The week before last, we took a 4 day trip to a little town called Halstate, and then onto Salzburg where 'The Sound of Music' was filmed. On our way to Halstate, we stopped at a place called Mathause. It was a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. This was the most sobering experience of my life. It was incredibly difficult to walk through the barracks where the prisoners slept, the streets where they were beaten and forced to work, the electric gates they were thrown into, the gas chambers where they were exterminated, the crematorium, the rooms they stored the corpses. I can't tell you what a hard experience that was. My mind is boggled trying to wrap my head around the reality that these things really happened. I don't know how it is possible to be so cruel to another human being. We saw pictures of things and heard stories that I can't even write down. We looked at pictures of some of the men that died there. The pictures were taken before the war. Looking at those faces, I just felt the strong realization that these were all real people, with real lives. It was a men's camp, so as I looked at the pictures I imagined each one with a life of his own. They had wives, children, siblings, parents, jobs, hobbies. The younger boys probably had girlfriends, maybe fiance's, best friends, school mates. They had lives that were so cruelly ripped away from them. How did this happen? We have been doing a lot of discussing in our group about the society back then and exactly how this awful thing took place. We are reading a book called 'Yearning For the Living God'. It's written by a man who lived in Germany as a boy during World War II and there is a lot of insight on how things gradually shaped themselves. It was done very slowly, and carefully, exactly like Satan does it. They didn't really know what they were headed into. Anyways, it was a very somber experience, but one that I am glad that I had.
After our visit to Mathause, we drove into a BEAUTIFUL little city at the base of majestic mountains that surround a gorgeous lake that is still as glass. The city was literally built on the shores of the lake and right up the mountain. One of the things I love about Europe in general is all the little tiny alleyways covered in vines and moss you find everywhere. There is no such thing as a grid system for the streets here. They just run an weave in and out in obscure and unmanageable shapes. You'd think for someone like me, who get's lost in the most organized of cities, would be frustrated with such surroundings. I really love it though. It is so fun to wander and loose myself (with a group - don't worry mom and dad) in these charming little towns. We always end up discovering some quaint little restaurant or a beautiful grave yard covered in wild flowers. It's just like a dream. That little city would be perfect for a romantic get away. All the buildings are covered in red roof tops and there are pear trees, wild flowers, vines, grapes, berries, and all sorts of beautiful plants growing all over everything. The streets are all covered in cobblestone. We found a park at the edge of the lake and just basked in the beauty of our surroundings. It was amazing.
While we were there, we visited the salt mines that the town is supported on. It's the oldest salt mine in the world and it's actually called 'Christina Tunnel', named after the mother of Maria Teresa. It was fun to go inside and learn about the white gold (salt). It was a cool educational experience.
After leaving Halstate, we headed to Salzburg. There we vistited all sorts of 'Sound of Music' sites. We danced through the gardens where 'Do Re Me' takes place and saw the back of the house where they filmed all the porch scenes. The back and the front of the house in that movie were actually two different houses. It was fun to see that.
Salzburg is also the birthplace of Mozart. I saw the house he was born in and ate in the house where he lived and composed for much of his life. It was really cool to walk the streets where a master like Mozart walked. I loved that. I was thinking about Papa the whole time!
While in Salzburg we also visited a castle that looked out over the whole city. It was BEAUTIFUL! I love castles. I think I would have been creeped out to live in one, but they are a lot of fun to visit!
Ok this is so long so let me move on to this past week. We went to Italy! First we stayed in Florence. It was a very cultured city. The city itself was cool becuase of how European it was (red roof tops, no organization to the street system, ect.), but it was a super dirty city. There was trash and grafiti everywhere!!! I didn't like that. You know, I love the beautiful country. I'm not a city girl. But I must say I loved all the old Italian men sitting on park benches. We had the pleasure of asking some of them directions. I don't know any Italian and they didn't know any English, so most of the experience was watching them with all their hand gestures, the waving of the arms, and the curling of the fingers to show emphasis. I love the language to, so it was fun to listen to them. We were still lost by the end of that, but what the heck! I just thought it was so cute that so many old guys gather to sit on park benches and play chess and argue with eachother. Quite adorable and fun to see.
