Linz, Austria

After the concentration camp we headed over to the city center of Linz and I learned that like most cities in Eastern Europe is full of history. We arrived in Linz on May Day, May 1st, the Europeans Memorial Day! There were beautiful flowers around the city and at the base of all the statues and fountains.

 

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Skinny paths open into shopping areas and homes to many of the people living in Linz.

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The fountain below was created in the 16th century when the people belived that the Earth was the center of the Universe. There on the 2nd floor or as Europeans say the 1st floor is where Kepler taught High school physics and wrote Keplers Laws. He discovered there that Earth was not the center, that instead all the planets rotated around the sun. The fountain pictures has the Earth on the top and all around the base are the names of each planet. It is kind of ironic that all is his years teaching he looked out his window to the wrong example of the universe. Kepler was the next enthusiast to take Copernicus’s idea of the sun being the center of our universe and refined it 100 times more accurate. Something interesting about Kepler, when he decided he wanted a second wife, he made a list of all the things he wanted and then found 8 women. He rated them based on his list and found that he couldn’t decide between women number 5 and number 3, so he settled for the one in the middle and chose number 4. This of course is after he divorced his first wife because she didn’t understand his work and he labeled her as fat, stupid and simple minded. (Brilliant guy but what an asshole)

 

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Below in the bottom picture you can see their beautiful art museum showcasing their modern artistic style. Since Vienna and Salsberg are none for their classic, and barroqu art Linz wanted to stand out in a different unique was and create a city that displayed modern and futuristic art. That art museum lights up multicolor after sunset and is absolutely gorgeous. When you stand on the other side that window cut out is a beautiful frame for the Danube River.

The next building below is there futuristic art museum. Here you can walk up to the museums entrance and play any song on any device you have and it will be transmitted through the speakers into a computer and displayed electronically to the beat of your music with lights on the buildings facade.

Below is the balcony in the Linz city center square where Hitler proclaimed the Greater German Reich after the Anschluss with Austria on May 12, 1938.

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Such a cool city, lots of bicycles, not as crowded as other cities we visited and a really nice stop on our journey. I sat and had a cold beer in the city center while I people watched during the May Day festivities. Gelato everywhere, melted and scattered on cobblestone streets. It was nice to be in a place that held discoveries in science, I loved seeing where Kepler taught, I stood on ground he walked on. Don’t pass up Linz on your Austrian journey, this place good easily steal your heart!

 

Happy Travels,

Seeker Sierra

A Day & 320,000 to Remember

{The following blog is a descriptive summary about my experience at Mauthausen Concentration Camp reader discretion advised.}

While on my visit in Linz I first had the opportunity to visit the Mauthausen Memorial Concentration Camp. This was my first time visiting a concentration camp and it is a day I will never forget. As a tour guide told stories and walked us through the entirety of the camp my mouth was unable to form words as I imagined the camp full of humans, humans just like me. Stuck in an awful, painful, sad world where they were trapped and tortured for simply not being one person idea of “good enough”.  I truly thought that I understood the impact the Holocaust had on history but now having seen it first hand I realize I didn’t really understand fully before. Upon entering the camp it is a stark contrast as the beautiful hills roll into the beginning of the alps in one direction and then death and torture were right in the opposite direction behind the walls.

IMG_0619You can see the alps in the distance. IMG_0620Directly turned around from where I stood to take the photo before. The camp.

Walking through their barracks where they slept 2 to a bed. Where it was built for 300 but housed up to 1,000 at one time. Their washroom where over 600 people tried to wash at the same time. The quarry where they were forced to work 14-20 hour days mining granite and filling wheel barrows with no shoes, jackets, gloves or even food. The average weight of a person leaving the holocaust after liberation 75 years ago this May 7th was 60lbs. Mauthausen was a camp that was a majority men. Doctors, professors, lawyers, educated people etc. Women were only brought in to be prostituted as a reward to the men that obeyed them and for the guards.

