Vienna!! City of Mozart, the Opera, Figlmuellers, Albertina, and wonderful, wonderful things. I almost didn't go to Vienna, and it was a good thing I nixed that idea. Vienna is at the cusp of Western/Eastern Europe, and it really feels that way. There were times when I would walk through the city and feel like I was in Paris again, or other times when I would stroll through a garden and feel like I was in Krakow again. Very interesting indeed! I went to Vienna with my friend Tara, and we definitely got a lot done. it was fantastic. First on the agenda, however, was to visit Megan!! Megan was my neighbor last year, and is now studying abroad in Vienna. She was such an amazing resource of all awesome things to do. We grabbed lunch in Naschmarkt (the BIGGEST flea market/ farmer's market I have ever been to... it was AMAZING), then headed over to Karlskirche to enjoy it. There was a Christmas market outside the kirche, and we walked around looking at what the vendors had to offer. Smells of hot red wine, apple cider, kinderpunsch, roasted chestnuts, brats, and cookies filled the air. there were so many adorable little ornaments too... I wanted to buy them all!
Megan and Me!
Tara and I spent some quality time walking along the ring. They had put up the decorations for Christmas, and night time was lovely....It has been so easy for me to forget about the holidays while in Germany. They don't celebrate Halloween, and unlike BYU, they don't put Christmas decor until about.... right now. And, since they don't celebrate Thanksgiving either...it was easy to forget that we're heading into one of the lovliest times of the year! So, seeing all the decorations was awesome. Saturday night was eventful! Tara and I waited in line for standing room tickets to the Opera. We saw Wagner's "Das Rhinegold" which is part 1 of the Ring Cycle. The Ring Cycle's most famous part is part 2 - Die Walkyrie. Part 1 was still stunning... i love the opera. :) And the opera house was like a walking into a museum... it was absolutely wonderful. Plush carpets with vaulted ceilings, and ornate chandeliers, velvet seat cushions... i think i stepped into the 1800's when I walked into the place. Tara and I also went to the famous cemetary on Simmeringstrasse, where all the famous musicians from the past are buried. I don't care that you may think it's morbid. We were very excited to visit the place! And their tombstones are extremely ornate and lovely. What I loved most, however, was the memorablia people put on them. I saw lots of little "I love you" pillows, pictures, music pieces, flowers, and other fun things. It was definitely a fun experience. Besides Beethoven, we saw Strauss, Bach, Brahms, and Mozart (just a memorial... he's actually buried in a pauper's grave...). On monday night we went to the HUGE Christmas market outside the Rathaus. The Rathaus is a stunning building. And it's even gorgeous-er when lit up! The market was cute, and for the tourists. However, there's something about being at a christmas market that just makes you so happy. I love love loved it.
Vienna definitely had a music theme to it. Opera, Vienna Boys Choir (holy cow... so beautiful in every aspect!), jingles at the markets, and stuff like that. I really enjoyed being there! You will too. :)
p.s. when you go, eat at Figlmuellers (the schnitzel is bigger than your head!), and buy a chocolate Mozart ball (you can only get them in Vienna! make sure it's "ohne alkohol"! and the pistachio ones are good... but marzipan is better. :)
I was in Heidelberg less than 24 hours before I took off again, this time for Paris.
Paris, Paris... now I understand why people leave the states and live in Paris. It's wonderful there! So much to see and do.... it's awesome. I was excited to spend 4 days there (I only spent 3 days everywhere else). I thought maybe I could take it easy, and have a more relaxed approach.
not at all!! Paris is so full of so many things that I've wanted to see for so long, I was bookin' it from place to place! It was fun though...I wouldn't trade it for anything.
The first thing to do was figure out the metro. It's tricky, but once you have, it's AMAZING. Guys, seriously, the metro is a great thing. I felt so city-ish... haha! I was even able to help these German kids figure out how to get to Paris-Disneyland. (Thanks Mikaela for the tips!!)
I started out my trip in the Jardin de Luxembourg. They were so beautiful. I LOVED that fall was in full swing, and the leaves were crunchy, and the air was crisp, and the flowers were lovely. And, I've also realized that I have a passion for gardens. Luxembourg is not as known as the Tuilleries, and I liked it more. There was even a gazebo!
On the tour I took I learned a lot about the history of the city - including the origin of the word "plastered" as it is used today - and finally saw so many famous things. Notre Dame. Pont Neuf, Champs Elysees (ohmygosh CHAMPS ELYSEES!), Les Invalides, Place de la Concord, the Louvre, Palace of Justice, Saint Chapelle, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triumph.... and so much more. I was bursting at the seams with joy.
Paris has an awesome "city-ness" feel to it. Shana would have loved it. I felt the hustle and bustle of the place, as well as the relaxed nature of Parisians in the afternoon. Their morning were definitely gogogo, but afternoon time was like being in Krakow again... followed by a definite sizzling night life. Paris is beautiful, I cannot wait to go back again.
