Sunday, February 3, 2013

Budapest & Home

On January 30th, we left Vienna and traveled by high speed train to Budapest, Hungary. It was during this time that I got very sick with a fever. By the time we arrived in Budapest, I had to spend the afternoon in my hotel room, where I tried my best to recuperate for our travels back to the states. Regrettably, I missed out on the touring of the city that afternoon. I woke up on the 30th feeling slightly better, so I made sure I drank a lot of tea that morning, took some medicine, and went out for the day.

Pictures of our hotel room -

We first went to the Holocaust Museum in Budapest. It was just as good as the one in Berlin. It focused on the Jews in Hungary, which was the highest population of all the countries in central Europe. It was also the most graphic museum we visited. For me, I was a lot more moved by the museum in Berlin because it really focused on the symbolism and broader perspective of the genocide. This museum was the end. It was the last part of the class and I was tired. I had taken a journey that started in Berlin, Germany, the capital and source of the Holocaust, traveled further and further until I found myself standing in the museum in Budapest, watching a bulldozer push corpse into a mass grave. The little black and white screen showing the liberation of a camp made me light headed. There was nothing left to do. The culture was gone; it had been starved, chased, and murdered out of central Europe. I asked myself in that museum - "Will there ever be closure?"
Probably not for a long, long time.

After the museum, we walked to the largest synagogue left in eastern Europe. It was very beautiful and gave us a better understanding of what many synagogues looked like before the war. This was the only fully restored synagogue we had seen on the trip. 

In the courtyard, there was a closed off garden. It was, in fact, a cemetery. When the Soviet Union liberated Budapest in 1945, they came upon the synagogue, where they found the bodies of thousands of murdered Jews laying inside. They were laid to rest in a mass gave in the courtyard. Outside of the courtyard, there is a silver tree to memorialize those murdered Jews.

Afterwards, we were free to walk around the city. Lindsey and I decided to go down to the shore of the Danube, where there was a memorial for Jews that had been lined up and shot into the river by the Nazi police during the war.

Lindsey and I then decided to walk around Budapest for a while, since I didn't get a chance to see the city the previous day. It was a beautiful day and the warmest day (roughly 45 degrees) of the trip. I was still slightly sick, but it didn't make any real difference for me; I enjoyed the day immensely!

The next morning, on February 1st, we boarded a plane and made our way back around the world to Ashland, Virginia. Thank you so much for following my blog!

Love is found not at the destination, but in the journey.

Last Day in Vienna

On Tuesday, January 29th, we went out into Vienna one last time to explore the effects of the Holocaust on the culture of Vienna. It was very enlightening to be with Dr. Moser, who grew up in Vienna and is a part of the Jewish culture there. He first took us to the section of the first district that was primarily Jewish. We stopped at the only active synagogue in Vienna, where policemen had checkpoints and the street was blocked off from traffic. Dr. Moser told us about bombings and other terrorist attacks that have occurred at the synagogue since the end of the war. It was very sad to think that the little culture left in Vienna has to be guarded and fenced off for its own protection. Under high stress and pressure just to practice religion - that is something many Americans can not relate to, yet it is normal for Jews in Europe. We then crossed into the third district and walked the streets. A non-profit organization has recently been going through and putting plaques commemorating certain places where Jews had been killed or rounded up. Many homeowners are against these plaques, but we found some where the homeowners agreed. There is still a lot of antisemitism in Vienna and it is hard for the city to find peace and understanding with the demons of their past.

The Austrian Military Museum

On Monday, January 28th, our group toured the Austrian Military Museum in Vienna. It was a smaller museum than the one in Berlin, but it did a great job by grouping the displays into centuries. The 20th century was the most relevant, of course, by providing us with displays about World War One and Two. My favorite exhibit was of the car Franz Ferdinand was shot and killed in, triggering World War I.

Day Trip to Bratislava, Slovakia

On January 25th, we took a day trip to Bratislava, Slovakia. It was a two hour train ride to the city. As we got off, I immediately felt the energy of a new city surround me... and crowd me to point where it was hard to follow the group. There were so many people at the train station. From the station, our group squeezed into a bus and rode from the train station to the city's main square, where we transferred buses and took a much less crowded ride up the side of a mountain. From there, we walked the grounds of the Bratislava Palace, which overlooked the Danube and the rest of the city.

Afterwards, we walked down the mountain and walked around the inlets of the city. A lot of the streets felt like small alleyways, all stone, lined with shops. Cars could barely fit down some roads. It was very quaint.

Dr. Moser took us to a small eatery in the basement of one of the buildings lining a park. I was relieved to be out of the cold and into a warm, cozy sit-down restaurant. I had linguine and hot tea for lunch with ice cream for desert. The room's decor was very unique; I absolutely loved it. It was probably one of my favorite places we ate, which is surprising to me, because it wasn't the fanciest and the food wasn't the best (although it was still really good). I think it was the atmosphere that appealed to me; the enjoyment the group experienced eating there. I also got to play with some of the filter features on my camera - thanks Mom and Dad!

After lunch, we walked to the Jewish Museum in the city. It was interesting to see the differences in how each place memorializes the Holocaust. The museum had many different documents and aspects of the Jewish religious practices, as well as important Jewish figures from the Bratislava area. All of it seemed a little superficial though. It was a very nice museum, but again, I found myself realizing that this culture is now in a museum. It is, for the most part, gone. It is history behind glass cases and on display. It addressed the Holocaust, but it did not go into detail about what really happened to the Jews of Slovakia.

After the museum, it was time for afternoon pastries! We went to Cafe Mayer and had some wonderful treats!

Once we left the cafe, we went to a British grocery store in a mall and then it was time to catch the train home. After a crowded bus ride to the station, we got off and began to walk to the platform. I had my head slightly towards the ground, lost in my own thoughts, following who I thought was Morgan. Morgan wore a red coat and I was following a girl with straight brown hair in a red coat. I followed her to another platform to find that it was indeed not Morgan when she turned around. I quickly glanced around to find that the group was nowhere in sight. I rushed back down the platform into a tunnel and started running to each track. I looked up on the departure sign to see that the train to Wien was departing at 5:45. I looked at my watch. It was 5:45. I started to sprint to the platform, startling people around me. I turned the corner and started running up the stairs as Dr. Moser was running down them. "Get on the train!" he yelled as I surfaced on the platform, rushing towards the door of the train. We both made it aboard, safely and out of breath, right as the train began to depart. It was too close for comfort, but at least we didn't have to wait two more hours for the next train in Bratislava. Needless to say, I kept my head up the rest of the trip.