cleaned. They hadn’t started on the bottom yet.
It's interesting to think that we seldom see this old architecture the way it looked when it was built. It's usually covered in soot.
St. Stephens is a fine example of a romanesque cathedral. And if you're lucky, you might be able to catch a football game on the flatscreen.
Though the cathedral was mostly full of tourists, there were a few faithful lighting candles.
After gazing at art and contemplating the nature of our souls, we sat down to a well-deserved Sachertorte and latte in the Sacher Cafe. We were feeling very Viennese at this point.
You don't want to eat more than one of these a day. Two at the most.
And that ended our first day in Vienna.
On a cloudless Saturday morning we took the 2 hour train to Mauthausen. In March of 1944, towards the end of WWII, officials in Pecs, by order of the Nazis,turned over some 3,500 Jews to be deported, mainly to Auschwitz, though many ended up in Mauthausen (including one of Margaret’s great, great uncles) where most were executed, worked to death, starved, beaten or otherwise murdered. There is little left of the Jewish community in Pecs, or the rest of Hungary, for that matter. A Fulbrighter friend of ours who lives with his family in a town called Barcs a bit south of here wrote an interesting blog entry called “What Happened to the Jews.” You might want to take a look.
Here are some pix from the trip to Mauthausen – note, I’m trying not to be too gruesome here, but there are a few unpleasant shots:
The train station - we misjudged the distance from the station to the Concentration Camp, so the guy who mans the station called us a taxi.
This is the main court yard right when you enter through the gates. Eerily quiet, but you could easily imagine what took place here.
This is what it looked like some 70 years earlier as inmates await disinfection in the courtyard - July, 1941. Upon arrival, they would be stripped of their clothing, any personal items and, of course, their identities. And humanity.
The camp is a museum/memorial and they have a very good audio walking tour — except for a few areas that were being renovated, you’re pretty much free to roam about the entire camp.
This appears to be an incinerator, though I'm not entirely sure. It was in a little room just off the shower room - this opens to the other side of the wall. There were several incinerators in the camp.
This is the other side of the incinerator in previous photo.
This is part of the plumbing/piping connected to the thing that looks like an incinerator. Not sure what it is.
A large yard is surrounded with these cement posts with barbed wire.
There’s a large field in the camp full of memorials put up by various countries and groups.
This is the Czechoslovakia memorial.
This memorial was created by the government of Slovenia.
We spent about 4 hours at the camp, then called the taxi and headed back to the train station. Driving away in a very nice Mercedes taxi cab, you wonder how people live with this place in their psyche every day – I mean the people (taxi drivers) who live and work in the town of Mauthausen. They must be able to block it out.
The town of Mauthausen sits on the banks of the Danube - it's a beautiful place. We had some time to wait for the train, so I took some pix.
I’ve put up a web gallery with more Mauthausen photos – you can see it here if you care to look.
On Sunday we slowed down a bit, taking a long early morning walk along the Ringstrasse (the road and tram line that circles the inner part of Vienna).
There's a small dog park near the tram line that rings the city. The dogs seem more interested in their masters' cigarettes than anything else.
One of the things I noticed about Vienna is that they're not afraid to put up something cool and modern next to the old buildings.
Margaret at the entrance to the University of Vienna where her grandfather taught European history.
The Parliament in Vienna.
James jumping off a ledge at the Parliament.
We went into the Albertina Musuem (where you can’t take photos of the Michaelangelo drawings or the Picasso paintings) and then the Belvedere (also where you can’t take photos of the Klimts or the Schieles). But you can take a photo out the window when no one is looking.
This is a view to the gardens from a second floor window in the Belvedere.
The Belveder has an amazing Klimt exhibit in their permanent collection.
Margaret and James in the gardens around the Belvedere.
Though Vienna is definitely one of the most serious and, I don’t know, formal, cities I’ve ever been to, you don’t have to eat Sachertorte and wienerschnitzel at every meal.
When you're sad and hungry, what could beat a quick bite at Happy Noodles?
Took this shot of the train bridge crossing the Danube in Mauthausen.
We took the train back to Budapest, then Pecs early Monday morning, which was the first day of Autumn Break at the ANK School. It was also the week that included the plaque installation and ceremony in Pecs honoring Margaret’s great-great-great grandfather, Adolf Engel Janosi, whom I wrote about a few posts back. More on that event later.
That’s it for now. Gotta get ready to teach!