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BARRACKS LEFT KITCHEN RIGHT (FOR WHAT LITTLE FOOD THEY FED PRISONERS)

It’s hard to imagine that this pathway was once dirt or snow with up to 320,000 people walking back and forth on it.

At the entrance to the camp memorials stand high put in place there by their respective countries, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain, etc.

It is amazing the number of Spanish names I found in the books they had lining the memorial. Everyone had a specific name tag to put them in a category whether they were Homosexual, Handicapped (mentally or physically), Jewish, Spanish, or just not useful to society given the category A.

I walked through a small museum where I saw names of victims, torture devices, and graves of the forgotten. They killed so many at Mauthausen that they stopped keeping record of the names. I saw a huge needle that was brought forth during trial described as a needle used by the camp doctor to deliver lethal injection into the heart. When prisoners were killed this way they would write that they tripped or fell and died in their record log but would put a small dot next to their name to signify that secretly a lethal injection was given.

I halted upon reaching the gas chamber door, opened it a crack and peeked in and then retreated a few steps back. With deep breaths I told myself I wasn’t going to go in, but then I thought, there were hundreds of thousands before me that had to go in, by force, and that I couldn’t turn a blind eye out of fear and sadness for what they suffered. I approached the door yet again and took a step in, the rest of the tour behind me I was alone. It was terrifying, chilling, the door thudded to a close. The gas chamber was tiny, a lot smaller than I imagined with a small closeted room next to it where the gas was fed into the room. They stuffed these rooms full of people, and my heart broke as I imagined someones last moments seeing nothing but blank white walls, hearing nothing but cries and hateful things from the guards, and feeling nothing but un-acceptance, rejection, and hopelessness from not only the guards but the rest of the people of Linz and the surrounding areas that didn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t fight for them.

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I walked out of the gas chamber and directly into the next room, the crematorium a room with 3 ovens side by side with carts lined inside for inserting bodies….again my heart broke.

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The holocaust was a giant extermination of people that weren’t the image that one group wanted. I knew that, but now I know that. 

The names scrolled in books thousands of pages, not even all recorded, and memorials lined with names with font so small simply because they wanted to fit them all in a huge room. 320,000 people died at Mauthasuen at least that is number recorded, we can assume there were even more.

I learned that the city of Linz like many others new what was going on up at the top of the hill at Mauthausen but for whatever reason remained silent. One women who lived nearby the camp actually wrote a letter to the police (as if that would do anything) that said the camp was too loud and was starting to smell so she preferred if they could do their business elsewhere because it was disturbing her home. This is the type of attitude people took towards it, kind of out of sight out of mind, or for some they were too afraid to try to help people, others just carried on feeling they were incapable of helping. It is amazing to me the human mind, we have way of seeing chaos but can still stick to the day to day. We become desensitized to it. Even today with facebook and other news outlets. We ask ourselves “but what can I do?” and the answer isn’t easy, send money, write a letter, join the military…I know even I couldn’t answer that question satisfyingly for myself. (If you haven’t asked yourself this question I think it be a good idea to start. Find a charity you are passionate about, disaster relief, refugee help, homelessness, etc. & give to it, time, money, supplies, an extra room whatever you can.

It’s hard to believe that something like this could happen again. Of course we wouldn’t think it could but in ways it is happening right now in Syria. I think the only way to prevent repeat in the future is through more education. I wish everyone could visit this camp and see it first hand or any of the camps still memorialized today. The more people that are aware of what happened 75 years ago will hopefully share the same passions as everyone that visits. The passion that we can not ever let anything like this happen again. Then pass that passion on for generations. Changing the world I can only hope.

We are all created equal and are equal. Behind this skin and this face is a mind, a heart, and it is no better or more important than anyone else’s.

Sierra

Krems, Austria

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This town at first glance didn’t seem like much. But I was so wrong. This needs to be a stop on your future journey through Austria!

