Saturday, February 2, 2013

Our last day in Europe was quite wonderful! We started out by going to the Holocaust museum, which was in my opinion the best of all we went to. They were very honest and had some gruesome pictures and videos that captured the horror of what happened as well as a camera can. That was the most moving exhibit of all the ones we went to. I’m very glad we did make the trip to Budapest. After that, we went to the synagogue of Budapest. It was very pretty, but as Dr. Moser explained, the synagogue itself is not sacred as a Christian church is. Only the Tora, or the scrolls behind the altar, are sacred. Nevertheless, the building was very pretty. We then walked around a little bit, enjoying the lovely last day in Europe, and then we went to the hotel and packed up. I hate packing after a trip because everything is all messy, very unlike packing for a trip. I did however get everything in my suitcase and now it is all safe and sound in my room!
I had an excellent time in Europe. This was a very unique trip, and it has made me even more interested in studying abroad. I noticed an improvement in my German, and I would love to go back for longer so I can become fluent. That has been a goal for a long time and I believe now it is realistic. I know I will get there someday, and I can’t wait for that day.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

 The Trabant
 On the train to Budapest
 An old bridge across the Danube
 Just a pretty building
 Another bridge
 The skyline
 From the top, near the cathedral
 The war damaged building
 The cathedral
 The city from the hill
The monument to those shot into the Danube in December 1944

This was a very busy day. We got up and headed for the train station to board the two and a half hour train to Budapest. We got there at about 1 pm after a beautiful ride through the countryside. We dropped our bags off at the hotel and then headed to lunch, where I had a spätzle goulash dish that was excellent. We then walked around Budapest, which is an amazing city. It is very unique, just like Vienna and Berlin are. It resembles Vienna but it is different though. It’s hard to explain. We went to the top of a hill near the Danube and saw the entire city next to the river, and it was absolutely gorgeous. There were so many colors and so many varieties of buildings. It was the picturesque European town. Then, we walked by a building that still had war damage from the shelling as a reminder of what happened in those years. While walking to our next destination, we saw a 30 to 40 year old Trabant, which is an east German car built in the communist period. You can google Trabant and see them. They are very distinctive and quaint. Our next stop was the cathedral. I can’t remember what it is called and I can’t look it up because the internet is down, but it looks nearly identical to Stephansdom in Vienna except smaller. In the Austria-Hungary empire, everything in Vienna had to be the most grand and everything else had to be second. Budapest is somewhat like a miniature Vienna in several ways. At the cathedral, we were able to look off an even higher hill at the city and river, which was again amazing. We rode a 1970’s trolley back down the mountain to the river and saw a wonderful Holocaust memorial. Near the end of 1944, many Jews were shot on the edge of the Danube in front of the Parliament building. The memorial was a row of metal shoes near the edge of the walkway right in front of the river. It was very moving. We then went to dinner and I had a noodle dish that was very good, as well as goulash soup. I love the food here!

Hungary is very different that the other countries we visited. First, the language is very very different. It is an Asiatic language and has many accents on letters. Also, the pronunciation is very difficult, so I have had to get used to that as well. Finally, this has been the only place that has not used Euros. Euros are close to dollars, so not much thinking is required when buying things. Here, they use Forints, and it is 220 Forints to the Dollar at the moment. Every purchase is a very large number. For example, a bottle of soda might be 350 Forints, and a lunch can be 1500 Forints. It is very strange!

This was our last day in Vienna! I’m sad to leave this wonderful, beautiful city, but I’m very excited to see Hungary. Today, we did a walking tour of the Holocaust in Vienna where we just walked around the city and found the plaques dedicated to the Holocaust. Unfortunately, they are few and far between, and they are all on the sidewalk and fairly discreet. It was hard to find some of them, but nevertheless at least they are there. After this, we headed to the Hundertwasserhouse apartments. They are very famous, strange apartment buildings in Vienna. Google them because, again, my internet isn’t really working. They are worth a look! The floors and walls are not flat and every unit is different. I don’t think I could live in them for very long though. Then, we headed to dinner where I had a wonderful pork dish with potatoes. After this, it was time to pack up everything for the train ride to Budapest in the morning!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

 You can see the bullet hole. Look above the back tire near the very left edge of the picture.
My lovely pork and spätzle dinner

Yesterday was one of the days I had anticipated from before the trip. We went to the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, or Military History Museum. Germany doesn’t have one of these for the obvious reason that they don’t feel their military history should be celebrated in this way. However, the Austrian one was amazing. I got to see something I have wanted to see for quite some time. For those of you who remember anything about World War One, you will remember Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He was the man who was assassinated, and that event triggered the war. The problem was too many secret alliances and emerging nationalism, but his assassination by the Serbs set of the conflict. In the World War One exhibit at the museum, I got to see both the car (with the bullet hole) that he was riding in when he was shot and his bloody uniform, also with a bullet hole. It was eerie to think that nearly a hundred years ago, all that happened in that car and to the man wearing that uniform. I was so happy to see that. After this museum, three of us went to the art museum in Vienna, where I saw so much beautiful art. I saw many Monet paintings as well as a special Gustav Klimt exhibit. I spent several hours in here, and I could have spent more. That was some incredible art that I unfortunately was not able to get any pictures of since that was not allowed. However, again, google images can help if you are curious. Finally, we went to an amazing dinner at Brigittenauer Stadl, which specializes in Viennese cuisine, and I had an amazing pork and spätzle dish. Spätzle is an egg noodle that I am in love with. After that, we all came back and I went to bed early!

Sunday, we got to sleep in until about 11, which was much needed. We got up and went to a very fancy hotel for an amazing brunch buffet. Every one of us stuffed ourselves to death and the rest of the day was kind of horrible because of it, but it was totally worth it. We walked around after that and headed to the Wien museum (Wien is Vienna), which is a humongous building dedicated to the entire history of Vienna from Roman times to the twentieth century. This was a great museum, and again, I could read the Latin inscriptions on displays from Roman times, which was really cool. I don’t ever want to lose my Latin because it is so much fun to know what the things in Catholic churches and monuments, etc. mean. This museum did a great job of showing Vienna evolve from a small Roman fort to the large, beautiful city it is today. Since we were all stuffed, we didn’t eat a real dinner and most of us took a nap after the museum, so that’s it for Sunday!