Visit to a Concentration Camp

By Kristalynn Davis

The entrance of Mauthausen

The entrance of Mauthausen

Just east of one of Austria’s larger cities, Linz, lies Mauthausen. It is a small and quaint city, one taxi service, a small and simple train station, and laying between substantially steep hills and the Danube. One of the main reasons to stop here is a heart-wrenching one.

The home of one of the most infamous concentration camps of WWII is a simple 5km drive from the train station that is simple, homey, and also was the beginning of an end for many. For me, it was the beginning of my journey.

It was a work camp, not an extermination camp. However, this place claimed the lives of up to 400,000 people until it was liberated in May of 1945 by US forces. The camp contained crematoriums, and a stone quarry at the bottom of hundreds of stairs inaccessible in the winter months. The audio guide walks you through washing rooms, living quarters, basements with objects still hanging from the rafters used for torture, and the prison for the POWs.

If you should ever find yourself here on a slow day of tourism, leave before sunset. The place gets lit up slowly and eerily. Some people can handle being alone in places like this; I’m not one of them.

The crematoria

The crematoria


My Visit to Salzburg

By Theresa Hubbell

The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Adventure!

Well, today I went to Salzburg, Austria to visit some long-lost friends of my Dad’s, the Damischs. Suffice to say, it was an unforgettable experience. I took an early train so I got there by 10 AM, and was so excited to see the Alps! Finally, something that isn’t flat! Plus, it has always been an ambition of mine to see that particular range. After exiting the train and getting maps for the city (because I was a little cavalier about the whole thing and hadn’t gotten them prior), I then bought my hosts fresh flowers, as is customary when going for a visit here. Of course, I then got lost, took the bus going the wrong direction, and ended up almost going out of town, but I eventually was just picked up and it all worked out.
I ate so much food! Veal, soup, potatoes, tomatoes, and dessert. Lots of dessert. As someone who is watching her blood sugar, I probably shouldn’t have taken those, but they were famous Viennese delicacies (like Linzer Torte, Poppyseed cake, and Mozartkugel) and had been made just for me, so it would have been wrong to decline them, right? Right! To work all of that off, I spent two or more hours with a cab driver friend of their’s named Barbara who took me on a private tour of the town–particularly hitting Sound of Music stops and sites of historical importance. The town is relatively small, like Traverse City, MI (close to where I live), so I felt very at home. And despite the grand architecture, the city was very much a part of the landscape. That, to me, was the most beautiful part of it. To see people living so harmoniously with nature.
I also got to tour downtown with my hosts, including the famous shopping street, Getreidegasse. My favorite shops were the local specialty stores that sold lederhosen, hand-woven rugs, and hand-decorated ornamental eggs.
Although this was technically the day before my birthday, I must say I celebrated turning 22 in style. Most people don’t make a big deal out of it, but I got to spend mine traveling the world.

Enjoying the Museums and the Opera

By Hope Davies
January 22nd, 2013

Hello from Vienna!!

Today is one of our last days here in Vienna, which is very sad to say, I really don’t want it to be over.  Now that we’ve been here for a couple of weeks we’ve gotten used to the area and can navigate around usually without a map.  This past weekend we traveled to Budapest which was super fun!  We got to see the Fishermen’s Bastion, and multiple churches and amazing views of the city!  It was nice to get back to Vienna, though.

Today though we started out with our normal class and learned about Austria and Germany’s complicated relationship through the years, and then we previewed the Opera we were seeing tonight!  After class four of us just ran around the corner to pretty much Vienna’s Kroger (called “Billa”), and grabbed some sandwiches, and then were off to see the Sigmund Freud Museum!  It was a small museum but also very informative about his life!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I didn’t really know a lot about his life so I learned a lot.

Next we went over to the “Sisi” Museum, (Empress Elizabeth, wife of Kaiser Franz Joseph)!  They had enough dishes and silverware for every student at Otterbein  in beautiful china and gold, and it was just gorgeous!  There were literally just rooms filled with undamaged china.  Then we continued more into the life of Sisi!  She lived a very depressing life.  She married at the age of 15 and she just wanted to be free, she didn’t want to marry an Emperor.  She was also very skinny.  She was 5’8” and only weighed about 99 lbs, which is definitely unhealthy, probably another reason why she was so unhappy.  We got to look through where she lived and how the rooms were set up when they lived there.  They talked about her assassination in Geneva, and it was just interesting to me that she didn’t really notice when she got stabbed. She thought the man was trying to pick-pocket her, and then a couple steps later she collapsed and died shortly after.  She seemed to be very unhappy with life, but was loved by the Austrians!

Vienna State Opera

Vienna State Opera

After the museum we did some shopping, and then, like I stated earlier, we had tickets to the opera, “Nabucco.”  It was about the life of King Nebuchadnezzar from Biblical times.  It was very good, the singers were amazing and the orchestra also did a fantastic job.  It was my first time seeing the opera so it was really interesting but also delightful to watch!  I thoroughly enjoyed it!  That’s it from today though; I hope this inspires you to GO TRAVEL THE WORLD!!