First we stopped at the Disney World of Winery’s how crazy in this tiny town of a city a seriously awesome winery. They walked us down into a cellar, that had a sliding hidden door that opened into another room that houses big glass floor to ceiling walls to see the huge Vats of wine that stretched basement to ceiling in the room below us. Then we walked through another hidden door that led to a 4D theatre that played the most HD 4K video I’ve seen yet. It showed the town and its rich history of wine with animals, nature, and the start of grape vines all the way through the seasons to pouring a glass. The coolest part about this winery is that they don’t only make wines with their properties grapes. They buy grapes from the surrounding homes vineyards and use their grapes for different types of wines. Our tour guide just bought 1/2 an acre of vineyards and because of her specific soil in that part of the region she will be able to grow her grapes and sell them to Winzer Krems Winery for a profit and it will be made into a Reisling. Many many families make their money through selling their handpicked grapes to the Winzer Krems Winery! So it is truly town made wine and there is a lot of pride in this town for their wine and their history. Most famous of course there white wines specifically the Reisling.

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Once we had our fill of wine, hilarious, this tour was scheduled for 9AM so we were all feeling good. We then moved on to the town of Krems. One of the most expensive Austrian towns, it houses 4 private Universities and very expensive flats for students.Gorgeous cathedrals and lots of small cobblestone walkways and stair paths that make your imagination run wild. Below you will see first the entrance to the town of Krems, the only gate left at the city entrance, a couple pictures of the town, the cathedral and a traditional outfit people wore in history and even know during events (I really wanted one but the store was closed!)

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This town really surprised me. I loved how slow and laid back it felt, Krems really is a magically place. After I walked down enough cobblestone streets and lanes, it was time to head to Lintz!

When you come:

-Take a city tour with a local guide

-Climb the stairs for a nice view of the city and the main church

-Then check out the Winzer Krems Winery!

Vienna, Austria

Vienna Austria is absolutely amazing guys! So many good stories from this place and it’s history. First of all the city is clean, the cleanest I’ve ever seen in Europe. Turns out that is one of their main goals. Even when they have a parade in town street cleaners follow behind the last person in the parade picking up trash immediately so the city is always clean. Another outstanding feature is how much graffiti there isn’t. Most beautiful European cities unfortunately have graffiti all over their beautiful old palaces and buildings. Not Vienna. The Mayor of Vienna called a meeting with the top graffiti artists in town and they made a deal. They can spray paint the inside wall of the Danube that is 3 miles long as much as they want as long as they don’t spray paint the rest of the city. An agreement was made and ever since Vienna is spotless, and breathtakingly gorgeous.

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Ringstrasse
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St. Stephens Cathedral

It was a cold and drizzly day but that didn’t stop us from visiting St. Stephen Cathedral, the first and oldest Pastry shop in Vienna where you can watch the chefs works, or have some wenerschnitzel or one of my favorite things to do, visit the market. I love to see where the locals go for groceries, produce and gifts. I love how they buy certain things from certain stands and really get to know their vendors. Reminds me of my friend Carlos that always sells my family meat at our Tom Thumb in Dallas.

We visited the Albertina Museum that houses a great number of Klimt’s, Picasso’s and Monet pieces and last, my favorite, the Classical Orchestra Concert that had an Opera singer and 2 Ballet dancers.

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Vienna Austria may be my favorite so far with its rich architecture, culture, beer and music. I would totally live in this city! It even has the tallest Bungee jumping platform in Eastern Europe, a Ferris wheel (the second ferris wheel ever built) and countless parks for enjoying nature in the hustle and bustle of the city. Yeah I think I could get used to this!

P.S a funny thing about Vienna: They sell Marijuana plants and you’re not allowed to smoke it BUT if you want to you can buy two plants and keep them in your apartment as decor but you have to promise not to smoke it and water it! Hilarious!