Most of my time in Paris was either spent in museum or in a garden. I can't believe I thought 4 days was enough. 4 YEARS wouldn't have been enough.
This is a Monet from L'Orangerie museum. This was my 2nd favorite museum. Full of impressionist paintings. They are definitely more impressive in real life, I tell you.
Oh. My heart gave a leap of joy at this. The Burghers of Calais by Rodin. My favorite sculpture. The Rodin Museum was my favorite. I spent a lot of time there. With amazing artwork and beautiful gardens, you just can't go wrong.
This is the famous Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Versailles was a DREAM! Jaw-dropping artwork, stunning buildings and gardens, and exquisite ceilings really really made my day fantastic.
Yep, I could live there.
This is inside Notre Dame. I felt like singing a few strains from "The Bells of Notre Dame", but I refrained. It's such a fantastic building. Size alone is striking. But inside... even better.
This is in the Luxembourg Gardens. I really love flowers. :)
Oh Paris... let's meet up again sometime soon, ok? And next time I'll get hot chocolate in the Latin Quarter, I promise.
We went to Birkenau first. It's the largest of all the Auschwitz camps, and boy, you can tell. I couldn't see the end of the barracks when I was looking down just one lane. It was very grim.
Birkenau is significantly larger Auschwitz-1. But I suppose that wasn't big enough, because Nazi's stuffed 1000 people into buildings meant for 400. Birkenau's gas chambers are four times the size of those at Auschwitz-1. We didn't see them though.
This is the platform at Birkenau. In the distance you can see a train car. I was standing at about half the length of Birkenau here. Maybe that gives you some idea of how huge it is.
Doctors stood on the platform when incoming prisoners got off and immediately started separating them - healthy, unhealthy. They say that sometimes, it wasn't but 15 minutes after people exited the trains that they were dead in the gas chambers.
This is Auschwitz-1. Understandably, you are not supposed to take a picture inside the gas chamber. But I took this through the window, so... technically I kept the rules.
What you (sort of) see here is the creamatoria. The room to the the right of it was the actual gas chamber. In one room on the tour, we saw the cans of Zyklon B - the poison used to kill the prisoners in the gas chambers. The cans were probably the width of my hand and the depth of my palm. 7 of them was enough to kill 2000 people.
On the tour they showed us many rooms of items Nazi's had taken from the prisoners. Glasses. Shoes. Toothbrushes. Dishes. Clothes. Hair. Suitcases.
The room of suitcases struck me the 2nd hardest. Prisoners had put their names, DOBs, and country of residence on them. Suddenly, it hit home that these people were very, very real. They're not names in a textbook or a number to mourn over. They were people. Human beings.
Elijah Strüschte b. 1891 Deutschland
Ruth & Elinore Divrote b. 1919 Italia
Benjamin Antrentock b. 1931 Poland
These were the gates to enter Birkenau. I think they were called the Gates of Hell.
This is the infamous cell block 11. It's where all the torturous forms of execution occurred - as if gas chambers weren't bad enough. There were rooms where they stuck prisoners to die slow painful deaths; 3 rooms for starvation; one room where they knew there was a lack or proper oxygen supply, so that was used to long-term suffocation; and an interesting room that had 3 1x2.5sq meter cement boxes. You could only get into the boxes by crawling into them from a door that locked from the outside. Nazis would stuff up to 8 people in these blocks, forcing them to stand all night, and work all day. Stick one of your arms straight out in front of you, and one straight out to the side. That's about the the dimensions of the box. 8 people? yeah, right.
Block 11 had an outdoor version of torture as well. Outside there was an execution wall where the youngest known person to die was a 9yr old girl. They had poles where they'd hang prisoners from their arms - effectively dislocating their soldiers.
It was very grim to be there. We went through one barrack that had pictures of some of the prisoners who lived there. These photos had dates of entry into Auschwitz and dates of death. I was amazed at how long some people lived. 2.5 - 4 months seemed to be about average. I guess I thought it would have been longer, but no. There are not many known prisoners to have lasted more than a few years in the camps. Especially Auschwitz.
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
The bus drive to Krakow was long. LONG. 17 hours on a night bus, watching an odd polish-dubbed movie. Kat and I understood nothing! We go along by just guessing what was happening. haha
We arrived in the morning, found our way around town relatively easily, and we were very excited. Our hostel was RIGHT on the main square. It was amazing to be so centrally located. Here we are, walking down the King's Way (Florianski Street), which opens up to this HUGE main square and continues down to the palace. We walked, enjoyed the sights of vendors, shops, locals and tourists alike looking happy!
Exiting Florianski street, we were greeted by the open-air market of the main square. flowers to the right, fruit to the left, crafts straight-ahead! The church stood impressively at the back of the square, while the main textiles guild building stands right in the middle of the square - effectively dividing it into two squares. As we entered the square, it was nearing the hour. This is important in Krakow because the trumpeter plays his tribute from the top of the church tower every hour on the hour.