Würstl Stand after the Opera

Würstl Stand after the Opera

Marble Bride 3

Greetings From Budapest!

January 19, 3013

by Sarah Bookner

Budapest from Fisherman's Bastion

Budapest from Fisherman’s Bastion

Being here in Budapest has been a wild experience, different than that of being in Vienna. Budapest feels much more real and down to earth versus the relatively remote but magical feeling  of Vienna. Our first full day here has been jam packed from the moment we stepped out of our hotel. We began with a tour of the city and were shown breathtaking views from the top of Castle Hill where we could see all of the city, including Parliament and much more. I also got the chance to get some fun photos with some locals and their golden eagle (boy was that bird big, I could barely hold it on my arm it was so heavy!). We were assisted in our tour by a friend of Dr. Barkhymer who works in the economic branch of the Parliament.
Basilica of St. Stephen

Basilica of St. Stephen

We also saw the beautiful St. Stephen’s Basilica and St. Matthias’ Church, along with crossing the Danube River by walking the famous Chain Bridge.

We made our way to the Central Market for some lunch and fun shopping. They don’t use euros in Hungary, they use forint, of which 5000 forints equals around $20. We felt rich carrying around thousands of “dollars”. Or ” doubloons” as Preston calls them.
Shopping and eating was rather difficult. Hungarian is unlike any language I’ve ever heard, so we would have to point and smile to what we wanted and hoped was good to eat. Luckily, most of the people we came across were so incredibly nice and patient and spoke English, or at least tried to understand us.
After our day of running around all over the city, we had the glorious opportunity to spend the evening in an outdoor and indoor hot springs, soaking in natural hot water and lounging in saunas. There were a wide range of people there, from all over the world. I could definitely have that experience again!
Hungarian dessert

Hungarian dessert

We had dinner at a restaurant near our hotel and listened to a traditional gypsy band. Our food was delicious though it took us a minute to guess what it was (pork), and our dessert was amazing! I learned quite a bit about the gypsy population here in Budapest, and about the issue of their integration into Hungarian society. There is such a variation in opinions of the locals, it was really interesting to hear them all. Turns out we aren’t the only country with social problems and strong opinions.

Finally the scheduled part of the day came to a close, and while some decided to stay in for the night,  two other girls and I met up with a former Otterbein exchange student named Greg and hit up some downtown bars popular with both tourists and the locals. Again my opinion that Hungarians are friendly and hospitable was only reinforced as the night went on. Greg was a great host, and  showed us some spots that really helped make the experience unique and even more fun.
Well off to bed I go. We really got a lot in on one day, but if it were up to me, we would stay even longer to see even more of the city. I definitely will come back here again!
Until next time,
Go travel the world!


From Lyle and Meg Barkhymer

Seminar Room 3We spend some mornings in the Seminar Room of our monastery lodgings.  Sometimes Austrian experts have lecture-discussions with us, sometimes we do SYE reflection and transition activities with Mrs. Barkhymer, and sometimes we have previews of what we’ll be seeing on our city walks and seeing in performances.

Friday, January 18, 2013

By Theresa Hubbell

Austrian Railways “Railjet”

Austrian Railways “Railjet”

Though I’ve always been fascinated with Central and Eastern European history, I don’t know a lot about it. Well, besides the fact that many of the countries seem to disappear and reappear on the map from time to time (with no respect to cultural geography, of course), and many of them were once behind the Iron Curtain.  I’ve only been in Hungary for exactly 8 hours, but I think I may like it even more than Vienna. Ironic, really, when the whole reason I wanted to come on this trip was to visit Austria (it is almost a rite of passage in my family), but true.

It was my first time riding a train today, and—like everything in Vienna—it was very modern (which was a little disappointing—I kind of wanted the Hogwarts Express experience to be perfectly honest). At first, when we crossed into Hungary we were crossing farmland, so naturally there wasn’t a lot of visual difference between the two countries. However, once homes started to crop up, it was easier to detect the more folkish—and, in my case, homey—feel to this place. Being from a very Polish hometown, I immediately identified with the bright pastel pink, purple, orange, and yellow houses. Thanks to my mother’s own personal style, my house is currently a pretty banana color, complete with green trim. So it was a homecoming, really, as if something inside me recognized a familiar spirit about this place. At the same time, once we got off the train in Budapest, it automatically felt foreign in a way that Austria never did to me. Despite the language barrier—because, let’s face it, my German doesn’t go that far—and the awe-inspiring architecture, Vienna is well settled into the 21st century. Budapest, however, looks like something out of the 19th. Not that it lacks culture, but rather it exudes it. As if the ambient world hasn’t been able to steal away its personality yet. Everything here is a little less shiny and polished, and it feels more lived in to me.