When you visit Vienna:

-Go See a Show!

-East Weinerschnitzel

-Visit the SChonbrunn Palace if you like Furniture….I don’t. But it is still interesting!

-The Albertina Museum houses Picasso, Klimt and Monet but there are over 300 to choose from, mainly the Museum of Natural History is a popular one and the Kusthistorisches Museum listed as one of the top 10 museums in the world. Don’t want to miss that.

-Visit the second built ferris wheel and take a ride on it. (But let it be known it is slow…half hour for one full go around!)

-Demel the oldest pastry shop where you can watch the chefs work, and be sure to go upstairs for some tea!

-Visit the Naschmarket, see where the locals buy groceries and try some new foods!

In Vienna there is so much to do and see, you will never be bored!

Happy Traveling,

Seeker Sierra

Bratislava, Slovakia and Funny Fountains

First on the list in Bratislava was a school visit in a Roma inhabited area of Slovakia. We got to see a third grade classroom and really see first hand the struggles teachers face in these parts of the eastern world. As well as learn about the Gypsy Roma population. It was completely new to me to learn about their villages, lifestyles, and why their children often have Autism and disabilities more often then others. Roma’s are very musical and just like what comes to mind when you think Gypsy it is true in a sense. The Gypsy’s don’t wander to often though or travel they are very musical and live within their villages never leaving and never co-habitating with Non-Romas.  For the kids at school if they have a Non-Roma friend it is kind of like Romeo and Juliet they aren’t supposed to be friends and they will only be friends within the school walls. Their villages have a lot of music and when a child is born they immediately put a fiddle in their hand and if they grab the fiddle it is said they will be a great musician. If they don’t then they are told that they may need a different profession. Most gypsy parents weren’t educated so the fact that their children are in school is a huge leap in itself. Such an interesting and enlightening trip to their school.

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After that we explored down town Bratislava and found that besides history, and beautiful buildings, a castle and art there was also 3 funny sculptures placed in vicarious places around the town. The first one a man at work looking happily down the street, suspected to be maybe peering up Slovakian women’s skirts. The second a man with a camera peering around the corner, not pictured because it disappeared some years ago and third this man rumored to be Napoleon himself showing the french embassy the best part of his body. My favorite fountain was this hilarious Baroque style fountain down town where they wanted to sculpt penises on the babies to look as if they were peeing into the fountain and that the heads where vomiting but instead they put a fish on each baby and thought that was better! haha what!

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After some tea and a stroll around the castle we headed back.

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Now we are off to Austria! I can’t wait to see what Austria looks like 🙂 Stay Tuned!

If you ever make it to Bratislava, I recommend a city tour, a relaxing tea in a cafe, and a trip up to the observation deck of their bridge (The New Bridge) 45 years old is brand new to Europeans! Lol!

Happy Traveling,

Seeker Sierra

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A Taste of Budapest

Arriving in Budapest I really had no idea what to expect. I figured it’d be full of gorgeous old buildings, castles and little Italian like streets. That turned out to be true, but its also way different than I thought. Eastern Europe has hills like the hill country in Texas and gives the city an even better design with castles and buildings peaking out at all different levels.

I took a tour of the Buda and Pest side of the city and found that each side is separated by the Danube River. I also learned that a majority of the buildings here were built in the last 200 years actually because their originals were destroyed in the Siege Budapest in late 1944 and early 1945. There was a 50 day period where over 40% of Budapest’s buildings were destroyed. They tried to rebuild many as they were but some where made more modern and some fit the older periods.

Apparently Buda & Pest are very different although only about a football fields length apart. The Pest side has 2/3 the population of Budapest while Buda has only a 1/3. Most of the houses are very old and can not be renovated because of their historic nature. So most of the homes aren’t inhabited. There is the gorgeous castle of Buda on the Buda side flanked by small streets and topped with what I can only describe as a floral patterned roof much like in the movie Frozen!