Florence had amazing shopping! I hope everyone's excited for Christmas, I did all that in Italy! There were markets everywhere where you could find beautiful Italian muchendise for super low prices. I had a blast choosing things for everyone!
On the cultural sid of things, we saw SO much! I went to a museum of art that had selections from Leanardo da Vinci, Boticelli, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and so many others. I recognised a lot of the art from text books and what not, so it was really cool to see the real thing! I discovered two new artists that I LOVED. I had never heard of them before. Their names were Salvatore Rosa and Luca Giordano. Salvatore was INCREDIBLE at capturing light. It was so fun to walk through the art of the masters and find new things that I loved. I wish I knew more art history, but I learned a lot while I was there. I also got to see 'The David' by Michelangelo. For those who aren't familiar with it. It's a HUGE nude depiction of David from David and Goliath. It was supose to represent him in his innosence, or before he killed Goliath. The thing that makes this sculpture so amazing is the detail involved! You see the veins in his arms and hands, the tiny muscles in his forearms and back and shoulders, the wrikles on his forehead, the curls in his locks of hair, EVERYTHING! It is a magnificent sculpture, and so cool to be near knowing that Michelangelo spent 10 months laboring over it. It was really cool.
I've seen a lot of sculptures and art in the past weeks and I have a statement to make. A lot of it is nude art, and I have to say I think there is a fine line that comes between nude art and pornography. We're taking art history and we have been learning about how nudity was not meant to be suggetive in that time, but I still think it's wise to be careful. There are a lot of kids here who will lable me 'closed minded' for thinking that lines should be drawn and you need to be careful when looking at all this art, but I think it's important to be respectul of the human body. I know they saw it as worshiping the body at that time, but such a sacred thing shouldn't be shown so readily in my opinion. It's like the temple. What a sacred place, and no one goes around publishing what happens inside or depicting it with art BECAUSE it is so sacred. I think the same applies to the human body. My personal feelings on the subject!
Ok I'm almost done I promise! Next we went to Venice, which was not as cuturally rich, but I liked the city so much more than Florence! It was clean and well kept and so charming and romantic! Ben we must return some day! I kept thinking how I would love to have him with me there. This is the city you see in lot's of movies that has the water canals for streets. There are gondolas with couples in them going up and down the canals, quaint Italian music playing in the streets (or on the sidewalks), masquerade masks everywhere, and Italian food to die for! I discovered a pasta called gnochi. It is amazing. All I have to say is I'm glad I'm not in Italy the whole time. Three months of gnochi would take me home 50 pounds heavier! This stuff was heaven, and it was incredibly fresh. I loved trying a lot of new Italian food. It was delicious!
While we were there, we visited the near by Islands where they each specialize in some trade. One of them was devoted to hand blown Veician glass. We were able to visit a factory and see them blow glass and make glass horses, flowers, all sorts of beautiful things. The glass work there is EVERYWHERE! They are really proud of their glass, and for a good reason. It is beautiful! Another island we went to was all about hand made lace. I'm not a huge lace fan, but this stuff was gorgeous. Another island was just a pretty island known for being the most colorful island in Italy. Every building was another bright color. It was like being in a theme park that they tried to cutsie up. I can't believe people actually live in cute little places like that. It was like a children's story book. I loved it.
Oh one last thing I left out of Florence! I went to 'The Leaning Tower of Pisa'!!!! Pisa is a little town about an hour train ride out of Florence. We took a part of one of our days to go see it. The tower is in fact leaing! It's not the structure that's unsound though. Half of the building is sinking into the ground, so it's actually the ground, not the structure that is unsound! I took some cool pictures of that.
Alright, I apologize that that was so long! I love you all and I'm having a wonderful time, but missing you with all my heart. I can't wait to see you all again! Family is the most important thing in the world. I'm so thankful to have such a wonderful family. Love you all! I'll update you again soon.
Christinas Baby Countdown
Monday, October 1, 2007
Posted by William and Marianne at 12:23 PM