We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning to catch the train to Salzburg, Austria. When we arrived, we took a long walk in the rain to our hostel. Our hostel had a wonderful view of the famous Salzburg castle, but the same view showed many a construction crane as well. After dropping our things off, we walked up to the castle as a group. I have never been to a castle as disappointing as the Salburg castle. It looks glorious from the outside, but there’s really not much to see once you’ve trekked up the insanely steep hill and paid admission to get inside. Okay, so there was one thing to see: There was a medieval fair going on (kind of like a Renaissance fair). The best part was the medieval band which had a very enthusiastic oboe player.
After the castle Andrea, Sarah, Kirsten and I decided to explore the city. As it turns out, Salzburg is not that big. Our walk from the train station to our hostel covered the entire city, but during our tour in the rain we visited the cathedral, the main shopping street and the palace. In the cathedral, Kirsten and I went below to the crypts, which were less scary than the word “crypt” makes it seem. When we were on Getreidegasse, we realized it must be the “Disneyfied’ street we read about in Cultural Studies class. Even the McDonald’s had an authentic-style street sign. Finally we crossed the bridge and wandered through the gardens of the palace. Andrew met up with us here.
Later that night we had our (paid-for) group dinner at another very Disney-like Austrian restuarant. Andrea, Verena and I tried Himbeer Radler, beer mixed with raspberry juice. So delicious! After dinner Verena took us to a monastery, which is basically a brewery. We all shared Märzen in liter mugs!
The next morning we packed up and hopped on a train to the little town of Mauthausen. It was a quaint little Austrian town just off of the Danube, but we weren’t there for its picturesque qualities. On the top of the hill overlooking Mauthausen stands the remains of one of the most brutal concentration camps. We had a tour guide who showed us the wailing wall, laundry room, living quarters, crematorium, torture room and gas chamber. It was a very sobering experience. This concentration camp was exceptional because it was not mainly for Jewish people. This camp focused on what the Nazis deemed political radicals, criminals, the insane and social radicals (homosexuals). People from all over the world were interred at Mauthausen and they had to work in a quarry until they died. At the waling wall there are plaques dedicated to people from Poland, Spain, Russia, Italy and the list goes on and on. This really hit home the fact that the Holocaust was not limited to the Jews.
After our tour of the camp we walked down the hill back to the train station. We did the reverse of what the Mauthausen prisoners had to do. The prisoners would arrive at the normal train station and the SS would force them to walk through the town and up the hill to the camp. Therefore, many townspeople saw the Nazis’ victims walk by their front doors for six years while the camp was in use.