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I thought it was awesome! And of course it wouldn’t be Europe without thousands of tourists around too! It’s always interesting to here all the different languages pass by you when you’re walking around.

I also stopped by a Holocaust Memorial, here in Budapest during WWII over 5000 jews were lined up on the side of the Danube river told to take off their shoes and then were unfortunately shot and killed. So tragic, sad and awful, these shoes symbolize so much about that time. The people of Budapest keep the area clean and full of candles, flowers and toys in remembrance of the people that lost their lives here that day.

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As for the Pest side there you will find the trams, trollies, buses and subway.

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The University, Great Market Hall and my favorite the Thermal Bathes. They have a very easy to use public transportation system and plenty of Hungarian students that know english. We managed to get to both destinations via subway and tram with only one wrong turn! Totally worth it though for the laughs!

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Hungarian’s are by far some of the nicest people I have ever met. They will answer any questions and offer help if they can. While in the Thermal Bathes I thought for sure I could find an english speaker to help me find my way. There was no one around that understood me so I decided to try Spanish and I met a really nice lady that helped me find the pool I was looking for in Spanish. Who would’ve thought….Spanish in Hungary.

Hngarian bathes

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Last when you come you have to take a night cruise and see Budapest all lit up in a warm yellow glow! P1050592

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Now I am set off for Slovakia but so far I can attest that Budapest is a must visit city. Between the Goulash, Paprika rich dishes and friendly people you won’t be disappointed!

Nanny has been a great travel companion. I am so thankful for this experience with her already! She keeps me on my toes and we toast to merlot at the end of each day!

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Some History about Budapest: In a park at the base of the chain bridge sits a statue of the number zero with the letter “KM” carved beneath it-it’s the zero kilometer stone used as the mile-marker from which all roads in Hungary are measured. In 1956, a student demonstration against the soviet occupation quickly devolved into a revolution against soviet control of Hungary when a student was shot by Russian soldiers. The revolution was short, lasting October 23rd to November 10, but it was bloody. More than 3,000 people were killed, 15,000 were wounded, and more than 200,000 fled the country as refugees. For a traditional Hungarian treat, try – Kurtosklacs – a tube-shaped pastry made of strips of sweet dough wrapped around a cone and cooked over an open charcoal flame. This street food dessert is traditionally finished with a dusting of cinnamon or a sprinkly of chopped walnut.

Places to Visit When You Come:

Thermal Bathes – (second to last stop going away from Mexico on the map) and right around the corner in the yellow building when you come up from the subway.

Great Market Hall – The underground tram stop (don’t miss it like I did the first time).

Buda Castle – Buda side – across the bridge if you are coming from Pest. Hard to miss this one.