The trumpeter commemorates (according to legend) the fact that a guard at the top of the tower warned the city of an incoming invasion of the Mongols by blowing his horn. The Mongols, being fantastic marksmen, shot and killed the trumpeter in the middle of his warning. To honor this, the player plays, but the tune is cut short quite suddenly. It was so cool! Kat laughed at me for always being excited about this. You can hear it all over the city, and every time we did, I would stop and listen. haha good times.
Next, we went to the Wawal Castle, which is striking. Perched on top of a hill overlooking the nearby river, it's a lovely lovely place. The cathedral is situated right inside the castle grounds, and it unique due to each dome that specific kings attached to the building. Usually, each dome has something to honor God at the tippy top. Well, one king allowed the artisan of his dome to put his own (the artist's) name at the top - honoring the work of art, as God is the ultimate artist. How cheeky!! haha
Jewish district was definitely a ghetto. Many a run-down building. some of my favorite pictures came from this part of town. It was interesting to walk through. We stumbled on an exhibit honoring those who died in the holocaust. It was striking to look at pictures of people who lived, worked, and loved. And then they were taken away to death camps.
Kat and I had so much fun looking at all the things vendors had to offer, and trying delicious food. The döner kebabs are spicier in Poland than in Germany, and they are still delicious! Perogi is amazing, and I crave it! We ate a lot of perogi! The tea cup I decided to buy was of polish pottery - a little more earth than your typical pottery, but still very lovely, and I fell in love at first sight of my cup. (Today I mailed a package home, and I had to include the cup... I was so sad to pack her up!)
Kat and I also had fun playing the missionary to people in our hostel who asked us (frequently) why we don't drink. I was happy to talk to them, and it was fun to be around people who don't believe the same thing as me! BYU lulls me into a false sense of security sometimes, and I'm so glad I got out to remember what it's like on the outside.
Poland = love. I was so sad to leave that place of relaxation, art, happiness, and fun.
It seems so long ago... I have to pull out my journal and remember what I wrote!
Krakow was an adventure for two reasons. I have heard a lot about eastern Europe. People go, and always have complimentary things to say... but they never truly describe what it's actually like! Now I know why... because there are no words to describe the love that is Poland.
Krakow just has this different FEELING to it. I knew I wasn't in western Europe anymore. And I loved the feeling! It's a combination or relaxation, contentment, take-it-easy, and still have fun-ness.
That doesn't make any sense whatsoever... but hopefully you will go there someday and know what I am talking about.
I knew that before I went the places I would see would be beautiful. They did not disappoint. The castle that overlooks the river, the largest main square in europe, the gorgeous chruch, Auschwitz, and so much more. We
had fun checking out the street performers, the flower markets, the souvenirs, the kebabs (YUM!!), and so much more.
Krakow was also an interesting missionary experience. We stayed at this awesome, fun, hoppin' hostel. We met people from all over, and it's so much fun to learn about their stories. Also, hostels are the source of all knowledge on travel. Seriously, you get the people that have been where you're going, and done what you're doing.
Anyway, Kat (the girl I went with) and I had interesting experiences. The hostel hosted a "Polish Vodka Tasting" night, and needless to say, the liquor flowed. Don't worry, nothing untoward
happened. We just sat and talked with the people as they drank. We got many questions about our own beliefs, and lots of offers for every type of drink imaginable. One of the guys, Jasper, said (in response to my religion), "You're the first Mormon I've ever met! Cheers to that luv!" Then he downs a shot of 40% vodka. Priceless.
Also, I had 2 people tel me that they became fans of Mormons on Facebook. Also priceless. Yay missionary experiences!
I could tell you more, show more pictures, but that's all narrative stuff. Try to imagine just what it feels like.
That's the best part of Krakow,and one thing I will always remember. It just felt so
different - in a marvelous, fantastic, amazing way.
Also, when you go, eat pirogi. You'll crave them for the rest of your life.
Gosh, I miss the Planty Gardens. I could sit in them and watch the world go by for the rest of my life.
(Gardens [which surround the city] are above)
(Funny, cute old ladies outside the church on Sunday, to the left. I want this to be me!)
Ok, it's been quiet on here for the last little while. Don't think I've forgotten. So much has happened, in fact, that I am quite overwhelmed at thinking about all I've got to update!
I've decided to do this in stages. Since my next three weeks are going to be kind of slow...and I didn't want all of you to read a novel...and I didn't want to write a novel...we'll take this sloooowly.
First, all about Krakow, then all about Paris! It will probably come in stages and spurts. Don't be surprised.
But get this: Prague got 15 pages in my journal, Krakow got 21, and Paris got 33. Really, there's a lot to talk about.