Hero Square

Freedom Square

Happy Traveling,

Seeker Sierra

Playing it Safe

Many people play it safe without realizing it. But I knew I was. The excitement of getting my first job coupled with a nice paycheck, a degree that was being used and happy parents pretty much nailed it. In my generation if you were like me, life was supportive. My Mom and Dad did great to cheer me on and encourage any and all dreams and goals I had but they all had one underlying factor, financial stability. If I ever said I wanted to have a job that may not pay much, my Dad (supportively) would say, but you can’t live below or at the poverty line. AND he was right but that and my somewhat rough post recession family years led me to, without my realizing it plant a seed of doubt in my mind called FEAR. That was my fear. Not making enough money, not taking over all my bills from my parents immediately after graduation. Getting my own health insurance, paying my own rent. The works. So at 15 I got a job and never stopped, I saved and saved and saved with the fear that I’d never have enough to feel successful and like I could do whatever I wanted with my life. I did it all. I cut my self off from their steady collegiate support and got my own health insurance, car insurance, phone plan and rent bills. Happily my parents handed it over and with the utmost pride that made me cry tears of joy. I’ll tell you what, to this day, I don’t regret that for a second it was always a dream of mine and I did it. It makes me feel accomplished, proud, and like a full blown adult. I control my destiny I control my phone bill! BUT let’s get back to that fear. The fear is what kept me rooted in safe jobs, see I don’t think being financially secure necessarily means we are playing it safe that’s a great thing and a necessary thing, but we often settle in jobs that don’t fire up our heart and ignite our true passion because we are able to set our eyes on the weekend and get through each day. Especially if you are like me, small interactions in the day to day can make the whole job seem worth it. Until the inevitable, you lay your head down at night dreading the next 8-11 hour work day, cringing at the thought of your alarm beeping you awake in the morning. BUT we do this to ourselves for the paycheck. With the fear that we can’t survive without it. So my next stop on this journey was clearing my head, it seemed to become very excited and fuzzy with the past weeks happenings but now I want to get back to my main focus. I want to clear the fear. I think each and every one of us has a passion worth firing up and I don’t think we can reach it while we either unknowingly or knowingly settle. If you were to sit back right now and envision your perfect life. Would it include that desk, that keyboard or the coworkers that surround you. Is there a step you can take today in the direction that you imagine? For me, I love Colorado, it always brings me a sense of joy I can’t always explain. I think it’s the natural environment, big boulders, unaltered terrain, and flowing water that make me feel at peace. So I went. Is there somewhere you can go to connect with yourself? Do you dream of a vacation, or do you dream of breaking off a relationship but you’re scared of being alone? Have you had an enough is enough moment? The first big change can be the hardest, for me, finally quitting my job was facing my fear that I won’t have any income coming in and the savings I have worked years and years to grow will start to decrease. Talk about heart palpitations. I also gave up my health insurance from my 2nd company, another job I took out of safety and security, (not to discredit those two very important aspects in life) but it still wasn’t at all where my heart thrived or wanted to be, it was a paycheck. As it was for the majority of my coworkers and like I said in my first post on this new journey, culture breeds everything in a company. My whole life has been my savings and you know what? I let go. It is what it is and it’s just money. I believe once I made that change I set a new ripple effect in motion, as I learn and grow and follow my hearts true joy the money will come, and it’ll be even more plenty than it was before. It’s there and now that I am using it for the first time I believe it has been there all along for me and for my future growth so here I am using it.

If you know enough is enough, that you need a change, or shit’s just not going the way you want it to. You’re unhappy with your body, your life, your significant other etc.

My starting point is this: Focus not on what is wrong with your life right now but instead focus on what is right, and follow that feeling. Why does that feel so good. Why do you day dream about sandy beaches? Maybe you should go to the beach? Why are you afraid of what people think about your weight? Is it really your weight or instead is that unhappiness coming from within you. Can we grow to stop carrying around the fear of un-acceptance and instead love the skin we’re in. We can all take baby steps to find are true joy but I think first we have to look at where we feel that joy in the first place and then what fears are holding you back from feeling more of that joy. Make a list of your worst fears, give them a name and then let go of them. Think about it physically, holding on to a bunch of stuff is whole lot harder than letting things go. You only have two hands….

I know sometimes a place, relationship, or job can feel half right and half wrong. At my first job I simply didn’t want to leave because I loved all the people I worked with. They were so fun to be around but the work was draining, self sabotaging, and left me feeling depressed. I missed my family, the love I had with them, and the joy I felt when I could still get home when the sun was shining. My first relationship had so much joy but that joy would leave me quickly after I left a date or weekend. That joy was misplaced in fantasies and hopes instead of reality. Sit down and analyze your joys and your fears face them both head on, see if letting go of fears will amplify your joy. Tell me about them too! I’d love to hear about what’s going on in your lives.

Stay positive, follow the good feelings, and don’t be afraid. When we do what makes our heart happy, we’re happy and the success will come.

Step 1: Facing my Fears.

Thanks for following me on this journey and for all the encouragement and support.

Sierra